Discussing Digital Innovation

At WebMax the name of the game is innovation. The company is 100% dedicated to helping lenders embrace a better mortgage process that is both digital and customer centric all at the same time. But how do you do that? Well, Curt Tegeler sat down with our editor to share his vision. Curt is President and CEO of WebMax LLC. He is responsible for providing direction for action to all employees and business initiatives. Tegeler’s main responsibilities include communicating and implementing the company’s vision and mission; leading, guiding, directing, and evaluating the work of executive leaders; formulating and implementing the strategic plan; forming, staffing, guiding, leading and managing WebMax; evaluating organizational success; and represents WebMax in civic and professional activities. Here’s how he sees the mortgage market:

Q: You say that innovation is vital to successful or game-changing technology. What innovation do you project for mortgage technology moving forward?

CURT TEGELER: First, I’d like to touch on innovation from the technology side because innovation isn’t just vital to good technology, it’s inherent. Innovation lives in game-changing technology’s DNA. We can’t forget that behind every technological innovation, every line of code, is a person, or group of people. These innovators constantly seek out new ways to do things and make processes better. People don’t make technology because it’s cool. People create new technology to solve problems, streamline inefficient processes, and improve people’s lives. Dee Hock, the founder of Visa, didn’t create Visa to have its name plastered at cash registers and on e-commerce platforms everywhere. He created Visa to provide a solution to a then disorganized and fraud-rampant credit card industry. Hock decentralized Visa’s payment processing system to give the power to its franchises, or member banks. In doing so, Hock revolutionized, and practically created, the fintech/payments industry. Visa was the hottest new thing on the payments block since the check. The point is, as long as inefficiencies, in any industry, exist, people will innovate and create game-changing technology.

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Now, let’s address the mortgage industry. We’ve witnessed this massive secular move to digital mortgages because, well, lenders suffered from a load of inefficiencies. Yes, of course, the move to digital also coincides with changing consumer preferences and our society’s transition from pens and paper to keyboards and touchscreens. In any industry, a business is nothing without its customers. Businesses must adapt to what their customers want, or in some cases demand. So if borrowers in general, and Millennials especially, demand a digital mortgage experience, lenders must meet them on the internet and satisfy that demand. That said, technology wouldn’t revolutionize the mortgage application and origination processes if it was less efficient than doing it with pen and paper. Take cars, for example. Consumers demand fuel efficiency. So, car makers dropped 6-cylinders and 4 and added a turbo booster instead, which proved to be more energy efficient and cost-effective while increasing horsepower and torque. The case is comparable to mortgages. Inefficiencies, coupled with consumer trends in behavior and preferences, has led to the digital mortgage revolution.

Q: What inefficiencies do you see in the mortgage industry? What innovation do you predict for lenders going forward?

CURT TEGELER: Lenders face many inefficiencies, but three key issues include the loan origination process timeline, rising origination costs, and borrower abandonment rates on digital applications. That’s why I think innovators will target digital point-of-sale (POS) applications in the near and intermediate future. A good POS application employs integration and automation, which reduces loan origination times and ensures valid information to produce compliant loans. This digital mortgage innovation drives lenders to close more loans faster. The integrations and automation that power the backend of digital POSs create a seamless application process for the borrower, which reduces completion time and origination costs. Automation does the work for the borrower, leading to decreased abandonment rates. Rather than sending borrower information to a credit or asset verifier, digital POS’s integrate with verifiers’ APIs. When borrowers input information, the POS simultaneously communicates with the APIs in real time. In effect, the POS verifies borrowers’ information while they complete the application. Borrowers need not fetch a bank statement; just plug in your account number and the POS will retrieve everything it needs. Lenders’ demand for these results will drive technology providers to brew another pot of coffee and get to innovating.

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In the long term, I think Blockchain has the potential to impact the mortgage space. Before I go on, I want to clarify that I’m not pandering to the pandemonium surrounding bitcoin and cryptocurrency. While I do see the risks and inefficiencies of the cryptocurrency market, I do recognize the power of its underlying technology, blockchain, and what it can mean for fintech. For instance, we’re seeing properties listed for bitcoin and nothing else. These could be marketing gimmicks or someone trying to flip their listing by jumping on the latest trend. However, with examples of this showing up regularly, it could be a sign of things to come in our industry.

All of the big banks are looking into blockchain technologies, and some have even filed for patents. Blockchain is all about transactions. Key examples include the transfer of shipments in logistics operations and the exchange of securities through trading on Wall Street. Blockchain might enter the mortgage industry a variety of ways in the coming years, whether through verifying the data collected through integrations, regulators and GSEs ledgering closed loans, or even processing the monthly payments made by the borrower. Blockchain is in its infancy stage, so the best hasn’t even yet been thought.

Q: You said that the length of the origination process and rising origination costs plague lenders nationwide. Can you expand on how the digital POS solves these problems?

CURT TEGELER: According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the costs to originate a mortgage skyrocketed 80% in the last 7 years. At the beginning of 2017, the national average to close a loan stood at 51 days, up from an average of 30 days just 7 years ago as the burden of paperwork and broader requirements to vet borrowers weigh on lenders. The loan origination process always stood as a long, arduous, drawn-out series of sending documents for verification, waiting to receive them back, and then reeling in borrowers to sign and approve each step of the process.

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Then came 2008. The Housing Crisis dropped a bomb packed with regulations and compliance standards. Regulators posed new laws as recent as October 2015, with the passing of the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure laws, which required lenders to send borrowers documents 3 days prior to closing. If any changes are made, they must wait another 3 days. In effect, timelines got extended as loans had to maneuver through an approval process inundated with checkpoints. Moreover, costs to originate increased as regulators pressured lenders to maintain compliance. The mortgage industry needed technology then more than ever, not to just adjust to consumer preferences, but to survive in the new lending world.

We discussed how integrations and automations streamline the lending process. As a result of receiving borrower information faster, lenders can start their compliance processes earlier in the loan lifecycle. Plus, borrowers can get pre-approved in minutes, equipping them with a budget and allowing them to start their home-searching process earlier than ever before. This resulted in faster loan closures.

As of November 2017, mortgage closures averaged 43 days, down from 51 days earlier in the year, a near 16% decrease. Although this is a great improvement we can attribute to technology, it still doesn’t satisfy those of us who embrace the digital mortgage revolution. All we can do is continue to innovate and drive that closure time down. By leveraging the seamless data integrations and automations engineered into digital POS applications, we can turn days-long processes into minute-long processes.

This affords more time to generate new business, so lenders cut costs and increase top line numbers simultaneously. When digital POS’s help maintain compliance, lenders can allocate more time to improving their respective companies’ loan process and borrower relationships. A good POS also reduces overhead costs. The newest POS’s allow the entire loan process to live in a single location. Borrowers and loan officers can upload documents at any time to share, communicate with each other important messages, and check for updates. Loan officers need not pay for shipping documents, nor spend money on lavish offices to entice potential borrowers.

Q: What about abandonment rates? How do digital POS’s factor into application completion rates and ROI?

CURT TEGELER: Lenders’ POS applications provide the majority of a borrower’s digital mortgage experience. Without an easy-to-use, user-friendly POS, lenders fail to convert applicants into borrowers. For instance, WebMax’s POS application, START, provides smart data entry and smart data elimination. What this does, essentially, is make it so the borrower can only input the correct information in the appropriate sections. Software developers need to create these products with the least tech-savvy user in mind. That said, we aim to erase any exit points for the applicant. Lenders can lose a potential borrowers at any hiccup, any roadblock in their digital application. In addition to navigating the application or not know what information to enter into which fields, START closes another key exit point for borrowers: time. START verifies data in real time by connecting to LOS’s, pricing engines, credit verifiers, asset verifiers, banks, and location services. These integrations ensure speedy results for the borrower while providing accurate, compliant information for the lender. As a result, START can pre-approve borrowers in less than 10 minutes.

START provides lenders a dramatic drop in abandonment rates. User experience is vital in reducing abandonment rates and increasing closed loans. The Fintech industry’s average abandonment rate of users who fail to complete an application fluctuates between 50-75%. The average abandonment rate of users using START stands at roughly 12%, providing a proven ROI on your integration by increasing completed applications by up to 84%.

Assuming the low end of the average at 50%, a conservative estimate, lenders can increase closed loans by 76%. Let’s assume that a lender attracts 100 borrowers per month, the average loan is $200,000, and the profit margin is 600 BPS.

>>With a 50% abandonment rate, the lender will close 50 loans. This equates to $10 million in monthly loan volumes and $600,000 in revenue.

>>With a 12% abandonment rate, the lender will close 88 loans. This equates to $17.6 million in monthly loan volumes and $1.056 million in revenue.

In this example, the difference between START and an average digital POS application equates to $7.6 million in monthly loan volume and more than $450,000 in monthly revenue. Annualized, this renders $91.2 million increase in loan volumes and a $5.4 million increase in revenue. This example does not account for other ROI factors such as decreased origination costs, reduced overhead, loan officer productivity, and streamlined workflow. Moreover, if we assumed the high end of the average, the difference between START and an average digital POS application equates to $12.6 million in monthly loan volume and more than $750,000 in monthly revenue. Annualized, this renders a $151.2 million increase in loan volumes and a $9 million increase in revenue.

Q: What role does a digital point-of-sale application play in attracting Millennial homebuyers?

CURT TEGELER: You might be surprised, but a digital POS plays a vital role in attracting all borrowers. According to a study by the National Association of Realtors, 44% of all homebuyers began their search online and 95% used online websites to gather information at some point throughout the process, including 99% of Millennials and 77% of Silent Generationers. That said, the data also demonstrates that capturing the Millennial buyer provides the most robust and lucrative opportunity for lenders, and that digital is the key to capturing that opportunity.

Millennials make up about one-fourth of the US population, signifying a 77-million-person opportunity for the mortgage industry. As the leading edge of this massive demographic reaches its early thirties, they enter their prime earning years, start families, and buy homes. The vast majority of this 77-million-person demographic will search for homes and mortgages on their smartphones, tablets, and laptops, just as they shop online. E-commerce volume increased nearly 12% y/o/y from 2016 to 2017. Expect for that same trend to follow people shopping for mortgages.

Millennials in the U.S. wield about $1.3 trillion in annual buying power, making them a significant force in the home-buying market and mortgage industry. 85% of them use smartphones as their daily technology device, and 49% seek to buy their first home. The October 2017 composite forecast of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Mortgage Bankers Association for 2017 mortgage origination volume is approximately $1.8 trillion. If Millennials compose 50% of this mortgage volume, and two-thirds of them apply online via digital applications, that represents $600 billion in digital mortgage origination. This number is massive. Better yet, it’s conservative.

When it comes to attracting younger borrowers, lenders’ digital platform poses so important that it can outweigh the impact of interest rates. Lender A might offer a mortgage at 4%, while Lender B offers it at 4.25%. But if Lender A fails to show up in search results or deliver a subpar digital experience and Lender B does, Lender B will win the borrower. Millennials feel most comfortable transacting via digital. They don’t go to the mall, they go onto their laptops and shop e-commerce platforms. That’s where an industry-tailored mortgage website factors in. Once online shoppers fill their cart, they enter the POS application. Yes, a mortgage POS is much more complex and information intensive than an e-commerce POS. But that doesn’t mean lenders can’t provide an easy-to-use mortgage shopping experience. Lenders leverage their website to gain digital traffic and attract more borrowers. An effective POS ensures that they convert their shoppers — or applicants — into borrowers.

Q: You consider yourself a “first responder” to real estate and mortgage. How are you a first responder to POS?

CURT TEGELER: In 1999, I provided realtors, especially the smaller ones, the ability to compete in the dot-com boom and seize the power of the internet. In 2008, the Housing Crisis left the mortgage industry in shambles. I was there, in the rubble. I didn’t just help clean up the mess; I started building. I created MortgageWare, a digital mortgage website solution equipped with a proprietary content management system and integrations to LOS’s, pricing engines, the whole bit.

I’m a first responder to POS, because, well, we created START to satisfy our clients’ demands. They had this awesome website that attracted the digital traffic they craved. The problem was, it didn’t result in the increased loan closures they hoped for. They needed more. They needed a better applicant-borrower process. So, we made START to make our clients’ transition to digital accretive to their top and bottom line.


Curt Tegeler thinks:

1.) Digital point-of-sale applications will dominate lenders’ cap-ex and investments.

2.) Integrations and automation will drive the next leg of the digital mortgage revolution.

3.) Despite rising interest rates, the housing and mortgage markets will post a solid year of growth as buyers rush in to lock lower rates.


Curt Tegeler is President and CEO of WebMax LLC. He is responsible for providing direction for action to all employees and business initiatives. Tegeler’s main responsibilities include communicating and implementing the company’s vision and mission; leading, guiding, directing, and evaluating the work of executive leaders; formulating and implementing the strategic plan; forming, staffing, guiding, leading and managing WebMax; evaluating organizational success; and represents WebMax in civic and professional activities.