Exclusive: PNB Housing Finance to launch housing finance industry’s first digital platforms for loans
For FY21, PNB Housing Finance has set a target of 9-10% of new loans through ACE. Desai believes, the pandemic will motivate prospects to use the new digital channel to apply for the loans they need
PNB Housing Finance recently disclosed in the FY 21 quarterly results about launching a pilot viz., ACE platform to suit the needs of the contactless loan taking offering. Hitherto there were multiple apps catering to different customer requirements. There was not a single digital platform to meet the quote-to-disbursal lifecycle. EC speaks with Nitant Desai, Chief Centralised Operation and Technology Officer, PNB Housing Finance, on the thought process behind launching ACE and the projected benefits.
What is your vision behind building the Ace platform?
Our larger goal is to offer a contact less and convenient loan-taking experience. We believe that with the help of technology, a lot of time lag and human error can be addressed, which can lead to a superior customer experience.
Can you tell us more about the pilot project for Ace? When will the product enter the market?
We ran our pilot across three processing hubs covering around 15 branches. We then assimilated the learnings into the platform and tweaked it so as to offer maximum conveniences to the customers. We are confident of rolling out the platform across India very soon.
PNB Housing Finance has developed a new digital channel for loans called Ace. Can you tell us more about it?
Ace is a new and an innovative digital customer onboarding platform where a customer can apply for a loan without physical interface. It is the latest addition to our bouquet of smart digital solutions. The platform automates end-to-end loan onboarding, including data collection and verification, as well as lead generation through various digital channels.
Customers can upload documents online leading to a backward integration of the verification process such as PAN, Aadhaar, digital signatures, and video-based KYC and geo-tagging. This is then integrated into the company’s underwriting platform for digital transmission of the application and final sanction of the loan.
Ace is user-friendly and convenient because it allows customers to simply log into the PNB Housing Finance portal, fill up the loan application, and upload the KYC documents for online verification – at the touch of a finger and from the comfort of their home or any place.
How different is this channel from your existing digital channels or those of your competitors
The platform offers video-based KYC, which would be a first in the housing finance industry in India. We have made the loan onboarding journey absolutely seamless and without human intervention, which was not the case earlier.
The first step for a loan application is information and validation. Typically, the application form is a lengthy one and requires many supporting documents and proofs. We have simplified it with the use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) at the backend. Our advanced algorithms help auto-fill many of the sections in the form based on the documents uploaded. We have also ensured compatibility with DigiLocker, Credit Bureau verification etc. to help generate auto approvals for loans.
The simple and intuitive design of Ace makes it one of the best digital platforms in the housing finance industry.
Why did you create a separate channel for loans when you already had other digital channels?
While we have apps for customer services, we did not have an exclusive tech-based offering that aided the loan application process – converting a prospect into a customer through online means. Since we offer a variety of home and non-home loans, multiple apps would not have solved our purpose. A dedicated platform helps meet all loan requirements, including backend, both from a customer’s point of view as well as ours.
The Ace platform provides multiple backend insights and analytics built into it, which makes it quite unique and intuitive in nature. For example, if a prospect is stuck midway, the help icon immediately connects the user to the customer centre which takes control and guides applicant through the rest of the process. The loan sanctioning process is currently being managed with minimum human intervention, but we will be automating the same using AI to the extent we can.
Is the platform an off-the-shelf product or did you develop it in-house? If it’s in-house then which software development values and principles did you use – agile, waterfall, etc. ?
Since our requirements were specific and we embedded all our learnings from customer experiences, we developed a customised product through our digital channel partner Celusion Technologies. We have adopted Agile software to develop the platform.
What is your loan target for this digital channel, say, by the end of March 2021?
For FY21, we have set a target of 9-10% of new loans through ACE. I believe the pandemic will motivate prospects to use our new digital channel to apply for the loans they need. Our user-friendly technology will lead to greater conversions. For now, we are gearing up for a smooth take-off.
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