Slideshow 8 top takeaways from MBA Tech

  • March 30 2017, 3:03pm EDT

Tech enthusiasts from across the mortgage industry descended upon Chicago this week for the Mortgage Bankers Association's annual tech conference. From blockchain to digital labor, here's a recap of the best moments and insights from the event.

Thought leaders

MBA Chairman Rodrigo Lopez (left) and AOL co-founder Steve Case kicked off the conference with a discussion of innovation and the growing intersection of the digital and physical worlds. That transformation has made nearly all companies tech firms now, blurring the lines of what the "tech sector" really is, Case said.

The mortgage industry is at the same place the music industry was at the dawn of MP3s and file-sharing platforms like Napster, Lopez said, and warned that lenders and servicers can't ignore technology's role in delivering loans.

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Bots are hot

Digital labor, an all-encompassing term for artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and other forms of cognitive automation technology, is showing great promise in the mortgage industry because of its efficiency gains and relatively low implementation cost.

For example, Union Bank is using RPA to transfer and compare mortgage data and documents across systems to find exceptions and compile loan files. And the digital labor force may soon supplant offshore outsourcing as a source of reliable, cheap labor for low-skill tasks.

Mortgage blockchains

Blockchains aren't just for bitcoin; the technology, along with other forms of distributed ledgers, shows great promise across financial services, including throughout the mortgage life cycle.

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You gotta spend money to save money

The renewed focus on reining in costs comes as production costs average more than $7,500 per loan and industrywide origination volume is expected to drop 15% in 2017, according to MBA estimates. The mortgage industry expects to invest in technological efficiencies this year as higher rates and dwindling refinances test their businesses, said Chief Economist Michael Fratantoni.

Digital disruption

Fintech could cut the closing times on the simplest home loans by more than 50%, but the mortgage business' complexity means there are limits to how much time and money can be saved.

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Demand for consumer-direct spurs startup frenzy

Lenders also are interested in ensuring their customer-facing automation is strong enough to contend with growing competition. "Today it's a choice" to offer that technology, Fratantoni said. But in 18 months it could be essential.

Quicken Loans' Rocket Mortgage has helped drive demand and there are nearly a dozen new or recently established vendors offering digital mortgage and consumer-facing point-of-sale platforms — not to mention new tools from many of the industry's incumbent loan origination system providers.

Subject-matter expertise

With all the new vendors entering the mortgage industry, a key question for many lenders is whether startups can master the complexities of mortgage finance.

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Digital Mortgage Conference

Want to learn more about digital innovations in home sales and finance? Then joinNational Mortgage News for the next Digital Mortgage Conference, Sept. 28-29 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. For more information, visit the conference website and follow @DigMortgage on Twitter.