Finmo is a web app designed for mortgage brokers to process deals online.

I started working with the Finmo team in 2018 as they were beginning work on their MVP. I helped them to rework that and drove it towards its initial release, then a wide array of enhancements and new features were delivered, up until the business’ acquisition by Lendesk in October 2020.

Finmo itself is a digital solution for mortgage brokers to be able to offer applications to borrowers and process deals online. Through it they can request, review and approve applications, documents, insurance and credit checks, with the ability to push those deals on to lenders for financing.

The Finmo team hadn’t engaged with a designer prior to my involvement, so as well as the challenge of working on the project, there was the added task of selling the benefits of having a designer involved, and building a design culture within the wider group.

By involving them in the process; getting to see Invision prototypes, seeing how the design developed, discussing user feedback and so on, the Finmo team weren’t just excited to see the evolution of the app, they had been excited by the entire process, and, had faith in the results.

One of the drawbacks of their previous approach, was that, essentially, the first version of Finmo had been cobbled together from elements from various other websites and apps, so, for example, when they’d needed to build navigation, they had taken inspiration from Intercom, for the document management section, Trello, and so on. This led to a rather disjointed user experience, and, created odd pressures within their team culture. What had been used as inspiration was what had been deemed ‘cool’ at the time it was needed. I noted this meant that whenever anything ‘cooler’ was found, there was an immediate desire in the company’s comms channels to adopt the new, ‘cooler’ thing. In short, because no real process had been followed, there was no faith in the product. Happily, this behaviour completely disappeared from the company’s culture as a consequence of the establishment of a proper design / product process.

Borrower Portal shared components with Blink's UI Kit

The original version of Finmo suffered from a number of issues, primarily a navigation that made it very difficult to move between tasks, and a method of interaction that relied heavily on numerous, often very large, modals. With user feedback at this stage already pointing towards a demand for a mobile friendly version, it was not in a state where this would be achievable.

My initial steps were, after reviewing this work and explaining my findings to the team, to do what I could to improve things ahead of the planned January 2019 launch, essentially standardising the interaction patterns, stripping out features that were unnecessary in an MVP. To support this effort, and help generate buy in from the team, I introduced concepts like user personas, user flows and a basic design system that would allow the sharing of components with Blink, which was at the time a sister business to Finmo, later the decision to offer it’s public facing tools as Finmo features was made easier due to this common visual language and experience.

Proposed design for Documents feature prior to my arrival

MVP update with standardised design language and patterns

'V1.5' update

V2 supported more advanced features and better responsive behaviour

With the initial MVP launched, my attention shifted to a more thorough redesign of the application, but with a small, agile team, there was no chance of implementing this in one go. Instead, it meant launching new or updated elements that would have to, for a time, co-exist with the original parts. This lead to what was called internally, Finmo v1.5 and Finmo v2.0, with 1.5 being an adoption of a further improved, standard look and feel across the board, in preparation for the larger changes in v2.0, which brought new navigation, a new, simpler, responsive friendly page layout and removed a lot of the remaining clunky elements from the MVP.

'Master' 3 column template could be used by dev team without design support

Evolution of Deal Overview screen from MVP to v2.0

This v2.0 iteration ultimately took a year to complete, as new features were introduced, the sections of the app that hosted them would also update, to try and limit the existence of potentially disjointed user journeys in the interim stage.

In that timeframe, Finmo went from it’s original beta / investor user base to one made up of thousands of brokers, a paid tier, Finmo Pro, saw widespread adoption, allowing the business to generate significant revenue, with users gaining access to additional features and support.

The flagship feature that was intended to attract the first paying users was ‘Smart docs’ essentially a system that would analyse the borrower’s application and automatically generate requests for what supporting documentation would be needed to complete the process.

This represented a number of design challenges, partly, to build trust in the user base that this system could be relied on, but also to work with what was, at the time, a very wide array of use cases in terms of how brokers were using the platform. Outside of the ‘happy path’ of teams using the digital application and document service together, were teams who chose not to use the application, or not to use the documents, teams who liked to try and gather documents before, or during or after the application phase and so on.

In its early stages, Finmo was understandably keen to support as many ways of working as it could, to maximise user growth.

Smart Docs User Flow

With v2.0 complete, the aim of moving away from the original design style, heavily based on cards and modals, towards one that is more flexible and more user friendly was achieved. A wide array of new features appeared during this phase, for example, the introduction of onscreen instructions and Intercom clickable Help tours markedly reduced support calls, tools for managing teams, or multiple teams grouped together in brokerages helped attract further business to the platform, with monthly total deal values measured in billions of Canadian dollars.

Mapping out compliance and comms features

The arrival of the covid pandemic brought new pressures and challenges to the team, as a still early stage startup, the increased difficulty of accessing funding was a serious concern, therefore a heavy focus on increasing revenue was introduced. This led to the design of tools to both allow brokers to send their deals direct to mortgage lenders, and a new product, Lender View, that would be offered to the lenders in order to review deals and engage with brokers directly, built off the core Finmo design.

Lender View Deal Overview Screen

Despite the wider economic situation, Finmo continued to grow throughout 2020. In the end, the strength of the product lead to its acquisition by another Canadian mortgage tech company, Lendesk, in October 2020.

It was a huge pleasure and, indeed, challenge, to have been involved with a product from its earliest days right through to its acquisition, helping to shape both it, and the wider team / business, into the success story it became.




Q3 '18 - Q4 '20

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