Hiding or retrieving ID information? AI does the job!
“Some organisations use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to blur personal information within their archives. Others use AI to retrieve ID information from scanned passports and ID cards, in order to enrich their databases.” This month in AI on the road, Krijn talks about the dual use of AI in processing passports and ID cards.
In the column “AI on the road”, Hyarchis Artificial Intelligence expert Krijn talks about the AI-related questions that he encounters during meetings with clients. In other words, very basic questions and answers about this seemingly complex topic. This month Krijn focuses on the use of AI for managing sensitive passport- and ID-card-related data within large archives.
Krijn, let’s start with using AI to remove ID information. What questions do you encounter?
The questions that arise around removing ID information, or better said: making that information inaccessible, are often based on compliance with GDPR legislation. Various organisations are burdened with large archives containing millions of copies of passports and ID cards. Under the current regulation, it is important that access to sensitive data, such as personal identification numbers (PINs), is restricted. AI offers the possibility to do this while leaving the integrity of the archive intact.
The Dutch website InFinance recently published an article on the subject, in which they outlined how to correctly process PINs in line with the regulations of the Dutch Data Protection Authority (Dutch: Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens). AI gives organisations the ability to track down personal identification numbers in documents which are not text-searchable. As a result, organisations can find and subsequently hide sensitive data in an automated manner even in outdated or complex archives.
Could you give an example of information that organisations need to blur?
Before GDPR came in effect, the PIN of someone who was applying for a mortgage was recorded and saved in the mortgage file. Under current legislation, PINs are not to be disclosed in a mortgage application, unless this is essential to the purpose for which the data is processed. Only when the mortgage contract is actually signed, the personal identification number can be recorded and included in the case file. Because of this, many organisations are now wondering “How do I make this number inaccessible?”
What role does AI play in all of this?
It is impossible to manually remove specific information from scanned passports and ID cards. Passports might be scanned horizontally, vertically, crooked, or two scans could be even combined on one page. Add the wide variety of layouts – every country has their own passport design – and you start to understand the magnitude of this challenge.
Step one is automation. However, what do you do if not only the search process has many variables, but the blurring process too? That is where AI comes into play. Using OCR-based technology, our software solutions recognise personal identification numbers within scanned documents with a near 100 percent accuracy. Once found, AI makes sure that these numbers are blurred, making them unrecognisable.
What is the difficulty that you address by using AI?
It is often unknown where the files containing passports and ID cards are located. Most of the time the files are not named accordingly and located somewhere in a 50-page personal file. AI traces these regardless of the file type or file name and ensures that the PINs are blurred and no longer accessible.
If I understood correctly, AI is not only used to remove information from digital files, but also to add information to the database? Tell us more…
Indeed, clients also use AI to extend their database. In the past, passports and ID cards were not always registered properly, because there was no need to do so. Nowadays, organisations do need to implement appropriate data minimization measures and store personal information transparently for the customers in order to serve them better and comply with data privacy laws and regulations.
Now I’m curious…is that possible?
Yes, it is possible, but to do that, you need to use AI. If an organisation would like to recognise the nationality on an ID card or passport that is in their archive, our AI solutions can help with that.
Whether you want to remove existing information from your archive or do the exact opposite, our AI-based software works both ways!
About “AI on the road”
In his column “AI on the road”, Hyarchis AI specialist Krijn Logister deals with AI questions that he encounters in the field. Krijn: “It’s actually those very basic client questions and the clear answers that clarify the complexity of AI. With this column we want to make AI and its application less abstract. AI is a means to an end, both for smaller and larger applications.”
Kaunas will become our marketing hub and base for working on an international strategy
Our colleagues Erwin and Krijn regularly fly to our office in Kaunas, Lithuania. For customer-related developments of course, and also for discussing new versions and the roadmap. There was never any reason to visit from a marketing perspective. Until recently…As of January 2020, Kaunas will become our marketing hub and base for working on an international strategy. That’s a pretty good reason, right?
Kaunas initially opened as a development office. Starting this month, the office will also act as a convenient hub for the marketing team. This is an ideal location for bridging the gap between the Netherlands, the UK, the Baltic states and Scandinavia. In 2019, we won the business of an Irish customer and also brought a Lithuanian partner on board. You get the gist; having one central location for working on business development and further internationalisation of Hyarchis is vitally important.
Last year, Hyarchis took the significant step of offering Hyarchis Document Management (HDM) in the cloud. We also made other significant advances in applying AI technology to the content of the Hyarchis Document Management (HDM) archives. We are currently in the middle of a transition from document management to data management. So it’s time to change our message to the market. We are going to freshen up our look and feel and develop the existing internationalisation strategy further.
Marketing in 2020
And what about the marketing team? The team has now grown to four people. Marlijn Nelissen, familiar to you in the context of Hyarchis Connect in 2019, mainly focuses on Dutch customers and partners. Greta Zaikauskaitė joined us in January. As our marketing coordinator, she monitors and manages consistency between the different markets, countries and target groups. Arvydas Sciukas is a UX designer and web designer. He works on the screens for our applications and is also involved in the new Hyarchis website and corporate identity. Julia Jokužytė started with us in January. She focuses on employee branding. With a team of 20 developers, this is a task that should not be underestimated. The team of data scientists in particular will need to grow and she will organise activities and communications that facilitate this. And my role? My position has broadened during the past year. As a result, I now stand on the sidelines as a coach for marketing. I contribute ideas on the main themes and keep an eye on the targets and the budget. And okay, I’ll admit it: I really wanted to go to Kaunas…
Marlijn and I had chosen a misty Monday for our visit. The weather conditions really put our patience to the test. After a delay of several hours, we eventually arrived in Kaunas. Even so, the week was productive, warm and enjoyable. And physically active too, as Marlijn and I had the opportunity of walking to the office from our hotel every day…A blessing in disguise, because nearly every working day ended with a delicious dinner.
After all the intensive brainstorming sessions on the new proposition, corporate identity and website, we can look back in satisfaction on the initiatives we set up together. The details are being worked out now and we will see the first results towards the summer. The visits to Kaunas will be more regular from now on. With good reason: we go beyond borders!
Author: Claudia Meessen
How is Hyarchis wrapping up the year? Netherlands vs. Lithuania.
How is Hyarchis wrapping up the year? Netherlands vs. Lithuania.
We look back on 2019 and look ahead to 2020 together with Claudia from Team Hyarchis Netherlands and Justinas from Team Hyarchis Lithuania. Despite their differences, in both business and personal matters, the two teams complement each other surprisingly well. In this interview, we take a look at the differences, the achievements and the goals – from giving out baumkuchenas to having robot fights, and from AI to a fresh strategy.
Hyarchis has two offices: one in Eindhoven, Netherlands, plus a software development centre in Kaunas, Lithuania for the past 18 months. The team in Eindhoven sells, supplies and supports, while the Kaunas team focuses on development. In a nutshell, the Dutch are the commercial team and the Lithuanians are the tech team. Eindhoven looks after customers and deals with the figures, whereas Kaunas studies tech trends and roadmaps. Like chalk and cheese, you could say.
Interview with Claudia and Justinas
We chat to Claudia and Justinas to find out how these differences might well be difficult to bridge, but can still have a reinforcing effect on each team. Together we take a look back and a look ahead.
How will you be rounding the year off in the office? What have been the highlights of this year?
Claudia: “In Eindhoven, we are having quite a satisfying end to the year. It’s been tiring, but very fulfilling. The year began with some uncertainty, when Hyarchis Netherlands was split into two companies, and the organisation had to start from scratch and build itself up again. But we did have the major advantage of being able to focus completely on Hyarchis Document Management, including migrating to the cloud and developing the first AI applications on HDM. The Support department has also been restructured and we have a new and improved customer portal to help serve existing customers even faster.
The goals we had set ourselves were extremely ambitious. I don’t know exactly where we are in relation to those, but I do know we have come a long way. And we are going all out in 2020. There are a lot of terrific projects in the pipeline.”
Justinas: “It’s been a productive year and we’ve taken some pretty big steps. The restructuring initially created some uncertainty for us too; change can cause some tension, after all. But on the whole, it meant we could devote our full attention to developing existing Hyarchis DMS tooling and AI applications for DMS. As a team, we have grown in number and also expanded our expertise, partly as a result of this focus. We now have an 18-strong team in Lithuania working hard to create a future-proof DMS.”
“We’re going to be giving our positioning and market approach a makeover.”
What are the plans for 2020?
Claudia:“We have invested in our team and have experts all working towards the same goal: a future-proof DMS. By ensuring these experts, both in Eindhoven and Lithuania, can work together closely, we can really make waves in data analysis (AI) and working in the cloud. Cloud migration is stepping up a notch. Organisations in the financial sector have taken a long time to get ready for the transition. But things are really going to take off in 2020, as companies are looking for a hosted private version of the cloud.
We are going to focus on attracting new customers for HDM cloud and AI products, such as Search-it and Blurrify. In addition, the Marketing department will be expanding even further to help reach the global market. Another project that I’m hugely looking forward to is strengthening our proposition. In short, who is the new-style Hyarchis? It isn’t a stuffy DMS supplier offering the same thing as 20 years ago, that’s for sure. We’re going to be giving our positioning and market approach a makeover.”
Justinas: “We’ll be kicking off 2020 with a few major releases. The team has doubled in a short space of time, so structuring this team as efficiently as possible is in our best interest, involving full use of an agile working method. We will be continuously working on developing HDM, but spending a lot of time on AI projects too. We will be visiting customers together with the Hyarchis Netherlands team to find out what challenges they are facing exactly and how we can help with targeted AI tools.”
How do you reinforce each other as two completely separate offices?
Claudia:“The synergy between us is surprisingly refreshing. We have in-house specialists in all disciplines who work on developing the best possible DMS for our customers. We are in a position to take on increasingly larger and more complex projects. We are always on Skype with the team in Lithuania and we visit each other a lot. We work together at every level of the organisation, across all departments, to ensure projects are delivered successfully every time.”
Justinas:“I often go to see customers in person to get a better idea of their needs, so that we can shape the roadmap. Eindhoven is responsible for looking after our customers, but over the past year, we have worked on bridging the gap between sales and consultants in the Netherlands and our tech team in Lithuania. The advantage of an agile way of working is that fast development cycles lead to regular updates and product releases. That keeps the team in Eindhoven and customers very happy.”
What do you think of each other’s way of seeing out the year? I’ve heard caviar and oliebollen mentioned…
Claudia: “We love to eat oliebollen, which are like Dutch doughnuts. And we went out for dinner as a team last week. It wasn’t much of a grand affair, more of an informal, intimate get-together. Then next year, we’ll talk about figures and set out our plans. This year, we had our Christmas dinner a bit early because the week before the Christmas holiday is always busy. Especially for me and Martijn, as we go around giving out baumkuchenas as a gift from the company. That means travelling around the whole of the Netherlands, delivering a taste of Lithuania.”
Justinas: “We eat baumkuchenas here just like you eat oliebollen, only we don’t give any away. We leave that to you,” Justinas laughs behind his screen. “That gives us time to give the year a good send-off and have some caviar,” Justinas jokes.
“No, not really, but there is a cooking workshop planned, where the team members will cook brunch themselves. On Friday, we’ll round off the year with a tech day, with a mix of fun activities and sharing knowledge. There are five presentations and we will finish with a kind of hackathon, where we will build robots to fight each other. So, that’s what we’ll be doing while you are out offering our delicacies to everyone. We’ll leave the hard work to you guys.”
What wishes do you both have for each other in the new year?
Justinas: “A new office perhaps?” Justinas exclaims, ever the joker. “We plan to visit the Netherlands every quarter to bring each other up to speed. I wish for all of us to carry on growing, both in terms of customers and projects we can be proud of. And I wish you would come to Lithuania more often.”
Claudia: “Marlijn and I are coming to visit your office in January, so you can tick that one off your list. And while we’re talking about the office… In Lithuania, they have this hip, new, trendy office. They say our office is more traditional and boring. So, who knows? Maybe in 2020 we can do something to amaze them at our office. I also hope that we achieve all our goals together. And if we do, next time we can ring in the new year with some caviar.”
What do you think is the strangest thing about the other’s culture?
Both together: “The food!”
Claudia: “The team in Lithuania finds it hilarious that we eat bread in the afternoon. But then again, we are astounded that they have a three-course meal twice a day. They all go to the company canteen at the same time and have a long, drawn-out lunch. Here, someone will scream ‘lunchtime!’ very loudly and then everyone gets their sandwiches out.”
Version chaos results in business risks
Do you have any idea how many document templates your company has? And are you sure that all communications sent out include the most recent text and terms and conditions? Many companies fully understand the need for a robust, effective document management system, but the role of document composition is not as self-evident. With document composition, however, you can easily answer “yes” to the questions above. This software not only strengthens the communications strategy, but also creates insight into version management and prevents unnecessary business risks.
When we talk with a company, we often notice that they are missing an overview of the templates for outgoing communications. Where a company may think that they are using around 50 templates, there are, in fact, some 200 templates, in various versions, hanging around in all sorts of folders. Even between the ten most commonly used templates, there are usually numerous differences in the corporate style. These differences often arise as the result of changes to the guidelines or terms of contract. And if these changes are implemented in some but not all the dozens of templates, there’s a good chance that one of the employees will end up using an outdated version.
Central template management offers a lot of possibilities, and it also gets the company thinking: Why do we have so many templates to start with? One way this might occur is, because the tools require so much IT expertise, employees simply make a copy of the template and make changes to the text here and there right in the code. Another possibility is that there simply isn’t a set of tools, but rather countless Word templates that are created, copied and edited.
Consider things like customer complaints, and perhaps even a claim. Even for the most “innocent” action, having various versions poses risks. For example, when an employee copies and pastes a paragraph from an existing template, he or she assumes that this is the most recent version of this paragraph. What happens if this isn’t the case and the paragraph includes outdated product information? Does this then entitle the customer to whatever is stated?
In the area of laws and regulations, too, lack of insight into version management can create problems. If not all templates are compliant with current laws and regulations, this can have financial consequences.
Good document composition tools help prevent errors and claims, and reduce the time and money spent on claim management, all to the profit of your organisation. Hyarchis Document Composition (HDC) is intuitive in use, partly because the designer interface through which the templates are maintained is based on Microsoft Office Word. Working with a user-friendly template management tool saves employees lots of valuable time. Whereas, with outdated and/or complicated document composition systems, the user can sometimes spend entire days editing a document, this can be done in HDC within an hour, and with no programming expertise needed.
Hyarchis Document Composition
With Hyarchis Document Composition, you can be sure that your outgoing communications to citizens, your clients, customers or business partners are efficient, effective and compliant. When the relevant business process is complete, the system in which you are working sends a signal to HDC and the right document, in the latest version, is generated. The preconfigured corporate style is automatically integrated with the content. The result is a high level of automation when it comes to processing requests for quotes, handling complaints, producing complex policies, drafting legal opinions and handling claims. And it also means a short time-to-market. Would you like to learn more about HDC? You can read about all the ins and outs in this product passport.
Benny van den Heuvel, Product Manager, Hyarchis Document Composition
Applied artificial intelligence: classification and error correction
In their work processes, our customers always need to be able to record documents from external sources in the document management system (DMS). The documents also need to be classified and indexed, which is a manual operation in most processes, and a manual operation means expensive. Given that a manual operation is also prone to errors, the demand for automating this is high.
In 2005, Hyarchis started testing software for automatic document classification, with an external system at that time. A drawback of this software was that it could not handle the wide variety of documents, meaning you quickly encountered certain limitations. Over the years, Hyarchis has tried out various systems and applied some of these to particular areas. Each of these systems has its advantages and disadvantages.
With the knowledge it had acquired of the various packages and, especially, having seen what doesn’t work, Hyarchis started a Proof of Concept (PoC) for document classification and data mining of key information in the mortgage process. A prerequisite for this PoC was the ability to distinguish between a deed for a closed-end mortgage (vaste hypotheek) and an open-end mortgage (bankhypotheek). The difference between these two forms of deeds is very small and can only be distinguished using very sophisticated logic.
For this PoC, Hyarchis developed its own technology and logic, which it devised by putting 3 million documents (for a total of 13 million pages) through various systems. After determining the type of mortgage, the system searches for the effective date of the deed and the associated contract number and checks this data against known values in the external customer systems. With the enhanced logic of this “cross-system consistency check”, we were able to guarantee the reliability of information found.
Where can this process be used?
In this PoC, we have used this process to enrich existing data. The system could, however, also be used to verify data that has previously been gathered, in which case it could be used for correcting classification and indexing errors.
The larger the volume of documents the system can analyse, the more the system learns, and with this enhanced logic the better it can automatically process the document flow. Using people to look through 13 million pages would be a Herculean task. What’s more, people are more prone to make mistakes that an automatic system simply would not.
What are the advantages of this system for the customer?
Two major advantages associated with this process are the reduction in costs and the time savings. And to save even more time, multiple processes can be run in parallel. Besides the applications mentioned above for this PoC, there are many more possibilities. Anything related to classification, data extraction, look up, verification and making connections using the underlying logic can be carried out automatically.
Can this also be carried out using the DMS full-text search option?
No. Searching for text is just one part of the process. This concerns a system into which enhanced logic and additional process steps have been built. The results of the PoC have been so successful that we have decided to further develop the tools for use in a new module for the Hyarchis DMS solution. If you have any questions, we’d be happy to discuss these with you.
I love you!
Do you remember? It was sometime in May 2000 (to be honest, I had to look up the date). You were sitting at your CRT monitor. It seemed like just a normal day at the office until, all at once, an email appeared: ILOVEYOU. Your heart began to beat faster, and it even seemed like the sun was suddenly shining more brightly. Once you got over the initial surprise, you took a look at the sender: it was from a colleague. The (happily?) married colleague who always laughs at your jokes. Was this the real reason? Or perhaps the email wasn’t intended for you at all. Perhaps it was meant for another colleague and you had a front-row seat to an office romance that was unfolding before you. Your thoughts were all over the place, all the more because of the attachment included with the email: “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs”.
You glanced over your shoulder to make sure no one was looking and… you opened the attachment. But then, nothing. Surprised and perhaps a bit disappointed too, you continue to stare at your screen, until the colleague opposite you asks, “Why have you sent me an email with the subject line ‘ILOVEYOU?’” Then it dawned on you: just like millions of other people, you were the victim of the ILOVEYOU virus, the Love Bug that eventually caused 5.5 billion dollars of damage around the globe.
No other cyberattack had been so effective or resulted in so much media attention. It remained relatively quiet in the subsequent years; there were, of course, cyberattacks and viruses, but none as infamous as the ILOVEYOU virus. In more recent years, however, this has clearly been changing. First, there was the “heartbleed” security bug that was disclosed in 2014. This wasn’t a virus, but it was a serious vulnerability that exposed many systems to a potential attack. The attention that this bug received in the media and elsewhere should have been an eye-opener and a motivation to start taking system security seriously by phasing out or updating old software in good time, and making sure the systems are effectively protected.
That not everyone heeded this advice became evident earlier this year when the WannaCry ransomware cryptoworm had them in its grip. On social media, photos of locked screens with a message demanding a ransom began circulating. And these were not just photos of PC and laptop screens either: even car parks appeared to have become ransom victims too.
After the world had barely recovered from the previous attack, the latest hostage taker appeared yesterday, unnamed so far. This time, an entire commercial port terminal has been crippled thanks to the attack. These attacks show us just how much we are living in an internet world and how dependent we are on online technology—as well as how vulnerable we are when this technology turns against us.
Given this, the first computer virus you encountered could not have had a better name: I love you. It was the start of your relationship with computer security, where you learned never to take the security of your system for granted. This relationship demands a lot of attention and regular updates to keep it going. If you forget this, the relationship will be done for, and your ex-lover will walk away with all your files. Only the backups from better times will remain…
Erwin van den Broek is a product manager at Hyarchis. If you would like to find out how a DMS can protect your files from a ransomware attack, contact us. We’d love to tell you more.
With a DMS there’s no need to worry about compliance
On 1 January 2016, the new Dutch law on the protection of personal data came into effect. In addition to stating that all data leaks must be reported, this law specifies the retention period for confidential documents. A business that does not comply with the new legal provisions risks being fined up to €810,000 per incident. What’s more, this law is due to be replaced when, on 25 May 2018, businesses in the Netherlands will have to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the aim of which is to offer a uniform level of data protection throughout the European Union. The GDPR places even more responsibility with the data processor: your company must be able to demonstrate that it is acting in compliance with the law. Document management is the solution. With a document management system (DMS), because retention periods and permissions can be configured automatically, you won’t need to worry about compliance any more. In this blog, I’ll be talking about the challenges posed by the new legislation and the advantages of document management.
Maze of retention rules
In the Netherlands, retention periods are set for practically all confidential documents. Documents that you need to keep for tax purposes must be saved for 7 years, but this does not apply to all documents. For companies, it can all quickly become a maze of rules and exceptions. Take healthcare institutions’ documents for example: these must be retained for a certain number of years after the death of the patient concerned, meaning that the end of the retention period only becomes known at the time of death. In addition to the statutory minimum retention period, there is also a maximum retention period, after which the documents must immediately be destroyed. An example is the job application letter from an unsuccessful candidate: this may not be retained for longer than 4 weeks. It’s understandable then that, for many companies, managing documents is a serious challenge.
Saving and retrieving
The solution is the implementation of an effective document management system (DMS). With a good DMS, a specific retention period can be configured for all the different types of documents. And a good DMS will handle the visibility of documents effectively too. Many of the documents your company is required to save are no longer relevant for your business process; by having the DMS automatically “hide” or archive these, you can be sure they are retained but they won’t get in your way. A DMS also saves you money: instead of keeping documents in the current-document filing system (which is often expensive space), they are moved to a less expensive archive.
And, speaking of archives, there’s another consideration. If certain information buried deep in the archives needs to be retrieved, for example when information about a certain person or organisation is needed for use in a court case, this operation can cost a considerable sum. With the implementation of a DMS with advanced search functionality, however, the search for particular documents (or even text within documents) is an easy task that takes up much less time.
Flock of birds
In our experience, our customers find the data protection laws and regulations complex. We also see a trend towards businesses placing high value on certification like ISO, certification that sets requirements for processing personal data in documents, for example. With all laws and regulations “configured” in a DMS, a company no longer has to worry about this. Not only does this save time and money: it clears the way for certification and innovation too. That’s not just two, but a small flock of birds with one stone.
Would you also like to be able to stop worrying about compliance and minimum and maximum retention periods? We can help you devise the best possible DMS set-up at your company. Simply fill in the form below and we’ll get back to you promptly. Or you can call us directly on +31 (0) 88 007 8508.
Your clients want digital
Legal clients want to do more themselves. Are you ready to collaborate online?
Your clients are becoming increasingly outspoken; they feel at home in today’s digital world, and they expect the same from you too. They know that working digitally can boost efficiency, even in your primary work processes. They also want to be more closely involved, to feel more connected to the case, to have more insight and to be able to interact. How can online collaboration help in all this?
Once there was a mission
My name is Bas and I have spent the last 20 years creating web-based solutions. Since the early days of the online collaboration era, I have also been busy streamlining and automating work processes. I am adept at taking in-depth knowledge of technology and applying it to the question, “What can you actually do with it?” I have a clear view on digital working in the business services sector and, in particular, on the benefits of online case management. My current mission is to bring my online collaboration solutions to the attention of legal professionals as well.
Focus on the case
There’s no question that your clients want to be more closely involved in their cases than is feasible in practice. As a lawyer, you are the support and ally for a client who needs help. There’s a lot at stake, and your client depends totally on your help and shudders each day at the thought of the bill that will inevitably come. By working digitally, your client can be more closely involved. How, you may ask? It’s a simple matter to be able to offer more transparency, give the full picture and, in your talks with your client, be able to focus on what matters: the case itself. You can take a structured approach: your client helps you with the systematic delivery of documents, you and your client can both access the case material at any time, and you can be sure that you are both seeing the same version of the document.
Ramp up engagement
Fee earners work long and hard. Although the clients pay a good portion of the costs, there’s still a considerable sum that is not charged on or compensated. Legal professionals are often so busy concentrating on the case that they only get around to noting the hours at the end of the day, by which time they may forget to include the time for certain activities, or they can no longer describe these exactly, with the result that they cannot charge on the related fees. Or they may have spent so much time on a case that they, in certain cases, cannot charge the client for all the costs. Fortunately, a lot of these case-related activities can be handled by the client personally. Activities like collecting and updating information, delivering administrative documents and requesting invoices can all be handled by the client. And other standard activities, like compiling correspondence for example, can be handled faster through automation.
In other words, the client can take over many of the case-related activities, which has the added advantage that your client can become more engaged in the case, and you can liaise more closely with your client. Another benefit is that you can meet the demands of millennials, who view speed and interaction as the marks of a quality experience. So in essence, your law office “contracts out” the work, while you and your client help each other. With this approach, your client shares responsibility for keeping costs low, the entire process can be accelerated, and you keep the costs from getting so out of hand that you have no choice but to leave certain items off the bill. In general, clients have no idea just how hard you work; you work so hard that this leaves little time over for communication, and yet clients do not really appreciate everything you do for them. By working together online, the client gets a better idea of how hard you work and, in turn, values your efforts more. And, perhaps best of all, the bill will be more readily accepted without discussion.
Survival of the fittest in the Randstad-conurbation mortgage market
In Utrecht, house prices recently climbed back to their 2008 pre-crisis peak, and that was already the case in Amsterdam in January. These are exciting signs in these two cities; home buyers are even being advised to take up some of their annual leave when looking for a home. It’s clear as day: the housing market, and therefore also the mortgage market, is heating up faster than a BBQ on a hot summer afternoon, certainly in the popular Randstad conurbation. So it’s in this region especially that the collaboration between the mortgage lender and the consumer really needs a boost,
by which I mean the collaboration needs to be better and faster. After all, consumers have no time to waste when making this decision, a decision about one of the most important and costly purchases of their lives. When you think about it, it would be better if they could already have the mortgage papers in hand before they step over the threshold. One of the ways to improve and speed up collaboration between the mortgage lender and the consumer is to handle this all online.
Digital kitchen table
I often compare collaborating online to people sitting around a kitchen table. All the stakeholders, from intermediary to mortgage lender to consumer, are sitting around the same—digital—kitchen table working on the same project. They’re all together, meaning no delays, no working in isolation, everything more transparent and the whole process moving much faster. No copy of the passport yet? Not a problem. The credit appraiser is already busy checking the home buyer’s creditworthiness while waiting for that to arrive. The biggest advantage for consumers is that, with online collaboration, they know how far along their mortgage application is and what they can do to speed up the process. Nothing spectacular really: consumers are already totally comfortable with this approach—when ordering something online from Zalando for example.
But for the mortgage lender, too, there are advantages to this way of working. First and foremost, there’s the time savings, followed by cost savings as a close second. Our research has shown that online collaboration with customers is important if you want to stay ahead of your competitors. And the professionals are feeling the heat: more than half agree with the statement that the pressure to collaborate online has increased as a result of the growing demand for financial products.
It’s good to see professionals on the mortgage market taking a proactive approach to online collaboration. And yet, the indication that they will be doing this “within five years” makes me worry a little: consumers who want to buy a home in Utrecht or Amsterdam today or tomorrow need to have that fast and efficient process in place right now, not in a few years’ time. By then the coals on the BBQ will have turned to ash. This is no time to sit back comfortably on the lounger: it’s time to get cooking. This is the time to show the consumer the added value you as a mortgage lender have to offer.