I founded my first company, Freedom Home Loans, in 2001. The company was founded originally as a solution to help people obtain a mortgage who fell outside the underwriting criteria offered by mainstream lender options. In 2004, I franchised the business, and the team expanded to almost 50 franchisees in regional centres of Eastern Australia by 2006. The same year, Freedom entered a funding partnership with a wholesale funder; which enabled the company to access wholesale funds for borrowers and become a lender in our own right.
At the end of 2008, my wife and I moved to the USA for the next 5 years, where I studied and worked in the mortgage industry there in some depth. It was on returning to Australia in 2014, that the idea for my second company was borne.
Can you tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
Over the course of this past almost 17 years in my experience as a mortgage broker, I have submitted thousands of applications to lenders for their assessment. I have been able to experience the process first hand and to feel the points of friction in the process.
If I am honest, the whole process is a series of sticking points, each of which are a potential obstacle towards a progression to settlement. Key points of friction to the customer include:
- need to meet with bank / broker at a time that suits the bank / broker
- need to complete an application, answering questions like “What is your name?” – and other such information that the bank already knows the answer to
- need to provide copies of ID, bank statements, payslips and more
- then the customer has to wait
During my time in the US, I became increasingly interested in technology, as I watched the development of Google and Apple specifically.
I asked myself, “If I could create a system to provide consumer loans using the technology that is available today, what would it look like?”
Whilst technology has changed significantly over this period of time, the process of applying for and assessing consumer loans has not advanced in step with the technology available. The world of lending today started in the world of paper. Nobody has designed it – it has just evolved that way.
So this is what I set out to design.
The way we have decided to deliver it is by putting the customer in control of their own data.
This is unique in our industry, and I believe unique across the board. Lots of companies collect information on their customers. They collect this information because it is valuable to them as a company. They can analyse it, and then use the results to try to sell the customer more products.
The Reversify strategy is quite the opposite – we are empowering the customer to take back control of their own information, which we do by providing an online vault – a highly secure place where they can centralise, store, protect, analyse, use and share their data. By sharing their personal and financial data with us, we are able to match their profile against the underwriting criteria of our panel lenders. The result is that we can at the very least pre-match customers for loan facilities, so they can apply for a new mortgage with certainty, and do it right from their phone or tablet. Our end goal is to deliver to the customer a range of pre-approved loan options and allow our customers to accept when it is convenient – even signing loan contracts right on their device. We see a world where applying for a loan is as simple as updating your Facebook status.
Customer’s needs are so diverse, that it is virtually impossible for a single bank to cater for all those needs. We provide a place where our customers can check their eligibility for a new product, complete the research on the provider, choose the bank of their choice and then apply right from their device – all in a few minutes.
I never wanted to be a tech entrepreneur. It wasn’t my intention. It just kind of happened!
Can you explain your business model to us?
Reversify’s end goal is to act as retail financial services marketplace, where we will deal directly with the consumer.
As a retail marketplace, we will generate our revenue from commissions from the placement of financial products, starting with offering mortgages.
The one challenge with that model though is that it takes a lot of money and a lot of resources to build a retail marketplace, and we are bootstrapping the company.
With a desire to get to market more quickly, we are launching as a Data-as-a-Service offering, where our corporate customers will be able to use our solution to collect, store and manage customer data; and thus provide better advice as a result. Typical corporate customers in this category include mortgage originators, loan comparison websites and platforms, mortgage aggregators, back office services, existing software providers and so on
The service will be provided at low or no cost. The low-cost solution offers predictable revenues but lower margins, whilst the no-cost offering will allow for commission revenue and access to larger distribution networks.
Could you tell us what are you working on right now and what you’re looking forward to in the next year?
We are completely focused on our launch. Whilst we think we have a good understanding of where demand will come from, we look forward to working with our corporate customers to help improve the product and fill market gaps.
Have mentors played a role in your business life?
Mentors have always played a significant role in my life, from my younger competitive sporting days, to my first business, to the launch of reversify.
I have often found that the more successful someone is, the more likely it is that they will be the most generous with their time and advice. And I have found people to be remarkably helpful compared to the finance industry, which is more secretive and competitive.
Fintech as a sub-sector isn’t easy though. The fintech industry is a comparable new one, and Australia is a small market. Finding key mentors, or in our case, formal advisers is something we are being very selective with.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually wake with an alarm at 5.00 am. For the first 30 minutes, I lay in bed and do some personal reading. I have been using Duolingo to learn a foreign language for the past 3 years, and I try to practice that daily. I also like to pick a random topic and read about that for 15 minutes or so each morning as well.
I will meet with some friends for a morning jog at 6.00 am, and follow it with a shared coffee. For me, it’s a perfect way to start the day.
After that, my day is far from typical. I have learned that I work best in small intense bursts of 20 – 40 minutes, and then have a break for about 20 minutes. Much of my day is spent thinking and reading, and making sure we are on the right track, and thinking through the “what if” moments.
I am usually in bed quite early – certainly before 10 pm, but sometimes even before 9.00pm!
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business in Australia?
None that are immediately apparent. I expect the greater challenges are within oneself, and it is more important to overcome them.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
I am of the belief that brilliant software is not the pathway to being disruptive to an industry. To be truly disruptive, you must also have a disruptive business model, so I spend just as much, if not more time thinking through that component of our offering.
What organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
What about internationally?
TransferWise – the easiest and cheapest way to transfer money internationally
Facebook Pay – peer payments via messenger, integrating finance and social
AliPay – an absolute bohemoth
Etherium – using the blockchain to revolutionalise money internationally
Zenefits – for their simple but powerful business model (non-compliance aside)
Credit Karma – growing from a free credit service servicing millions of customers to the expanding provision of taxation services and financial products
EyeVerify – allowing for biometric login via a retinal scan
Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?
We are still pre-launch, however, I expect fundraising partnerships with charities could potentially be a key distribution initiative for us.
Do you have any apps that you use that you would recommend to our readers?
I use apps for than websites, however, the apps that I use a lot are
- DuoLingo – the easiest way I know to learn a new language
- Ted – watch and listen to the world’s greatest minds
- Overcast – a podcast app that allows me to listen to stories that inspire thought
Do you have any opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
I am of the opinion that no person is smart enough to know what to do with every new opportunity s/he finds, and no company has enough reserves to pursue all the opportunities it might like to execute. Therefore, the success of the venture will to a large extent be determined by the team that can be recruited. I am always keen to hear from anybody who might like to become involved.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, what would it be?
How can I better protect both our software and business model from competitors?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
I have been known to drive to Lorne (just under 2 hours from my hometown of Ballarat) to the Swing Bridge café in Lorne for breakfast