Can you have a mortgage without interest?

The NPR podcast Planet Money (one of our team’s favorite listens) recently featured a story on Stephen Ranzini, who runs a community bank in Ann Arbor. Stephen’s bank had been given an award for serving the often under-served members of his community, but was confronted by a community member whose demographic needs were not being addressed by the bank.

As it turns out Stephen’s bank is located in part of the country with a huge Muslim population, and this community member said that Muslims are not supposed to pay or receive interest. Naturally, Stephen didn’t think it was possible to offer products, such as mortgages, without charging interest, but was intrigued by the challenge.

Stephen decided to take on the challenge and did his research as he tried to create a financial product that would be conform to his Muslim customer’s religious needs.

It turns out you can create a mortgage without interest. Well… sort of.

You’ll have to give it a listen to this great story from NPR to hear all the details.

Our product development philosophy

For our team, there’s an adrenaline rush that comes from making something new and sending it out into the world to have it impact the lives of our customers. We love building.

Below are a few of the ideals that drive our product development. Hopefully a few of these will help explain the method behind how we work.

Make something people love

It’s tempting to make a product that 100 people use and like (sort of!) instead of making a product that 10 people love. Our product decisions will help create fanatics.

Listen to what’s not being said

Anyone can ask what features should our product include. Then do all of those things and end up with bloated software. We spend time with users observing behavior beyond what is said.

Empathy first

We view every interaction as a way to gain empathy. We aren’t defensive about critical feedback, rather we use that as a way to deepen our empathy for those that use our product.

Learn fast

Each release of a new feature is meant to help us learn something about the world and those that use our product. We readily admit, that we don’t know everything right now.  On the contrary, learning quickly means that we accelerate our knowledge over time. This is the beginning, not the end.

Prioritize ruthlessly

One way to build bad software is to do everything suggested by every user. Beginning with empathy first, we can focus on the features that deliver the most value. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

Focus on outcomes

We exist to help lenders become more successful. Currently, that means saving time chasing down paperwork. We never want to lose site of the end goal. Every feature, every release should help us move towards our end goal.