We are in an era where technology has democratized financial services, giving customers unprecedented access to information, tools, and advice. However, for many financial institutions, it’s an uphill struggle to make their products competitive in this new age.
As a result, to remain competitive, these institutions are turning to technology. And personalization is the holy grail that they need to stay on top of their competition. But to get there, they’ll need a fresh approach to using technology and data to change their culture and workflows.
FinLocker is one such organization that is helping financial institutions to deliver financially personalized services. The company is changing the face of personalized financing solutions through an app that gives clear, concise, and engaging financial fitness information in a mobile-friendly format.
In the following interview, Brian Vieaux, President and COO, talks about the company’s USP, the need for going mobile in making sound financial decisions, traversing the pandemic, and how the organization is ushering into the student loan area in the forthcoming years.
Please brief our audience about your company, its Unique Selling Proposition (USPs), and how it is currently positioned as a leading player in the financial services space.
FinLocker offers the next generation in customer relationship-based performance marketing to empower mortgage originators, lenders, servicers, banks, credit unions, credit counselors, and housing advocacy non-profits to provide personalized financial solutions and experiences for their customers through the FinLocker financial fitness app.
FinLocker has partnered with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Microsoft, and consumer housing advocacy groups to help first-time homebuyers on their journey to achieve homeownership. FinLocker is Day 1 Certainty approved by Fannie Mae for direct source asset verification.
We provide financial institutions with a custom, white-labeled instance of FinLocker with their own brand, so their consumers can stay within the platform for their entire homeownership journey. The consumer doesn’t need to use any of the other disparate apps on the market to build and monitor their credit, manage their finances, budget, and save for their down payment, pay down debt, and begin their online property search.
FinLocker provides a unique USP for each business category. For example, the platform enables mortgage lenders and originators to connect with homebuyers at the top of the sales funnel and provides a high-tech, high-touch solution to manage a larger pipeline of homebuyers and recover homebuyers initially turned down for a mortgage.
The tools in the FinLocker platform prepare homebuyers for a mortgage and homeownership and enable the homebuyer to initiate a mortgage application directly from the app with their lender once they have achieved mortgage readiness. This service contributes to an increased lead to loan pull-through rate for mortgage lenders and originators.
Once homebuyers become homeowners, they continue to use their sponsoring mortgage lenders or mortgage servicer’s white-labeled FinLocker to monitor their credit, manage their finances, monitor their home equity, and net worth. FinLocker provides a valuable engagement platform that enables financial institutions to create customers for life and cross-sell additional financial products via the app.
What other solutions does your company offer, and how are these making an impact on the industry and your clients?
Improving the credit eligibility of our clients’ consumers can help them improve their eligibility to achieve multiple financial milestones. Financial institutions who use the FinLocker platform to stay connected with their consumers can have the opportunity to serve and profit from 15 financial transactions within a 10-year period from the typical consumer: home purchase, home insurance (annual), home warranty, auto loan, auto warranty (annual), credit cards, refinance, home equity line of credit (HELOC), debt consolidation, and another home purchase.
Being an experienced leader, share with us your opinion on what impact has the adoption of modern technologies such as AI, big data and machine learning had on the finance niche and what more could be expected in the future?
The advent of these features and functions with tools like AI and the analysis of big data and machine learning has created a much more intuitive, streamlined mortgage process for consumers going through the financial services process, regardless of the loan product. I come from a mortgage background, and I’ve watched large mortgage companies and mortgage tech providers focus on helping streamline the mortgage application process, which requires a lot of data gathering from their consumers.
One specific area for FinLocker is how consumer permissioned direct source data has aided asset data collection and verification. By enabling consumers to link their bank accounts inside their FinLocker account, the transactional data from those bank accounts can be used to make credit and lending decisions, as opposed to the traditional way of providing a stack of bank statements to their lender.
Another example where we’re continuing to see expansion is going beyond transactional asset data by enabling consumers to link their own payroll data, similar to how a consumer using a personal financial management app would connect their bank accounts to see a holistic view of their financial life. FinLocker is preparing to empower consumers also to link their payroll data.
Imagine a world where consumers are walking around with an app on their phone that’s digitally linked in real-time, not only to their financial transactional data but also their income and employment data. We see a world where consumers, from a push of a button, can not only apply for a loan; it could be an auto loan, a student loan, a credit card, or a mortgage loan, and be approved instantly based on this directly sourced data.
Taking into consideration the current pandemic, what initial challenges did you face and how did you drive your company to sustain operations while ensuring safety of your employees at the same time?
The Covid-19 pandemic impacted FinLocker in many ways and continues to do so. FinLocker is a digital native, as in a fully digital business. At the start of the pandemic, FinLocker refocused the company’s priorities to provide safety for our team by implementing a remote working environment, which also added agility to our hiring and staffing process. Knowing that we could sustain operations and product development in a remote working environment, over the past 12 months, we have cast a wider net to attract top talent to fill various positions in all company departments.
As a fintech company serving the mortgage industry, digital transformation is a business imperative. The pandemic impacted product development on the FinLocker app and our go-to-market approaches. FinLocker adjusted its product roadmap on when and how we launch new features to calibrate with our client’s priorities, especially in light of the extraordinary refinance and origination volumes experienced by our mortgage banker and originator clients.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the financial services space?
Budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the financial services space have two opportunities. They can truly innovate by creating a new category for their new Fintech venture by developing the next generation financial services solution. They should start by identifying the various problems consumers have that relate to their finances and how technology can help solve those problems, or at a minimum, alleviate or lessen those problems.
The other area where most new businesses tend to excel is taking a current solution for a problem and making that solution better or faster, or some combination thereof. That’s one of the things that we’ve done at FinLocker. Initially, we didn’t really create a new category per se.
However, we understood the friction that consumers face in the traditional mortgage application process, and the FinLocker platform has moved forward from there. This concept of leveraging consumer permissioned data and letting consumers leverage their own data in a way that they haven’t been able to before by using it to initiate financial transactions.
How do you envision scaling your company’s operations and offerings in 2022?
FinLocker is a B2B2C platform, so scaling happens in two ways. The first way to scale is to add more customers by adding more businesses that will distribute the FinLocker platform to their consumers. We have a robust pipeline within the mortgage vertical, specifically large mortgage lenders who are in the implementation stage with our product and will begin distributing their white-labeled FinLockers to their customers and prospects over the next 90 days. That’s going to significantly ramp up our user base in terms of consumers using the FinLocker platform.
Secondly, we continue to look at the FinLocker app as a holistic consumer financial experience, so we’re continually reviewing how to add tools and features into the app to solve consumer problems, which also adds value to a lender providing the app to their consumers. So, while we focus today on mortgages, we’re looking at other areas to help solve problems.
There’s a massive population of consumers who are either credit invisible or credit light that need help either creating a credit profile or expanding their credit profile to improve their credit score. That’s not just a mortgage use case.
That broadly applies to consumers to benefit them for related financial services like buying auto and home insurance that are somewhat priced based on a consumer’s credit score. We’ve got another focus in the student loan area to help consumers with student loan debts who may be eligible to reduce their payments through a digital experience that we can provide.
About the Leader
Brian Vieaux, President & COO of FinLocker, joined the company in July 2019 following 28 years in mortgage lending. His knowledge and experience in originating purchase mortgage loans for homebuyers, and refinance or repeat purchase loan for homeowners, has helped FinLocker develop a product that meets the needs of our app users (consumers) while satisfying the various use cases of our business clients. Holding senior leadership positions in banking and mortgage companies has enabled FinLocker to grow with a business development and sales strategy that has driven FinLocker’s client acquisition and revenue growth.