Is technology the solution to providing faster bridging finance? It’s a valid question. “Fintech” (financial technology) companies are all the rage at the moment. These disrupters look to streamline or speed up financial transactions, and several have made great strides in the mainstream mortgage market as well as other sectors offering financial or investment advice.

Technology in the bridging sector has certainly come a long way from the days when loan statements were prepared on spreadsheets and customer relationship management systems were almost non-existent. Most firms now have integrated IT systems and customised software which covers sales, administration and accounting functions. Other firms use cloud-based CRM systems such as BrightOffice.

But no one has quite designed the perfect system yet. In my opinion the ideal situation would be a system where all stakeholders can access the information they need. This would enable solicitors, lenders and customers to monitor progress, check how applications are progressing, and ensure no unnecessary delays occur.

Technology also offers the opportunity for valuers to make use of video, so lenders can get a better understanding of the property being offered as security, as well as the general state of the neighbourhood. Some lenders already film meetings with prospective borrowers and this is likely to become more widespread in future.

Fintech companies also need to consider how information can be inputted (for example, verbally as well as via a keyboard or scanner) and the devices information will be accessible on. We might be using tablets and smartphones today but who knows what gadgets will come along in the future? Websites, systems and apps will need to be optimised for mobile devices, and keep pace with future technological developments.

Internally, lenders should be able to monitor performance of introducers while funders would be able to access any live information required. There’s also the opportunity for systems to produce market intelligence as well as report inputs, such as for the FCA’s Gabriel system which collects and stores regulatory data from firms.

There are many advantages to non-paper based systems. Assuming adequate back-ups, online or cloud systems alleviate the problem of files going missing and also allow multiple people to access the same information at any one time. The right technology can speed up both credit checks and underwriting by accelerating the gathering of customer and property information, and then analysing and acting on that information.

However, technology can only enhance the systems the bridging sector already has in place if we ask the right questions and, when we get answers, we have the skill and experience to use them effectively. Clearly it’s possible for algorithms to examine data and decide if an application is credible, but we still need underwriters to cast an experienced eye over application data.

It’s often the case that bridging customers are not eligible for the cheapest rates – but simply need a competitive rate coupled with a smooth journey from application to completion. Bridging clients are also often looking to access funds faster than average. So any fintech solution that can minimise the points where an application may be delayed will be welcomed by both the industry and our customers.

Saying all that, it’s important to remember that technology is no substitute for personal experience and relationships – it should be used to make life easier for advisers and introducers, but not to replace them.

Benson Hersch, CEO of the ASTL

A version of this article appeared in the November edition of Bridging Introducer