New start-up aims to be UK’s first proptech bank – and will help first-timers

A new start-up aims to build the UK’s first proptech bank, starting with an app to help people save for a mortgage deposit.

Called Huuti, the company is the brainchild of young entrepreneur Osei Downes.

I spoke with Downes to find out more.

Q: What is the problem Huuti is trying to solve?

Downs: People not knowing where to begin on their mortgage journey – three years to 2 months before buying their home. We break it down to empower people. Taking greater control of their finances.

Originally [we were] looking to be online mortgage brokers. When we went to open a bank account, [our] credit wasn’t good enough to open an account.

Right now we’re focusing on mortgages to see how you would be seen by a lender and push them into a position where they’d be best placed to be approved for that loan, mortgage or credit card.

Q: What is the current solution you are offering to the public?

Downes: An app, where you plug in your property goal (date and price) and then we analyse where you stand financially and break it down in relation to your goal and build a timeline to get to your goal. Things like [fixing] errors on credit report, getting a Help to Buy ISA, etc.

Q: How have you evaluated whether people want this product?

Downes: We have gone through focus groups and sign-ups from complete strangers – the last phase now is about onboarding via the website and basic prototype testing happening before full development.

Q: What do you anticipate is the size of your target customer base?

Downes: Every young professional looking to get on the property ladder.

Q: Who do you see as your competition?

Downes: Companies like Clearscore – they are doing a lot to empower people financially, mainly through the credit score, but they do offer recommendations to products. Then there are Trussle and Habito who do the mortgage service but not the funnel before that.

Q: Will you set up as a broker?

Downes: It depends on people’s needs, but we do plan on getting a broker licence. We would typically earn 0.3-0.4% commissions depending on lender.

Q: What challenges do you foresee?

Downes: Regulation – a mortgage license requires two years’ experience working as a broker – which we’ve overcome. Competing is the biggest challenge.

Q: Who does the Huuti team consist of?

Downes: So I lead the effort with a friend from university. My background is working with Startup Bootcamp FinTech in 2014 – helping them build commercial deals, validate products, mentoring on lean start-up methodology and building a customer focused product. Subsequently I also worked for Rainmaking Consultancy.

We have secured commitment from some licensed brokers – they are not yet on the team officially, but have 20 years’-plus experience.

There is also Brendan Mcloughlin – former CEO of Fubra, the owner of PetrolPrices.com

Q: Have you received any outside help?

Downes: Minimal support so far, validating the concept, write blogs and general business help. Property Cohort has been helpful to bring in the target consumer to assess their needs.

Q: How does the tech work?

Downes: We license technology to plug into your finances and we are building a layer on top to produce a report on what a lender would say about you.

Q: What help are you currently looking for?

Downes: Partnerships would be one of the main things – people with an audience of renters. And looking for ways to provide value for each other.

Q: If you had a magic wand and could make one person do something for you…?

Downes: PSD2 – the new regulations opening up banking data – whoever is setting that regulation it would be great if they mandated the use of Huuti.

Q: What is behind the the name?

Downes: We couldn’t have ‘mortgage’ in it – wanted a name that meant no sense whatsoever but has a ring to it.

Q: If you become impossibly wealthy, what would you do next?

Downes: Yacht party in Monaco. Champagne in the middle of the ocean partying.

Q: What is the biggest risk to that becoming a reality?

Downes: Regulations are always changing and generally is about being better for customers, but could become overly restrictive on giving advice – could affect the way that we’re trying to communicate with our customers.

Q: What’s the one thing you’d like our readers to remember about Huuti?

Downes: We’re here to help people buy a home sooner than expected.

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