Tanya Toumadj Interview | CEO Mortgage Broker Tools

On the MLC Show for Property Professionals we had the privilege of interviewing Tanya Toumadj – CEO of Mortgage Broker Tools.

You benefit from a FREE 30-day and no-obligation trial with Mortgage Broker Tools. You can register for a FREE 30-day trial by clicking on the link here.

Mortgage Broker Tools helps mortgage brokers assess affordability and criteria. It is of paramount importance that clients receive the correct lender affordability advice whilst ensuring full compliance.

Unfortunately, many mortgage brokers have had to spend hours form filling every month in order to complete a comprehensive and accurate affordability assessment.
  • Would you benefit from saving hours of time currently spent form filling?
  • Would a fast and reliable online service with comprehensive and accurate affordability assessments benefit your business?
  • Would it help to be able to make more ‘right first time’ AIP decisions?
  • Would automated evidence of research via PDF help your affordability research?

If so Mortgage Broker Tools would be well worth checking out especially via the FREE 30-day trial.

We interviewed Tanya in late 2020.

Scroll down to read the transcript of the interview, or you can listen via our podcast, or watch the interview via our YouTube channel.

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Tanya Toumadj Interview

Firstly Tanya, congratulations on the role as CEO at Mortgage Broker Tools (MBT). How have you found the last six months is it? And how are things generally?

– Thanks so much, Sean. It’s been an unusual time to join any new role I think during the pandemic, but it’s been great. The team has been great, working virtually, getting me onboarded. I think actually the virtual meetings have made it a lot easier to go and meet people across the business. So always look for the silver lining in that and then of course the mortgage industry over the past six months has gone through so much change in itself and I think it’s a really interesting time coming from an industry perspective from our company perspective. So although it has been unusual and it’s not something I hope to go through again to start a new job in a pandemic but it’s been one hell of a moment.

And tell us a bit about your background. What was your life story during your career in the lead up to you taking this role?

– Yeah, so my career always been rooted in retail financial services whether that be in credit cards, insurance, at some of the large retail banks, at small FinTech’s I worked and started my career working across them. I then eventually did take a bit of a break, first to invest in myself when I got my MBA, spent a few years at a strategy consulting company but the calling back to retail FS was always in the back of my mind and when this opportunity came up it ticked all those boxes. I think for me, my underlying passion has always been in helping consumers understand what can be opaque and very important financial decisions in products that they don’t always fully understand, and mortgages is definitely one of them. That’s one of the largest emotional financial decisions a consumer can make and we all have a role to play in that industry and so very excited about what MBT is doing there.

Was it Bain and Company, you were at previously?

– Yeah, it was their company. So they’re a strategy consulting company working across a large range of industries, which is actually great because you can then get to see “what do you take from each different industry” and apply to the mortgage market and the retail market in general.

I’m interested in terms of, being appointed CEO you obviously have a broad range of leadership skills. How much of it do you think is nurture and nature?

How have the leadership skills and duties you have to fulfil every day as CEO, been impacted by your roles in the past? Has it been in you since a very early age and flourished? Or how much of it is due to circumstance, experience, and teaching yourself?

– I don’t think I would have said I was a leader as a child, but I think what’s great is that there is a whole range of leadership styles and that’s becoming more and more apparent. I think when you look back and say “oh it has to be this kind of person as the epitome of a leader”, that to me has definitely changed. I think I’ve been very lucky in my career to have, surrounded myself with people that have invested in my development. Likewise, that’s kind of what we do, something that I’m very passionate about whether it be at previous jobs or outside of work I do a lot of coaching, helping young people, nurture and develop themselves as well because I think with the right backing, the right encouragement and then the right opportunities, a lot of people can take on those leadership roles.

I think leadership, includes being skilled at influencing and everyone has to be able to influence. Influence can have maybe a misconception of manipulation. But I actually think you’ve got to be able to influence people to make decisions whether that’s to give you a job, or to work alongside you, or to give you a break, or to even just take the call, or whatever it be to make that leap of faith. I suppose in your more senior position it’s the ability to influence people because when you have a conflict you may need to make everyone compromise at times and work towards certain goals.

– And I think how you talk about the words influence and manipulation you’re right. They can have a negative connotation but I think influence for me is being able to explain your point of view and take it from the other person’s point of view as to what would matter to them and actually break that information -asymmetry, you give them say the power to make the right decision, using the knowledge that you know that they might not necessarily know themselves..

Did you have any mentors personally, maybe family, or anyone in work that now you’re in the role as CEO… maybe you will pick up the phone and pick their brains? Is there anyone that you can think of who was a mentor to you and you think that is the path that I will go down? Or is it self-taught and you found your own path?

– I think along the way different people entered into my life professionally or personally and were mentors, or even sponsors, and where they might raise their hand up and kind of back me. The way that I think about it is, you should always have your crew of people that will bring different things to elements whether that is that they knew you personally and they can understand how you internalize things and I think my family is really important for that or whether it’s people that have gone through a similar business. So for example, our Chairman has scaled up very successful startups, so having him as a mentor and talk me through the normal phases is really helpful. And then also your peers, mentors don’t have to be people necessarily who are more senior to you,  it encompasses people across the full spectrum. And for me the biggest thing is being open to ask for help, right? To have the mentors and to get the best out of everyone is being comfortable, being open, honest, and actually asking for help because most people will give it to you. If you ask, people would love to give. I think we’re very giving humans. So ask for help.

What surprised you most about the sector? You’ve been parachuted in a way during a pandemic, Brexit’s on the horizon, very changing times in terms of digital transformations and so forth. What surprised you the most in this sector?

– That’s a great question. I think what surprised me the most is actually how close-knit the community is and how all the different parties are ultimately working towards the same goal which is having, the customer getting the right mortgage for them when they need it. And whether that’s technology players like ourselves whether that’s, brokers working really hard or that’s lenders working really hard, it’s actually a very close-knit community, all working for the same goal and slightly different aspects obviously, but I was really overwhelmed by how consumer-driven everyone thought and all working towards that same goal.

2021 and beyond, what do you think the biggest challenges are facing the sector?

– So I don’t have a crystal ball but I’ll pretend that I have one now.

So I think one of the biggest issues is going to be the volume of demands.

I think we’ve all seen demand increase over the past few months through pent up demand of the lockdown, the stamp duty change and we all know that’s coming to an end in March, an open question is whether new schemes will come in. But what I imagine is that the demand will be a bit spiky at some point, it’s going to go through surges up and down.

Therefore, how do you maintain service levels throughout it all, but how do you do the distribution and get to the right customers and make sure you are continuously updating your products to win those customers as they come on? And I think that’s going to be, or at least what I anticipate, to be a bit of an abnormal year in terms of the spikiness of demand.

What do you think might be the biggest digital changes or digital transformations, not so much what the consumer sees necessarily, but what do you think they would be?

– So I think the market has come quite a long way in digital transformation, but has been done in almost like pockets. I imagine there will be much more integration across the value chain. So if I take an MBT view we’ve focused on affordability and digitising that and making that better.

Other players are focusing on making it a seamless apply journey, these are all still quite broken up. I imagine that will be integrated across the value chain.

Like you say, the customer, or hopefully the customer will see it in quicker completion date times but I think it will be actually how the technology stack is integrated and therefore how seamless and easy it is for brokers to move across that entire process that should change the most.

We’ve been working hard with various partners and there are some amazing products out there. There is a fantastic overlap and synergy with them. The one thing that surprised me a little bit is that it’s not under one roof. That someone hasn’t been able to keep the companies separate and don’t get me wrong, not reinvent the wheel but actually put it all under one umbrella. Whoever the individual is that does that will be very successful, have a lot of fun, probably be stressed out their brains, but also make a lot of money and I think they will win on the basis of the convenience factor.

Whether next year will be far too soon for that I don’t know. But I suspect that that has to be where it is going…..

– I was just going to say like you said there are so many different solutions out there already and people just becoming, from a broker sense, more aware of them and that’s why it’s great, what you’re doing which is finding out all these different products and putting them under one roof. So at least a broker can go to one place and say, “Oh, okay these are all the different options that I have.” And then, as you say, in a year, two years, hopefully, all those different players will be integrated somehow and it’s just all super seamless for the broker.

Yes I mean, it looks to me like you’ve still got a traditional model that works and is there and can flourish. And then at the same point in time, it looks like there are more and more options, better developments coming out all the time that can only help. I was going to ask you as well, Tanya on the subject of that, what would you say would be one thing that mortgage brokers could focus on perhaps to safeguard their business? Ensure workflows are at least consistent if not growing for example, what would that be?

– So I think it’s less about ensuring the workflow and I actually think, just based on the questions and conversations we’ve been having, for me it’s embracing technology and it’s this idea that the technology isn’t there to replace a broker, it is to enhance and help the broker.

At least at MBT, that’s how we view it. I think if you don’t start embracing, the right technology for you and that’s different for everyone, but embracing that now I think you will find it tougher to adapt and you will be becoming less efficient and it’s really leveraging all the tools out there, so you can do your job as efficiently as possible.

Then you free up the time where you can go and focus on, increasing word of mouth referrals, winning more customers. Personally, I’m not sure on the best way to increase business as a broker but what I do know is we can help you do your work more efficiently, so you have the capacity to get more customers.

Which is a nice lead-in to Mortgage Broker Tools. For those of us who don’t know tell us what Mortgage Broker Tools is and why it was created.

– Yeah, of course. So, Mortgage Broker Tools was created about two years ago now and our primary aim is to help brokers save time during the research process and help them find the best lender for their specific customer’s needs. One of our co-founders who’s a broker himself was really frustrated at all the time he spent going into each lenders, individual affordability calculator, fitting them all in, and getting results. Ultimately not just relying on sourcing and the product but also taking into account who will loan them the amounts and then focus his sourcing efforts on those. So that was the concept. So that is how we came about using technology through one simple form, integrating with all the lenders calculators, So, within one minute fill in the form within one minute you get all the results and you save that time but also you might be surprised at what lenders come up top or where you might have written off your customer being able to get the loan that they want. You might be surprised that there might be one or two lenders out there that can do it and so that’s our ultimate aim.

So in terms of the key problems and issues, it solves would it be fair to say it solves frustration, wasted time and also staying up to date in a way because rather than as you say, having to go into individual lenders and fill in that information and filling them forms, now it is there under one roof, you can get access to that. It might even be a month or two before that you made a certain assumption perhaps on a certain position that a lender was taking and something could have changed which would then implement changes. Is that what you solve and the key features that Mortgage Broker Tools provides?

– Yes I think that that’s pretty well summarised. I love the word frustration there and that time spent. What we’re actually seeing is per week, about three to five changes are happening in affordability behind the scenes. So as a broker for you to stay up to date with that, either via a search through it, or assuming that based on previous knowledge, one lender would loan an amount and then getting further down the process and realising that’s not the case. I think that’s also then the risk and what we’re trying to solve.

Do affordability, once accurately for most of the whole market upfronts. Then, you’re confident that when you go through the application process you’re not going to have to go back to a customer and say, “Well actually, sorry we can’t get that amount you want.”

Playing the devil’s advocate. If I’m listening to this, I might be saying, look there’s been a conveyancing log jam this year and I’ve still got a healthy book of work in progress. I’ve got work coming out of my ears with everything that’s going on. It’s going to probably be a little bit harder for people to do product transfers and stay with their own lender perhaps because of lending criteria changes to people’s pay and financial circumstances, which may lead to an increase in brokers needing more bespoke products and so forth. I am mad busy and have come this far without you.

Playing completely devil’s advocate here, Why would I change my habits and give MBT a go? Why, would I try Mortgage Broker Tools?

– I think that’s a very fair question. What we find is actually, that’s what we work hardest to break down which is “why should you try MBT?”

We find out once people try us and run a few cases, we actually have a very high conversion rate.

Customers stay with us for a very long time but it’s how to get over that hurdle. What I can only say is, now’s the time when there are so many changes going on in the markets how do you stay up to date?

I know it’s that tiny bit of investment upfront, but super small as it is a quick sign-up if you try a few cases, and actually we’ll save you bucket loads of time down the line.

We actually saw a higher uptake of MBT during the summer months as I think quite a few people were like, “Oh actually now’s the time that I should be looking at this thing and now I can see the value a lot more than maybe previously in a more stagnant market, and affordability wasn’t moving around as much.”

They’re like, “Okay, can I continue without this?”

If I look back into my crystal ball, I imagine, and I think a lot of lenders would say the same, that they will continue to have to make amendments to affordability and criteria over the next two years as the market will continue to ebb and flow.

– So if I’m listening to this now or I come across you and I’m thinking, okay, it sounds quite interesting. What’s the actual process for me signing up? What are my commitments? What are the risks? How hard is it for me to get set up?

Because some things can be a pain to get set up. They might be easy to use but they’re just a pain to set up or conversely, how much of my time is it going to take, just working my way around and familiarise myself with the system? Am I going to lose time at the start?

– So first sign up is really quick and easy. You click sign up, we ask you four or five questions to register, and then you actually get a free 30-day trial. We don’t ask you for any payment details and it’s really just try it yourself, get it, just try it.

In terms of then how much time to spend kind of navigating the form. Obviously reading is quite intuitive and we get feedback that it is intuitive but we are always there to do demos.

You can always reach out to us and ask for a demo or run through a live case with you if it’s not as intuitive. As I say run a few cases and then you get the gist of it and can quite easily turn through your cases quite quickly. We try to make it as easy as possible and if anyone listening or watching thinks that isn’t the case, then I’d love to hear your feedback because I would love to improve that element if in fact, it’s not as easy as we think.

I assume you’ve got all the support things like email, live chat, and support

– Yes, we have. Everything like that.

Live chat, we have an email which is support@mortgagebrokertools.co.uk, as well as a phone number that you can call. We’ve actually got our co-founder a broker as well he works on the support desk. So you will be speaking to people that understand the complex cases and can actually speak broker to broker which we thought was really important.

What about compliance? Because mortgage brokers need to keep a record of their evidence of research. Do you do anything to support mortgage brokers with compliance?

– Yeah, so we have built-in quite a few functionalities around that. So the first is, that you can just print the results, so that will generate a PDF of everything that you’ve inputted and the table.

So you’ll see for residential it’s 42 lenders with buy to let we have 65 lenders on our panel. So you’ll see everything inputted plus a ranked table based on the affordability which straightaway Will prove you’ve taken whole of market advice and then can quite easily say, “Well I might not have chosen the cheapest product because they didn’t loan the amount requested so that is the FCA compliance ticked.”

Then we also have a screenshot of a specific lender calculator. So what happens when you actually click lender, get lender results on MBT, is we go and we populate all the lender’s affordability calculators and pull back the results, including a PDF of their webpage of how we filled in.

So say you want to go to the lender that you chose and you can also save the screenshot of how it’s all put in their calculator. That’s how we stay up to date with all the changes the lenders make because if they make it behind the scenes in their calculator that feeds through on their web page which then fundamentally feeds through, into MBT.

So those are some of the key areas on which we’ve got feedback and how it helps in compliance.

Okay, and what kind of pricing are you at then? Say I go through my 30-day free trial, and I like it. I enjoy the cases you’re then going to say, look it is the end of your trial, you need to sign up how much are you taking out of my bank Tanya!?

– Not, too much! So it’s £14.99 plus VAT per user per month, for residential and buy-to-lets and if you just want access to residential it’s £9.99 per user per month. And then for that, you get an unlimited number of cases. So you can have as many cases as you want. You can add on more users. So, whether you’re a sole trader or a five-member team, whatever, then you can obviously scale up. It’s also a monthly rolling subscription so, you’re not committing for a year if you don’t like it..-

– No long contract or anything?

– It’s just a rolling contract or direct debit. Like I said, people who try us, run a few cases, subscribe and those people that subscribe, love it. They use it on mostly all of their cases compliance being one reason, and they stay on and that’s why we’ve done a monthly rolling contract because we’re confident that once you start using our product and integrate it into your research process it will definitely provide the value. For example and this is a great piece of data that we actually pulled out because we aggregate all the data that we find. We found that in 13% of the cases that we see, only one or two lenders will meet the loan requested. So if MBT helps you find that one or two lenders, then place the case that the customer’s happy with I mean, you’ve paid back your monthly subscription, multiple times over.

Where do you want to be in 12 months’ time, two years’ time? Where would you like to see Mortgage Broker Tools and even yourself personally? Is this something where you see yourself being CEO with the company during that time and where do you see all of you going as a team?

– So I think over the next 12 months from an MBT perspective what we would love to see is brokers understanding the importance of affordability and using it more and more in their research process.

Where we want to go with the company, I guess, to go back to our aim, is to help advisors save time in the research process and find the best lender that can look beyond affordability.

We’re looking to include criteria as you’ve got all these different solutions so how can you start integrating some of them together, make it a much more integrated and holistic almost recommendation tool for brokers.