Porthos & Co – building a lighter, faster interface for mortgages and insurance

Our clients don’t like the complex forms and clunky technology of our industry. So we have started to build a lighter and better interface that uses voice calls, conversational messaging and simple personalised prompts. It’s driven by AI but what really matters is the simplicity, speed and personalised convenience that it offers you, the client.

About us

Porthos is a fintech arranger of mortgages and insurance, a UK market of £300bn annually. We’re a Techstars portfolio company. We started working as a broker last year and quickly realised that the process and tech in the market was badly broken. It’s too complex, slow and driven by online form-filling. Few systems are connected and little use is made of modern data. Clients like you are baffled by it – we experience it too, so we understand. We have started to build a better interface that provides enormous benefits to you the client.

Tech summary for clients

Our new interface is gradually replacing endless forms with voice calls and conversational messaging. Our first aim is to make a far faster and less stressful “fact find”. We do that by prompting you to submit only the data and documents need to support your application, based on your working and earning profile.

And we make it far easier to supply that information by using data mining to read WhatsApp or other messages, voice calls, and also by linking data from Open Banking and other sources you choose. That means you don’t need to remember passwords and login, fill-in long forms, or guess what information we need from you.

Our ultimate plan is to extend that speed and simplicity to a platform for all of your financial life: quick and easy access to your mortgages, insurance, property, investments, pensions, loans, savings and other assets. We’ll combine that with the same speedy personalised messaging and tools to allow you to check alternatives and ideas. When you need them, our human experts will be on hand to advise you and when you choose, execute your plan.

Benefits to you the client

  1. Speed – We replace large forms with personalised prompts
  2. Simplicity – Send data and documents via messaging to be machine-read
  3. Conversational – You can choose from WhatsApp, Messenger, iMessage or text messages
  4. Security – Encryption: End-to-end & far safer than email or web HTTPS
  5. Privacy – Your data remains yours and private except with explicit approval
  6. Modern data – New data sources can uncover new opportunities for you.

Detail – market and history

  • Size – UK mortgage market lending was £223bn in 2023 and is expected to grow by 56% over the next 8 years. Life, protection and home insurance premiums were £72bn. The larger banks and insurers dominate the market but specialist and fintech new-entrants are taking increasing market share.
  • Branch closures – Two thirds of bank and building society branches have closed over the last three decades. Insurance offices and tied agents have seen similar decreases. Those branches that remain have been transformed into retail shops, and almost all decision making centralised.
  • Brokers – Intermediaries like us arrange 80% of mortgage lending and 90% of life insurance and protection, earning £23bn in fees each year. Our initial target market has been unconventional and larger borrowers since their challenges are representative of the wider market. Serving them has allowed us to tailor our technology to the real world problem.
  • Online – Financial providers now interact with their clients mainly online and via telephone. 86% of customers use web or app-based services. But bank and insurance technology is poor. It works best for simple low-margin products like savings or current accounts.

Detail – problem

  • Complex products – our target area. Mortgages, loans, insurance require more information, fact find and advice. Independent brokers and advisers are increasingly used to handle those challenges and advise the client. But clients are underwhelmed by the current process. Many describe it as deeply stressful; complaining about patchy and slow customer service and poor information.
  • Client resistance – intermediary, lender and insurer technology is, with a few notable exceptions, dreadful. It’s baffling to clients and often insecure – a disorganised mixture of logins, complex online forms, phone calls and email. Some mortgage forms have 260 fields, most of which are irrelevant to a particular case. Clients want something far simpler and more conversational.
  • Efficiency and scale – it’s not just clients that suffer. Brokers and financial providers are less efficient than they could be. Few financial provider systems connect fully to intermediaries. Common APIs barely exist and human admins spend much of their day rekeying from one system to another. Better technology and process can reduce rekeying, costs and speed throughput dramatically.
  • Innovation – poor fact find interfaces capture only a small subset of aged data. With a faster conversational process, we can prompt clients to use newer comprehensive data sources like Open Banking, tax and investment APIs. The early signs are positive. And better data creates opportunities for new products and innovation to benefit clients, improve credit decisions and create meaningful competitive advantage.

Detail – other good tech

It’s not just us. There are other new tech and business ventures that are doing great things in mortgage and insurance land:

Acre – The best mortgage CRM, compliance and sourcing system

Gen H – A new fintech lender with speedy and innovative technology

Habito – An online broker with quick technology and tools

MPowered – Mqube lender platform for faster automated lending

Detail – tech summary

Bad technology, like all bad design, doesn’t happen by chance. In our industry It’s the symptom of bureaucratic arthritis and regulatory weight gain. Good technology and design is built by small teams that care about the user, spending months to deeply understand their needs.

The tech problems of the industry are symptoms of long-standing organisational and regulatory challenges. So the solution will take time and sustained, iterative innovation. Our solution will have three stages and create a genuine revolution:

  1. Fact find – clients like to talk briefly by phone to build rapport and ask questions. So we transcribe and mine phone calls for useful data to populate our CRM. Similarly they prefer to message documents securely via WhatsApp, Messenger, SMS or Viber as well as using them for brief chats and updates. Messaging abolishes password and login friction. We connect to all of these services seamlessly, upload documents to our CRM and then process them with AI.
  2. Data connectivity – we have already begun to connect our systems to others. Real connectivity will only be created by new innovative players in the market. So we have teamed up with another Fintech to create and publish a set of common APIs for financial providers and intermediaries. These will be copyrighted open source, usable by all, but managed by the original working group. Mass adoption will take time and be driven by competitive pressure.
  3. Innovation and credit – we have connected multiple new data sources like Open Banking, property data and tax. Conversational prompts make it much easier for clients to use them. Better and more complete data is a foundation for innovation and competitive advantage.

We aim to embed all three capabilities in our platform, as well as extending our capabilities into wealth and pensions. And then licence the platform and its underlying technology to the industry. None of our competitors offer such a tested and innovative solution.

Detail – the progress we’ve made

  1. Development – we have fully developed a client onboarding module built upon a javascript framework and graph database. This incorporates Open Banking and many other APIs. We’ve prototyped working implementations of our conversational messaging, transcription and AI solutions in low code tools. They are fully working early versions.
  2. Business – we are regulated by the FCA as a data aggregator and Jonathan, our director, as an intermediary. We will shortly be fully regulated as an “Appointed Representative” intermediary firm.

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