What to expect at Digital Mortgage 2020

It's been said many times over the last few months, but it bears repeating: this is a time like no other — particularly in the mortgage industry.

On the positive side, mortgage origination volume reached an 11-year high in the second quarter thanks to very low rates. The housing market saw its sharpest rise in sales ever in July and applications to build surged by the most in three decades that month.

At the same time, the number of mortgages in serious delinquency surged to 2.24 million in July and FHA loans in delinquency reached a record high, while the 0.5% refinancing fee from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, now planned for a Dec. 1 implementation, stands to change the landscape even further if it moves forward after federal elections.

To put it lightly: things are a bit chaotic these days.

In the first virtual conference of its kind on Sept. 14, Digital Mortgage 2020 will host the leaders of many prominent lending and fintech firms, who will come together to hash out what the post-COVID-19 mortgage market will look like.

Here's a peek at some of the biggest issues facing the field today and the planned discussions we'll have around them:

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Systemic adaptations to COVID-19-era home buying
Social distancing measures have completely upended the traditional process of buying a home and securing a mortgage. More buyers are placing offers on listings that they haven't even seen in person and remote appraisal tools are proliferating to meet an anticipated rise in demand.

Bob Walters, president and chief operating officer of Quicken Loans will be sitting down for a virtual chat with NMN reporter Paul Centopani to discuss the many ways the transaction process has been disrupted by the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Capacity CEO David Karandish and Wells Fargo Chief Information Officer Matt Rider will chat about the technological capabilities that will be needed in the post-COVID housing market.

And one panel will specifically address the issue of finding alternatives to appraisals. Lyle Radke, director of collateral policy at Fannie Mae, and Rachel Robinson, a senior team leader of collateral policy and product development at Quicken Loans, will engage in the discussion moderated by Jeff Allen, executive vice president of Innovation Labs at Clear Capital.

But what will the market look like once things get back to "normal"? On the last day of the conference, Thomas Wind, executive vice president of consumer lending at U.S. Bank, Sonu Mittal, head of mortgage at Citizens Bank, and Blend CEO Nima Ghamsari will discuss what they predict for 2022. The group also will weigh in on what lenders and servicers can do in the present to prepare for the real estate market beyond the pandemic.
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Harnessing technology to meet the moment
Artificial intelligence has long been touted as a method of improving effectiveness and cost savings. In the COVID-19 era and beyond, its uses could be optimized even further to accommodate the way transactions are changing in light of social distancing. Ellie Mae's CSO Selim Aissi and Finance of America Mortgage's Dan Catinella and Chief Experience Officer of Home Point Financial Ginger Wilcox will tackle AI’s best uses for improving safety and efficiency in a panel moderated by Eric Connors, senior vice president of strategy and management at Ellie Mae.

And while technological changes can be far easier for large companies with deeper pockets, small lenders will no doubt need to adapt to changing client expectations. Millennial buyers — a quickly growing contingent of buyers — expect digital functionality, as Joe Tyrrell, chief operating officer at Ellie Mae recently said.

"Capabilities like online applications, automatic updates and e-closing offer millennial customers the seamless digital experiences they expect while freeing up time for the human interaction necessary to answer questions or concerns they may have as they navigate the home-buying process for the first time."

I'm excited to say that we'll have a panel that specifically speaks to the concerns of small lenders who want these capabilities but might be struggling to get them in place. Centopani’s sit-down with Andy Taylor, GM of Mortgage at Credit Karma, will cover just how those lenders and other smaller operators can thrive amid a crisis that can be easier on the larger players.
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Improving equity and representation
As the country faces a reckoning on issues surrounding racial equity and government agencies look to overhaul laws pertaining to redlining and fair housing, we'll gather to examine the ways the mortgage industry can create greater inclusion.

NYU's Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement and Development Charlton McIlwain will sit down with the global head for mortgage and lending at Salesforce to discuss the ways in which to root out racial bias in the software tools used in the line of duty.

Regina Lowrie, president and CEO of Dytrix, will discuss why the pandemic presents an opportunity to create better representation in the boardroom. And I'll have the pleasure of chatting with Kimberly Hartsough, senior vice president at PrimeLending, and Teri Pansing, VP of corporate closing at Fairway Independent Mortgage, about the things they wish they knew as they were starting out in the field.
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And more!
But these are just a few of the great things happening at the conference. Be sure to check out the full agenda, which includes a Q&A between Ambassador Susan Rice and Arizent CEO Gemma Postlethwaite, a sit-down with urbanist Richard Florida, an interview with astronaut Garrett Reisman and so much more.
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