Two young Kiwis are re-shaping the brokerage industry - here and overseas.
You might say door-knockers opened the door for Matthew Grant, co-founder of RateBroker - the New Zealand online marketplace swiftly being called the Uber of its genre.
RateBroker is a little over a year old but is already knocking on the door of international expansion with its unique assembly of rates for mortgages, life insurance, health insurance, income protection insurance, car, personal and business loans - all presented in a form which, like all true disrupters, puts the consumer in control.
It switches control and transparency from the hands of the brokers to consumers and the companies they deal with - all springing from a knock on the door for Grant and co-founder Matt Smith.
"It was about four years ago, my wife Shannon and I were living in Titirangi with two young kids, three and five, and it seemed half the world was walking up and down our driveway between 5pm and 7pm, and knocking on our door. It was power companies, telcos - outfits like that. It went on and on," says Grant.
"It was Shannon who got me thinking about the business opportunity. She was really abrupt with them - and I'm not even sure abrupt is a strong enough word.
"All these companies were doing were seeking leads. So I started thinking about the weakness of cold calling - an approach which gave the companies about a 0.01 per cent chance of getting a sale. I thought there must be a way of giving those companies a warmer lead - and do it in a way which suits the consumer too.
"It's all about pain points [pain points is entrepreneur-speak for problems which, when solved, can lead to business opportunities]."
RateBroker was born. Instead of suffering door-knockers, having personal space invaded (and having to be rude to them), consumers who need assistance in many different fields can go to the website in their own time and anonymously browse indicative offers, electing to go further if they think it offers the best rates or the best deal for their needs.
Financial advisers are on hand if needed. Some products (like mortgages) are only available through such advisers.
"Nobody likes door knockers - and no one likes having to trawl around various companies trying to get the best deal; it's time-consuming and hard work," says Grant.
Customers can choose from the available services on the website; once a request for information is made, the site quickly generates options from different companies offering life insurance, for example, along with quotes and general information on each firm.
Financial advisers are available to offer further advice if the customer needs it but Grant says: "We give the consumer everything they need to make an initial choice. They can see comparisons between indicative offers and make their decision on a genuinely unbiased basis. The consumer decides what they want."
The site could affect traditional brokers the way Uber has hurt conventional taxis. Grant says: "Many brokers make their clients flip-flop. They move you to a new policy with a different company, depending on the incentives a company may be offering the broker - a holiday or a commission or something like that.
"That doesn't benefit the consumer or banks or insurance companies; it benefits the broker."
There's another reason for RateBroker's stunning growth - price. They negotiate for competitive rates; because they are a digital business, overheads are lower than traditional brokers.
"So we can pass on even more savings to the consumer, like life insurance - we give customers back 25 per cent of the first year of premiums, in cash. We also negotiate significant cashbacks and great interest rates in mortgage deals."
So far, RateBroker has been a runaway success. Grant (who has already established and sold two other businesses, cladding for houses and a specialist rental car firm) estimates it has grown 10-fold since launch; it processed $10 million in mortgage enquiries a month after launch and $100m in a recent month. The company is soon setting up in Australia and is fielding interest from the UK as well.
"No one has the technology we have; it is genuinely world-class, world-leading technology, all created in New Zealand," Grant says of Smith's role in creating the business.
He says 1000 people a day are moving through the site - "maybe more" - and the prospects for growth are "hugely exciting". RateBroker already deals in mortgages, life, health and income protection insurances, car, motorcycle and boat financing, car leasing, personal loans and now business loans ($50,000 unsecured, up to $250,000 secured).
It is planning to move into home and contents insurance, power and gas deals plus mobile and phone, internet and fibre offers.
*NZME, publisher of the New Zealand Herald, is a minority shareholder in RateBroker.
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