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Real-time decisioning key for motor finance in 2021, says Startline

Paul Burgess, chief executive officer at

Technology and processes that allow for real-time online decisioning are set to be a key factor for the motor finance sector in 2021, Startline is predicting.

With more and more used car buying activity moving online in the wake of the pandemic, there is increased emphasis on integrating applications into digital processes seamlessly.

Paul Burgess, Startline chief executive, said: “Like many motor finance companies, we’ve been digitally active through a number of finance and dealer portals for many years, and we’ve long had a strong awareness of the importance of the speed of decisioning.

“What we are starting to see now is an increasing emphasis on bringing the decisioning speed down to a level where there is barely a pause in the process. If potential customers are made to wait at all, the drop-out rate for applications is very high.”

Burgess said consumers are expecting actions to be completed close to real-time and meeting this expectation is going to be a major point of investment for the motor finance sector in 2021.

Startline is making some changes in this area, with the aim of ensuring automated decisioning is “as fast as possible”.

He said the challenge was to create digital processes that met the requirement for speed but also ensured that responsible lending decisions were being made.

Burgess added: “Inevitably, there is a trade-off between speed of decisioning and number of approvals, with the emphasis rightly being placed on caution.

“Our digital processes have a lower approval rate than if a human being assesses a more involved lending decision.

“This is really where motor finance companies bring their expertise to bear, translating as much of their knowledge as possible into digital approaches that work for the majority of car buyers, while still lending responsibly.”

Anticipating and meeting dealer and other introducer technology needs throughout the pandemic had been an important part of Startline’s success during 2020.

The company is on target to exceed its pre-pandemic 2020 growth target with an increase in turnover of 20% compared to last year.

Other factors that led to the growth included preparing systems ready for when showrooms reopened at the end of the first lockdown, as well as focussing on its core proposition of providing finance comparable to prime lenders to around one in four applicants who have previously been refused credit through that kind of channel.

Burgess said: “Certainly, many prime lenders tightened up their criteria as part of their initial response to the market and this simply meant there were increased numbers of people entering our part of the motor finance market.

“The expertise that we have developed in this sector has become ever more important in the current circumstances.

“We’ve worked hard in this area to ensure that customers are treated as fairly and sympathetically as possible. It’s about arriving at solutions over time that, as much as we can, minimise the impact on their lives and livelihoods.”

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