Episode 11

What's Next with Abba Newbery

We chat to Abba Newbery about how Habito is the "What's Next" of Mortgage Broker/Provider in the UK.

The UK mortgage industry is archaic, and possibly even broken when we consider how people are now living their lives. People who are self-employed or have non-linear careers struggle to find mortgages that fit them, Habito was founded to challenge the old ways.

Abba explains the 'B Corp' accreditation that Habito holds and how it aligns with Habito's mission to help people find a home, a home that is or has the potential to be environmentally sound, and a part of an integrated community.

Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

ABOUT ABBA NEWBERY

Abba Newbery is CMO at Habito, the disruptive tech driven mortgage business, now also proudly a B Corp

Abba Newbery is the CMO of Habito, a tech start-up founded in 2016 with the mission of setting people free from the hell of mortgages, and that has since become the fastest growing mortgage broker in the UK. Prior to joining Habito, Abba was Head of Commercial Strategy at News UK and Managing Partner for Communications Strategy at Universal McCann. Abba has also been a mentor on the Google Start-up Accelerator programme and the YouTube Creator mentoring scheme.

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Transcript
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- Hey, so I am Abba Newbery.

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I am the Chief Marketing Officer at Habito,

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who are a Fintech mortgage disruption business

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based in the UK

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and who are very proudly a B Corp as of last year.

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- Thank you so much Abba for joining me today.

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- Thank you for having me.

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- I'm really curious about this B Corp certification.

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Before I ask you about that,

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'cause I know that's very important,

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tell me more about Habito, what kind of company,

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how long have you guys been in operation

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and how are you disrupting the marketplace?

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- Yeah, good questions.

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So we are, I guess, six years old, five years live

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and I personally joined four years ago.

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And we're basically bringing technology

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to the business of mortgages.

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In the UK, it's an extremely archaic process.

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You have to go into your bank,

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have an interview with a bank manager,

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fill out forms that are, you know, 200 pages long

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and yeah, we just couldn't believe

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that that was still happening in 2015.

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So we decided to change all of that.

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So you can get a mortgage

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on your mobile in about 20 minutes through our technology.

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But we also happen to be a mortgage lender

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as well as a mortgage broker,

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the first people to be allowed to in the UK,

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which is obviously

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a very heavily regulated financial market.

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So we're also building mortgage products around people.

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So the mortgage market really was built 150 years ago.

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And isn't built for self-employed people, squiggly careers,

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moms who work, dads who don't want to work.

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And so, yeah, we're inventing mortgages

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that fit with our new lives.

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- Excellent, tell me about, first of all, what is a B Corp?

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What is a B Corp certification?

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- That's a good question.

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B Corp I guess, is much bigger in North America

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than it is in the UK.

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We're still in the kind of like early, early stages.

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I think it has about 30% awareness growing rapidly.

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And I guess it's a good question,

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because when we went into being a B Corp,

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we're like, Oh, you know, our mission

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is to help people find home.

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We want to build a business fit for the future

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with the best culture and the best people

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wanting to work for us.

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We're like, We'll get a B Corp certification.

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We'll stick it on our adverts and on LinkedIn

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and it's going to be a great marketing tool.

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Then we looked at the actual process.

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We're like, "Oh, wow."

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I mean, like, this is a full evisceration

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of everything you do environmentally

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and with your people.

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And the more we looked into it,

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strangely masochistically maybe,

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the more we wanted to, the more we wanted to do it.

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And so, yeah, B Corp is not just a badge,

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it's literally a legal commitment

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to say that we're going to put people and the planet

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on at least the same level as we put profit.

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Which is a big thing to do as a small,

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fast growing business.

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- So, at the beginning it was a badge.

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It was something to use in marketing, like you said.

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What was it about the process or the overall mission

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of being a B Corp that appealed to Habito?

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- Well, I guess, we're in the business housing.

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And the UK housing stock

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is possibly quite unique in the world.

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So 30, I think the exact figure

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was 38% of our houses were built

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before the second World War, built before 1940ish.

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And I guess the results and impact of that is

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19% of our carbon dioxide emissions in the UK

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come from houses, leaky windows, leaky roofs, old boilers.

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You know, we live in lik Victorian houses,

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not nice hoof houses and passive houses and eco homes.

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The more we looked into the B Corp certification

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and started to reflect on ourselves as a business,

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the more we realized the contribution we could make

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to the world as a whole, if we could actually

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start to change the way people look at their homes

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in terms of carbon emissions,

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but the way that they're financed,

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how you can help people maybe borrow some more money

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to put in that right boiler.

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And so the more we delved into the process,

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the more we felt we could really make a difference.

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And so the more we should do it.

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And so for us, B Corp isn't the end of the process,

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it's the very start.

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Becoming a B Corp is now us going out there into the world

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and saying we want to reduce UK household carbon emissions

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from the 19% that they are today.

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- I think that leads to my next question, which is,

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what's the value of this to consumers?

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So, the obvious one is a better planet.

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But I'm wondering if for your company,

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there's more value to the consumer than meets the eye.

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- Yeah. I think like where possible, what we've got to do

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is get people to care and to know that

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that 19% is coming from their homes

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and they can change it.

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But certainly in the UK,

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people are thinking about buying electric cars

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and not thinking about recycling.

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But really, those things have been done through penalty.

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So, get your bins taken away and so you have to recycle.

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We have congestion charge and a low emissions charge,

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for example, in big cities,

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which means you get a pretty punitive penalty

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if you're not driving a good car with low emissions.

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It was the same a long time ago in the UK

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when we had to force people to wear seatbelts in cars.

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They fined them

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because we couldn't get them to care otherwise.

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And I guess the challenge that we've got is

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how do you get people to really care

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about how to make a difference in a way

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that's easy and not punitive,

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that's not making them borrow existentially more

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or not also making them feel like

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they're going to have to pay an extra interest rate price

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if their home is a different category

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to somebody else's house.

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And I guess there's also an interesting thing which is,

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with anything green, it's a bit like getting married.

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As soon as you say, "Oh, I'd like to book this hotel,

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it's for a wedding," the price doubles.

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And in some ways, being green and ecologically sound

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in people's heads also carries that price premium.

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And some of us can afford to do it.

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Some of us can't.

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And also, some of us can afford to do it in some categories

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and add an extra 20p to our washing-up liquid.

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But that's different than

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borrowing an extra 25,000 pounds

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to completely change the roof of your house.

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- Yeah. Interesting.

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Yes, it does.

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It does.

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And you know, prior to me having this discussion with you

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another question that I had was,

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what's the relationship,

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because when I first realized Habito

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and the certification that you guys have with B Corp

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and then your title, as I believe,

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Chief Marketing Officer, I think, I don't get it.

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What's this relationship between,

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from on the outside thinking,

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"Okay, they've got this certification

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where they're environmentally friendly,

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they're a good company."

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What's that relationship between marketing

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and this designation?

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- Yeah, I guess being a B Corp for us

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is more than being ecologically sound.

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So it's the people and planet that's important to us.

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And as I said, when you think about our mission being

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helping people find home,

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there's lots of ways that we can make a difference.

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There's the mortgage itself coming from a good bank

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who's investing in the right things.

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Does it give you enough flexibility to make your home green?

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Can we help you through the scale of our business,

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find ways of making your home greener easier?

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You know, there's all sorts of amazing technology

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that's going on around, like carbon sucking paint

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and stuff like that.

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But also this idea, in terms of building communities

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and where you live is much more than the walls around you

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and the roof over your head.

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But it's the neighbors and the community you live in

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and what it feels like to walk down the street.

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So we're committed to doing all of those things.

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And actually, when you come up on it like that, you say,

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yeah, this is a fantastic way of talking to customers

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about things that they really care about.

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And I get yeah, so you have a mortgage.

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I don't know if you have a mortgage.

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I have a mortgage.

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But as soon as you get a mortgage,

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the next thing that you want to do is do that.

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Because it was a difficult process,

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hopefully not that difficult through Habito.

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But it's also the biggest expense

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that meets your bank account every single month.

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So most of us are just like,

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"I'm just going to pay my mortgage,

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and I really don't want to think about it."

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And that way about thinking

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a bit more broadly about your house,

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rather than just being the home for you and your family

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or just being something that you want

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to go up in value over time,

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but being these walls around you,

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but you're part of a bigger community.

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So we don't market our B Corp status a lot,

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to be honest with you.

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I have a great deep held belief as a marketeer,

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which is that you should never tell anyone

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that you're funny,

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you should always just make them laugh.

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And so we are doing that.

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We will talk about products

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and things that make a difference to people's lives.

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The most recent thing we've done is go into partnership

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with Skateboard Great Britain

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and start to change the UK's attitude towards skateboarding

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in terms of being a great community sport,

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a great family entertainment, completely COVID safe.

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And also obviously,

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about to be part of the Olympics this year,

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would they take place.

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So yeah, just starting to think about

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a bigger voice in the world,

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rather than just saying this is a green mortgage,

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if that makes sense.

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- I'd like to get your opinion

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as someone in marketing on this.

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In 2020 and of course now in 2021,

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as the world is still figuring out how to now

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leave this pandemic that we've been in

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and re-engage in the world.

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We've obviously had, forced as it was, time to reflect

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and ponder and think about the future

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and how we behave and our relationships with both the world

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as well as with each other as individuals.

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And I'm wondering whether or not

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these things that people have been thinking about

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and some companies have been talking about,

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and I think there's a relationship with this designation

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about being a B Corp corporation,

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whether companies as they move forward in 2021 and beyond

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will look at ways to be better, to be good

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as a corporate value.

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And seeing that,

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why and how that's important to their consumers.

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- That's a big question.

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I mean, we're in this incredibly interesting time, right?

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Because I guess, what?

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It has been a year? A year?

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A year does not change human behavior.

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Everything we know about our species means that

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the chances are that we're going to go back

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in many ways to our old forms of behavior.

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And businesses are no different.

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So I think we've got a lot to do

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to hold ourselves to account.

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You have businesses who claim to do good, but don't pay tax

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or enough tax relative to other businesses.

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You know, you have businesses who have taken furlough money,

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which has been our major relief scheme in the UK

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to help out very hard hit businesses.

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You have people who've taken that furlough money

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and then paid it back, businesses that have paid it back

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and said, "Look, we're okay now, thank you.

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We'll give it back."

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You've had other businesses who've taken that money,

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not given it back and then paid shareholder dividends.

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So it's going to be a very interesting time.

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How much we, not us at Habito,

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but other businesses walk the talk

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and how much we as consumers and customers

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hold these businesses to account and say,

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"Do you know what? That's not okay.

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I'm not going to shop with you anymore

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because I don't like the way you behave."

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It's a big ask of customers, certainly in the UK.

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Some people are better off from this crisis

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because they haven't had to pay traveling costs.

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So you couldn't go out and eat at restaurants.

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You couldn't go on holidays.

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You've got a group of people who've got

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the largest savings pot they've ever had.

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And then you've got another whole part of the population

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who have suffered furlough, incumbent cuts

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and had to quit their jobs for childcare,

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got made redundant.

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So I'm too nervous to make any predictions.

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But I think as much as we can all look each other

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in the eye and go to sleep at night and say,

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"Yeah, we've been good today."

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That's probably enough to start with.

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- Abba, thank you so much.

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This has been a very insightful conversation.

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I really appreciate your time today.

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- Thank you.

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It's been really nice to talk to you.

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- Power your advertising?

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enables you to fund your advertising

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connecting and bringing value to businesses

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And to achieve more from your marketing spent

About the Podcast

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What's Next
Big Ideas and Innovative thoughts on the future of Marketing, Media, Advertising and more!

About your host

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Karim Kanji

We all need to be thinking about and preparing for What’s Next in order to achieve more - and that’s what this podcast is all about.

We are seeking to gain a more diverse perspective on what will shape the future of marketing & advertising, one 15-minute conversation at a time.

We are excited to share talks Karim will be having with thinkers around the world. If you’re as curious as us about What’s Next, join me and invest 15 minutes of your day exploring big ideas and innovative thoughts.


ABOUT KARIM

Karim has been successfully podcasting since 2010. First with the ‘Social Media Show’ and then the popular ‘Welcome with Karim Kanji podcast’ and a co-hosted show with Gregg Tilston, ‘Welcome to The Music’.

2021 sees Karim launching this new show ‘What’s Next’ with support from Active International where Karim is currently the Director of Emerging and Social Media.

In his role within the advertising and marketing industry, Karim has worked with brands such as Popeyes Canada, Melitta, Ricola, 3M Canada, eOne, Nikon Canada, Jamieson Vitamins, Mark’s, LG Electronics Canada, Muskoka Brewery, Post Cereals, Nestle Canada, Dell Canada, GE Canada, Scotiabank, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Microsoft Canada, and many others.