Jun 21 | 2017

What’s Happening in FinTech?

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Top FinTech LearningsThe spring season brings a lot of activity to the financial services space in Canada. It’s one of the busiest times of the year for typical “money out” campaigns from our banks and coincides with strong activity in listings, transactions, and ultimately closings.

More recently the spring season has also come to signal the start of FinTech conference season across Canada. The size and scale of these events continue to grow while our own homegrown talent is taking center stage. With over 250+ FinTech companies across Canada and $1BN in cumulative venture capital investments, Canada is well on its way to solidifying itself as a global center for financial innovation.

As Head of Product at FCT, one of my primary responsibilities is understanding how the needs of our lenders are going to be changing over the next 3-5 years. Internally, we’ve been aggressively transforming our own product portfolio and expanding our focus on hybrid solutions that leverage the best of our financial technology, business process outsourcing (BPO) capabilities, and insurance expertise. As I have been working through the process of how we align our own product roadmaps to these opportunities, I wanted to share more broadly what I’ve learned on the conference circuit throughout the year.

Developments in FinTech

Opening up financial services data:

  • The European Union is already well ahead of North America when it comes to FinTech penetration. In an unusual role reversal, we actually see governments across the globe leading the charge to create an environment that is conducive to FinTech growth and innovation.
  • Initiatives like the European Union PSD2 open banking API, where by 2018 all lenders will be required to open up transactional data (with user permission) to enable third parties to build new types of financial services is one important example. While Canada is definitely lagging in this area, there are several opportunities to target key data as a starting point and use that information to re-engineer how financial services are delivered to customers across all segments.

While cash flow will always be king, managing identity in the digital age is close behind:

  • Online identity is the next cycle of the internet and as we see more and more digital lending platforms that don’t require in-person interaction, there is more of a need for identity management applications that simplify and perfect authentication/verification, early detection of fraud, and are adaptable.
  • Contextual commerce is the next major area of growth in the financial service space. This area deals with making payments through internet connected devices that are not a smartphone or laptop but rather devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Oculus Rift, and even your connected car. Thinking through the connected car example, how would you know the driver of the car is the right driver to offer a service?

Homegrown products will find greater product-market fit than global imports:

  • Canadian built and managed FinTech solutions will have the advantage over more global or regional efforts that try to ‘Canadianize.’ Rethinking financial solutions from the ground up will provide another advantage. The underlying point here is a true need to take a product-driven approach to building new financial services as opposed to a clone strategy from other markets.
  • For example, at FCT we believe understanding your customer segmentation in FinTech is critical. Existing companies overly rely on safety, security, legacy as the bread and butter of their solutions. Those features are table stakes but do not do enough in isolation to capture the wallets of the millennial, and eventually Gen Z segments. Great user interface and user experience, smart use of data, and transparency are at the top of the decision matrix for these segments and are causing radical reinvestments in technology talent across existing companies of all sizes.

This is the year of blockchain….or maybe its Ethereum… but it’s time to see RESULTS

  • By now everyone has heard of blockchain and the power of the underlying technology in financial services, but the conversation is FINALLY shifting to the business opportunities and that will be the catalyst for blockchain-infused products to gain traction. Experiments like Project ‘Jasper’ which is a Bank of Canada + Big 5 proof of concept with blockchain to reduce reconciliation efforts in payments systems are examples of the results and value of using distributed public networks.

We strongly believe that we are less than 12 months way from seeing the first mainstream pilot for tools like smart contracts and we are even bigger believers in the truly disruptive nature of these technologies.

I’m incredibly interested in your opinions and welcome comments. If you are passionate about thinking differently in the financial services space, I’d love to chat and can be reached at rlambert (at) fct dot com or through LinkedIn.

Jul 6 | 2015

Certified Resale Home expands into new markets!

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CRH_small_2FCT’s Emerging Business Group is excited to pull back the curtain on the first expansion of our Certified Resale Home (CRH) product. When we initially launched in the Greater Toronto Area in March of this year, we promised that more markets would be added soon and now we can officially reveal them. Starting July 6, 2015, CRH will be available in the following areas: Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge, and Brantford. This expansion includes the townships of New Hamburg, Baden, Elmira, and Paris.

What’s even more exciting is that we are launching in these territories with: Re/Max Twin City Realty Inc (Re/Max Twin City)! The Certified Resale Home will be available exclusively to Re/Max Twin City Realtors in these Areas. After landing on the Waterloo region, it was a no brainer to approach Re/Max Twin City. They are aligned with our desire to change how resale homes are sold and they’ve been the leading brokerage (as measured by market share) and dominant player in the market year after year —Re/Max Twin City has continued to outperform every other real estate company within the regions they serve. A combination of local expertise and dedication to the customer experience has been the main catalyst of success.

It was clear to us very early on that we were not only partnering with a team of REALTORS® who aligned with our own values towards customer experience excellence, but one that also acutely understood how the CRH solves real problems with the resale home dynamic and creates efficiencies in the sales process. Utilizing the CRH’s pre-listing home inspection, we are able to take control of critical information — up front — in order to proactively respond to issues that could potentially kill a deal. Both Re/Max and FCT fully understand the power of investing in a client relationship versus simply landing a listing. Having an 18-month warranty on key blind spots (which the seller can claim on during the period they continue to own the home) that transfers over to the buyer upon closing is a unique way to differentiate a listing, attract buyers, and ultimately optimize the amount and quality of offers that come in.

And there’s even more good news! FCT is pleased to announce a new member of our FCT Home Inspection Network — AmeriSpec Canada Inc. A foundational component to the CRH is a high quality home inspection that is completed by a home inspector with the right experience and training. This point can’t be overlooked because we know if buyer’s can’t trust the home inspection component of the CRH, we are not delivering on a central value proposition of our product. That is why having AmericSpec on board as a partner is a huge asset. AmeriSpec not only met our strict requirements for entry into our network, but they also impressed us with their dedication to customer service excellence and their deep knowledge of the markets in which they operate. We are happy to welcome them aboard for this launch.

Making real estate transactions simple and secure is at the heart of everything that we do at FCT. We believe that the CRH has the ability to dramatically change the resale home industry, just as certified pre-owned car programs changed the “resale” car industry. With this expansion we’ve now taken the next step in building out that superior listing experience by ensuring that we offer sellers all the benefits of the CRH, along with an industry leading REALTOR® as their quarterback along the way.

If you are a homeowner in any of these new markets and you are looking to list your home for sale, we would invite you to reach out to your local  Re/Max Twin City Realtor to start the conversation around how a Certified Resale Home can help your property stand out and sell faster.

For more information on the program please visit www.thecertifiedresalehome.ca/twincityremax

Warranty Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited

 

May 25 | 2015

Five things we learned on the Realtor tradeshow circuit

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CRH_smallFCT’s Emerging Business Group and Digital Marketing team has been on the real estate tradeshow circuit for the past few weeks. On this circuit, we had the opportunity to attend the OREA Leadership Conference; the Toronto Real Estate Board’s Realtor®Quest 2015; and Kitchener/Waterloo/Guelph’s XPO6. The primary purpose of our attendance was to generate awareness of FCT’s Certified Resale Home in the GTA and test out the TwinCities (Kitchener/Waterloo) as a potential second market for the product. Following a whirlwind two weeks, the teams got together and summarized a few key learnings:

1. While everyone is talking about how hot the Toronto market is (it still receives the majority of the airtime), perhaps a more appropriate reframe would be that it’s the Ontario market that is hot. Realtors from Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Waterloo, Guelph, and the Durham Region all said the same thing—properties are moving quickly and multiple-bid scenarios are becoming more common. It shouldn’t be shocking to correlate the fast pace of market growth in these areas with their associated robust employment markets. Whether it is the tech sector in Waterloo, the gentrification and rebranding of Hamilton, or the focus on attracting global entities to Burlington and Oakville, the view is that strong employment dynamics are underpinning growth as opposed to a less logical market dynamic.

2. We are nearing an inflection point when it comes to the adoption of technology by realtors (real-tech). The pending regulation around allowing an electronic signature on the agreement of purchase and sale in Ontario will play a big role in the evolution of real-tech. Two years ago you could have asked about real-tech and quoted what was happening in the US market as proof of real-tech’s ubiquity and been met with indifference. This year it was quite different: realtors seem more aware of the shift in the way consumers engage with services; it is a matter of identifying where to best invest their dollars to enhance their own productivity. Millennials are a mobile-first generation, and finding a way to replicate the experiences millennials have using consumer tech like Uber, Amazon, and Netflix will find its way into all spheres, including real estate. Companies like DealTap™, Teranet’s ViMO®, LoneWolf, and a variety of other players are at the forefront of this change.

3. It is critical to have an objective in mind before attending the tradeshow otherwise it is very easy to get lost in the conversations and the pandemonium
of TREBARDY. The most successful booths were those that engaged attendees in a unique way, often avoiding the hard sell, and those able to crisply deliver their elevator pitch within often brief interactions.  We decided to offer free lattes, espressos, and cappuccinos. Suffice to say: realtors love their coffee—we had a captive audience to generate real-time feedback on the Certified Resale Home product, and likely had the type of booth traffic that most would envy!

4. Realtors have won the battle against For Sale By Owner (FSBO) in Ontario. We didn’t hear one piece of feedback that suggests it is even a concern anymore. That’s a strong testament to the branding work that was done by the Canadian Real Estate Association’s (CREA’s) various Why a REALTOR® campaigns. However, the next battle front is really solidifying the realtor’s value proposition across the real estate lifecycle, which can be divided into two phases: pre-agreement of purchase and sale (everything to get the deal signed) and post-agreement of purchase and sale (closing the deal). The realtors we met who are “crushing it” right now understand the value in a full-service, end-to-end offering.

5. More than ever it is clear there is a proliferation of business-model innovation in the real estate space and that is a good thing! Real-tech is here to stay and will be one of the driving forces that helps power the innovation. Whether it is a full-service strategy, cost leadership, or a hybrid of priced offerings, innovation will drive the next phase of evolution of the industry and the winner in the end will be the consumer.

Certified Resale Home Booth at Realtor Quest

If you also attended any of these conferences and would like to share your learnings, we invite you to comment below.

Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited. The services company does not provide insurance products. Some products/services may vary by province. Prices and products/services offered are subject to change without notice.
May 1 | 2015

The Certified Resale Home from FCT

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CRH_smallYou’ve heard about Certified Pre-Owned Cars. What about a Certified Resale Home?

If you’ve been shopping for a car within the last five years you’ve likely come across a simple concept that changed the way used cars are sold. It is easy to forget that a few years ago Certified Pre-Owned Car Programs (CPOs) were really in their infancy and only provided by high-end manufacturers. Flash forward to the present and it is hard to find a manufacturer that doesn’t offer some variant of the CPO program. The rationale is quite straightforward: more transparent information reduces buyer anxiety and promotes a more streamlined transaction. Furthermore, add clearly defined warranty coverage (read: no fine print aimed at duping the consumer) and you dramatically reduced the aura of “buyer-beware” resulting in a much more efficient purchase experience.

Unquestionably CPO programs have revolutionized the used car market. Reflecting upon the effect they had on the used car market, we started thinking about what has changed in the “used” (i.e. resale home) market. It felt kind of bizarre to us that a home, the most valuable financial asset most Canadians will purchase, only has a fraction of the transparent information and buyer protection mechanisms in place. After all, a used car is only about 3% of the price of an average resale home in Canada and is a depreciating asset. Moreover, does it even make sense to have one of the most important elements of due diligence —the home inspection —as a buy-side activity, especially when certain market conditions may not allow an inspection to be completed? Wouldn’t it be more efficient if a home came packaged with a program similar to the CPO?

With our mission squarely focused on making financial transactions simple and secure, FCT is pleased to introduce the newest product from its Emerging Business Division: The Certified Resale Home (CRH*). The CRH combines a high-quality pre-listing home inspection with warranty coverage on one or more of the largest, most anxiety-inducing blind spots in any inspection. Even the best home inspector cannot provide full oversight on the roof, foundation, and heating/cooling appliances.

The product is targeted to Realtors listing a property and their sellers. It provides an immediate way to differentiate the listing from other available inventory by delivering transparency up front via a home inspection completed by one of our hand-selected FCT Home Inspection Network partners. They use industry-leading software to create high-quality digital reports, delivering context that brings clarity to the state of the home. The CRH not only allows the seller/Realtor to take control of the situation, but we believe it will optimize purchase offers and help home close faster. The goal is to provide a quality inspection that buyers can rely on, along with warranty coverage they can fall back on if an issue arises. The coverage lasts for 18 months from the time of the inspection and is 100% transferable from the seller to the future buyer, who inherits the duration of the 18-month coverage.

This is just the beginning – we are already thinking about ways to enhance what a Certified Resale Home is, and hope to announce more exciting extensions of the product shortly. Similar to how CPO programs changed the dynamic for used cars, we envision a future where we change the dynamic for the resale home market. Our goal is that every listing in Canada is a Certified Resale Home. If you would be interested in making your next listing a Certified Resale Home (or simply providing some feedback on the product) we’d love to hear from you.

You can check out the CRH product at www.thecertifiedresalehome.ca

*CRH Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited.