In Australia’s fiercely competitive mortgage brokering market, giving brokers access to the right data is vital. The most crucial of which is access to lending options and streamlined processes to submit loan applications to financial institutions.
Mortgage broker aggregator AFG has been meeting the needs of this market since it was established in 1994. The company provides more than 3,000 brokers across Australia with a range of services and support including analytics services, CRM capabilities, and automated marketing services.
Alex Maund, AFG’s Head of Analytics & Insights, says the company traditionally relied on classic analytics “stack” to support its data operations. While this stack delivered value, it was no longer meeting the growing appetite for data services across the business and by brokers.
“We had an increasing challenge when it came to our standard of reporting,” said Maund. “Only our analytics team had access to our data warehouse, and everyone else had to obtain data by raising reporting requests. We had no way of really understanding why data was being sought and what business problem they were trying to solve.”
To overcome this challenge a plan was formed to establish an “exploratory zone” where staff would be empowered to work with the data directly, rather than having to constantly request reports from the analytics team. Working with technology partner Mechanical Rock, a range of options were examined before a decision was made to deploy the Snowflake platform.
“With Snowflake being a SaaS product, it meant we could get things up and running very quickly,” Maund said. “This was important, as we only have relatively small DevOps and analytics teams.”
According to Maund, “Snowflake’s pricing model was also very appealing. It meant we could start with a small, low-cost proof of concept before ramping things up gradually.”
Working with Mechanical Rock, the AFG IT team began the Snowflake deployment in October 2019 and had it fully operational in just eight weeks.
The first stage focused on making the company’s existing data warehouse visible within Snowflake and available to the company’s analytics team. It could then support business queries and use Tableau and DataRobot as front-end tools. Maund said the Snowflake-powered platform has given the company a new way of working. Having a single, consolidated data platform means it’s also possible to incorporate new data sources much more easily.
According to Maund, “Snowflake is also supporting our Red Alerts, our churn AI marketing service for brokers, and our Broker 360 project. For Broker 360, this involves pulling all data sources together and creating a data model that anchors around our brokers. Rather than having to query multiple systems and applications, our compliance and sales teams can readily access all the data they need through a single interface. Broker 360 is currently used within the company; however, there are plans to also open access to brokers.”
Business benefits of the Snowflake deployment include cost savings of approximately 16% in year one and a reduction in work-hours with the ability to run queries that had been taking hours to complete, in just minutes.
“Essentially, the analytics team is no longer a bottleneck,” said Maund. “We are now getting far fewer requests for data, which saves staff time and improves productivity.”
Focus has now shifted to finding other ways in which data can be put to work across the business. There are also plans to embed Tableau dashboards inside the user interface of the new core infrastructure, which Maund described as a “real game changer.”
According to Maund, “We will also be making use of Snowflake Secure Data Sharing capabilities to allow better sharing with brokers and lenders. It will become an even more valuable business tool than it already has been.”