‘Agile’ management arrives in mortgages

Bankwest has embraced the Silicon Valley approach to speed up improvements for brokers 

Agile, the management system made famous by tech giants Google and Amazon, has arrived in mortgage broking.

Bankwest has implemented agile working methods over the past 18 months to speed up improvements to its broker platform, including a new broker website launched in November. 

Third party chief Ian Rakhit told MPA: “everything we’ve built on the Bankwest website is based upon broker feedback. Working through an agile methodology that allows you then to create quickly, test quickly and implement quickly.”

Bankwest is responding to changing trends, according to CIO Andy Weir: “customer preferences are changing quite rapidly in terms of where, when and how they want to consumer financial services, as well as new competitors coming into the environment”

Staff at the bank have been reorganised into multidisciplinary ‘tribes’, in order to speed up technological improvements, most recently including a broker portal and home loan tracker. 

Weir, who is leading the introduction of agile-style management to the bank, says that it involves “a lot more prototyping, a lot more use of analytics and really improving our speed to market and really differentiating customer experiences.” 

Why agile is no gimmick

Despite being around for almost two decades, agile remains a poorly understood approach to management. 

Coming from the IT sector, it refers to multidisciplinary teams working on small projects with well-defined objectives. This differs from the traditional approach in banking, involving sprawling, multi-million dollar IT projects, which can take years to be delivered. Furthermore, new systems often experience teething problems, such as ING’s LendFast system, which led to a turnaround times blowout last year.

ANZ’s CEO Shayne Elliott has made agile the centrepiece of his time leading the bank, although it is not yet clear how this affects its work with mortgage brokers.

Bankwest CIO Weir warns that “agile is a very overused term” and portrays Bankwest’s change as making the organisation more “customer-obsessed”. Wier claims that switching to an agile-inspired approach “where we have deployed these ways of working, we really have delivered some market-leading changes, that have been well received.” 

Make agile part of your business

Agile isn’t just about large, immobile organisations: elements can be used in small business too.

Writing for MPA last year, business author Lynne Cazaly outlined three laws of agile: keeping teams small, focusing on the customer’s experience, and encouraging different parts of the business working with each other.

Whilst brokers have traditionally operated in small offices, the spread of post-settlement customer satisfaction surveys and increasing diversification of brokerages suggest broking is following the latter two agile trends. 

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