Financial services firm SPF Private Clients has launched a virtual Help to Buy mortgage assistant using artificial intelligence software.
Known as ‘Ava’, it offers first-time buyers round-the-clock support for queries and promises a mortgage indication within three minutes.
The launch came in response to the increase in enquires from first-time buyers looking to take advantage of the government’s Help to Buy scheme.
Ava, which uses IBM’s Watson assistant and is built on the IBM cloud, is trained on 200 common questions regularly received by advisers and material from the certificate in mortgage advice and practice.
The AI-enabled virtual assistant is analyses tone and confidence in client messages to ensure those needing extra support are handed to an adviser.
The software uses machine-learning technology which means it can become smarter over time and, as new questions come in it can learn the answer provided by the adviser.
Freddie Savundra, digital architect at SPF Private Clients, said: "Lots of people want help understanding how much they can afford through the Help to Buy scheme and how each stage of the mortgage application process works.
"With Ava, we can guide them at every step, giving them confidence that they’re in the best possible hands.
"Combining live and bot chat allows us to elevate the client experience and manage a number of different client scenarios within one user-friendly interface."
Through Ava borrowers can get a mortgage recommendation in three minutes, a decision in principle in 15 minutes and be connected to an adviser for a full mortgage recommendation in 30 minutes, a service previously taking up to five working days, the firm stated.
Richard Voaden, channel leader at Watson and cloud platform, IBM UK and Ireland, said: "With the increasing digitisation of the mortgage market and more people seeking mortgage information and application processing online, Ava delivers real competitive advantage and expertise in simplifying the house buying process."
Daniel Bailey, principle at Middleton Finance, said: "I think this will have a place in the market and will appeal to certain clients.
"My concerns would be on more complex cases, would it still be able to recommend a mortgage in three minutes? Most good brokers are available at all times of the day for their clients to ask questions.
"Many clients still like the face-to-face advice or at least to speak to an adviser regularly and form a trusting relationship with them.
"Mortgage advice is not just about advising and arranging a client’s mortgage but also discussing how to protect their mortgage from death, critical illness and loss of income."