How U.S. Bank uses digital mortgages to help loan officers

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Digital mortgage strategies support human intervention, according to Tom Wind, executive vice president of consumer lending at U.S. Bank.

"Often the market thinks digital is about replacing humans," said Wind, who is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on the purchase market and multiproduct engagement at NMN's upcoming Digital Mortgage conference. "What digital really is doing is enhancing the human experience."

In line with that thinking, U.S. Bank focuses its approach to mortgage technology on usage as well as efficiency.

"Getting the usage rate up allows the customer to benefit from everything that we offer through our loan portal," he said. "It's really all about make the process simpler and easier for our customers and freeing up our loan officers up so they can spend time on what's really important."

Below are more excerpts from a discussion with Wind about U.S. Bank's technology initiatives and how he thinks digital mortgage realities depart from what he views as some common misperceptions. The responses are excerpted and edited for length.

U.S. Bank has gone the extra mile to ensure loan officer involvement in digital mortgage efforts. We reported this resulted in higher usage rates for the system, but what other types of payoff have you seen from these efforts?

Engaging with the loan officers certainly has been a big part of why we have that high usage rate that we do. It's about improving the application process overall. It's also more specifically about improving the ability to do things like exchange documents and provide status updates.

We really view this technology as enhancing the customer experience and helping our team become more productive by taking some of the drudgery involved in the process out so our loan officers can spend more time with customers, talking about goals, what they're trying to achieve, and the different product options.

We've reported the company used customer relationship management automation to do things like identify whether inbound calls are from veterans in the past. What's been the main benefit of using that type of technology?

Broadly what we're trying to do is address our customers in a personalized way. We make sure that information we already learned about our customer is in the hands of our loan officer. It gives them a personalized experience and it ends up being a net time saver.

Where do you think the primary value of a digital mortgage initiative lies? Is it in the potential for generating business or the possible cost savings? Why?

It's not either/or, it's both. The mortgage business is driven by referrals, so we want customers to know that we're going to be able to complete the transaction on time and it's going to be a pleasant experience. It really saves us a lot of time in terms of trying to collect information from a customer. That reflects positively on us, helps us grow our business and helps us become more productive.

There has been a lot of talk about how borrowers applying to refinance use digital mortgage systems more heavily than consumers seeking to finance a home purchase. Do you agree? Why or why not?

I think that may be a historic view. Some of the companies that were early movers in digital were more centralized platforms that were more geared toward refinance. But from a customer standpoint today, we think the benefits of digital apply to both purchase and refi. We see all our customers going through the experience and benefiting from it.

The things we've worked on to make the process easier for our customers, like speeding up the decision and giving them more certainty of closure, are really important in the purchase process. I think there are benefits on both sides of the business.

Sometimes there's this confusion that a digital mortgage is a self-serve mortgage. That is absolutely not the case for us. We really look at this technology as enhancing customers' experience with loan officers. Because the self-serve approach tend to be used a little bit more on the refinance side of the market, people think may not think these tools are very helpful for purchase buyers, but they are.

Have today's systems done much to ease capacity issues when there's a switch from a purchase to a refinance market, or vice versa?

We're certainly experiencing one of those cycles now. Yes, they do help. Loan officers don't have to spend as much time taking the application itself. A lot of times, particularly in stressed environments when things have gotten really bogged down in the exchange of information, a digital experience improves the process and does it in a much more controlled way. For example, when we can get bank statement information or payroll information without customers necessarily having to deliver us documents, it makes the process cleaner. We've certainly seen a lift recently when it comes to volume and found what occurs through the digital process is more efficient than in the past.

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