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Helping mortgage customers manage their finances hands-on was the goal of WestlandUtrecht Bank (WUB), a Dutch mortgage specialist and subsidiary of ING Bank. They came up with the idea of a self-service portal for all mortgage-related needs in 2015.

The project was part of transforming the lender’s internet presence and IT systems to improve customer experience and access to services for their existing borrowers.

At the time, the Dutch mortgage sector still relied heavily on manual processes. Letters, emails, and phone calls were virtually the only touchpoints for borrowers who wanted to renew their mortgage deal, make changes to payments, or discuss issues including arrears or additional repayments.

WUB leapt ahead of the industry with a new customer-facing digital mortgage portal that offered mortgagees better visibility of their accounts and the functionality to manage a wide range of transactions online.

Improving the customer experience

WUB can look back on 130 years of experience as a mortgage lender, starting in the late 19th century. Part of ING Bank, they now specializes in mortgages and insurance services for their existing customer base, dedicated to meeting the changing financial needs at different stages of life.

Their vision is to help borrowers feel at ease financially - at any stage of life - as Osinga, Chapter Lead Customer Journey at WUB, recalls:

“Our customers want to live comfortably. This involves more than their homes and worrying about their mortgage. It is also about feeling financially secure and having peace of mind. We have made it our goal for our mortgages to flexibly adjust to our clients’ life changes. We want to be there for our customers in good and bad times.”

As part of this strategy, WUB surveyed its customers on how they would prefer to interact with the lender, focusing on borrowers’ pain points during the mortgage lifecycle. Based on this research, the concept for an online customer portal was born. WUB wanted to give them online access to their mortgages and the ability to make changes, as well as tools and information to help them if they ran into financial difficulties.  

“Our portal was the perfect embodiment of our vision,” adds Osinga, who was WUB’s project lead.

Finding the right partner

WUB’s marketing team led all the preliminary work, surveying customers, mapping the customer journey, and conceptualizing the portal and its functionality. WUB selected Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as their turnkey partner to convert the concept into a cutting-edge IT solution.

“TCS stood out to us because, in our opinion, they had the best understanding of what it meant to us to be unburdened,” says Osinga.

“They had a detailed solution and a team that we believed could truly take the whole project from our hands. We felt confident that, with mainly business representatives, we would be able to build and maintain this portal.”

“The other pro for TCS was that they completely understood and bought into the goals we had set ourselves,” Osinga added.

Making the public cloud secure

The first challenge for the partners was to select the best solution for hosting the new portal.

After weighing all the available options, WUB concluded that a public cloud platform would be the most suitable approach. That said, these kinds of platforms were still in their infancy when WUB and TCS started working on the portal in 2017 – especially in highly regulated and security-conscious settings such as the financial sector.

As early adopters of the public cloud, the project team had to overcome a wide range of concerns over data security and other risks associated with using a shared resource.

Ultimately, TCS devised a complex array of security features to meet ING’s risk and compliance requirements. As well as stringent business continuity measures, this included establishing ongoing monitoring and rapid alerts on the public cloud for a multitude of separate security events – such as Denial of Service attacks. 

Ground-breaking public cloud functionality

The decision to take on the challenge of hosting a transactional financial website on public cloud infrastructure was not the only instance where WUB and TCS broke the mold.

At a time when competitors weren’t offering much self-service functionality, WUB’s portal already focused on offering a premium digital customer journey with a wide range of online transaction services. This included, making repayments, renewing mortgage contracts, and downloading statements alongside wide-ranging information on managing mortgages.

TCS took a mobile-first approach in its design of the portal, reflecting the ongoing shift away from desktops. The team also ensured that the technology would enable an omnichannel approach so that customers could access their accounts from any device at any time.

Another ground-breaking innovation was functionality to segment the customer base to serve up the most relevant content for each customer at their respective stage of the mortgage lifecycle. This could be an update on new mortgage deals available for those close to renewing or linking to relevant information for customers with a specific type of mortgage.

A unique cloud solution

WUB’s customers welcomed the arrival of the new portal.

“At the peak, we had almost 70% of our customers signed up and using the portal. That, by itself, is huge,” says Osinga. “For me, that’s the biggest accomplishment and the biggest compliment that our customers could have given us.”

“Digitalizing mortgage management for customers came quite late in the Dutch market. And if you look at what we created jointly with TCS, I think we were definitely amongst the front-runners in In-Life management – not least because of the sheer variety of transactions that our customers could manage online.”

Osinga and his team were surprised to see their customers’ high engagement levels when interacting with the portal. Online renewals and making extra repayments were particularly popular.

The solution designed by WUB and TCS still stands out in the Dutch marketplace, Osinga points out:

“With the new technology we used – not least the public cloud – and the breadth of functionality, our customer portal was ahead of the curve at the time. It was a unique and successful project. And even today, I’m convinced that it’s still ahead of many of our competitors. I think that’s an amazing accomplishment.”