Creating a disruptive digital product under the tightest of deadlines

This is the story of how we helped MoneySuperMarket launch their loan 'smart search' platform in time for a national advertising campaign.
Creating a disruptive digital product under the tightest of deadlines
"The team at Distinction are very smart cookies. They led this project from the start, putting the customer experience front and centre whilst balancing all the complex technical requirements behind the scenes. We wouldn’t have got the project over the line so quickly and successfully without them. I’d definitely recommend talking to them, I think they’ll impress you."
- Nick Wadlow, Head of Loans & Telco

The challenge

With an innovative and brilliant idea to make finding the right loan easy, approached us to build a new 'smart search' platform from scratch and in time for the launch of their multi-million pound ‘You're so Money Supermarket’ campaign.

The results

Working on site directly with’s senior leadership team, we plugged into the 3rd party platforms and credit bureaus using cutting-edge cloud-based technology.

We mapped all the moving parts to create a seamless customer experience. Using Agile, we built the algorithms, connected all the datapoints, and created the interface for the search platform.

Adopting our active strategy approach to create something that had never been done before meant we could build something from scratch and in an incredibly short time frame. And all whilst adhering to strict brand guidelines and financial regulatory standards, handling data security issues and liaising with the FCA.

But it was all worth it. For the first time ever, consumers could search for a loan without it impacting their credit score – something that’s now considered standard practice.

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The full story

Never having been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Add technical expertise to a brilliant idea and build a great customer journey, and the launch of a new service making it easy for people to find the right loan becomes a whole lot easier.

Meeting an immovable deadline galvanised the whole team, enabling us to launch a new service to market in record time.

Making searching for a loan so much smarter

Launching a completely new service is always exciting. Building something from scratch is even more so. And knowing the service has major commercial benefits for the business – and a significant point of difference for its customers – elevated the Smart Loans project for (MSM) to new heights.

If that wasn’t enough to focus the mind, meeting the tightest of deadlines ahead of the December launch of the multi-million pound ‘You’re so Money Supermarket’ advertising campaign meant time was a huge and ever-present issue from the get go.

Smartening up loan applications

Recognising the value of stepping away from its own internal teams and, following a recommendation from Experian for our technical expertise and understanding, MSM selected us to design and build its new Smart Search service.

Smart Search removed the old problems of credit referencing customers applying for a new loan. Previously, a customer’s credit score would be checked when they applied for a loan, which in return reduced their credit score. If rejected for the loan, this credit score couldn’t be restored, and a downward cycle began for the customer in question.

Softening credit score searches

For MSM, the news was just as bad, as they would only be paid commission on successful loan applications. So unhappy customers plus lack of commission meant everyone loses.

The answer? A soft credit search through real-time data pulled over from Experian, which left no footprint on their credit score, and new listings on MSM which would show only the loans the customer would be accepted for based on their soft credit score search.

The problem? It had never been done before.

Ensuring websites could talk

It’s hard to imagine now, but back then the idea of getting one website talking to another was still in its infancy. APIs in 2014 simply weren’t universal, and the technology had to be designed and built from scratch.

This was also the early days of responsive websites, with easy browsing on mobile phones yet to kick in.

Meeting the timeline challenge

There were also tight brand guidelines, data security issues, regulatory concerns and financial compliance challenges. Not least the fact that the compliance department needed two whole weeks for sign-off ahead of launch, further squeezing the already tight deadline.

Then there was the lack of time. Every hour, every day, every week, the ticking time bomb of an immovable and looming delivery date brought constant, fear-invoking pressure. Bring it on we thought.

Image of MSM advertising campaign

Creating from scratch

Working on site at Experian’s offices with’s MD, ensuring decisions could be made quickly, we hooked into the Experian platform and various credit bureaus using cloud-based software. Grabbing the technology bull by the horns, we began the process of putting together all the different moving parts to create a seamless customer experience.

It was difficult because we were breaking new ground.

Becoming ‘so Money Supermarket’

Trial and error took time and energy. Frequently frustrated, there were times we didn’t think it could be done. The micro deadlines of weekly progress demos focused minds to such an extent that soon the time pressure began to work in our favour. We had to act, not strategise.

Many late nights later – including a time MSM’s managing director popped out to buy meal deals for the whole team, keeping us focused on the job at hand – we’d built the algorithms, got the databases speaking to each other in the ways that we needed, and created early UX designs for the site.

Minimising prevarication  to achieve results

Suddenly, the journey was complete. Seeing the journey for the first time – and just as a customer would – was wonderful. It was smooth. It was satisfying. But more than anything, it worked.

In that moment, the value of looking beyond its own internal teams for external expertise became abundantly clear to the MSM team.

Together, we realised that with the right expertise in place, even seemingly impossible deadlines could be met. And a valuable lesson was learnt by everyone: that time pressure forces action, minimising prevarication and delivering results.

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