Ikbenfrits: “Becoming the biggest by becoming the best”
8 June 2021
As a true disruptor,Ikbenfrits approaches the mortgage market in a radically different way. With the DNA of an IT company, they compete with traditional providers.
When they began with their startup, founders Thomas de Leeuw, Michiel Lensink, and Joost Schulze did not know anything about financial markets. The idea for the startup originated from Thomas’s experience. His father wanted to switch his mortgage, but his advisor told him this would be too expensive due to the extra charges. After some research and calculations on an Excel sheet, he found he could save hundreds of euros per year. According to Michiel Lensink, “Your mortgage is one of the most important financial decisions in your life, but the mortgage market is completely non-transparent.”
A unique mix of an IT company and a mortgage advisor
To combat this lack of transparency, the three founders developed a digital algorithm together. The algorithm compares 40 mortgage providers and gives personalized advice. This approach gives the company a completely different DNA than the traditional providers and makes the process more transparent, “everything the advisor normally sees on his/her screen, you see yourself” explains Michiel Lensink.
With this unique offering, Ikbenfrits started to compete with the traditional banks, the big chains, and the smaller mortgage advisors. Michiel sees that the big chains and the small advisors are having difficulties digitalizing. The banks are starting to invest in the process, but they do not have the same DNA.
This fits their idea of constant improvement. Every day they work to improve the algorithm, in which the needs of the customer are always at the core. Based on their data and interviews with customers, they keep looking for frictions in the process and solve them one at a time. With this approach, Ikbenfrits has made it their goal to become the best mortgage advisor.
The change from startup to scaleup
To realize this goal, Ikbenfrits has been growing quickly over the last few years. For the second year in a row they are in the Top 250 Scaleups in the Netherlands and during the COVID-19 pandemic, they even expanded from 50 to 100 FTEs. With this growth, they entered a new phase with new challenges.
With these challenges in mind, they expanded their management team with experienced people who can bring the company to a new level. “In the beginning, we often developed new products ‘on a shoestring’. Now we are busy building our brand and scaling up processes, without getting rid of the good parts of a startup culture,” according to the new CEO Niek Veendrick.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the latter was a challenge. They still have not seen a lot of the 50 new hires ‘in 3D’. To maintain a growth mindset, they hold a standup meeting twice a week where employees can share their projects and help communicate the mission and vision of the company.
Similar to other companies, the beginning of the coronacrisis was very stressful. For Ikbenfrits, the crisis meant two main challenges. First, they had to move the entire company to work from home within a day. Second, it was unclear how this crisis would affect the housing market. Are people still going to view houses?
Now the company maintains a positive outlook. They look back at the coronacrisis as an accelerator of existing market trends. It is becoming more normal for people to do business online, including getting advice about signing their mortgages. The demand for housing is still high, partly as a result of the low interest rates. These developments have contributed to the exponential growth of Ikbenfrits: their transactions have been increasing by a factor of 2,5 in the last few years.
A mortgage advisor with ambition
With this rapid growth, it is almost expected that Ikbenfrits has made it their goal to become the largest mortgage advisor in the Netherlands. To take it a step further, they aim to not just the biggest, but also the best. For them, these goals go hand in hand. When the system is better aligned with the needs of the customer, it becomes easier to achieve high growth.