By Andrew McKee, Chief Information Officer at Ultimate Finance

 

Shifting to remote working overnight, completely rethinking business strategy, new business levels slowing and cashflow disruption – there’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging. Whether you’re a lender, a business looking for funding or a broker working hard to arrange it, using technology has become more essential than ever to keep business moving.

At Ultimate Finance we’ve accelerated the pace of our digital technology roll out during the pandemic, investing in the right areas to ensure our people can maintain our funding support and strong relationships between business owner, advisor and funder.

Our investment in recent years in our technology platform and data infrastructure stood us in good stead as we entered lockdown and has enabled us to speed up the pace of digital adoption across Ultimate Finance and our customer base. Through a deeper understanding of our customers’ needs and supporting our staff during one of the most challenging times we’ve all faced in recent history, digital transformation at Ultimate Finance puts people at the heart of it.

With the immediate impact of lockdown, we faced the same challenges every business faced in getting our entire team working remotely with only a few days’ notice. We used our existing cloud infrastructure to switch to remote working without any disruption to our service, with face to face meetings and calls moving to Microsoft Teams. We added the ability for surveys and valuations to be conducted virtually, and transformed planned events into online webinars so we could continue to support our clients and introducers as the weeks turned into months.

Through our investment in our data warehouse and business reporting capabilities in 2019, we have been able to provide real time reporting on how our clients were faring through the use of their funding facilities and feedback from our relationship managers.  The ability to understand the direct impact allowed for real time decision making to offer tailored support packages to our clients based on accurate data.

So far this year, our digital transformation projects have implemented a range of vital tools that include the use of Open Banking capabilities, biometric ID verification, accounting software integration and online application portals which are all designed to speed up the process of providing funding for new clients and servicing existing funding facilities – let me share a little more about what these capabilities can do:

Biometric ID Verification and eSign Documents

We use biometric facial recognition technology to speed up the funding application process for clients. The technology verifies identity by cross-matching a photograph taken with a smartphone against a scanned passport, ID card or driving license. By leveraging secure instant messaging and AI to facilitate the process; it’s a faster, better experience for our customers and offers protection against human error that may arise from reviewing physical documents. Combined with electronic signatures, paper-based processes can be entirely eradicated. Essential tools during the pandemic, when people have been working from home and unable to travel – and speed up the process to providing much needed funding to businesses.

Open Accounting Systems

Removing the need to manually share accounting data, often in printed form, our technology is helping our clients get quick and seamless access to funding. Using an integration platform which can access a 80% of accounting software systems provides us with live and accurate financial information without the hassle of downloading financial reports. By using real-time statistics and insights direct from a business’s accounting software, our team have access to the information they need to make fast lending decisions, which complies with the additional data security needed to provide secure remote lending.

Open Banking

Through our partnership with secure instant messaging app Nivo and TrueLayer, our clients never have to share an electronic or paper copy of their bank statements again as we can access the required data direct from their bank account, in real-time. Data is shared safely through the app, removing the risk of information getting lost or ending in anyone else’s hands, and because it’s live information, it helps us to make informed decisions quickly whilst removes the hassle for our clients.

Online applications portals for brokers

We’ve made it even easier for our introducers to apply for Asset Finance on behalf of their clients via our Asset Broker Portal – designed to make working with us as streamlined as possible. There, they can upload new Asset Finance applications, instantly access the status of any existing applications, with previous deals archived for easy reference. The feedback from brokers has been excellent and having this capability has been invaluable when they’ve been working remotely. We are working on the introduction of a similar application portal for our Bridging product this year too.

It is our continued investment in technology that has helped us to adapt, quickly and securely, so we could continue providing our clients and introducers with the seamless, lending processes crucial for supporting the business community throughout the pandemic. We firmly believe that this technology won’t replace the role our people play in building relationships, understanding clients’ needs and solving problems – but it’s making everyone’s lives a lot easier in the process.