CIO Spotlight: Mortgage Choice Builds a Pathway to the Future

Posted on behalf of John Leonard, General Manager, Microsoft Dynamics Australia

Last year, we announced that our cloud footprint is expanding with Microsoft’s cloud productivity suite – Office 365 – and cloud business application – Dynamics CRM Online – which will be available to customers as locally-hosted versions by the end of March 2015.  This was a huge moment for Microsoft in Australia, and we’re already seeing our customers taking advantage of the improved performance and data residency to transform their business for the mobile-first, cloud-first world.

I caught up with Neill Rose-Innes, GM Operations & CIO from Mortgage Choice to find out how Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Office 365 fits into the company’s IT strategy and its continued transition to the cloud.

Q: What support do you give Australians in the property buying experience?

A: Mortgage Choice was established in 1992 as an alternate for consumers, instead of going directly to banks and lending institutions. Set up with a vision of building a national network of ethical and professional mortgage brokers who local communities could trust, we give customers a choice of product and a choice of lender so they can identify and secure the right solution for their circumstances, and then guide them on that journey.

Mortgage Choice isn’t just about home loans these days either. Convenience for borrowers and a strong commitment to ‘duty of care’ is why many of our brokers also help to source personal loans, commercial loans, asset finance, deposit bonds, and risk and general insurances for their customers.

Today, over fifty per cent of flows for new home loans are originated through the broker channel, which demonstrates the significant value we bring to all parties involved in the process. For consumers, we know they place great value on our expert advice across a range of lenders, and the results speak for themselves – we write a home loan every 15 minutes via our extensive panel of 27 lenders.

Q: It’s great to see your business built around delivering maximum value to the customer. As the home-buying market has changed, how has Mortgage Choice evolved?

A: Three years ago, Mortgage Choice decided to significantly transform the way it does business, by diversifying into a fully-fledged financial services provider that offers mortgages, financial planning and associated products and services. To achieve this, we decided to launch a financial planning network that leverages the strong Mortgage Choice brand. These products and services were solutions our customers were asking for from us – given the level of insight they give us into their finances, aspirations and objectives – so we were happy to deliver upon them and make the necessary changes across the business.

The impact of the Global Financial Crisis also forced Mortgage Choice to enhance our customer offerings. With lender commissions being cut, we needed to find a way to create and build better businesses and ensure they are sustainable, today and into the future. We achieved this by diversifying our revenue streams across multiple products and services, such as. risk insurance, equipment finance, personal loans, asset finance, debtor finance and financial planning to name but a few.

As consumers have become more knowledgeable and educated around the benefits of technology, from the latest devices through to cloud platforms, the demands they place on providers has increased too. In this new marketplace, the swiftness and agility of consumer technology needs to be replicated in the enterprise world so that consumers can engage in the ways they want to. This means we need to find ways to communicate with our customers across devices and channels, and the IT we deploy is a critical component in achieving this.

Ultimately it’s always about delivering a compelling customer experience so that we can retain and grow our customer base.

Q: How do you engage with customers across multiple channels and devices?

A: We aim to position the customer at the centre of everything we do, which is why we have what we call the enterprise view of the customer. To explain, customer details are entered once in our system and updated each time we engage with them, regardless of the channel they’re engaging with, so that the business has a 360 degree view of the relationship history and various transactions. In addition, the Dynamics CRM allows us to enter our customers’ details just once.  As we implement these changes, the underlying technology needs to be improved to account for consumers who are much more discerning about whom and how they engage with their service providers.

Q: As you’ve implemented this change I know you went to market for a new CRM system. Can you talk me through how you identified the best technology for your needs?

A: Mortgage Choice is currently transitioning from our own bespoke CRM solution to a packaged one addressing our needs. When we looked at the process of where do we need to be in three to five years we came to the decision that it wasn’t in the company’s best interest to build the platform ourselves – we wanted a solution that enabled us to implement change seamlessly and efficiently, and which would continue to deliver gains long after it had been implemented.

We looked at three offerings including, settling on Microsoft Dynamics as the product of choice for Mortgage Choice due to its ability to meet our strategic and project objectives. A core Microsoft Dynamics’ capability for Mortgage Choice is its initial starting point – it can be configured to our use with minimal customisation. This gives on-going value, as we’re not spending a lot of time re-inventing what’s already been done. Microsoft’s investment into the product, and the regular updates it delivers, was another reason behind our decision, ensuring we can constantly deliver new features and benefits to our customers.

Another important element for us is that Microsoft Dynamics gives us a pathway to the future. Our strategy is very much focused on the cloud – a journey we have already embarked on – so being able to deploy Microsoft Dynamics on-premise initially, with a view to seamlessly moving it online, was a big positive for us. Similarly, Microsoft Dynamics has dramatically accelerated our mobile strategy as it liberates our users to provide a better experience by working from a device of their choosing.

Microsoft Dynamics’ integration with our other key systems, and the control we had over this so as to limit risk to the business as we change, was another driver behind our decision to go on-premise. Cost was a further consideration, with Microsoft’s offering giving Mortgage Choice confidence that we would get maximum return on our investment.

A supplementary reason behind our decision is the new solutions being introduced to the core CRM product, such as social listening, business intelligence and marketing components. We can choose to select these technologies when we best see fit, and it gives us the enterprise control we need to manage it.

Q: How else is Mortgage Choice leveraging the value of the data you have?

A: We are piloting and using Microsoft Office 365 for our Melbourne-based business, Help Me Choose. The Outlook client style combined with the seamless integration with Microsoft Dynamics suits the company’s work style and practices, enabling us to maximise the customer service delivered.

The next significant step for us is to deploy the core business intelligence tools enabling increased data insight so that we can enhance services. We want to be in a position to do predictive analytics as well as reactive, which is why our view is to take the journey one step at a time: deploy the core tools; understand what data is available; and what practices are being used in the field. This approach – we feel – allows us to be more pro-active and relevant to our customer community.

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