How Homeppl helps businesses detect fraud in contracts

February 13, 2023

In this episode, Legislate meets Ben Lind, Head of Sales at Homeppl. Homeppl is a platform which helps operations & risk teams prevent application fraud and conduct affordability checks in property rentals. Ben gives tips on what to look out for when reviewing agreements for fraud, tenant referencing and  international expansion. 

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Charles Brecque: Welcome to the legislate podcast, a place to learn about the latest insights and trends in property, technology, business building and contract drafting. Today, I'm excited to welcome Ben Lind on the show. Ben is the commercial lead for people, a platform designed to help organisations approve customers and save time through fraud detection technology. Ben, thank you for taking the time. Would you like to please introduce yourself and share a bit of background about. 

Ben: Yes. Thank you first of all for having me on, Charles. Great to join you and great to be amongst you and your listeners. Yes, so, my name's Ben. I'm the commercial lead for Home People and as you've summed up their nicely. I apologise for anyone who can hear my cat in the background if they can there. As you summed up there nicely, home people I suppose we exist I guess at the intersection of, kind of, fintech and proptech is probably the tidiest way to say that. What we try and do is make sure that we are giving people, as many people as possible, the opportunity to get into a property that they want. We do that through offering and in referencing checks with a large focus on, kind of, fraud detection and being able to make sure first and foremost that everything is legit and above board but then also by then giving agents or landlords the peace of mind that the person who is moving into their property is somebody that they can have 100% faith in. 

Charles Brecque: If I was a tenant going through your system, what would I expect the process to be like and what are you checking? 

Ben: First and foremost we want to do a robust check on people's identity, that's very important because I'm sure you can imagine we need to. Want to, by virtue of expansion in the market but also of the experience of the team-, we're a very, sort of, multicultural team inside home people. We are based remotely across many different countries in the world even as far as Newcastle in the north-east like myself. A bit of a joke there for anyone who's listening from the south. We want to make sure-, first and foremost, we would check that people have their right to rent. That's very important and then we start getting into the realms of affordability. We are especially-, especially today with the announcements that we had. We're, kind of, living in increasingly challenging times financially for people. With that, unfortunately, we tend to see instances of fraud and in particular document fraud going up and when you think about how simple it is these days for somebody with say less than admirable intentions to pull a payslip or an employment contract or something like that together in word or Google and then modify it with the requisite. It's really important that we're able to perform those validity checks and make sure that we're flagging anyone who would be too much of a risk. 

Charles Brecque: No, go ahead. 

Ben: It's an interesting one because as you say I think that whether you work in the space or not and someone's who's under the space over the last nine months albeit it always with a commercial background, always working with to cross things like DocuSign or as I say pulling things together in Google Docs and saving them as a PDF and I think that so often when we're dealing on a business to business basis there almost is that inherent trust there. You're going to be working with each other so why would we want to do anything to harm each other in the long run but you find that logic doesn't necessarily extend across to that, kind of, more B to C focused relationship wherein somebody is potentially looking to gain an advantage or be it they might not feel that they have any dis-intent with that. It's a case of, oh, well, I'm going to making this much money in 6 months so why can't I just tell them that I am now but of course life doesn't always pan out like that and I think one of the things that we're all looking for, whether it's as business owners, employees or consumers ourselves is peace of mind right? 

Charles Brecque: Absolutely and since being with Homeppl, what's been your favourite moment so far. 

Ben: This might sound a little bit corny. So, I think with us being, sort of remote first organisation and in the teams is widely split as they are, the best moment for me was being able to come down to the office in London for, sort of, our end of season day as we call it and getting everybody together and having some of those team building activities and a couple of drinks afterwards who have come from somewhere it was a little bit more of an office culture. This was pre pandemic but being able to, kind of, spend time with your co-workers face to face after being on Zoom for so long was a real treat. 

Charles Brecque: Yes, I think that's a common theme with remote companies. It's when everyone gets together is the favourite moment and what do you wish you had known before joining Homeppl?

Ben: What's the one thing? Ooh, that's a big question isn't it? I think in joining the business, something that I wish that I'd known was going to be-, I think it's less about wishing that I'd known than I think it would have been about having the skills first and foremost if that makes sense. So I think that something that I was needing to do a lot more in this role more than any other role that I had to do was, sort of, in process. So, for example, in a lot of businesses that I worked at previously I was coming in to perform a role that had been established by somebody else whereas this role was my first leadership role it was coming in to then establish a process and then distribute that for new hires to be able to take part in so in case you can't tell already. I'm quite, sort of, verbally led rather than writing things down so it's been a real opportunity to develop other the last, kind of, 9 months. Being able to put some play books and things like that together. 

Charles Brecque: I guess that's the side of leadership that no one tells you about. What's the vision for the next three, five years? 

Ben: I think it's definitely about growth and not just, sort of, in the UK or European market. I feel that by virtue of being a technology business first and foremost. We have a product in particularly in finder and also with text and referencing that we do that allows us to work across the globe with organisations who have, kind of, the same challenges and objectives as the ones that we work with over here in the UK and across in Europe. So for us, I think it's about always developing, looking to build new products. We have a great product tech team and, you know, built that way, they're not happy always working on the same thing. It's always about looking at where the next cool product can come from but then making sure that we have that, sort of, ideal fit for the market. You know, yourself from the work that you've done building legislators that you can have an idea but ultimately until you've got it out in the market and your users have tested it and almost found its use for you then you're never really 100% sure. Yes, for us, I think it's all about growth and making sure that we are becoming. I think it's about potential right. That's a better of saying it. Making sure that we're living up to the potential that our strong team is affording us. 

Charles Brecque: So great vision and best of luck. 

Ben: Yes, you've got to aim high right? 

Charles Brecque: I imagine you encountered quite a few contracts. What are the key ones and what insights can you share about them? 

Ben: Yes, so I think the most common ones that I've come across over my career with home people and any other organisations that I've worked across the NDA is quite a common one for us. I think what you'll find with that is that certainly in my experience across the different organisations that I've worked in some of them can be quite bespoke whereas other ones, they have just been someone's typed in, 'Standard NDA template,' into Google and, kind of, did the first one that's came up through that. So I would say-, I think simplicity is always really important. I think one of the best things that I've seen organisations do is almost have their legal teams rewrite their contracts in a language that is more befitting to them as a brand as well. So I think it, kind of, helps to really foster a sense of identity across businesses who are going to be working together. We're very familiar with employment contracts, making sure that they are-, certainly well in both senses right so first of all in terms of ourselves and the work that we do but then also having that, sort of, verification and validation for the organisations that we work with. 


I mean, the majority of the work that we do is it relates to contracts and, again more and company-created documents if that makes sense is on the validation side of things. It's less about the contracts that we're getting to sign. Of course, we want to make sure that they are thorough and easy to understand. We don't just want to be passing things out to the legal team because you'll know that that adds weeks, potentially onto, kind of, any, sort of, buying cycle and that's the world that I live in. But likewise, you want to make sure that the documents that we're working with on behalf of our partners are ones that are undoctored. They have that, sort of, legitimate data behind it. There isn't multi-layered images, one on top of each other. The fonts all match up and all that good stuff really. 

Charles Brecque: I guess with those potential fraudulent contracts, what, kind of, issues or what were the common issues that you encounter? If I was to look at a contract, what should I be looking at for to double check that it's a legitimate contract? 

Ben: Well, I think the first thing to point out really there Charles is that with the naked eye it's becoming increasingly difficult right. I think that it used to be-, there would've been a time where you or I would be able to look at a contract and see like-, the white of that logo doesn't quite match the white of the paper that it's printed on and so it looks like it's been a bit of a copy and paste job whereas nowadays, you know, Photoshop and everything like that. You can become increasingly sophisticated with the way that you can doctor documents. The thing that I find that software looks out for is it looks out for instances, different instances of fonts for example so that would be the first thing that it will do. It will do a font analysis to make sure that everything is in-, I'll pick an easy one. Times New Roman for example. That the spacing isn't messed up. That zeroes are zeroes and the o's are o's and that kind of thing. We'll also look for layering to make sure that, you know, it hasn't been several documents all put on top of each other to arrive at the conclusion that they want to at all. One solid document and then the other thing that's really important for us that, sort of, assists the technology in doing what it does is that it's a true version of a PDF and it isn't like a jpeg or something that's been converted. 

Charles Brecque: Hopefully, no tetra fraudsters are listening to this episode. 

Ben: As far as we know, certainly, as far as I know. I shouldn't make too grandiose statements. There isn't necessarily a way to combat that yet I think and that's the interesting thing about it is that once you've got a product that is able to almost go to this want of a better phrase, like, forensic level of detail into identifying where these flaws and potential indicators of risk are-, if you try to reverse engineer that I don't see how that gets done. 

Charles Brecque: We try to keep all the contracts within legislate and the whole contracting experience within legislate are primarily to ensure that our users don't make mistakes when they're creating contracts because if you download a contract and edit out clauses then how do you know the legal integrity of the contract is still valid. A prior reason but I think hearing to your conversation it could also help guarantee that the conversation hasn't been tampered with because we don't allow our users to change the fonts. 

Ben: It's exactly that. For example, take it in the case of legislate like working alongside an organisation like us or whoever for example. Like, we can take a certain originator of a document or like an origin software for example and we can whitelist that wherein we can decide that is not something that we would flag up as a risk. And, like you say, purely from a validities perspective, if you're keeping everything within that same program, ecosystem, whatever you want to call it, then we're almost able to have that extra piece of mind as it comes to validity. 

Charles Brecque: If you're being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you? 

Ben: If I was being sent a contract today, what would impress me? Well, for a simple person like myself I think the language is super important. I think being able to first of all get-, so say for example I'd look at this from two ways, right. If it's a document that I need to sign I need to be able to understand simply so I know what it is that I'm signing. Being able to sign it online is really important. I just got a letter in the post today that there isn't a go online to complete this form. I literally have to sign it and send it back. So, instantly not interested in doing that but more to the point with regards to simplicity. If it's something that say for example our CEO needs to sign I still need to be able to give him the gist of that. Busy guy, I need to make sure that I'm, kind of, conveying that message so simplicity is really important. I would be in big trouble if I didn't talk about making sure that it was coming from a secure and valid source. That it was almost like safe list or white listed bracket of software and providers that we can look for and, yes, just, sort of, making sure that there was no suspicious markers on it. That would be another one. 

Charles Brecque: Thank you very much Ben. Best of luck conquering the world 

Ben: Same goes, Charles. We can meet in Australia or something like that. All the best. Thank you. 


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