This seasoned executive has designed a start-up set to become a disrupter that handsomely rewards home loan applicants. By Nafisa Akabor.

New fintech start-up MortgageMarket is offering users this attractive proposition: it will hand them R25,000 in cash, just for using its services.

The online aggregator of home loans, which provides access to SA’s top five banks, pays over the reward once a customer’s home loan application is approved.

Tim Akinnusi, MortgageMarket’s co-founder and CEO, says technology and innovative service are its selling points. It offers the same service as a mortgage aggregator, but manages the entire process online, making it something of a disrupter in the space.

“We have a revenue-sharing model where our banking partners pay us a commission when a home loan is taken up via our platform.” A portion of that is paid to clients as an incentive.

The company was founded in 2019 and became operational early this year. It has a team of five people. “We have been fortunate enough to raise capital both internally and from a group of private investors,” says Akinnusi.

The coronavirus pandemic does not affect MortgageMarket’s logistics — because it is cloud based, it can still submit applications to the banks as normal.

“However, because we are part of a value chain of estate agents that sells homes to consumers, the early lockdown restrictions made sales impossible and this affected our inflow of home loan applications.”

Now that lockdown restrictions have eased, Akinnusi says demand has picked up. The aggregator has seen a jump in the use of its instant preapproval tool, which, in two minutes, gives clients an indication of whether a home loan application will be successful. “This has had a positive impact as clients return to apply for their home loan.”

Akinnusi is a former MD of Absa’s home loan division and spent more than a decade at Nedbank in various roles, including group digital marketing manager, head of digital channels and home loans executive. His other roles include head of e-commerce and emerging markets at Clientèle Life and brand manager at Ferrero.

He has a BCom and a Henley Business School MBA, and did courses at the Wits Business School and Duke University.

“The corporate world taught me a great deal about professionalism and sound business administration, but most importantly, it served as a training ground and safety net that enabled me to make lots of mistakes, without paying the high price of being put out of business,” says Akinnusi.

But he decided he had reached a ceiling. “Once I understood the limits of the value I could add in corporate, I started to see the gaps, where I could advance the home loan industry from a customer perspective, through education and finding ways to create value for them.”

Since leaving the corporate world, Akinnusi has learnt three big lessons. “I learnt that no-one is coming to rescue me; being able to make tough decisions and having difficult conversations become a lot easier; and the phrase ‘time is money’ is acutely obvious as an entrepreneur.

“Projects and initiatives that took me three to four months to execute in corporate now take weeks because the burn rate of running costs in your own business is an ever-present pressure that force you to act with agility.”

Akinnusi believes Covid-19 has caused a shift in sentiment around property ownership.

“Property in the climate of Covid-19 has meant more than just a place of shelter,” he says. “The home has become a place of work, a haven for the family to relax, an exercise environment and even a place to worship.”

As a result, we can expect the value of real estate, both in people’s perceptions and in real terms, to rise. And he says this shift is amplified by the rapid reduction in interest rates by nearly 3%. “The impact of this is that the cost of renting a place vs paying a monthly instalment has narrowed significantly, making a very strong case for tenants to consider buying the property they are renting or a similar property.”