New Year's resolutions are beginning to fade and the reality of the shrinking origination market has settled in for most residential mortgage lenders. However, it is not too late to commit to strategies that will lead to success in 2014.
Innovative growth strategies are essential as refinancings give way to purchases. The shift this year to purchase lending is atypical as it coincides with the start of an upward trending rate environment. In addition to rising rates, other factors—mounting regulations, tighter credit and an uncertain economy—are influencing lending and borrowing decisions. Lenders must think and act differently to capture market share and deliver superior customer service.
With this as a backdrop, we have three suggestions to help lenders thrive in 2014:
No. 1: Recognize and align focus to market differences
While the overall credit market is contracting, several buying trends are likely to affect lenders this year. Expectations are that household formation, which has stagnated since the recession, will increase in 2014, resulting in more home purchases. Additionally, HELOCs will become a growth area as borrowers attempt to lock in rates before they get too high. Jumbo lending volume is also likely to spike as home buying activity in high-cost urban areas increases. Meanwhile, most lenders will still be wrestling with the aftermath of the qualified mortgage requirements and their impact on lender volume.
Recognizing these market differences and using advanced analytics to address consumer demand will be crucial. For example, by more precisely evaluating the risk profile of an affluent borrower who seeks a non-QM compliant jumbo mortgage, lenders can serve a segment of the market without adding incremental risk to the balance sheet.
No. 2: Adapt to borrower behavior
Expectations are much higher than ever before—today's borrowers want information immediately, anytime and anywhere. And they won't hesitate to switch providers for a perceived better deal. Only 40% of consumers took out a mortgage from their primary bank last year, according to Accenture research.
Customers increasingly expect to interact with their banks through digital channels. As our research shows, most active online and mobile banking customers use these channels at least weekly. These kinds of customers want to electronically verify receipt of the mortgage application, check loan status and submit supporting documents.
Lenders who can adapt to borrower behaviors quickest will win. That means designing customer-driven processes and tailoring the mortgage journey from prospecting to sales to fulfillment based on borrower preferences and behaviors in order to deliver the right product at the right price. Of particular importance is delighting the customer in the fulfillment process by meeting follow-up expectations which will drive increased pull-through and cross-sell opportunities.
No. 3: Embrace digital capabilities
Modernizing loan origination systems will be increasingly critical moving forward. But instead of just using technology to drive more efficient loan processing—which is a "must"—lenders should also integrate digital capabilities to capture more customers and provide a more convenient beginning-to-end experience. Realtors have long influenced purchase loan decisions. Now, banks such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia, for example, have figured out a way to take on a bigger role in the house hunting process by integrating with mobile applications that enable consumers to search for homes based on customized criteria. Digital technology like this can help banks become more relevant to consumers at critical points throughout the home buying journey.
Terry Moore is senior managing director and global head of Accenture Credit Services.