Maximising benefits with good process management – [FULL INTERVIEW]

In this conversation with Manu Peleteiro from InBest we chat about some of the challenges there are with knowledge and awareness of benefits within the UK… and particularly how to make finding out about availability as smooth as possible for customers… (and our shared dislike for lengthy forms!).

Find out more about InBest -> Here.

Interview Transcript

So hi everyone, I’m here with Manu Peleteiro. He’s the co founder of invest an investor in the income maximisation and benefit calculation space. So it’s a man Oh, Thanks for Thanks very much for for joining me today.

Thank you, Chris, for, for having so

great. So it’d be good to just chat, maybe just start off talking a little about cost of living, and some of the things you’ve been seeing around cost of living, particularly around your clients and sort of, you know, what people are, you know, what people are asking for?

Well, I mean, I mean, discussion in the industry, of course, is the cost of living and benefit this pace, if this, you know, so called a million people on claiming benefits are missing 16 billion in total. This is particularly important right now, because normally, these people who are missing benefits are people who previously didn’t need any welfare support. And they just, you know, Saudi was not important to look after these benefits. But now they found themselves, they don’t have any any other option. And they really need to look for any possible source of income when they’re looking after looking for.

So how much of a gap Do you think there is in terms of people knowing what benefits there are? And then being able to claim it? I mean, you say so like a marijuana people sort of sound like a lot of people sort of didn’t go there, but they’re actually entitled to it? I mean, how much of a gap Do you think it is? Generally, across the population, obviously, it’s gonna be more wide, more widespread in terms of knowledge with systems like yours.

Well, then, that I mentioned, this white industry figure is 8 million people missing 16 billion in benefits, which is 2000 pounds per year per household. But according to our data, this this is much, much bigger than that, according to our data, and our customers are missing 5300 pounds.

And you see, that sort of like broken down by any kind of like, demographics? Or, you know, is it is it people’s like, Is it is it? Is it idea around sort of like there’s the idea, or a lot of people in work, the modern work? Where do you think that mainly kind of sits in terms of the people who are missing out on on benefits really, I suppose affects the the income, the income line on the income expenditure?

Yeah, certainly, there are some certain characteristics that will increase your chances of are missing some benefits. Traditionally, people who, you know, claim and make sure they weren’t getting all the benefits, of course, unemployed people, they knew the welfare system was there to support them. But people who are tend to have more chances to missing benefits are people on low income, because they assume hate benefits are only for unemployed people. They don’t even check their benefits. So they certainly missing benefits, especially people who are renting or people who have lost households or people who are caring. And they are not aware that you know, there was their welfare system can go a long way, in helping them out, but they just believe that is nothing for them. And then there is another segment, who who are traditional missing loads of benefits are pension credits. So elderly, support available for them. And the system was was quite quite generous for the segment of the population.

This was if you look at the cost of living crisis, it feels like it’s sort of like going upstream. And there’s there’s mentioned as mentioned, on the radio around sort of, like the working poor, I suppose is, and I was chatting a little bit with, like, the credit union sector as an example. And people are sort of struggling to see almost like, it’s not that it’s been a huge shock as much as there’s there’s a creeping shock for people, it’s moving up, almost like the income range. And just so do you think these are the people that that should be claiming benefits or that they’re not claiming benefits today, but they probably entitled to it? And in that might be a solution for that segment? At least as much as the wider population?

Yes. Could couldn’t agree more? Absolutely. So here, we’re talking maybe households who maybe a year ago, they, you know, they were not doing great, but they certainly had some some saving capacity, you know, they were managing their finances or right, and they felt that they didn’t need any any support from the welfare system, and they never checked benefits. But now, as you know, the cost of living goes, you know, bills increases energy cost increases. So, this this extra saving capacity, just when when now, it is in many of these cases, probably they already cut some some superfluous expenses, you know, that is nothing else they can really cut. So they really need to look some additional sources of income they can get on benefits, of course, assuming ideal candidate because, you know, they don’t have to work more they can keep up with their existing duties, and they can clean with what they’re eligible for and within Riley complaint,

I think, I think the energy the energy crisis, particularly, I mean, there’s only so much you can say it doesn’t mean that you can’t, you can only cut so much and you can cut down on energy but then if you It’s sort of it links through elsewhere, then it becomes that becomes a challenge. Right. So I suppose like, benefits, I suppose is is kind of the option for that. And also the income maximisation will be the, the option for them. Yeah, and where are you seeing this sort of mainly being taken up? Because obviously, it’s applicable across wide sectors, but are you saying that, that your customers are the ones that generated the most interest for particular sectors or, you know, because it does affect the wider population, but I suppose some of that population can be concentrated in in particular sectors more than more than others, you know, credit unions being one, you know, can be, you know, but it could also affect, you know, other companies like utilities, I’d imagine.

Yes, yes. So, here normally is a combination of things, first of all, is how each company, the individual strategy of each company, because you have some, some companies have have, you know, financial inclusion as a core strategic objective. And of course, this these, these companies, whatever in whatever sectors they are, they might be interested on that, there is also industry traction. So, some some industries, either because of the regulator or because industry groups, industry associations, or for example, the great work of all finance, like in a government associations, they drive change, and they kind of drive the implementation of certain standards on that industry. For example, we can see that in 333, industry is very clear. First of all, affordable lending and credit unions. Of course, these these companies have strong social medium, and they are there to help customers, they’re not, they’re not there to just underwrite loans, they’re there to help people and loans is a product to help people as his savings as his financial education, which is, you know, many other great services they offer. And then above that, of course, you have for all and responsible finance of cool organisations that also tried to drive change across the sector, either providing, you know, organisation sharing best best stories and sharing also providing some some funding, then other sectors in the depth by sector. It was most the work of the ammonia vice Pension Service, because the money advance Pension Service make it clear that they are expected to have income maximisation as part of the pathways process. So here it was more than, you know, the degraders, they hold the money of money advice, Pension Service, we said, hey, guys, if you really want to, you want to work in the pathway sector in England, under to the UK, you guys have to add this feature as part of your platform. Another sector we’re seeing out of interest also in the utility sector, especially in water, because the water regulator, also make it very clear that they are expecting to have benefit checks, not just for water tariffs, but also for the wider welfare. This, so it’s always a combination between individual companies, the industry associations, government agencies,

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the regulator, sort of like helping to push some of it through in terms of interests across the wider sector, it sounds like

it’s this combination.

And one of the one of the features that I mean, we’ve been chatting about, I suppose, is the digitalization and like how it links into systems? I mean, I mean, how much of a barrier Do you think that’s been in terms of knowledge of benefits and availability of benefits? I mean, it feels like you know, that’s, that’s part of the opportunity in terms of being able to give people access to the information quicker to certain extent to know whether they’re eligible or not.

Yes, yes. Especially in the segment we were talking about this this this people who are you know, never claimed benefits before because they never made it most likely they don’t even know that the benefits are are there for them to to claim because also the existing organisations that offer welfare support like citizens wise we’re all local councils the only then service they offer or you know, these benefits so if I believe I don’t have any benefit, why would I go and talk to these companies in my eyes? They don’t have any any service I can I can I can use right away with a check. So that’s why we believe it’s very important to embed the benefit tax within existing journeys to identify people who are missing benefits and productively let them know hey, you’re missing some some benefits please go

ahead. How’d you how’d you find best going around that and suppose in terms of like, embedding that into the systems, I think it’s it’s, you know, there are there are benefits calculators out there. And I suppose it’s like, the what’s the best process in terms of getting the best rates sponsor eight, thinking about how to embed these processes into your collections process or into your acquisition or your loan adjudication process or affordability kind of process.

So, first of all, it’s very important to select the user journey. So in which journey, you’re going to add this, this this benefit check. For us lending is a fantastic example, because you have a customer who needs money, and who is willing to introduce new information, who is you know, who’s taking some proactive actions to claim this money or to get some some extra money. So as they are going through the loan process, you know, they’re also ready to take some action to to go on life or for the benefits is something that is available for them as it is type of device as well. So we have certainly one person who is ready to take action. So someone who was under under stress and financial stress, but it’s already a point where he is not sticking the head into the sun is ready to take action. So So those are the best Jordans for us people who people who need money, people who are ready to take action ongoing, ongoing up life,

what do you see in his eyes was the integration into into your customers systems in terms of like, how they best do it versus they don’t do it. I mean, I know you offer a white label or white label service, but they must have, you must see different different instances of how that then gets integrated into their system. And I suppose, I suppose examples of where you see really good practice.

So that’s why we offer a lot of integration options. So we offer from super simple white label iframe integration, all the way to full API that you can build the whole platform on your end, the only thing you use from us is the benefit calculator. So the actual engine. So for us, the best practice really is always a step up approach, and trial. So the best practice is always starting with you know, doing a test case, either sending an email or adding the benefit calculator somewhere in your in your detail challenge, whether it’s your financial goals important or, or your blog post about benefits, and things start learning who are the customers will look at the benefits, what are their pharmaceutical stances situation, and then sell to, to, to the team as well, because this is also a learning process for the teams themselves. Because most likely, people who are embedded in these tools, they never claim benefits themselves. So they need to understand better how these tools where it’s needed, and so on. And then from there, you know, step up approach to integrate it in, you know, in one part of the journey, we have also a very simple integration, and then you can integrate it farther, farther and farther. Until, you know, the provider has, or the lender or the database company has will really everything on their end. And the only thing they use from us is they Yeah, so that’s

the best, maybe just check to me a little bit about interface and your philosophy around interface. So I did see an early example of your, your calculator. And as I was starting go through, I mean, but it’s a very simple interface at the start. I mean, is that is that sort of a principle and sort of like then sitting around suppose things like analytics at the back there? What’s what’s, what’s your sort of, like, principles around around that? Philosophy?

Yeah, simple people hate forms. And people hate input information, people, me included. So, so I don’t want to make people go through something I don’t like to go. So so yeah. So what our first principle is, is breaking down the the question into parts always either, you know, first an estimation, so you give people early reward. So they introduced four data points, and they get another reward, you know, they don’t have to answer 15 questions, you know, answering your postcode, your income, how many keys gender you know, even pretty much everything before even before giving them anything in return yet. So ours is like, okay, answer me for simple questions. And I give you something already, right. Hopefully, with that early reward, you incentivize people to complete the full the full calculator, because this is something we learn very early on. So when we set ourselves to release benefit calculator, the first thing partners told us the drop rates are huge, right, like so many people drop during the questionnaire. So we have very clear from from the very beginning that that was one of the most important features. You know, one of the main problems we need to address how to make people to combat through the through the whole to the whole question.

So that’s almost like us act is like pyramid approach which is Ask the questions. But then there’s a reward as you start at the top, that then sort of kicks you on to the next stage and the next stage and the next stage is will let you go down that the pyramid with incentives I suppose all as you go down as you go down through the pyramid.

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Next had that done also dynamic behaviour in the sense. The so the questions you ask at the beginning of your question or in the questions you will be asked, as you progress through through the question or so we make a lot of effort to make these dynamic behave. So with them, ask or we don’t display information that we don’t

know how much I mean, just on a wider basis. I mean, how much of a problem do you think that is, in terms of forms you see in the industry, I’m thinking back to some of the back back back in the old days, and some of the old ayeni type forms or the SFS forms and you know, use, you can sort of like, you can almost get overwhelmed with information that’s required when I tell I just like forms as well, I think.

Yeah, there any form is notoriously lengthly. And heavy to fill, you know, so Providence, just just chrismation the, you know, the heavier, more lively form to fill in benefits, calculate the calculators, I think that the standard is quite high. So I think all of all of the benefit calculators in the market have got pretty good UX acquainted, because I think all of us are knowledge, the challenge of making people to complete the whole the whole western,

this was quite good. I just think it’s quite a good design principle, in terms of thinking about how you go through customer experience in terms of like, that rewards almost like pyramid in terms of design in these these these journeys, because it’s, we do tend to just sort of put everything out there, and then I expect expect customers to kind of complete it.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Another important principle detach before is analytics. So what we do is we have a very clear analytics of the conversion screen by screen. And when we see a screen that has higher drop rate, so we make a lot of effort on that screen, to, you know, make it easier, easier to navigate and making AV testing, to see how how we can improve that this specific screen. And now, you know, we’re very lucky because there are so many tools that you can use, you know, from Google Analytics, analytics tools, pro design tools, that helps you to kind of optimise every every skill

we’re looking at, we start feedback loop, isn’t it? It’s like how do you then create the feedback loop and just keep on iterating and keep on iterating? And you want to just really to just to try and get it better and better and better? So what about things like open banking? So I think, you know, I think use use open banking within your process later on in the process? I mean, how do you sort of see that being sort of integrated? And what’s the use case of open banking in terms of like looking at things like affordability, I suppose?

Yeah, yeah, we love open banking, I think the combination of our ending with open banking is very powerful. And we have the best example one of our biggest customers called solid money. And they they use open banking exclusively for the affordability assessment, you know faster that they can use open banking data to be you the benefits you’re already getting. So they they know very well that you know, whether you’re getting universal credit to them benefits, whatever benefit you’re getting, you can see the transactions very, very clear. With open banking, then they use our Endian to calculate how much you can get. And then it’s just a matter of making the difference of you know, the extra amount, X amount you could you can get. So this is the first benefit, increase the warmness and really proactively find people with with unplanned benefits. Second part, and this is more than a regulator or another regulator, sorry, this will be more than the benefit. Even authorities like hmm, DWP, or local authorities, local governments, using open banking to validate people’s income, because one of the main variables for the benefit assessment is the income. So with open banking, you can really accelerate, improve income verification, you know, and you make sure that you’re giving benefits to people who deserve those those benefits. And you really accelerate the processes. You don’t have to go through, you know, bank statements in PDF, you can really automate that process.

And I suppose that all that speaks to a little bit around what you’re saying around reducing the amount of form filling you have to do sort of like, you can do that sort of, because you can get that information in size for and typically the transactional information itself.

Yes, yes, exactly. And the third aspect that the third the third feature of open banking, is helping you to monitor the benefits benefits are not one of things that you do and you forget about, you really need to look after your benefits all the time really. If your circumstances changes, your income changes, you need to update your benefits. And your backing can help you to to monitor that and make sure that you’re already claiming the correct amount. And you’re getting all the benefits you deserve.

And I suppose for for this stage of the customers lifecycle, or our customers or customer customers current sort of, you know, financial financial situation, are you finding there’s good uptake of open banking in terms of acceptance of it now, then, because that was a big problem, right? You know, right at the very start, but are you? Are you running into that problem, I suppose, with the customers that you kind of see, or is it is it pretty much, you know, people are happy to use it, because they, they really want the benefits, or they need the benefits. And it’s such a time saver.

As I always say that, that take that journey depends on what you are giving back to customers so that they remain valuable. For example, with my accountancy software, I don’t think twice to share all my banking data, because it saves me so much time. So I don’t think twice is take it for other features, or like, I couldn’t be bothered to share my, my, my banking data, why would I? So is what do you give to the user? You know, what, okay, they give you the ranking data, but when do you give them? What is the value that you give them in exchange. So for benefit calculators, is standard on basis, I believe the value will even return is not high enough. Because, you know, you can populate, pre populate some some fields like income or savings, but you cannot really populate much more. So I think the values change is not very favourable. So I don’t see why people will share their banking data with us just for the benefit calculate, but when it’s very powerful, is when would you have shared open banking data for some other things, for example, lending, you know, you know, I think the value exchange is more fair to them, because, you know, you can see the impact of sharing your ranking date, okay? Usually ranking data, I might give you a loan, it doesn’t show your monkey, they don’t give you a loan. And because they already share their banking data, because they’re applying for a loan, we can use that same data, one of the knothole, just a segment of the data to calculate benefits. So that’s, that’s when it’s really powerful, but benefits from its own. I don’t see the power of it, unless you are managing the benefit application, because it’s almost like a lending process, like, Okay, if you don’t share your ranking data, I don’t, I cannot give you the benefit. So it’s up to

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us for some of that speaks to then like having your process integrated within the lending process as an example, because then you can piggyback off the, you know, off the lending process, which has the value to then get the benefit, the benefits process. These things are standalone, it’s, it’s less compelling.

Yes, yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

It’s an interesting question.

We knew we never tried to do it a standalone, we always try to as a part of, of another project.

It’s an interesting question in terms of like, how can you persuade people that there are benefits, even if they’re, if they’re not immediately obvious, but there might be benefits over the longer term in terms like hidden benefits? And it becomes a bit of a marketing problem in terms of like, how do you persuade people that there actually is value from this or actually demonstrate that you’ve actually got value from it? Even if it’s not immediately obvious, as an example?

But you’ve got to find something immediate, obvious, otherwise, they won’t do it. Yeah. Why would that? Why would you

so becomes a marketable? Like, how do you create, to make sure that people can can really kind of see it. And before we were just chatting a little bit more about, I suppose, different stages in terms of making compelling in terms of like, benefits. And I think you talked a bit about, you know, awareness, and this was, you know, monitoring, and those kinds of does open banking kind of fits it can fit into that.

Yes, is the ideal platform for achieving that. Because, you know, you can update it now, as frequently as you can, and use that with the objective of helping people out. So we believe that the open banking is the perfect platform over what we can build, and integrate our benefit calculator.

And you mentioned before, I suppose about three stages of, I suppose, benefit, benefit, take up, maybe just chat through those a little bit into the lights, but it was like it was awareness, and then sort of like the monitoring process. And this was the application process, and you guys probably fit in the application process. But what more do you think can be done across across each of those three kind of areas.

So we’re really focused on that word right now. So making sure that everyone is aware of the benefits they can claim. And by doing that, you know, we’re integrating with third party services to try to reach as much people as possible to make them aware and proactively nudge them to make them aware of the benefits they can claim. The application state is really, really, really hard because the the welfare sector is really fragmented. So you have hundreds of benefits grants, social tarrif, the border benefits, emergency grants, you know, so you have hundreds of different providers and every every now and then there’s new benefits. You’re gonna and is really, really fragmented. So it will be ideal to have like a standard platform that everybody comes in and people are on benefits and you automate the benefit application. I don’t think I will see that in my lifetime. So I think is certainly the technology. So the technology piece is, is super easy. There is already platforms you can use. And the terminology piece is very easy. It’s more about, you know, politics, people and asset framework. But I see that by heart. And then the second, the third part is the monitoring, you know, like making sure you’re already you’re claiming the right amount of the benefits and making sure that when there’s a new benefit available for you, when the government on a local authority launched Have you benefit, G automatically know, know about? And there is the important thing is having your data updated for that that is not invest them open bank. So with open banking, Google always can do their benefit monitoring mean, you have to have another data sources. But open banking, you know, captures the most important, which is your existing benefits, and during

and how much do you think of how much do you think that’s going to change? As we go into the future? I suppose particularly if we enter a deteriorating cost of living situation, do you think you think will you think do you think we’ll see more digitalization or less digitalization, and I suppose one things we can guarantee, I suppose, is going to be changed, and particularly just mentioned about monitoring and changing benefits potentially, as well? What What’s your kind of view on the future?

The thing that worries me the most is, there is a lot of Alex support at the moment. So So the government is or the different authorities, everybody’s everybody’s really wants to help, right? Everybody’s super keen and super eager to hire, to help. And that’s fantastic. But the problem is that most of these help and support is completely adult. And it’s not like a standard framework that can be a scale. So at one point, we will spend more money and resources on managing the system than actually providing help to people. So so that was my main concern that, you know, we ended up with a super fragmented system. So I hope that after this initial crisis, because of course, now, it’s all hands on deck, and we have to make this super available as quick as possible. But they hold that stakeholders, you know, maybe a year or two years time, they take a step back, and they, you know, say Okay, now, we’ve tried to build a platform, a system framework, that makes things scalable. So the next time there is a crisis on this magnitude, you know, it’s almost like switching bottoms. And, you know, support can be automatically distributed, rather than conscious going from on one side, local governments are going on another site, then try to design another site. So I think that doesn’t mean challenge. Risk for me, it’s

almost like it’s that knee jerk reaction, put something in quickly. And it’s sort of quick foot in and then it’s forgotten about, I suppose is that rather than building even some of the the integration that you were talking about, that you’d like to see, in terms of, you know, I suppose, you know, applying for benefits and those kind of things that that’s just making sure that we’re doing a little bit of that thinking ahead.

And then just see large banks managing their capitals with his press.

So yeah, we’ve we’ve all seen, we’ve all seen that, so hopefully not this time, but so Manny, Thanks for Thanks very much for for, for chatting to me today. I really appreciate I mean, you’ve made some I say you’ve made some great progress. And you can sort of see it in terms of the the adoption and clearly it’s gonna come become ever more important across all of this sector. Really, I’m just as we get into the cost of living crisis. So, so many thanks very much. Really appreciate making the time today.

Oh, thanks, Chris, for having me again. And I love to chat about this. And I always listen to your podcast. It was so lovely to have

thanks very much.

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