The Truth About Email

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It’s not uncommon for an average workday to begin after grabbing a cup of the “favorite” office brand coffee and sitting down to respond to countless emails from both internal and external people. At this point in the day, it’s unlikely the thought of becoming a victim to a phishing attack would be top of mind. And why should it be? Isn’t it safe to assume the IT department protects email, providing a level of security that the Secret Service would envy?

Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. This year, Symantec reported that 1 in 131 emails sent last year contained malware, which is the highest rate in five years. In addition, Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams, relying on spear-phishing emails, targeted over 400 businesses per day, draining $3 billion over the last three years. Some businesses never recover from an attack like this. So, if email is the problem, how can a business solve it?

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Email is Time-Consuming

Email, while digital, is still largely manual. When an email is received, there are four things that must be identified:

1.)Who is the sender of the email?

2.)What is the message saying?

3.)How should this email be organized or classified?

4.)Is there an attachment or link in the email?

Answering these four questions for every email received is time-consuming to say the least. It has been reported by the Wall Street Journal that, on average, a white-collar worker will spend 4.1 hours per day checking work email. With over half of a standard 8-hour work day dedicated to email, that leaves lenders with less than half a day to juggle getting current borrowers approved and reaching out to prospective homebuyers. Cutting back the hours spent on email can greatly improve efficiency, increase the number of loans processed, and add to overall customer satisfaction.

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Email is Insecure

An email message is only as intelligent and secure as the recipient’s ability to interpret it. This is not to say the average person can’t properly read an email. Rather, it means that cybercriminals are highly skilled and extremely deceptive. As Fortune.com put it, “Good luck seeing the difference between a domain like “Google.com” (Latin) from “Google.com” (Cyrillic).” Without very thorough and specific detection systems and user training and testing, it would be impossible to see the difference in a link to a domain name that used non-Latin characters as a disguise.

There are real limits to what humans can detect and discern about each email they receive. The business that falls for phishing communications – whether or not through its own fault – will certainly take a hit to its reputation. While there are many success stories of users detecting and blocking email phishing attempts, the criminals are making it very difficult for workers to prevent breaches.

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Now What?

Transitioning from the insecure communication methods so common in today’s lending landscape may seem like an insurmountable task. Everyone is accustomed to firing off an email to a provider or client, sending a text message, or sharing a document through an online document sharing service, but these are all forms of communication that can be intercepted. Once the phishers identify that a process is occurring, they hone in on specific transmissions and wait for the opportune moment.

This widespread issue requires the entire financial industry to unite and find a more secure process through which all communications can be sent. Moving off email servers will be no small feat. They are an integral part of every business. Unless email is supplemented with something even more efficient, businesses will undoubtedly slow down. On the other hand, email is also the easiest way for a criminal to breach a business’s security defenses – leading to the possible theft of valuable information or funds – and this could ultimately be the downfall of an organization. The only way to stop the attacks is to give the cybercriminals nothing to track, by using secured communication methods such as those that are coupled with intelligent processing.

The Future Points to Intelligent Processing

Intelligent processing can be defined as a secure framework used to structure communication that automatically recognizes and organizes information through a predefined process. Technology that utilizes intelligent processing creates communications channels that carry all messages through a secure location. Imagine a world where communication (both messages and chat conversations) between all parties involved in a transaction (such as loan officers, title agents, settlement agents, attorneys and others) are seamlessly routed through a secure web system instead of locally via your desktop and cell phone. Only the individuals permitted access can gain access. Documents and data can also be transferred securely through the system.

Remember the 4.1 hours per day people spend sorting their emails? Imagine that time greatly reduced, directly increasing productivity. For the mortgage industry, intelligent processing is a secure, automatic, digital, document exchange system and communication platform that can deliver three key benefits.

Benefit 1: Efficiency

Intelligent processing can transform inbox clutter into time-stamped communications that stay within the context of the transaction or client file in which they were created – all on a secure web system. This allows for more efficient multi-tasking and the ability to quickly switch between client files and pick the transaction up where it was last left.

When something is purchased with a credit card, the company knows which account that card is associated with and bills that account automatically. So, it makes sense for a borrower transaction to have a similar way of being identified for communications, including document submissions. While email in the workplace will certainly not be eliminated altogether, security training will be critical to enable additional efficiencies saved on the countless hours staff currently waste on manually processing their email messages.

Benefit 2: Accuracy

Human fallibility is an unavoidable reality. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes, but automated processes do exactly what they are programmed to do, 100% of the time. Transitioning the workflow from human processing to “automated everything” results in streamlined processes.

Benefit 3: Security

As cybercrime continues to escalate, it is essential to totally rethink communication to avoid phishing attacks. Cybercrime is here to stay, and it is only getting worse. According to Juniper research: “Over the next five years, data breaches will have cost businesses a cumulative total of $8 trillion in fines, lost business and remediation costs.” And what’s worse, the financial industry is a favorite target for hackers and cybercriminals of all kinds.

Cyber criminals are becoming more aggressive. Lenders need to take action against this onslaught of elaborate phishing attacks, and intelligent processing is the first line of defense. Secure networks are already used for other aspects of banking such as credit card processing, wire transfers, and international wire transfers, so why shouldn’t the industry do the same for mortgages? If anything, these preexisting structures give the industry a precedent for protecting the data, transactions and communications related to a mortgage loan. This will be a crucial step in protecting businesses and their clients.

Using intelligent processing as the primary method of client communication can increase efficiency, enhance security, and save a lot of money. Eventually, there will be an appropriate solution for every size and type of business within the industry to safely and efficiently conduct business with each other and consumers. Lenders need to carefully vet these software options and find the solution that best fits their current business needs. The ideal solution will help protect the business while increasing the productivity of the staff.

Perhaps the silver lining to the dark cloud of cybercrime is that the intelligent processing solution will unify the entire mortgage industry, so that all parties relevant to the transaction will ultimately be able to readily communicate and exchange data and documentation at every step. This unification of the mortgage industry is past due and will surely create efficiency as well as security gains for all.

About The Author

Todd Hougaard

Todd Hougaard is Collaboration Center Product Manager for Mortgage Cadence, an Accenture Company. In this role, Todd is responsible for the strategic direction of Collaboration Center, which is designed to provide true multi-party collaboration for secure communication, document exchange, data transfer, and automation from origination through post-closing. Prior to joining the Mortgage Cadence team, Todd Hougaard spent the last two decades holding leadership positions within the mortgage technology arena, including as founder of BeesPath Inc. and Ingeo Systems and in sales operations at First American. He is an active member of the American Land Title Association, serves on the Technology Committee, and is currently an at-large member of the ALTA Title Action Network. Todd holds a B.S. in Geography from Utah State University.