Lenders can no longer put off tech investments: Panel

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Mortgage companies need to evaluate the state of their legacy technology as a first step in meeting the changed needs of their customers, said one industry executive during the National Mortgage News Digital Mortgage conference.

Companies in the field must reexamine some of those investments in newer systems that they have been putting off for a long time, Matt Rider, CIO of home lending technology at Wells Fargo, said in a panel on reinventing tech stacks for the post-COVID housing market.

"If lenders are being honest with themselves, they have to think of it differently," Rider said. "Think about the customer journey and any journey maps you had, they're now irrelevant, based on this new world that we're in. So you have to revisit them, especially from the forbearance side. That's a great example, that is an experience that has to be complete reengineered."

Because of the pandemic, Wells Fargo's priorities shifted to improving the customer experience, especially around forbearance.

"What we've been able to do is quickly realign our resources to improve that, [to] empower our customers to be able to self-serve where possible, but also still have that lifeline there, they can pick up the phone, they could talk to a live agent," said Rider.

The best companies will recognize the need to automate processes, but still recognize there will always be a human element involved, added David Karandish, founder and CEO of artificial intelligence company Capacity.

"A lot of the companies we work with, they want to open that dialog up with the customer as soon as possible," said Karandish. "The worst thing that could happen is for a customer to not be able to get in contact with their mortgage company until it's too late. So what they're trying to do is give them as many resources as possible."

Even with a lot of information out there, people still want a human to talk them through the process. "It's hard to ask questions of a website … it's such a new, unfortunate experience for many," said Rider in regards to requesting forbearance.

In the current heavy refinance environment for many lenders on the origination side, the goal is take the loan in, get it into processing and to the closing table as fast they can while managing capacity, said Craig Evans, vice president of operations for digital lending and originations at Fiserv.

But in a purchase market, Evans predicted a pivot back to an emphasis on customer experience, because it will be a "hypercompetitive market, where service is going to really make a difference and your ability to nurture leads and to move loans through the funnel is going to be more and more important."

The first lesson from the current environment, Karandish declared, "Is the companies that make the investments in automation today will be the winners in the future."

Next is that the customer experience emphasis means that the interoperability between the different groups at a bank will be more important. The mortgage division can't operate in a silo; a holistic set up is not just going to be a nice-to-have at an organization but a standard operating procedure moving forward.

Finally, Karandish said, people will choose to work based on the level of automation provided.

"Companies that delay making these investments, they're going to only get more expensive because they're not going to be able to compete against the folks that are making the investments right now, to automate the workforce, streamline the operations and provide a better digital experience," Karandish said.

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Digital Mortgage 2020 Mortgage technology Digital mortgages Artificial intelligence Distressed Originations Underwriting Wells Fargo Fiserv Technology