Mark Foulsham

Mark Foulsham

Chief Operating Officer at Kensington Mortgages

Kensington Mortgages
At the heart of Kensington Mortgages' digital transformation strategy is the customer – in particular, understanding their unique circumstances and needs.

When Mark Foulsham joined Kensington Mortgages in 2019, it wasn’t just a new employer – it was a new industry. Although he has nearly 20 years of experience in financial services, he had not worked directly in the mortgage sector before, but says the appeal was there from the very beginning to pioneer innovation within the industry.

Foulsham has a superb track record of driving digital transformation within senior operations, IT and project delivery roles primarily within financial services. He spent 12 years as CIO at Esure Group, including Gocompare, and enjoyed nearly three years as Chief Digital Officer for the disability charity Scope. In parallel with that role, he also worked with fintechs on their digital transformation journeys.

At Kensington Mortgages, he oversees a full spectrum of operational, digital, data and technology-related functions that make up about two-thirds of the organisation’s headcount and budget. It’s a sizeable undertaking; a newly created role that didn’t exist before Foulsham. He wasn’t the only new face in the business, either. When Foulsham joined, Chief Executive Mark Arnold was little more than a year into the job. Together with the wider executive team, they have “turbocharged” Kensington’s strategy, reinforcing its position as the UK’s leading specialist provider of mortgages that operates where big-bank lenders struggle to reach.

Consumer understanding helps Kensington offer tailored products

At the heart of Kensington’s strategy of specialism is tailoring products to their customers’ individual circumstances. The company prides itself on offering mortgages for those on variable incomes, like sole traders or the self-employed, who have specific lending needs. In particular, it offers a ‘Flexi Fixed For Term mortgage’ that provides certainty of rates to customers in an increasing interest rate environment.

Understanding there is no one-size-fits-all approach, Kensington invests time, analysis and engagement into understanding their customers. It’s something that requires empathy – but thankfully, Foulsham can rely on his three adult children, who are of an age to be taking their first steps onto the property ladder.

“The large banks are not as nuanced when it comes to connecting the needs of customers with the services and products that they provide,” Foulsham continues. “At Kensington, we have a ‘head-and-heart lending’ mentality, where we use data to provide insight and information but we still make sure that customers’ payment arrangements are at the right level of affordability, or that the right products are tailored for customers. It’s not just about whether the computer says yes or no. It's about really understanding the background and the circumstances of those customers.”

Data and technology are fundamental to mitigating risk

Foulsham acknowledges that accepting customers neglected by other lenders requires a careful understanding of risk. “Risk is our business,” he explains wryly. “That's what we manage. Obviously it's the same for high-street lenders. What I would say is, rather than taking a fairly heavy-handed approach, we take a more precise and tailored approach.

“I think it's a different type of risk management and risk assessment when customers come to us. Because we have the data and the human touch, we can blend those into a better understanding of what risk means to the customer in terms of payment plans, for example, but also risk to us in terms of making sure the loan period is appropriate. In many respects, being more tailored and more personalised in our product set allows us to have greater insight not only into the customer's needs, but also the risks around that.”

Kensington has changed a lot since its inception, embracing automation – which Foulsham warns is not a panacea – and adopting new technology. He is a firm believer in reusing your previous investments as well as modularisation of solutions and technology, avoiding just bolting on new things in a way that creates technical debt and complexity.


Read the full story HERE.


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