A new ‘always-on’ mortgage platform that one respected independent financial journalist has claimed could be a comparison site killer launched this week. “I think once people have used Dashly for the first time they will no longer have the need to visit a traditional price comparison portal again”, says Andrew Hagger.
Given the money tied up in comparison sites and robo-brokers, that’s a big statement indeed. We spoke to Dashly’s founder, Ross Boyd, about whether people can really trust a start-up for something as important as a mortgage, the ‘secret sauce’ underpinning his technology and whether he has plans to launch into other sectors.
Let's start with a blunt question. A mortgage is by far the biggest financial commitment most people will take during their lifetimes, so why would anyone trust a start-up to take care of that part of the equation?
If you don’t mind, I’ll respond with a relatively blunt answer. Mortgages may be most people’s biggest financial commitment and they may well be complex but they are really only just maths. And Dashly does the maths that humans can’t, and it does it every day. We’re not asking people to trust a start-up, we’re asking them, as a company that’s in the fourth cohort of the FCA’s sandbox, to trust an FCA-approved algorithm.
One other thing: we certainly wouldn't expect anyone to act on the back of our new platform alone. Yes, that’s possible for people who are confident enough but we also provide all our users with the chance to speak to a real-life mortgage broker, at no cost, to reassure them that the deal they have been alerted to via their Dashly is right.
What changes happened in the past few years that allowed such a service to surface?
Technology, in a word. Our algorithms are able to do something that is simply not possible manually: automatically comparing the borrower’s unique and ever-changing circumstances to the mortgage market each and every day. Currently, nobody else is doing this. Instead, other platforms rely on users to manually update their own mortgage data, which is a big difference and cannot be said to solve the issue of consumer inertia in the way that Dashly does.
In addition to the cloud, which gives small start-ups like Dashly the security and scaleability to rival (if not surpass) that of the banks, the advent of open banking and GDPR has made the kind of service we are offering much more possible. Open banking and the cloud are democratising financial services and removing barriers to entry so that companies with a primary focus on offering a great product and customer experience / value-add can achieve mass adoption quicker than ever before.
Can you tell us more about the tech behind it? Do you have any "secret sauce"?
The technology underlying the platform we’ve assembled was complex, but equally I’m not going to tell porkies and say that it’s something nobody else could do. Now that we’re out there, I expect some of our main competitors will be looking at how to integrate ‘always-on’ comparison into their propositions. In this day and age it’s possible, but for some reason nobody else has done it. Equally, while it’s possible to recreate our technology, we’d like to think it’s not something that can be conjured up overnight. We feel we have the time to get ahead of the curve and carve some market share for the Dashly brand.
The secret sauce isn’t really that secret at all: it's our relentless focus on doing right by the customer at all costs. Dashly, by its very nature, bucks conventional wisdom and targets the unspoken commercial agreements that exist between aggregators and lenders/providers. We will only ever actively inform our users if we can genuinely save them money. We have no loyalty to any provider and won’t allow providers to buy favour - the only way to get our users’ attention is by having the best product. We want to spur providers to compete and be more competitive.
Other than the money saving aspect of it, are there any other advantages Dashly brings to the table (e.g. security, scams etc)?
One of the main benefits of Dashly is that it cuts through the marketing gimmicks that often surround mortgages and shows, in black and white terms, whether a particular loan will really save you money. Many homeowners, for example, might be tempted to remortgage onto a certain product because it offers ‘free legals’, but in many cases the free legal advice will be hiding a far higher arrangement fee. There are all kinds of tricks that homeowners seeking to remortgage can fall foul of, but unlike with the current ranks of price comparison sites, that’s simply not possible with Dashly. It has an all-seeing eye and can cut through skewed comparison tables and, for want of a better phrase, bypass all the marketing bullshit out there.
The systems mortgage brokers use at present are simply not sophisticated enough and rely on calendar alerts to start a conversation about a possible remortgage. By this point, however, they may already have missed a fantastic switching opportunity. Dashly, though, does the maths across countless scenarios for every user every day to ‘optimise’ their mortgage, which doesn’t always mean reducing monthly payments but can mean paying it off sooner.
Do you have any plans to expand beyond mortgages into more mundane verticals?
Yes, our roadmap already includes insurance and utilities, not that it’s our prerogative to say whether they are more or less mundane than mortgages! But we’re glad you used the term, ‘mundane’. What we’re trying to do is make even big ticket items like mortgages small ticket items that people do not have to fret about every 2, 3 or 5 years because they know they will be put onto the best deal for them at the time. For years, people have been comparing the market but for us that’s now as antiquated as it is absurd. Dashly makes the market compare (and compete for) you. The vision is for Dashly to be the platform through which people manage and optimise all their household bills and expenditure.
What prevents other bigger players from doing exactly what you're doing?
Nothing whatsoever. But they have to do it and they have to do it soon in order not to be left behind. But as mentioned above, if it was that easy then it would already be out there. There’s also the small matter that many incumbents are fundamentally ‘legacy’. Though over time they will get to where Dashly is at, their business models, cultures, processes and, most importantly, commercial arrangements mean that there is a major drag factor. They’re oil tankers and can’t change their entire models overnight. During this time, the plan is to rapidly invest in and develop our own product, brand and user experience, therefore putting some serious distance between Dashly and the competition.
Ross Boyd is founder, Dashly