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The retail finance sector has long been at the forefront of innovation in technology. Today the idea of going to a broker to arrange motor cover, or walking into a branch to enquire about a personal loan would seem like an alien concept to a large and growing proportion of society.

The millennials, who have never known a time without the internet, and who are the banks and building societies’ next generation of customers, will expect and demand an always-on, digital-first marketplace that puts them in control and operates at their convenience.

Of course this transition has already happened in many product categories, most notably insurance and unsecured borrowing. Now the FCA has published a discussion paper looking at ways of unlocking innovation in the pensions and investments space with a view to providing faster and cheaper channels for more complex regulated products. It remains to be seen what impact this will have on the distribution landscape in this area.

The mortgage world is of course dominated by intermediary-based origination, and the regulator continues to champion the advised model as the ‘gold standard’ for responsible lending. That said, an increasing number of banks and financial services groups now provide a completely online execution-only application process for those customers who are comfortable with the risks and are willing to waive the protections that an advised sale would give them.

One of DPR’s challenger bank clients has just launched a product switch portal for customers reaching the end of their initial benefit period. This allows them to execute the complete process from start to finish in around ten minutes, including illustration, fully offer and acceptance. This is a great example of technology innovation being used to enhance the customer’s experience by providing a streamlined digital solution to what would otherwise be a lengthy and time‑consuming process. 

As always, it is the opportunity to differentiate the proposition and provide compelling and unique value to customers that will lead the charge to innovation.

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