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ANZ questioned over mortgage processing lags

Slow adaptation to new technology has been named among the causes of an increase in ANZ’s processing times for home loan applications.

ANZ has appeared before the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in its second round of public hearings regarding a proposed update to its responsible lending guidance (RG 209). 

ANZ’s managing director of consumer banking, Kate Gibson, was asked to explain why the bank has experienced lags in its processing of mortgage applications, which have partly been attributed to a decline in lending volumes.

Ms Gibson pointed to transitional challenges relating to ANZ’s implementation of new technological platforms.

“We used to have three loan-origination platforms, [but have now] transitioned all of our broker and mobile loans onto the same platform that we use for our proprietary channel,” she said.  

“That meant we needed to take our assessment teams through a training program to learn the new systems; that led to a reduction in capacity of assessment until they were trained and back on the floor.”

Ms Gibson called into question the link between technological innovation and efficiency improvement. 

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“I’m not sure that Id necessarily say that with the advent of technology, that you would expect to always see efficiency,” Ms Gibson continued.

“Sometimes efficiencies you gain through the use of technology, you invest back into longer conversations or other steps.”

The ANZ managing director also noted the impact of changes to ANZ’s verification requirements on mortgage processing times, echoing the remarks of ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott.

“Last year, [we] also introduced an additional verification step on income with regards to bank statements,” she said.

“I think our CEO mentioned that we perhaps didnt implement that as smoothly as we might have. 

“That led to a lot of back and forth between assessment teams and lenders trying to understand the information.”

ANZ’s head of Australian retail and commercial banking, Mark Hand, also recently noted the impact of the bank’s lending practices on its performance in the home loan market.  

“I think it’s fair to say that we had made it difficult for our people and the brokers to be certain that they’re going to get a response and that could be a ‘yes’, that could be a ‘no’. But a certainty of response was what they were looking for, and we hadn’t provided that for some time,” he conceded.

“[Most]of our efforts have been about: How do we make sure everybody clearly understands what our policies are? How do we make sure that we get back to the broker or the customer in a reasonable time frame? And we said at the half that the time to say ‘yes’ to a customer was too long; we’d lost our way a little bit in that space. 

“We’ve done a lot of work about getting that back to, what we consider, back to market, so that a customer can say with certainty, or a broker can say with certainty, ANZ will likely do this deal and they’ll come back to me within a certain timeline.”

As previously announced, ANZ failed to report portfolio growth in June, with its overall book contracting $1.9 billion to $253.6 billion, taking the cumulative contraction in its portfolio in the 2019 calendar year to $5.1 billion.

Despite driving the overall increase in competitors’ mortgage books, the owner-occupied portfolio was primarily responsible for ANZ’s contraction in June, slipping by $1.2 billion to $176.9 billion.

ANZ’s investment portfolio also declined, decreasing by $700 million to $76.7 billion.

[Related: HEM decision to ‘open can of worms’ in mortgage space]

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