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Today’s mortgage borrowers are similar in most respects to those we see using social media and shopping online.  The customers we want to appeal to and interact with are the same customers who are making purchases and decisions elsewhere in the modern market. This means we can learn more about them by studying what they expect from these other experiences.

What do they expect? How do they respond if they are unhappy? How can the mortgage industry meet their needs and expectations?

What is shaping modern customer expectations?

To answer this question, let's look at what consumers say they expect out of the other vendors they patronize.

Social media has become a ubiquitous tool for the modern shopper. Customers are likely to research businesses in advance. They check reviews to see what other consumers say and may even test a new relationship by interacting with a business just to see how responsive the staff is. They expect to find information about and written by the companies they may do business with online.

Online shopping is one of the best places to go to learn about customer expectations. Amazon, Apple and eBay have been shaping what customers expect when making purchases online. What customers want is to be able to find exactly what they’re looking for — easily and quickly — and not to pay too much.

Mortgage borrowers are likely to compare their mortgage experience with their online banking experience. Modern financial institutions are giving consumers access to all of their information in one place, right in front of them. They have their accounts at their fingertips and the ability to make changes rapidly.

What do today’s borrowers want?

If we take the lessons we can learn from other online experiences and apply them to our own customers, we get a good picture of what today's borrowers want.

Personalization

Most online vendors are highly adept at personalization. They know what to recommend to customers based on what they have looked at or purchased in the past. They can tailor their customers’ experiences (including payment, delivery options, etc.) to fit their preferences.

Immediate Customer Service

Many websites today come equipped with chat functionality. Customers can type in any question and receive a response back within minutes. This has resulting in customers becoming quite used to having immediate access to customer service. Consequently, waiting for an email response now feels too tedious in a world of instantaneous communication.

Low Stress

Humans are driven to whatever will be the least work and involve the least stress. The fewer buttons they have to click, the fewer things they have to type, the fewer other places they have to go, and the less legwork they have to do, the better. In most cases, this means that everything is done in one place. It also means that the consumer has to do less to get satisfaction.

Speed

One of the things modern customers seek most consistently is speed. They don’t want to wait for people to get back to them. Customers want to do their part of the process and have the rest handled automatically. They seek to finish their purchase quickly. Modern customers are much more likely to move on if they experience a hang-up or delay.

What happens if it all goes wrong?

So what happens if customers are displeased? Well, nothing good. With more options than ever to choose from in every market, customers are more liable than ever to walk away from a business and never return. Why would they waste their time with you if they have already had one bad or underwhelming experience? There are plenty of other places to go.

To make matters worse, people spread the word — for better or worse. If a customer really likes a business, they are likely to tell others — either with online reviews or word-of-mouth. The same will happen if they have a bad experience.

Giving mortgage borrowers the experience they expect.

Given all of this, what can we say about delivering the kinds of experiences our customers want?

Have Good Technology

One of the best ways to make customers happy today is by utilizing modern, up-to-date, easy-to-use technology. Make sure your website is smooth and intuitive. And make sure that your systems are speedy, accurate, low-stress, easy-to-understand, and that as much as possible the customer can do everything in one place.

Prioritize Customer Service

Tech alone won’t make happy customers. They will need to have access to real people whenever the need arises. It's important that human contact can be delivered quickly and easily.  Many mortgage customers still prefer to come into a physical location to speak to a mortgage professional. So, it should also be easy to get to a loan officer in a clean, modern, and easy to find office. Maintaining top-notch customer service is crucial — it isn’t going away.

Keep Making Improvements

Keep looking for ways to make your customers’ lives easier. This is all about them, after all. You need them, and the happier they are, the better for your business. Remember that the easier you make things for them, the more likely they will be to return to you, and to send other people your way as well.

Mortgage Cadence to provide Minnesota-based credit union with a comprehensive platform to enable increased growth

DENVER; Oct. 9, 2018 – TopLine Federal Credit Union (TopLine) selected Mortgage Cadence, an Accenture (NYSE: ACN) company, to modernize its mortgage operations using Mortgage Cadence’s full product suite.

TopLine has replaced all legacy systems with Mortgage Cadence’s Loan Fulfillment Center, Borrower Center, Document Center, Imaging Center, and Collaboration Center, paving the way for increased lending profitability and a better borrower experience.

Collaboration Center — Mortgage Cadence’s newest offering — is a secure, private network that connects the people, data and systems involved in the loan origination process. It includes automatic document comparison and secure real-time messaging that provides easy access to title agents and other third parties. By eliminating tedious, labor-intensive tasks to simplify the mortgage process, Collaboration Center helps to increase efficiency through a streamlined workflow.

“We selected Mortgage Cadence as our comprehensive mortgage solutions partner knowing they are committed to innovation and are dedicated to providing superior service to help us get the most out of our technology,” said Tom Smith, president and CEO of TopLine Federal Credit Union. “We are excited to launch our new highly automated digital platform to provide our members an entirely paperless and seamless experience – from application through closing.”

Paul Wetzel, executive vice president and managing director of product management at Mortgage Cadence, said, “We’re thrilled to have TopLine as an early adopter of Collaboration Center, our newest offering that helps to improve productivity and minimizes time to close, two of the critical lending KPIs that drive profitability. We look forward to an enduring, collaborative relationship that benefits the credit union and its members through the most innovative services and best possible loan experience.”

About Mortgage Cadence
Since 1999, Mortgage Cadence has been providing the best people, process, and technology for enterprise and mid-market lenders who desire to deliver an exceptional borrower experience. From point-of-sale through post-closing, Mortgage Cadence offers reliable software and dedicated people, supporting lenders every step of the way.

About TopLine Federal Credit Union
TopLine Federal Credit Union is Minnesota’s 13th largest credit union with assets of more than $450 million. Established in 1935, the not-for-profit cooperative offers a complete line of financial services, including mortgage, investment advisory and insurance agency services from its five Twin Cities metropolitan area branch locations —as well as by phone, mobile app and online. To learn more, visit http://www.TopLinecu.com.

The metrics that reveals high performance lending & overall profitability in the mortgage industry.

Traditionally, summer is the peak of the new home buying season, but currently the industry is struggling. While the MBA has not revised its most recent annual loan volume prediction downward, competition for overall profitability through new mortgage business comes down to high performance lending.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) told us in October, 2018 that this would be a tougher year for lenders. Overall, MBA now expects mortgage business to decline 3 percent from last year to about $1.6 trillion in 2018. The refinance share will fall off dramatically but purchase money business is expected to increase to about $1.2 trillion this year. MBA said earlier this year that it expects to see rates rise another four times this year. Since then, the Fed has already raised rates once. There’s an upside to rising rates, however. They spark FOMO (fear of missing out); buyers don’t want to miss their chance at a low rate.

This means that all lenders must target purchase money business to at least hold on to their historic volume numbers. This will be increasingly difficult, as Freddie Mac increased its expectation for mortgage interest rates in February, moving the dial on the 30-year-fixed rate mortgage to 4.6 percent, on average, for 2018.

The need to compete

The need to be competitive in the mortgage lending business has never been greater. Fortunately, depository lenders have an advantage in this area as their existing customer base is a ready-made prospect database for mortgage lending, if they can tap it. Historically, this has been very difficult to do.

Six years ago, we began performing an annual study to determine exactly what impact technology could have on a lender’s ability to be a high performance lender, not just from existing customers, but from the greater community the institution serves. In the process, we learned a great deal about how lenders define their success and how, as a segment of the overall mortgage lending industry, these firms performed competitively.

In all, we found five critical measurements, five key performance indicators (KPIs), that when taken together tell us – and lenders – exactly how any lender is performing. Even better, we aggregated the data from a number of institutions, all using the same technology in their lending departments, to arrive at a set of benchmarking data that, once understood, places lenders on the path to high performance lending. This research is now known as the Mortgage Cadence Benchmarking Study.

Why use benchmark assessments?

Knowing where you stand in regard to the five KPIs we are about to define in any given year is very important. It is a good management tool that informs decision making and reveals the institution’s progress on its mission and objectives.

Understanding performance over a period of years is even more valuable. It shows how management and staff react to market forces, and how well the institution is able to adapt its business to those changing forces and continue down the path of high performance lending.

But without benchmarking data to compare the institution’s performance to the broader set of competitors, it only reveals part of the story. There are many good reasons every institution should be benchmarking their lending performance against a larger industry dataset. And that’s what our study does: if understanding your own performance over a period of time is valuable, then comparing your performance to that of your peers over the same period of time is invaluable. This is especially true in a year when we know competition for a limited number of new purchase money mortgage transactions will be fierce.

Leveling the playing field.

The battle for this business will not be a one-year phenomenon. Market forecasts through 2020 predict that 75 percent of all mortgages through that time will be for the purchase of a home. This marks the beginning of a new mortgage lending era, foreshadowing an end to the historic boom-bust refinance cycles that dictated strategy and tactics for more than 30 years.

Unfortunately, benchmarking data is difficult to come by. Studies comparing and contrasting lender-to-lender performance are challenging because gathering data from a homogeneous set of lenders is difficult, both in terms of finding such a set and in getting those firms to give up the required information. While there are some excellent studies performed by national trade associations, they often compare very different institutions, rendering their results less useful.

Our study addresses this by focusing on a homogeneous set of lending institutions that all submit data to a regulator that makes that information public. In addition, we went back to the lenders in our study and asked for additional information to complete our data set. Since there were only a few data points required to complete our analysis, we enjoyed a high degree of participation from the lenders.

We know that there are three factors that influence the performance of a lending institution: their people, their process and their technology. The way the lender combines these three critical elements will determine their performance lift. Getting them right results in high performance lending. The benchmarks are guideposts that help the leader move along the path to this goal.

Our study isolates the technology variable to further expose the correlation between performance and the other two factors, over which the institution has complete control. Our study, therefore, used a large pool of data from a set of lenders all operating under the same business model and using the exact same technology. We believe there is no better apples-to-apples performance comparison available anywhere in the industry.

Given the commonalities of lenders in our study, one would expect every lender in the study to achieve a similar level of performance. While we might expect some slight variation between institutions, perhaps based on customer size or geographic location, we might expect overall performance to fall fairly close to a common baseline. Instead, we found that differences in the way these institutions organized their staff and their process workflows led to a wide variance in performance levels between institutions.

In fact, after performing the study for 6 years, we found that some lenders are surpassing their peers in high performance lending, even when competitors are operating under the same business model and using the same technology. We needed to find out why.

What benchmark data should my institution measure?

After analyzing the data, we found a number of metrics that were indicative of the performance of an institution, but five stood out as the best predictors of the institution’s ability to continue down the path of high performance lending. We now believe that these five key performance indicators are of critical importance to management and so for the last six years we have been collecting benchmarking data to help lenders understand how well they are performing relative to their peers.

In this section, we define each of these critical KPIs.

Velocity

Stated simply, this is a measure of the time to close, from the moment the application is received until the loan is signed at the closing table. To be clear, this is not the only time that speed matters. Our Borrower Survey, for instance, revealed that the amount of time it takes for a loan officer to return a call to a prospective borrower who has not yet completed a loan application was a critical measure of the borrower’s willingness to follow through on the loan app. However, for this study, the amount of time the loan was “in process” was found to be a critical performance indicator.

Borrower Share

As mentioned earlier, borrower share, or the ratio of applications taken to total customer base in the same calendar year, is an indication of how well the lender is doing serving the prospective borrowers who are already customers of the institution. This is a largely untapped resource for most lenders and holds the key to uncommon success in a highly competitive environment, such as these firms are lending in today.

Pull-Through

This is the ratio of closed loans to applications taken and is a key driver of the institution’s profit. Lenders will tell you more than half of the total cost to close has been spent by the firm by the time the application is taken. That represents the money lenders must spend on advertising, marketing, public relations and sales staff to prospect, sell and close a full application for a new loan. If that loan is not closed, those funds are lost and the cost to close ratio increases for all other loans in the pipeline. On the other hand, the more loans the lender can pull through to close, the lower the cost to close and the higher the profitability.

Productivity

Calculated simply, productivity is the measure of closed loans per mortgage production employee per month and it is the primary profit driver for every lending operation we studied. In fact, we now believe that productivity is the single most important metric in any mortgage lending operation and it is the primary driver of profit. Get this one right and cost to close falls in line and declines.

This was borne out in our discussions with lending executives, where we found productivity to be the KPI most indicative of profitability. If we know a lender’s productivity we have a very good idea of how profitable the institution is. According to our most recent study, the average productivity for lenders in our study in 2017 was 3.34 loans per employee.

Cost to Close

Cost to Close is the total cost of manufacturing a single mortgage loan. While the Mortgage Bankers Association put the total cost to originate for mortgage banks at nearly $8,000 per loan in 2017, our study revealed that our lenders, on average, experience a cost-to-close of $5,291 per loan in 2017. Better, but there is still a ways to go.

Arguably, these five metrics are macro-level measures that are really designed to offer two advantages to management. First, four of the five are quick and easy to calculate, offering a swift measure of the health of the institution. Some will argue, perhaps persuasively, that cost to close is more difficult to calculate. While true, if a good measure for the productivity KPI is available, cost to close becomes much easier to estimate accurately. We have the tools to do so. Once productivity is known, cost to close is easily and accurately estimated.

Second, the results institutions find by measuring these metrics will always lead to important questions, or at least they should. These KPIs are macro-diagnostic in nature, revealing areas where management must continue down the micro-diagnostic path to configure their companies for high performance lending.

What our 6th annual benchmarking study data told us was that a set of high performing lenders were consistently outperforming their competitors on every metric we tracked, despite competing for the same basic client base, offering the same basic loan products and using exactly the same technology.

By: Jacob Petersen for Tomorrow's Mortgage Executive, talking on the importance of customer service in the mortgage industry.

How often does a piece of technology break only to realize you now have to make the dreaded phone call to the 1-800 support number on the back of the device? For most, this is met with a monotone voice reading an infuriating script. Do they think we didn’t try to restart the device? Of course we did. Yes, the router was unplugged and reset, too. In today’s world, consumers expect a higher level of customer service. Whether they need to set up a new account, need help understanding the paperwork in front of them, or need help troubleshooting an issue, support must be seen as a trusted advisor.

As organizations grow, the idea of a customer ecosystem is essential to ensure the longevity and scalability of the company. This customer ecosystem requires that the entire organization work closely to provide only the highest levels of support. What steps are you taking to ensure your customer-facing teams emerge on top of today’s demanding industry landscape?

By: Dan Green, "Seeds of Digital Change in the Real Estate Market," for Progress in Lending

Remember the days when stacks of paper, numerous phone calls, and “snail mail” made up the heart of the mortgage process? Yes, we are referring to those days in the not-so-distant past before the technology revolution made the all-digital mortgage a possibility. As we’ve seen, this technology revolution took the mortgage industry by storm, drastically improving day-to-day operations and increasing efficiency. A similar technological future awaits the home seeking process. As this future reveals itself, it is in our best interest as lenders to remain up to date with these changes to foster collaboration with real estate agents. Advanced planning and networking now will lead to a natural pipeline of referrals, allowing our future origination business to grow in unprecedented ways.

The initial stages of searching for a home have become almost exclusively digital, activating yet another technological revolution. Logically, the initial home buying effort begins with a simple online search to gauge market availability and pricing while also honing in on certain types of homes or neighborhoods. According to a recent report, about 90% of prospective home buyers use some type of online search in their home buying process. As millennials continue to make up more and more of the first time home buying population, the use of internet throughout the process will only increase.

As a result of this increase, home buying technology must continue to improve as well. Outside of current online listings and search functionality, there is limited digital capability to make an offer on – and ultimately purchase – a home online. Fortunately, seeds of change are already being planted through a few digital real estate companies that offer the capability to search, list, sell, and buy properties completely online. Similar to the all-digital mortgage where lenders and borrowers are notified of status updates through loan origination software, so too will home buyers and sellers make and receive offers and updates simultaneously. At first glance, it may seem like these digital changes eliminate the need for real estate agents altogether. Quite the contrary. Traditionally, the agent has handled the networking, contracts, and negotiation that are involved in the home buying process. Although many of these components will likely be handled digitally in the future, it is in the best interest of lenders, and borrowers, to continue partnering with real estate agents for a couple of reasons.

Networking Requires People. First, very few, if any, prospective home buyers want to buy a house sight unseen, so the agent becomes an important local resource in setting up showings. In addition to traditional showings, agents may also have the networking connections to point interested buyers in the direction of properties that would otherwise not be considered. Next, community appeal is a vital factor. Conversations with real estate agents can shed light on the unique local flair of an area, and help match the desires of the borrower with a fitting community. Realtors® may also use their local connections to recommend good inspectors, contractors, and other key individuals involved in the purchase of a home.

Digital Savviness Isn’t for Everyone. Additionally, depending on how comfortable the buyer/seller are with the online tools, the agent may be called upon to use their knowledge and expertise to perform the online negotiations and contractual components on their client’s behalf. Ultimately, this makes the process easier for both buyers and sellers, as well as ensures compliance from a legal standpoint. Thus, just as the role of the loan officer progressed with the all-digital mortgage, so too will the role of the real estate agent transform according to shifting digital demands. The future belongs to agents who are willing to adapt to these demands and take on more of a specialized, hybrid role within the industry.

What does all of this mean for lenders? Having a strong network of real estate agents will always be a sure way to increase origination business. Despite changes in the home buying process, agents will still spend more time with the home buyer than any other party. If you have the trust of the real estate agent, you’re more likely to win the trust (and business) of the home buyer.

As the real estate market begins to perfect and streamline this new process of buying a home, the logical next step is to integrate the mortgage process with the digital purchase of the home. Think of the visibility and brand awareness that would come along with having your institution’s loan products displayed alongside a listing of the buyers’ dream home. Whether this be in the form of a partnership or direct integration with the real estate websites, there’s no doubt it would be advantageous to all parties involved. No matter what changes are thrown our way within the housing industry, there’s no doubt proper preparation and innovation are key to remaining ahead of the digital curve.