They say moving house is one of the most stressful times of your life. 

Central to the frustration is often a steady stream of seemingly avoidable delays. Despite the rise – and fall, in some cases – of digital estate agents, it remains an industry relatively untouched by tech.

Enter Guildford’s MPowered Mortgages, part of MQube, which is using artificial intelligence to exchange the delays for speed.

After working across the finance sector for more than 20 years, including as regional CEO of Lloyds Bank in Asia, Stuart Cheetham MBE set up MQube in 2016 with the aim of maximising the practical applications of AI in the mortgage industry – empowering both lenders and advisers.

“My time in Asia included running a significant mortgage business, but in that time I quickly came to recognise the difficulties in cutting down the length of the mortgage application for customers,” he tells BusinessCloud. “My aim in co-founding MQube was to connect the advisory market with lenders in real time, allowing for quicker outcomes for customers.”

In 2021, MQube launched MPowered Mortgages: a tech-first, broker-only mortgage lender which uses AI and deep machine learning to assist brokers with a real-time underwriting service, instantly streamlining the application process.

“MPowered was founded on the idea of improving the application process for all involved: for lenders, brokers, advisers and customers,” Cheetham explains. “We do this by using AI, connecting the advisory market with the lender in real time, thus enhancing the customer experience.

“One of the common problems in the application process is delays which are often caused by the underwriting service. For lenders, underwriting assesses an applicant’s financial risk with the necessary details; income, assets, debt etc. 

“Regularly, underwriters need more information or different documents to approve an applicant, leaving your client to miss out on their dream home.”

Cheetham indicates how MPowered uses AI. “Our AI-driven service underwrites a case as the broker keys in the applicant’s data, prior to submission. Fundamentally, think of it as the underwriter working alongside the broker as the applicant provides their information. 

“Often, you do not know if you have the right information until underwriting, but inserting the correct information, in the earliest stage possible, helps to remove delays further down the line.

“We want mortgage advisers to do what they do best: advise. They are being sucked into different issues, but they are best at asking the personal questions that tailor the most relevant policy for the clients’ needs. 

“With the help of AI, the administrative aspect can be dialed down, allowing advisers to provide personalised guidance while still maintaining that human touch.”

Since MPowered’s launch, the firm has received investment from Barclays, Citigroup’s SPRING and M&G Investments which has been ploughed back into the business. In 2022, MPowererd shook up the prime residential market as the first new entrant in 20 years that is able to compete directly on price with the traditional ‘big six’.

“Last year was a big year for us. Following our successful launch into the prime residential market, we have been able to expand our distribution to the whole of the UK intermediary market which also coincided with the opening of our second office in Leeds,” says Cheetham.

“2022 was also a step up in terms of the evolution of our platform. Between January and December, we made 8,260 enhancements to our platform, and with this constant optimization we hope that one in three cases will be fully automated by the end of the year.

“However, utilising AI in this format has not been total smooth sailing.” 

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Cheetham elaborates on the initial teething problems in the automation process. “Currently, we are working to digitise the affordability assessment by automating the way expenditure is analysed. We do this by using AI to pick out the key details in bank statements like a customer’s name, company, national insurance, net pay etc. 

“One issue in automating this process has been with the variances between how names are displayed in different documents. For a human this is an easy differentiator to pick up on but has posed a problem in automation.”

Recently, Mpowered Mortgages introduced the generative AI chatbot, ChatGPT, into its internal chatbot tool on its mortgage origination platform. Currently, the chatbot is being trialled with both its sales and underwriting teams on its ability to answer complex criteria-related enquiries.

“We are excited to see how this trial plays out at MPowered as we are always looking for ways to enhance the process and ChatGPT offers the most advanced chatbot technology, which we have been able to leverage for brokers’ needs,” he says. 

“The service provides responses for even the most complex application questions and we hope this will shave more time off the application process, allowing brokers to receive answers instantly.

“We believe AI will be the main driving force for innovation in the mortgage industry in the years to come, and with the general public becoming more acquainted with generative AI bots like ChatGPT, we hope concerns will begin to alleviate. Ultimately, we view AI as the key tool to enhancing the mortgage application process.”

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