The Smartr365 team has decades of combined experience in the mortgage industry. Next up in our Meet the Team series, we introduce Rees Watkins, our Chief Transformation Officer, who told us about his role, the challenges facing the industry, and how we can tackle them.

Smartr365: Hi Rees

Rees Watkins: Hi guys!

Smartr365: Let’s start with the basics – tell us about your day-to-day role at Smartr365

RW: I’ve been CTO at Smartr365 for a nearly 3 years now, and essentially, I oversee everything with a technical aspect that goes on in the business. When we speak to brokers and they tell us the problems they face, it’s then my job to work out how to implement the solutions our product team devise and make the Smartr365 platform work for the industry. As part of that, I manage client technical support and work closely with Cameron Parsons, Smartr365’s Product Manager, to support the sales process and understand the different needs of different customers to make sure Smartr365 works for them.

Smartr365: You’re a busy guy, then! What do you think are the most important technological challenges the industry needs to address?

RW: When speaking with brokers, it’s clear that a lot of their processes aren’t taking advantage of the innovations that are coming into the market. Brokers have been providing an excellent and important service for many years, but lots of them haven’t changed how they’ve done it – it’s our job to help make their processes even better and deliver value at all stages of the mortgage process.

Smartr365: So, brokers need to embrace change?

RW: Definitely. The industry is still very segmented and a lot of tasks are done manually. Embracing automation will save brokers a huge amount of time, letting them focus on the activities that deliver value, but taking the first step of changing the way your business operates can be difficult. Most off-the-shelf software doesn’t work well enough to make the investment worth it, so it’s essential that technological solutions are tailored to the needs of each customer.

Smartr365: Where do you see things going in the future?

RW: There are lots of exciting things still to come that will make the mortgage process even more efficient. ID, address, and income verification are a very important part of an application and one that is tricky to digitise. I think that as people see the value of digitising this step, momentum will gather and the industry will come together to work out a market-wide standard which will enable a crucial step in the frictionless mortgage journey.

Machine learning can also have a hugely positive impact in detecting fraud and error, and even though the technology isn’t quite there yet, when it comes in it will improve reliability when checking through the hundreds of different fields of data involved in a mortgage application.

Smartr365: Exciting! If you could have one wish for the mortgage industry in 2019, what would it be?

RW: I’d love for automation to really take off and the industry to realise its transformative potential. Taking pressure and stress out of brokers’ lives is central to what we’re trying to do at Smartr365, and automation is so key to this. When it does happen, it’ll be sudden, and people will notice a swift shift in the way the market operates. Momentum has been building over the past few years, so it’s only a matter of time – 2019 could be the year!

Smartr365: To round us off, let’s get personal – what do you get up to in your spare time?

RW: All sorts! South Africans love to travel so I visit family in various countries regularly. My hobbies are pretty varied – I like oil painting, playing the piano, and doing yoga. I’m also really into technology and always keep up with the latest trends – a helpful hobby for a CT. It’s so interesting to see what’s happening in other sectors, and often it pays off from a business perspective too as we can bring ideas from elsewhere into the mortgage market.