Property is an obsession in Sydney. Spend half an hour standing at any school gate, water cooler or RSL bar and you can bet your bottom dollar that property prices will crop up in conversation.
That chatter will be accompanied either by hand wringing or fist pumping, depending on where people are placed in the Great Sydney Property Race. Many baby boomers are sprinting along as property prices keep increasing, while many first home buyers are left standing at the starting line, watching their home ownership ambitions disappear into the distance.
However, what unites most people in this fast-moving market is the often tedious, complex and slow process of securing a home loan in the first place.
When they each bought their own homes, Sydneysiders David Hyman, Sebastian Watkins, Martin Lam and Mark Kalajzich all experienced this frustration themselves. But where most people see a painful problem, these four entrepreneurs saw an opportunity. What if they could provide a way for Australian home buyers to find the best mortgage deal for them – and get this approved – in a fast, reliable, convenient and efficient way?
The answer to that question became their own small business, Lendi.
"Anyone who’s ever applied for a home loan will tell you the process is quite complicated,” says Lendi managing director David Hyman. “About four years ago there was a real break in data and we knew that if we could make sense of the ton of information out there and simplify the process for our customers, we could really build something powerful.”
Hyman and his co-founders created an optimised online platform that aims to make the home approval process simpler for applicants, brokers and lenders. Customers upload their details once, and then the Lendi platform reviews the risk requirements of more than 30 lenders, before quickly connecting the borrower with the lender that suits them best. The Lendi process also aims to reduce complexity associated with risk and credit worthiness, which cuts down approval times for lenders.
The result is a reduction in paperwork and a faster result for everyone. And in a market where many properties are snapped up before an open home or auction can even be arranged, this speedier process can be the difference between prospective buyers moving in to – or missing out on – their dream home.
“Ongoing regulation will continue to make the market more complex, but our platform is designed to make things simple,” says Hyman.
Clearly, Hyman and his co-founders are on to something. Since 2013, Lendi has grown at more than 100% year-on-year and is now on track to approve more than $4 billion in home loans per year. It has also has captured 1% of Australia’s $1.6 trillion home loan market.
“Our growth journey has far surpassed our expectations,” says Hyman, attributing much of the success to a relentless focus on customer experience. Besides the technological innovation, Lendi also has a team of brokers who guide borrowers through the home loan process.
Lendi has found another edge too: strategic partnerships with third parties.
“Once they saw the win-win situation, our partnerships grew rapidly,” says Hyman. A prime example was Domain Group’s announcement in June that it was expanding into home loans broking by partnering with Lendi to launch “Domain Loan Finder”. This offers Domain’s millions of readers a simple online process to connect with lenders, including major banks, coupled with access to a national community of home loan specialists for personalised help and expert advice.
Reflecting on Lendi’s meteoric rise, Hyman shares this advice for other SMEs experiencing rapid growth: “When you launch a start-up you naturally attract entrepreneurial people. But the trick is keeping that mindset as the business grows. You have to give colleagues the freedom and trust to solve problems their own way; empowering them with autonomy and accountability as equal partners goes a long way.”
Hyman actively encourages a culture where his people exchange ideas and try new things.
“Employees know that if an idea fails, it’s okay, we learn from it and move on,” he says. “If people are afraid to take risks, then we aren’t going to grow as quickly or as smartly as we can.”
And growth is the name of the game for Lendi. Hyman’s ambition to take the business from 1% of the home loan market today up to 5% within the next five years. And few would bet against him, while property remains the talk of the town.