Nivo CEO and co-founder Michael Common – Mortgage Strategy
With communication being such a large part of a mortgage broker’s duty, anything that makes the process smoother should be welcome.
We spoke to Michael Common, chief executive and co-founder of Nivo, a messaging application that allows financial services firms to communicate with clients and exchange documents in a secure and easy manner.
It also incorporates bots, which the firm says allows applications to be progressed outside of office hours.
What was your original rationale for developing Nivo?
We started Nivo because we were looking at the financial services market and thinking ‘how do we make getting access to and servicing the right products as easy as possible?’. We felt the market was incredibly inefficient and that was preventing both consumers and providers from being able to deliver real value.
It was through that work that we realised that much of the friction that existed came from reliance on legacy communication channels such as email, phone and paper, as well as customers having to provide the same information again and again with each provider.
[Or product], ‘Verified Identity Messaging’ combines digital identification with secure instant messaging. Instant messaging is how people choose to communicate. It is quick, easy and convenient. By adding digital identification, we can ensure that providers know who they are talking to and can set up and service their customers in confidence without the need for cumbersome authentication and identification processes.
What was the toughest challenge in bringing Nivo to market?
It is difficult to get your message out there for people to try something new. When whole markets operate in a certain and profitable way (for example, off phone or email) then there’s often little incentive to try something new.
There’s also so much technology out there with different companies competing for. We had to focus on the people that could see the same market inefficiencies we could and then build those relationships to get our products into market and prove their value.
Nivo uses bots to progress mortgage applications outside of office hours. How far along the application process are these bots able to function? Do all applications need to be seen by a human?
Our technology delivers most value for complex processes like mortgages. Here there are lots of people, companies and an asset involved that all have to be understood and that all have to communicated effectively. Because of all of this complexity there are huge areas of waste in these processes.
There is also a lot of security risk, given the nature of the data and the lack of security in legacy channels. [Nivo] allows the mundane things to be done automatically but where human skill is required it provides a platform for that to happen at the appropriate time.
Different providers we work with strike the balance of human/automated involvement in different ways depending upon the specifics of the proposition they offer and the service they want to provide.
What would you say to brokers who are worried that technology such as Nivo could take work away from them?
When customers engage with a broker I don’t think it is ever because they want someone who is going to spend hours shuffling emails and paperwork around various parties. They want the advice, the relationship point and access to the best deals. That’s the service they have and will continue to pay for, in my mind.
Brokers using Nivo have never suffered financially from their customers finding the process so quick and easy! Customers are becoming more and more nervous about the data they share over channels such as email and so appreciate the opportunity to use a more secure alternative.
How far do you think bots can be taken within the next few years?
We would like to do more with Natural Language Processing than we have been doing. In many instances, given enough historical data, bots can now come up with very good responses to a lot of queries that would emulate a well-trained agent. The value of bots is their consistency and the immediacy of their response, as well as their low cost. The more we can do with bots, the more the people can focus on the things that people do best, handling complex things such as understanding individual circumstances, empathising and providing advice.
What technological advances in other industries have caught your eye recently?
We have been look into Chat-GPT a lot. This has been a step change in the ability for a bot to present human-like responses to limitless tasks. We’ve already started building this technology into Nivo to experiment more with what we can do. WeChat in Asia is also a really interesting technology that has demonstrated the power of verified identity messaging at enormous scale in that part of the world.
Within WeChat people routinely bank, make payments, order taxis, order food… it is incredibly easy to use because messaging is so convenient for people.