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Elevating Online Lending

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There is a big push by regulators to be more borrower friendly. What does that mean? That means improving the mortgage experience at the point-of-sale. How does that happen? In part it happens when lenders take a second look at technologies like consumer-facing websites. It you want to win the battle for the borrower, you have to have a great online presence. Wayne Steagall of Lending Manager talked with us about what every lender needs to do to be an online lending leader. Here’s what he said:

Q: What online lending trends do you see taking place in 2015?

WAYNE STEAGALL: We believe that there will be a significant increase in the amount of online loan applications and online lending documents in 2015. Today’s borrowers are more tech-savvy and expect to do business with lenders online. They want to go online when and where it is convenient for them, typically during non-traditional business hours. It may be at 4:00 AM before they leave for work or as they are waiting to pick their kids up from soccer practice.

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They expect a robust online lending experience that delivers in-depth information on loan programs, interest rates, closing costs with the ability to access the lenders website on their tablets, or smartphone; they demand this information and status updates instantly. The website needs to have a simple yet elegant design that is easy to navigate and provides the type of information that potential borrowers are looking for.

If lenders don’t provide this type of online lending experience the potential borrower will simply move on to the next lender. Companies that have long ignored their online lending strategy are quickly realizing that online lending is a business imperative and are now focusing heavily on their web presence, borrower experience and online lending technologies to meet the needs of today’s borrowers.

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Q: How has online lending changed over the last 5 years?

WAYNE STEAGALL: The biggest change in online lending in the last five years is lenders’ understanding that a strong web presence has gone from a “nice to have” to “need to have”. It is now a business imperative that lenders must focus time and resources with their web presence if they want to remain competitive.

Millenials do business online and expect their lender to do the same. As millenials continue to represent a larger share of new home purchases, lenders can’t afford to ignore this segment and their online lending expectations.

In addition to online lending becoming a business imperative, lender websites are being more widely used in purchase shops, and not just for refinance heavy lenders. Online lending is now impacting all lending channels.

Q: What are today’s tech savvy borrowers looking for in an online lending solution?

WAYNE STEAGALL: Borrowers expect more from their lender and that includes a great website. Here’s what we think makes for a great mortgage website.:

First, its got to be visually appealing design that matches corporate branding.

Second, it has to have simple navigation menus (“Don’t Make Me Think”).

Third, it has to have useful content for borrowers and referral partners.

Fourth, it needs powerful Call-to-Action buttons (“Apply Online”).

Fifth, a domain name that’s easy to remember is critical.

Sixth, there has to be integration to back office systems (LOS & CRM).

Seventh, the website needs to be user friendly so it can be updated quickly (doesn’t take a week).

Eight, it needs to be mobile and tablet device friendly.

Ninth, the website has to have the ability to apply with a company or loan officer and submit.

Lastly, borrowers need to prequalify or fill out the 1003 application at their convenience by uploading their documents through a secure portal instead of needing to fax or FedEx their documents.

Great websites deliver a dynamic user experience that today’s borrowers demand.

Q: Does the right online lending solution level the playing field and allow lenders of all sizes to compete?

WAYNE STEAGALL: Yes, your website is one of the first places a consumer goes to find out more about your company. A large company with an outdated or poorly maintained website can lose out to a smaller lender with a strong web presence as the consumer can see it as a reflection of the overall company and comfort level with that particular lender. Great websites deliver a dynamic user experience while leveling the playing field for lenders of all sizes.

Q: How has the influx of mobile technology and social media changed online lending?

WAYNE STEAGALL: Today’s borrowers are on the go and accessing websites from their mobile phones and tablets. Your website must be mobile and tablet friendly, or your potential borrower will simply look elsewhere.

Mobile has helped make the loan process available 24/7 (not just at a computer) and improve the efficiency of the loan process. Borrowers can even apply on their mobile website while sitting with their Realtor or Loan Officer instead of waiting hours or days later for a response.

Social media is heavily regulated for lenders, but if done correctly can help drive traffic to the lenders website with a higher conversation rate since it’s from trusted friends/referrals instead of generic search engine or banner ads.

Q: What do millennials require when they go online looking for a loan?

WAYNE STEAGALL: Millennials demand a robust website that delivers critical lending information in a simple and easy to use site. They expect a quick, efficient website that either lets them find out more about a lender and their lending options or it delivers a simple and easy to navigate website so that they can apply online at their convenience (instead of scheduling an appointment and filling out a paper application in person).

If the lender can’t deliver a great borrower experience online the potential borrower will simply move to the next lender.

Q: Is online lending still considered by many a nice to have or is having an online channel now a business imperative?

WAYNE STEAGALL: As mentioned above, online lending is now a business imperative. If a borrower can apply online with a competitor at 2 AM or they have to wait to visit your office in person several days from now, your competitor has a huge advantage.

From a cost standpoint, online lending can make loan officers more efficient and lower production costs. This provides lenders with another competitive advantage and point of differentiation when borrowers are surfing the web for a new loan.

Q: How do online lending solutions impact the borrower experience?

WAYNE STEAGALL: Today’s borrowers are online for every aspect of their lives. They know what a great user experience delivers, whether that’s from Apple, Google or the like, and they expect that same type of experience when dealing with a lender.

If the lender’s website doesn’t contain the information that the potential borrower is looking for, if navigation is confusing, if they can’t access the website from their smartphone or tablet it creates an extremely frustrating user experience for the potential borrower. When that happens, they simply move on to the next lender and never come back to your site.

Applying for a mortgage is one of the largest financial transactions of a person’s life and most will only go through that process once or twice every decade, so delivering a great customer experience, one that it as simple and accessible to the borrower is critical. It is critical not only for that loan but for the potential referrals that borrower will provide to other potential borrowers.

Q: Where do you see online lending going in 2015?

WAYNE STEAGALL: As we have already discussed, online lending is now a business imperative so you will see much greater traction of online lending by lenders in 2015.

In addition, online lending technology is becoming more cost effective for smaller lenders, which makes adoption widespread in the industry and creates a standard where borrowers can reasonably expect to handle part of their mortgage process online (application, documents, signatures, etc.)

Mortgage companies will shift more of their print marketing into online advertising but they will be focusing more on taking applications instead of simply lead data (name, email, phone). Today’s borrowers are online and if lender’s want to capture their business they must also be online.

Q: What can we expect to see from Lending Manager in 2015?

WAYNE STEAGALL: At Lending Manager, we are passionate about delivering great websites to our lender clients. We are constantly working to enhance our offerings to deliver the best possible online lending experience. We are investing heavily in the next version of our mobile websites. Borrowers accessing our clients website through mobile devices has increased significantly over the last year with 15 – 20% of daily website traffic coming directly from mobile or tablet devices.

Our newest website designs incorporate our best practices from managing 5,000+ mortgage websites to help our customers increase the conversion rate of consumers to borrowers from their website and in turn increasing the ROI/Profitability of their online lending channel.

We will continue to enhance our strategic partnership with Integrations to even more mortgage technology providers to help our customers save money. This will create additional production efficiencies in the back office, including loan officers taking more applications online and processors collecting borrowers documents securely.

We are committed to providing our customers with dynamic online lending solutions that enhance the user experience of borrowers while deliver significant ROI to our lender clients.

INDUSTRY PREDICTIONS

Wayne Steagall thinks:

  1. Mortgage companies will invest more into their websites, specifically for purchase business.
  2. Borrowers will originate a larger percentage of their applications through mobile and tablet devices.
  3. Lenders will use their web presence to help automate certain parts of the loan process and realize cost savings.

INSIDER PROFILE

Wayne Steagall is the Founder and President of Lending Manager. As President of the company, Wayne works to help mortgage companies take their business online. He works with both customers and partners to help streamline their mortgage processes through automation and technology integrations. Over the last 18 months Lending Manager has expanded to over 3,500 loan officers currently process over $2 billion in loan applications online per month.

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