When lockdown threatened to make it impossible for NZ property owners to have their home professionally valued due to social distancing restrictions, Kiwi tech tool Valocity Connect stepped in.
In March, as New Zealand’s COVID-19 Alert Level 4 played whack-a-mole with our economy, fintech company Valocity Global pivoted by introducing the Valocity Connect app. This made it easier and safer for a property’s value to be calculated in a regulatory-compliant and accurate way without property valuers being put at risk of breaching physical distancing requirements. The solution continues to be used in Australia to bring continuity through their extended lock downs.
Valocity burst onto the fintech scene in 2014, filling a technology gap few realised existed: using smart logic to create real time property valuations with confidence scores based upon machine learning combined with index trends and comparable sales while at the same time digitally connecting the valuer for when a physical inspection is required, all with seamless flow in one smart platform.
Following the Global Financial Crisis 2007-2009, banks and increased regulatory best practice required far more accurate valuations to inform lending decisions; meanwhile, buyers’, sellers’ and valuers’ expectations as well as house prices increased and required banks and insurers to make valuation decisions more faster and more seamlessly.
Valocity founder and Global CEO Carmen Vicelich saw the opportunity. “After ten years in a corporate role I looked around. No one was doing what I wanted to be doing with data and tech.”
Vicelich shoulder-tapped a power house team including their first ever developer Les Cochran to create a first of its kind cloud-based SaaS (“software as a service”) product to bring together lenders, brokers, valuers, property owners and insurers in one shared digital ecosystem including transforming insurance with products such as myrebuild.
The initiative paid off and Valocity Global soon set up further afield, now operating in Australia, Singapore and India, where Valocity was named Fintech Startup of the Year 2019.
By the time lockdown was imposed in NZ in March 2020, Valocity Connect already existed and had been in development for and trialled in India already due to the challenges of property data and benchmarking a property’s value in that country.
“We created Valocity Connect so valuers seamlessly send a link to property occupiers to download the app and then capture photos which are geotagged and timestamped for validation and with key property attributes can then be securely shared back to the valuer and lender,” Vicelich says. “We’d already built secure, intuitive and flexible infrastructure around the app in India, and when lockdown hit we realised the opportunity was to change the app and put it in the hands of the occupier to enable business continuity for essential banking services.
The app is now being used for remote inspections post-lockdown, such as for a recent valuation on Stewart Island, where it can take days for a valuer to arrive.
“We already have automated valuation models and desk valuations for instant
valuations,” Vicelich says. “But Valocity Connect is enabling a hybrid combining the latest data analytics, human-valuer input and machine learning valuations.”
Lessons learned from lockdown
While lockdown caused uncertainty for many business models, “As an entrepreneur you’re accustomed to the crucial need for agility,” Vicelich says. “Having a plan B, C and D, that’s what defines us as entrepreneurs. It’s not a straight or easy line to success, so relying on that agility and resilience to overcome any challenges was crucial.”
“We recognised the importance of the role we were providing because people were unexpectedly needing to refinance their homes. So we were talking daily to our lender, broker and valuer ecosystem as well as updating post lock down on the property market to consumers through our OneRoof partnership, bringing transparency and visibility to what we did know, and making plans so valuers could continue to do their jobs.
“We recognised the world as we know it had changed really quickly and as an entrepreneur, your strength and success is recognising when you need to change and pivot to adapt to a changing environment.”
With an eye on the future, Vicelich says they are committed to ongoing innovation to continue to lead the NZ market transforming the property ecosystem for home buyers through their data and technology. This includes the deployment of a new mobile app, Shelta, focused on delivering social good to help homeless people find beds each night and access help online.