Next-level digital affordability assessment – [FULL INTERVIEW]

In this full interview with Rachel Curtis from Inicio, we discuss some of the latest developments and thinking in affordability assessment.

In particular, we chat about natural language modelling and when how blended with technology, it can really assist customers with stepping stones to better outcomes in a convenient and what is perceived as a more nonthreatening manner.

Find out more about Inicio -> Here.

Interview Transcript

I’m here with Rachel Curtis today, and she’s the CEO, at Inicio, and they’re in the affordability assessment space. Rachel, thanks so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it. Guys. Yeah, obviously, you guys are in the affordability space, we want to talk about about digital transformation, and particularly what you’re seeing in terms of like some of your clients. I mean, it just feels like the whole world has sort of started transforming their businesses everyone was speaking to is just incredibly busy in terms of like looking at digital transformation. And it’d be good to hear a little bit about what you’re seeing with your clients. And as you’re out in the industry, in terms of, what do you think the interest is, and what’s kind of like change really, really, since the start of the year,

I’d like to say there’s an awful lot of noise. And I think one of the things that we’re seeing a little bit is, is an element of either paralysis, or running around like headless chickens and everything in between, because I think organisations are dealing with a lot of problems at the same time. So there’s still stuff coming out of the back of the pandemic, where, you know, people had to just throw their operations up in the air and run them remotely overnight, which nobody was necessarily really prepared for. So there’s still fallout from that, and the tech stack from that was kind of built up and we’re still working through that. Plus, then you’ve got growing volumes. So we know live in crisis and everything in the news. So people are trying to deal with more volumes. Plus, they’ve got their old roadmaps in terms of what they were trying to develop, and they’ve kind of just got loads of stuff to do. And, and it’s, it is driving. And then on the other side of the situation, you’ve got a lot of organisations like us, that are coming in and saying, Hey, look, we’ve got a great solution, look at what we do. And I was talking to one client on Friday, and they were just looking at the affordability side, the income and expenditure side, and they were just being blown away by people talking to them around, well, we can do this, we can do it that way. And there’s lots of different solutions. And there’s also a lot of tech language that’s used. And I think, for organisations that haven’t necessarily invested in the digital side of this element, they get in a bit sort of, like say, paralysed around. While everybody’s talking about AI, they’re talking about different solutions within that. And people mean different things with the tech language. And yeah, just noise lots of noise.

Sure, a collections manager for a collections, head of collections. I mean, how do you the best way to sort of like navigate that and sort of like separate out those that are real solutions versus those that are noise that’s coming through just because there’s so much dynamism and it puts more pressure on people’s time as well, just to go through that? What’s your kind of advice?

This will always be my answer, because I’ve got a customer experience background, but my stop would be go back to your customer journey, your customer ethos, what is it you’re trying to deliver? And what’s your reason for them? Why are you there? Because that strips out a lot of the solutions quite quickly in terms of, you know, what do I want my customer to experience? And therefore, what do I need that provision to be? So I think that can help. And I say that from the point of view of, you know, my background banks and building societies, and I’ve been in the situation of choosing tech, and you get distracted, because somebody will say you chose something you like, Oh, that’s good. And I like that bit. And I like that bid and, and it is hard to actually then cut all of that and step back and say, what is it I need to deliver and why? And then the solutions become more obvious. I think the other thing for me is kind of getting underneath what’s being offered. And so I think demos are worth their weight in gold. Okay. You’ve told me about everything it does. That’s great. In principle, let’s have a look. Does it do what I need it to? Do? You know, all of the things from how’s it going to integrate? What data am I going to get at the end of it? How’s the customer? What are they going to do if they get stuck on a roll those kind of elements and just really understand what it will look like and what it’ll give you at the end of it.

They can quite a province of looking beyond the sort of the nice features that sort of like that sell very well in terms of like, what’s the nuts and bolts around? How it actually works? How do you sort of like judge the difference between I suppose, what’s the marketing side of things versus the actual implementation side of anything? I think the saying is demos, demos is a good way to look at that.

So we’re trying to work with some charities to get, you know, real normal people that are dead, that are trying to complete an affordability assessment or the SFS and get them to actually use it. And that’s really important from my point of view in terms of the quality of the product, does it work for the people that actually need to use it? And standard build kind of information, isn’t it you know, you whatever you’ve got go test it, see if it works, that kind of piece. So So that’s important. But yeah, I just think it comes back to that that customer experience that customer journey. A What do I need for my cassettes? And why do I get it?

The other sort of trends out there as you’re obviously leaving by systems to do lots of different things almost like the Swiss Army knife that does lots of different things versus that there’s also sort of like a large suite of vendors who are doing very, very specialist things very, very well. There’s a balance there, isn’t there in terms of like, how you pick amongst that, and you do go best of breed? Or you do go? generalist? I mean, I suppose you’ve got you guys are in the best of breed kind of space in terms of like, where you’re kind of approaches? I mean, do you come across that in terms of like, from a competition point of view in terms of like, the generalist side of things versus, and maybe people not quite getting quite what they want? And so is the trade off there, isn’t there?

Yeah. And it’s, it’s been really interesting for me, so I was at the building society’s annual conference last week and watching exactly the same challenge, really, then societies are trying to, you know, digitise and move forwards in what they deliver for their customers. And they’re having the same problem because they’ve got lots of bits that they need. And they can either go out to the market and get all the specialist providers and manage them themselves. But that’s not necessarily their experience. And so some of them are looking for collaborations and lead software providers that are bringing in the other elements. And I think that’s where some of the interesting conversations we’re having at the minute are with partners that other elements of that journey so that we can go to companies and say, Okay, well, here’s the this is the bit we’ve got, but if you need, these are the bits, this is how it integrates in. I think the benefit for me, having come out of that more tricky tech background of sort of the banks and the building societies, and all the legacy systems is with all of the new providers, because they’re built in the modern technology and low code, no code, they just bought together so much more easily, and they’re so much more flexible to integrate. So it is much more easy to do that. And I think there’s a hurdle for people that have been in any of the industries for quite a while around. Believing that’s as easy as you told it is because initially, I was kinda like, now that, you know, you’ll say that studies in and it won’t be and I’ll have gaps between the stuff. But actually, we’ve seen, you know, we just did a Salesforce in Salesforce integration and in sort of two weeks, because it’s just really easy to do that in the new, more modern technology.

Because that’s a fear, isn’t it? It’s sort of like, you’re going to have so many relationships, I’m not gonna be able to like, I’m already juggling templates already. And it’s going to be another 20 plates. And we have to sort of like knit the process together all needs to be managed back to circumstances where you’re sort of seeing the collaborations, but it sounds like it’s probably easier and to reassure people, it’s easier than than people think it is. Yeah. And

I think again, it comes back to what problem am I trying to solve within an organisation that’s that’s trying to manage the debt around? You know, have I got really great systems and operations already, you know, where, what is the problem I’m trying to fix, because actually, it might be you only need to fix one element to be you only need an ID provider. And you can forget that piece and just bolt it into what you’re already doing. Or you might have a much bigger problem, you might want more end to end solution. So I suppose it’s that starting from the point of stepping back and being really clear on the problem. Yeah, other than getting distracted by all these exciting widgets that are out there. What is it?

I suppose we’re talking about the problem, and the problem you guys are trying to solve is the affordability problem. Right. So which we know certainly in collections is a is a large part of, you know, certainly collections calls and those kinds of things. What’s been your views would like coming in into the market with lots of like new tech really into like, your view of the problem, some of the problems that there are with it that needs solving?

Yeah, so I kind of I kind of hold you to our founding story, really. So we started because one of our founders had an interaction with pregnant lady that was trying to take her own life in traffic and her speaking to him, or it was about because she was in debt and couldn’t see a way out of it. Almost what actually, it was not being able to take that first step. You know, she knew she needed to do this process. But we’re so embarrassed and felt judged by, you know, being in debt and having to fill in an irony and saying, Well, yeah, I’m still still vaping or drinking or whatever it is over. I’ve got Netflix, and I’m feeling judged by that. So we did a lot of research around that to understand why people have got this real barrier around the ins and a lot of it is not wanting to speak to somebody to do that process or not starting it. And that’s where we’ve come in with sort of using conversational AI, and it’s built up so our form is built by people speaking to the forum, people trying to fill in the ing form. So it’s not like having a conversation with Alexa who is dealing with lots and lots of very broad terms and a very wide range of information also is very, very narrow just on filling in the standard financial statement. And it means that it matches really quickly to what people are trying to say. So you can say, to spend 40, quid on vaping, or water bills, or 10, all of these kinds of you know how we actually talk as human beings, and it will understand, which means that we solve a couple of problems. For the customer, they can fill a form in digitally, but get the support as if they’re dealing with an agent. But without arguments, it solves their problem. Also, they can pick it up and put it down when it’s convenient, if they need to run off and do the school run, we add a customer last week that was on the form for 27 hours. Like, I hope it didn’t take 27 hours to fill in and it didn’t, they just kept dropping in, you know, doing other stuff in between, she can’t do on a phone call and Agent phone call for 27 hours, it’s gonna be quite a high cost. So it works from a customer perspective. But also from an organisation perspective, you can leave that process to kind of happen and then get the information back in and then then deal with it when the customer has done that bit without having that that big cost of filling it in with the customer on the phone.

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There are two concepts that are sort of coming across in attendance recently, as well with the whole digital migration, one of which is persistency, which is the fact that the form will always be there, you can leave a process halfway through and come back to it. And the other one is almost like this, this asynchronous nature of conversation, right, which is, I didn’t want to do a little bit of it. And I’ll wait for a response. And maybe I’ll come back and do a little bit later. And it’s almost like those, those pieces which are which are very not telephone, which is a two way conversation that we’re having now. versus it being sort of a little bit more sort of disjointed, you sort of see that too. And so that how that sort of playing out in terms of processes and how big of a concept, you think that’s going to be in terms of digital transformation,

ultimately, what’s what’s the problem we’re trying to solve, we’re trying to get the income and expenditure information out of the customer. So work out what to do, when they need to be referred for or whether we can get a payment plan and what that needs to look like. So that is the problem. And and actually, you know, we see agent calls where maybe the data quality isn’t that great because we were just desperately trying to get the customer through that RNA and get that information. And you might shortcut things. And they might say, Oh, well, I’ve got that somewhere. But it’s in the drawer. And it’s like, well, let’s just guess it a number or let’s just put something in there, where it’s actually. And we did have a conversation with a client the other day where they were saying, Well, can you demonstrate to us that filling in the irony with you is quicker than it is doing it with an agent on the phone? And I said no, I can’t, it takes longer, because the customer will do it in their own time. And, and they’ll go and get those bits of information, what you get at the end of it is much better quality. And therefore you should have better quality payment plans or solutions. But it’s not about being faster, it’s about being better for the customer, and therefore better for the organisation in terms of what you get out the end of it.

Do you think that filling out a form? So handing out a form sort of digitally and affordability form digitally, or it digitally? Seems like that, you know, customers are less nervous about doing that? Because it’s a little bit more sort of impersonal, even versus an agent, right? So a trained trained agent? Do you think this sort of like the voice interaction spaces falls into that digital space? Do you think people can still have issues in terms of like verbalising, what their actual income or their actual expenditure is to where do you think it kind of fits. So they crossed that barrier to going towards digital.

So the irony is a bit of a barrier for them. But actually, if you can engage them digitally and start to get them using it. And so we use an avatar called budgie that’s deliberately not a human being. And we’ve done some testing around that too, to prove that actually, a nice friendly, chubby little bird is kind of easier to talk to. But actually, once they get started, what we see is some customers drop out to an agent, because they might get a certain way through they might have a question, they might want to have that agent interaction about something else. So almost like the barrier is to get them started and one client, we’re just getting the case study signed off. But the early stats show is that their payment plans have increased by 50%. Now, when I first saw that number I went that’s ridiculous, you know that that’s the true, but actually, what’s happened by giving them that digital answer and just getting them started. We were getting some people drop out of the form, but then we read, you know, speak to an agent and actually go okay, well, I want to do actually, I’m just going to pay it off. I guess. Now I’m just going to and it’s almost that the form is there for one reason, but it’s serving a much broader purpose in terms of that engagement and, and that massive barrier that stopped people speaking in the first place, once you get them started. It might be they don’t do the I and II. You know, in a lot of cases, that’s what we need, but sometimes it might just result in a payment which is hey, that’s and that’s what we’re trying to get quite

an interesting point in terms of like how much of our processes and when we redesign processes. So we just been trying factional Are we just being this is what the process is. And we can very linear as well, we’re talking about linear linear processes as well, versus actually actually serving a purpose that actually does something different in terms of like prompting people to make a payment or those kinds of things.

Yeah, and I think it’s, you know, like receiving everything about that customer experience is just creating that starting the conversation may end up in a completely different place, but it’s how do you get that conversation started. And I think, what we’ve seen, and it has surprised me, you know, those payment rates, I’m very pleasantly surprised, it’s going to make my job easier when I can put that said, payments have gone up by 50%. But it’s that kind of just doing something different actually can create an a, you know, completely different response and get people started on talking to get an answer. Because, you know, we know customers and debt when it resolved as much as the organization’s managing the debt. It’s just, they avoid that conversation. We know, you know, they just don’t open letters, they don’t answer the phone. And when we saw that was another stuff that’s come out that I think customers, some of these customers were 18 month aged, you know, they’re not for ages, but by sending something different and a different contact option. Got those people given an up to date contact details. So it’s just that, you know, changes as good as the rest or whatever the saying is just that engagement,

I’m actually thinking about kind of exit reread that Seth Godin book, Purple Cow, I think it is. And he talks about that from a marketing point of view is like, you never see Purple Cows. But but the fact I mentioned a Purple Cow means that you remember it is that that kind of concept, which probably applies quite well in collections, actually, as well. But you’ve

seen that, you know, through the industry, you’ve seen things change, yes, it was always letters, then we move to emails, and we’ve moved to text messages. And that’s fine. We use QR codes on the back of envelopes, and people are curious, aren’t they? And they’ll kind of scan it. And it’s like, we’ve got them started Great. Those envelopes. Typically, when in the cupboard, you know, we had one lady that kept them under the sink for some reason. But yeah, it’s just something different.

We’ve touched on a little bit earlier around linear thinking. And we often redesign which is digital redesign digital transformation, everything’s for like, it’s an alignment, what we design it almost like as engineers, right. But that’s not necessary the way humans think. And I think you mentioned it earlier around, humans will jump around all over the place, you know, that probably needs to go into our design as well, I would think,

yeah, and it’s that flexibility, isn’t it? And we certainly see it. And it’s, it’s why, you know, I’d say our conversational AI tool is different because it is built to deal with so you can say like, Oh, my gas bill 60 quid, hey, right now you’d accept a gasp Felicity, wouldn’t ya, um, I must increase that number when I use that as an example. But then, you know, then you can say, actually, I get a 10% discount on that, and that out and go back, because we don’t talk in that kind of killed fat, you know, that linear fashion, like you say, and it just deals with the conversation, because it’s been built from how people spoke to the form. So it gets that that’s how they use it.

So there’s been a lot of talk of AI even like language AI as well. Where do you think we are in terms of implementation of that, from what you what you’ve kind of seen it? And where do you think you can go to so we talked to you talking there a little bit about conversational AI as almost like a slightly different level than in terms of like speech analytics, as an example. Where do you think we are in terms of developers industry today? And where do you think it can go to

this isn’t a regular conversation? I have the minute because there’s, there’s AI is an overused term with a massive amount of you know, it can mean so many different things. And there’s a lot of misses. I hear more commonly I hear AI when people are talking about chatbots chatbots have a purpose. Absolutely. And that can be great in the right situation. But because they’re built, they’re almost programmed for a certain set of events. So if you want to say, what’s my balance, great chatbot away, that works really, really well. If you want to have a conversation as if you were talking to an agent, that has to be the new breed of conversational AI, where it is literally built up from 1000s and 1000s of utterances of people who have previously done that process. So it’s built upon real live data as you like, rather than the linear process of they’ll say this, then we’ll tell them that then they’ll say that then that will happen, because it doesn’t work and then can’t be flexible. So the system’s got to understand meaning of language as opposed to, you know what the action is. It’s got to actually understand what you’re saying. And that I think is where AI will go. Now. It’s very early days in that and we see it quite a lot in terms of when we talk to people about our solution. They think it AI that they know, which is the Chatbot stuff. And then when they see it happen, and it’d be very different in terms of how it behaves almost, you know, we’re like speaking to an agent, I could be the kind of blown away. And at the minute, we’re live with a text version, so you can type into the form and sort of chat with it. And we know that works really well, because again, the research told us customers in debt, generally hide in it. So they really want to say it out loud. We’ve got a prototype for the voice version, where you can just talk to it and have that conversation live. And I think that’s where it will go ultimately, you know, and it’s not like I want to replace all call centres, because I think there will always be a job for human beings around the more complex the vulnerability and where humans can add value in terms of right thinking, but some of the basic stuff that voice AI that way, you can do the start of a call, do the basic stuff, get the aiany done, and then move into Okay, well, these customers, this can happen to them, that’s obviously fine. That’s really straightforward. But for these, we’re going to go and need to get some real specific help. And that might be an agent dealing with a vulnerable case. That’s where I think it will help humans will add more value dealing with the complexity, and the AI will start to take out the more straightforward but

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even in terms of like conversational AI, I suppose in speech, speech analytics, I suppose there’s that contextual piece as well, which is another layer on top. So you’re saying that, for context, just looking at affordability, has got its own specialist language in itself, right. And you might have vulnerability might have a different specialist language in itself, you have this general speech analytics or AI that doesn’t necessarily deal with those specialisms. And you’ve sort of got to go into it in more detail, which is what you guys have kind of looked at.

Yeah, and I think it’s, you know, I still only know a 10th of what the clever academics that deliver our AI piece for us do. But it’s things like background noise, and things like that, that you think have nothing to do with kind of actually understanding the language, but it’s making sure it can pick out and also knowing sort of intonation in your voice. So I might stop halfway through a sentence, but I might not be finished talking. Because actually, I’m thinking, whereas standard tech will kind of say, right, when there’s a two second gap, assume the customer has finished, cut it, process it and move on. And actually what what the new breed of AI is doing is listening to the tone and what’s happening, where they are. So it’s analysing it as it happens, and kind of going but that sentence not finished, I haven’t gotten a piece of information. Let’s just wait. So it’s not pre programmed around a set time, it’s actually listening to what’s happening. And that’s where I just think it’s fascinating in terms of what’s been developed,

especially because you think, Well, what we’ve got is really good. And we’ve come a long way. But actually, when we actually talk about it, there’s there’s an awful lot that further, we can actually go in some ways.

Yeah. And I remember, you know, when when Alexa first came out, or I suppose I should say any other module that’s available, as in my house, in fact, it shouldn’t take too long because it will start typing in. But it’s when that first came out, you know, we all had the frustrations with it and you end up shouting at it to try and be really clear where it’s going. Now it is and it makes me laugh. You know, with ours, we get we’ve got our sales guys from Scotland, so we use his accent. I had somebody the other day doing a Birmingham accent fake Birmingham. I’m trying to test that and just seeing how does it cope with accents? How does it cope with, you know, the nuances in Harrisburg? You know, the slang that we all use is very sort of regional, it will work on that providing the underlying data is those sorts of people have already spoken to the form. So it’s learned from that information. And as we go forward, the more usage is the form we get, the better that gets in time.

It also makes you think just like human beings, which we do this all the time, right as human beings, like, they’re really quite wonderful machines in terms of being able to do it right. And we’re trying to replicate it, but we’re coming a long way. It’s fascinating.

And we’ll never do all of it. And that’s where I think, you know, the like, say early humans will add value and the really complex stuff. But we can start to do some of the earlier bits. I think the other

thing that’s happened over the last little while is we’ve also had the pandemic we’ve got a lot more people are working remotely, and it’s sort of changing the business dynamics a little bit. And I’d be good to get your perspective and what you’ve seen in terms of when you’ve been out in the industry in terms of you know, some of us are going back into going back into work. I’m certainly visiting out visiting clients or visiting people in the industry again, but I mean, are you seeing that sort of that starting to switch back to the way it was or do you think we’re going to sort of like suddenly change permanently?

Yeah, I kind of hope we’ve changed permanently for the better and it’s really interesting new seeing all sorts of so I’ve got my inicio hearts where we are completely remote. So we started under the pandemic and we have I have a Have two of the team are up in Glasgow and the further south is down in Redding. And we’ve all met sort of individually. But we’ve never all met together. In fact, it’s quite exciting. This month, we’re going to have our board meeting all together and actually physically be able to see each other in live. But that’s enabled us to recruit, you know, people in Glasgow that we wouldn’t have had access to. And we’ve got some great people. And I’ve seen that in my other hat, which is, as a building society, Ned, I’ve seen the building society, again, be able to recruit some really good people that are doing less days in the office. And I think, you know, it’s a spectrum again, isn’t it, you’ve got some organisations trying to get people back in full time, because they want to be able to see them, and then you’ve got others going, No, we’ll just go completely remote, it’s fine. I think there’s that middle ground where a lot of people are settling on to three days a week in the office, because you do get something different out of being together and having the water cooler chats, or coffee, machine chats, or whatever. But actually, people have seen a much better quality of life and having less time travelling, makes people you know, more efficient, you know, better mental health, all of those things, the values that it brings. So I think it’s a hope we can retain that balance.

Do you think it’s changing the balance in terms of what we have for for meetings in person versus on video as an example? So? So it’s almost like do you do the initial initial discussions are literally get to know people over video. But then when you actually want to cement the relationship, that’s when you have the, you know, the face to face meeting, but it becomes almost like a premium meeting versus a regular meeting sort of mean, do you think we can sort of get into that, that kind of split, which would be the kind of

like a quality or a filter pieces, where, and it’s, I think it’s changed a lot of things. So we’re also doing a funding round. And typically, venture capital funding was quite local, because it was often face to face and the pandemic drove a complete change. And we’ve seen, there’s an awful lot of UN for US investment coming into the UK now because they’re able to do the remote. So it’s opened up a lot of markets to people that weren’t there. And again, I see it really mixed. And I think there’s a personality thing for people around. Some people really want to do face to face, that’s the only way it works. I kind of I think I’m quite an extrovert and I still get similar energy from I don’t have a problem with team or zooms I kind of still feel like I’m fully present and getting to know people. But then I have been out a little bit more. So it was really nice it that as I say the bone stasis conference last week, it was lovely to actually see people and people that you know, been speaking to for two years, but only ever seen head and shoulders is like, Oh my God, you’ve got legs, how exciting.

That’s the biggest shock, isn’t it? It’s like when you meet someone’s like, you’re a lot taller, or you’re not quite as tall as I actually thought you were. And it’s like, it’s like, I really know you but I know your face. But like somehow it’s slightly slightly different. Right? And then as soon as you talk with them, then you get on with them like, like a house on fire like you did before. It’s like it’s this weird to like two seconds.

Yeah, yeah, I’m sure we’re not judging people on height or anything. But apparently I’m shorter than people imagine. So if I meet anybody in person, just expect me to be short.

I’m, I’m a lot slimmer.

To cover the cover live.

Anyway, so it was class quickly, class quickly pass with you on that. The other thing that’s come up is around talent. And certainly a lot of people seem to this seems like it’s a real sort of crushers like trying to get people to get talent in the market and get new people in. And I suppose my question really is, you know, we didn’t have this problem sort of two, three years ago. Where do you think all the people have gone? Right? So it’s not like we’ve we’ve suddenly lost, you know, massive swathes of the industry. I mean, it’s like, but But it’s feels like everyone is busy trying to trying to hire people and find people and they’re struggling. And I suppose it’d be just good to give them what we said about working and what’s your what’s your perspective on that?

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I think it’s probably a number of factors. I think one of them is the shift in the skills that are needed. So not specifically in depth, but I suppose in my bank and building society world, there’s a shortage of kind of risk and compliance people because that’s a massive focus. So the amount that needs to be done there has increased massively, and then just it’s just not kept up to speed. I suppose. It’s the same as the lorry driver crisis, you know, that the industry has moved on, and I think in the more in the debt space, I suppose if I’m honest, there is an element of is there a bit of busy falls going on. So organisations are having to deal with growing volumes out of the pandemic, perhaps haven’t done the tech stack work they needed to do He said pressures on and then you end up caught in this loop of haven’t got time to step out work out what I need to do and get the right digital solutions in place to give me the headspace to then, you know be more efficient. So they get caught in this cycle of I know I need to solve that but at the minute I’m so busy doing I’m just gonna keep doing and that is you know I’ve been there as well in in banking life where you kind of don’t know how to stop the treadmill. But you’ve got to you’ve got to find a way to be able to sort of step back so that you can be more efficient. So I just think it’s a combination of, you know, different skill sets, increasing volumes anyway, you know, people working differently, you know, more people going part time potentially wanting that quality of life. So, there’s just think there’s loads of things happening at the same time, then also, because of all the digitalization and that the tech solutions, that’s, again, a new skill set that people don’t necessarily have. So I don’t know if the people were there actually, in some of those fields that it’s, we need to develop those skills in the industry.

I suppose it’s just like a perfect storm, isn’t it? And I suppose and then people can also they can find jobs in different geographies, which means that maybe a job that might have been available locally is now no longer the person still there, but they’re no longer working there. So that creates like a local a local kind of issue. Is that matter of sort of keeping up? So is it right remote working, as an example of using the hiring people remotely is a solution to that, in terms of accessing the wider market is almost like you have to change to keep up to keep up with it with the talent? And what do you think was was revealed?

Yeah, and also not just keep up with talent, but be able to attract and retain. So you’re gonna be, you know, in a market where there is low unemployment, and people have got the option, the power is with the employees, if you’re not providing, you know, people are getting more choosy and kind of sound. I’ve seen it recently, in some recruitment that I saw where the offers the things that people were negotiating on word, the working from home, and the flexibility and that kind of stuff. Whereas previously, it might have been, you know, salary or bonus or whatever, the focus has shifted a little bit. And I think organisations need to be able to compete, and also offer that values match, you know, that cultural match for people, you know, I’m at work a long time, I want to feel good about it, I want to work with like minded people and feel like I’m doing good in the world. And it’s kind of those things that are shifting, I think when people are able to be more picky about the job that they do, because they’re in the driving seat, really, because they could go and work somewhere else. And that’s not always been the case, historically,

do you think people are sort of like reevaluating a little bit of the balance of things I’ve seen certainly seen that with a couple of people I know, recently, in terms of like, sort of just sort of changing maybe from thinking about that balance in terms of, you know, remote work, and gives me a little bit more time to, you know, to drop kids off as an example, or, you know, spend more time at home. And we’ve had an opportunity to do that over the last two years. And sort of, maybe we just re evaluating whether we want to give some of those things up.

Yeah, I just seen a really interesting case where an individual has taken a job that an organisation with a third the size of when. And that’s because during the pandemic, they’ve got young children, and they’d always worked away from home. So they’re just never known any different, you know, forced work or home and the pandemic actually realised they do like their children, and the impact that they can make on them. And has kind of reevaluated career and said, I always thought career was about, I’ve got to step up, I’ve got to go bigger role, bigger organisation, but actually now I realise what’s important to me is my family. And I don’t see that as downsizing or a step back to go to an organisation that smaller because I match the culture, I like the flexibility they’re going to give me and I win so much in my personal life, that the overall package is much better for me. Whereas historically, I think we just judged it on career progress, and whether that was moving in the right direction, people are choosing on a broader set of criteria and our thing

be interesting to see how it plays out over the next even like 2030 years in terms of the impact on society, education, the workforce in 30 years time and just like people having different lives as kids to a certain extent in terms of access to parents or access to education, or even being locked in for a couple of years essentially being impacted there. So it’ll be very fascinating both both in a good way but also concerning what I suppose in some ways

Yeah, definitely. And I think you know, those those children that went through that period Yeah, what will be like you say the longer term impact on them from many perspectives and the decisions they make having gone from you know, not having a parent around and then hang on they’re here and when

I what I do knows about the kids today is like they’re much more digital natives. than certainly I am. And so that’s something like, we’ve all had to come up to speed really, really quickly over the last few years, so we’ve been on education, even if they already knew it. So I think to some of the some extent, how do you sort of see the future kind of evolving? Certainly from a machine learning AI, sort of, you know, affordability kind of space? I mean, what do you think the next step is? I mean, something like, where do you think the market is sort of taking it away? Where do you think you want to take it from an implementation point of view?

Yeah, so So first, specifically, we’ve kind of got, we’ve got the core product Live, which has a say, on a text based conversation. Next, our prototype is speaking to it. So the voice side of it, and then it’s sort of the flexibility of, of extending that out. So we’re having lots of interesting conversations around the affordability assessment in the origination space. So that being piece because it’s the same problem, you know, what to assess that affordability element complete, so that’s one space. And then for us, it’s into different languages, so sort of Welsh, European languages, different forms, again, because ours works on the very deep knowledge of a specific form, you know, whatever the American version of the SFS is, that we would have to understand. So that’s our specific roadmap, I think in terms of much broader the tech side of it, I think it is all around that natural language processing, which again, is another buzz term that’s used. But actually, for me, that means I can talk to a computer, but get the experience of talking to a human being on a certain set of tasks, for a certain purpose, it’s never going to do everything, I don’t think, but it’s just gonna get better and better in terms of being more real. And you know, like, say, when when we first got Alexa or speech recognition, we were blown away by that that was exciting. But very quickly, we got well, it’s frustrating, it doesn’t do this, this bit goes wrong. And our our demands move up that curve. And I think the tech will tend to move with it and just get better at doing those natural conversations.

It’s also interesting also, in terms of like the the marketing cycle, the development cycle of it, which is, you heard a lot about it sort of like, you know, 10 years ago, five years ago, then you’ve got sort of like Teddy early on implementations and things like Alexa, which we’re using to play music, maybe even, you know, five, look at our diary, book, things in a diary, those kind of things, but you sort of like going up that complexity kind of curve and a point you get to almost like this is going to do something that’s that’s really adding huge amounts of value. And it feels like that we’ve gone through those early stages, and we’re actually getting to almost like the implementation stages we can actually like, is becoming real to circumstance.

Yeah. And it’s that you said earlier from the generalist to the specialist piece, the generalist do a top level, and it’s sort of, okay, when you get into a specialist, and you really focus on it, it can do so much more. But it takes a lot of time to build each bit of that. And it’s got to have the needs got to be there. There’s got to be a problem to solve. And we know that the irony there is a problem to solve, because people want to do it digitally, but struggle, so that it works. It works in that environment. So it’s fine. And the other elements of that that we’ll see come to the fall.

Well, Rachel, thank you very much. It’s fascinating. I really appreciate you making the time. So thank you very much.

Right. Thanks. Great to talk with you

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