Centum Launches Online Pre-Qualifier

Lead generation is the name of the game when you’re trying to grow a mortgage business. But leads are expensive, so when someone creates an innovative way to generate inexpensive prospects, it’s worth a look.

Centum, one of the top mortgage broker franchisors in Canada, says it has just that. It launched its “15-Minute Mortgage” widget today to all of its 2,300+ agents. The Web-based interface (one of the first of its kind) lets a homeowner pre-qualify themselves in just minutes.

Here’s how it works…

  1. The customer goes to a Centum agent’s website and clicks the <Get Pre-Qualified> button
  2. He/she goes through eight short screens to answer basic questions
  3. The client then consents to the privacy terms and clicks <Submit>
  4. The lead is sent to the broker and Centum’s auto-adjudication server
  5. The customer gets an email in five minutes or less telling them if they’ve been pre-qualified

“Based on the research we did, it’s one of the only lead-generation systems that actually runs through an auto-adjudication process,” says Centum’s Vice President, Operations, Paul Therien. “Other interfaces just generate leads. It’s the quickest pre-qualification system we’re aware of.” (Kanetix also launched an online pre-approval interface a few years ago.)

A few points of note:

  • The widget collects the minimum information needed to get an automated pre-approval
    • The system’s pre-qualification rules are based on “standard” lending guidelines
    • “We consulted with lenders and insurers to say, ‘What’s the minimum information we need to auto-adjudicate a file for a pre-qualification?'” Therien says.
  • The submissions give Centum agents the information and consent needed to pull a full credit report
    • That way, the agent can prepare a more complete application and then call the client with options.
  • The system does not issue declines
    • Instead, it will ask the client for more information.
    • The reason for that, notes Therien, is that the system is only based on “A” lending standards. “A lot of times, a client doesn’t fit the box and you don’t want to say they’re declined. The client could be a really good fit for a mortgage of some other type, like with a ‘B’ lender.”
  • The system generates a “pre-qualification,” not a pre-approval
    • The difference is that a lender must assess a pre-approval directly. “We’re in talks with some lenders now to allow us to push this through their internal auto-adjudication systems,” he adds.

Centum spent two years researching and building the interface. It determined that two factors were most important to its success:

  1. Response time
  • Online clients demand immediate gratification
  • Centum agents sign a service agreement mandating they respond to all pre-qualification requests in four business hours or less.
  • During Centum’s pilot, most agents were responding within 30 minutes, Therien says.

2.  Simplicity

  • Centum’s research suggested “the customer has to be able to fill out the application in five minutes or less and it has to be 10 steps or less.”
  • Customers don’t want to fill out a full application, Therien says. “If you make them do that, you’re going to lose over half the people who would normally apply. That’s why RateHub and RateSupermarket ask leads for minimal information…It’s a fine line when generating leads. If you make the process too onerous—where people have to provide too much information—they won’t do it. So we settled on eight easy steps.”
  • “In our research we found that consumers wouldn’t provide certain information (to agents they didn’t know). Consumers were uncomfortable in providing the actual name of their employer, for example…and they didn’t want to list all of their debts.”

The company says it hopes to add automated credit report checks by the end of this year, once it builds in the necessary security required by the credit-reporting agencies.

Probably the most compelling part for Centum agents is that they can put the <Get Pre-Qualified> button on any website. That includes the websites of referral partners, like Realtors. Agents can then track and/or reward leads from Realtors, and Realtors can get more pre-qualified client prospects from their broker partners.

  1. This is why I joined CENTUM, because of innovation like this. The kanetix program was first, sure, but it relies on only one website to drive the leads. I already have this on five sites and I’ve already received three leads… And we launched today. The best part of all? The leads are FREE.

    All I can say is that every time I blink it seems like Paul is finding new ways to grow my business, and he doesn’t nickle and dime us to do it. Last year consumer loans which has grown my business significantly and this year the 15 minute mortgage – and its ONLY January 19th! I can’t wait to see what he does next! THANKS PAUL AND THE ENTIRE CENTUM HOME TEAM!!

  2. Bizarre and we are supposed to be professionals who give advice and look after our clients. How does minimal information help with this? Sure the client qualifies, but have they done a budget? Are they just going to run out and buy because Centum’s magical preapproval calculator says so. When you are buying the biggest financial investment of your life perhaps as brokers we should be encouraging them to meet us and understand them fully. I know Centum is the a TOP mortgage broker in Canada, so I am probably all wrong about caring about my clients. Thank goodness we don’t have any of these TOP guys in London.

    1. Hi Mike, You’re right in that it’s not enough information for someone to make a purchase decision. From my understanding, that’s not the intention. The minimum required information is for a basic pre-qualification. The client is then immediately notified that an agent will follow to provide complete options and advice.

    2. I don’t normally entertain the uneducated rantings of others in here but “Mike’s” comment takes the cake. Clearly he has not looked at the tool. Clearly he is somewhat jealous or at the very least realizing he needs to learn more about client services and how to be a successful mortgage agent within a community. Negative Nelly really ought to think before he types. Mike, as soon as this tool was launched I tried it out for myself as a pretend client. The system was very simple, really did take the 15 minutes they say it does, it sent me an email as the applicant saying that the application was sent out to the mortgage broker, and within 30 seconds, me as the mortgage broker received an email to my phone to call the applicant. Where in the world did you get the idea that the tool lessens client service? Perhaps it would do you well to develop a small network of colleagues who own or at least work for different franchises so that you can sound intelligent when you choose to comment on something. I’m just sayin.

  3. Mike, I think you maybe miss the point. Centum is providing us with a substantial lead generation system. One that is much more robust than most and it still requires a full consult from a licensed mortgage professional. Unlike some others there is no preapproval certificate issued that the client can take to their bank, and there is more detail than just filling out the standard lead generation form.

    This is a great tool and one that provides the consumer with more choice. As the online world continues to grow and be the place of choice for consumers seeking mortgage information this is a great thing. I’ve also, like Kevin already received leads, and I’ve spoken to every single one personally. Each has turned into a full application.

  4. Very good idea and very smartly executed. Only one quibble, I don’t think this is lead generation, I think this is process enhancement and impresses those who use it. Lead generation is when a person responds to an ad or is referred to a broker. I don’t think that anyone asking Google for “mortgage pre-qualification” will see this on Page One anytime too soon.

    1. The “Get Pre-Qualified” button is a call to action. Agents can put this button on any website. People then click it and fill out the form with their contact info. That is the lead generation part.

  5. Mike is correct Ron, the ‘button’ is designed so that it can go on third party websites and can drive leads. In the first day we generated 13 leads from only six agents. We have over 2300 agents across Canada, and more join every day.

    The leads generated in day one might not seem like much right now, but as more and more agents place this on their referral partners website the volume will grow exponentially.

    We may not hit page one of google, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

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