There is always talk about the digital mortgage. It’s in high demand. Industry data shows that 67 percent of all closed loans by Millennial borrowers were conventional, the highest percentage in two years. Conventional loans continued to be the most popular loan product, although women were slightly more likely to take advantage of FHA loans. So, what does that mean? It means that more lenders need to embrace the digital mortgage to reach this new group of borrowers. How do lenders do that? Adam Batayeh, President of Lodasoft, talked to our editor about how he sees the digital mortgage technology landscape.
Q: How would you describe the state of mortgage origination today?
ADAM BATAYEH: I think we’re in an amazing place in terms of the evolution of the mortgage industry. The mortgage industry had been hit with a significant amount of negative press following the mortgage meltdown. What many people haven’t fully realized is all of the positive changes that have been made in the mortgage space since.
The crash may have pushed the industry into a sort of regulatory confinement period putting everyone behind the proverbial 8-ball, but great progress has been made over the last 10 years. While it may have even stagnated tech innovation, as lenders were busy with TRID, I believe that these 10 years have washed away the pretenders and the best of the best are now advancing the industry, which only leads to what’s best for the consumer.
You look at the top originators list for example and it is no longer comprised of solely big-box banks with a 50-state brick and mortar footprint. According to Bloomberg, non-banks accounted for more than 70 percent of FHA loans just last year.
You’ve got true innovation that is taking place that has allowed for mortgage companies to come out of obscurity to a predominant role driving the industry forward. The retail space is truly diversified and you have a wholesale market in the midst of a major comeback.
Q: Interesting, can you expand on how technology is actually making its impact?
ADAM BATAYEH: For me, the best part of the innovation that is taking place is that lenders and brokers of all sizes can take advantage of the best technologies available. The strength and ubiquity of APIs is game-changing in and of itself.
Look at Fannie and Freddie for example. They’ve recently come out with products that incorporate features allowing for the automation of income and asset verification. However, those aren’t proprietary solutions. Really what they’re doing is integrating to the same technologies available to all of us.
These pieces of technology have sort of become commodities that everyone can implement and benefit from. The best originators are using them to enhance speed, efficiency, transparency, etc. Everything that we’ve been trying to do for so long is finally coming to fruition and we really can attribute it to the rapid growth of new and innovative technology.
These new innovations are allowing for a level playing field. We feel this is contributing to the healthiest level of competition we’ve seen. Not to mention, cloud-computing and SaaS-based products are allowing all of us to be everywhere at all times without the need for as much costly brick and mortar and IT expense.
Also, I just want to say that you hear a lot about the “Digital Mortgage” and at first-glance it sounds like the easy button, but it’s not. If you look at DU and LP for example, they both assist in underwriting efforts. They are tools to help us make decisions, but they did not eliminate the Underwriter by any stretch.
Q: Speaking of “Digital Mortgage”, what’s your take on its status?
ADAM BATAYEH: It’s here and it’s here for everyone. Many vendors have been helping lenders deliver electronically signed eMortgages for what, 10 years now? The Digital Mortgage is really an extension of that effort.
The focus thus far has been on borrower experience and rightfully so. However, to truly deliver on the digital mortgage experience, lenders must not only provide a slick and engaging online point-of-sale tool, but they also must automate the backend mortgage process and communication touch points that impede a truly seamless mortgage experience.
The good news is again, it’s here. There are solutions at every price point and if you do your due diligence and stay current, you can compete with the largest lenders with the biggest bankrolls. Whether you’re retail or wholesale, broker or banker, Community Bank or Credit Union — you can find a solution that will fit (especially if you keep a pulse at tradeshows and with industry sites and publications like this one).
Q: How would you say retailers and wholesalers differ in their need for digital solutions?
ADAM BATAYEH: That’s a great question because it would seem that an originator is an originator right?
One of the big differences is in adoption. If you look at some of the larger consumer-direct players, they have a bit of an advantage as they have more of a captive team. They are more centralized and can distribute and train fairly quickly.
Retail Community Banks and Credit Unions are similar as they are a little more centralized even though they may be branch focused. They are typically cross-selling other internal products and so flexibility and configurability is very key to them. Integration is also high on the list for many reasons especially for servicers.
Wholesale and Distributed Retail shops have some things in common and they’ve got a different set of considerations. For one, a branch model might be providing tools, maybe an LOS, but those branches may be on their own in terms of say lead, contact management, or even borrower experience.
Same goes with Wholesale Brokers as the lender may provide portals that offer pipeline management but may fall short in more front-end activity. Some high-producing teams like to do things their way, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Flexibility is needed at a different level here.
The best advice I can give is, try to partner with tech vendors at different levels. For example, consider a solution that comes 75 percent configured and offer your branch or broker some control in taking part of their own configuration. We’re all typically willing to integrate at various levels and have resources to help get your staff trained quickly.
Q: What are you currently solving for that Lenders haven’t addressed yet?
ADAM BATAYEH: For us, it’s really the difference in what we have chosen to focus on. We’re based right outside of Detroit and we all know stories of how Ford implemented the assembly line to drastically reduce costs and increase production. Well, there’s a lot to be said for how far manufacturing has come and it really lies within automating processes.
A great borrower experience is one thing, but if that experience transitions to a back-end process that is not transparent or communicative, that borrower experience may fall short in the end.
We’re incorporating workflow in a way that allows for centralized, automated processes, so that mortgage companies of all sizes can truly compete and enjoy similar reduction in costs and increased production to that of the largest lenders.
Q: What has had the biggest impact on how you develop solutions?
ADAM BATAYEH: Definitely the unique diversity of our team and our client feedback loop.
On the operations side, our team has closed thousands of loans over the span of 20 years. When we talk to mortgage people, they know we’re one of them. They feel it in the questions we ask and the thought around the downstream impact of implementing a certain capability.
On the tech side, our guys have been developing solutions specifically in mortgage either for lenders or vendors for most of their careers. They have also been cloud-computing since, well, before the word cloud-computing was a thing.
We don’t allow ourselves to just go out and create but at the same time our clients understand that they can’t just dictate their needs to us as everyone is different. So, when we add a feature, we look at it from all sides and then look to provide flexibility so that it may be configured for the various types of lending institutions we cater to.
Q: What is the most critical challenge mortgage business are addressing?
ADAM BATAYEH: I don’t want to just give you the “everyone is different” answer so I’ll try my best not to give you a non-answer. If I must choose one challenge, I’ll say, “putting out fires”.
It boggles my mind that we are an industry that still says “it’s the end of the month, don’t talk to me”. If you go to the doctor on the 30th, do they tell you to come back next week? No, you have an appointment and they are just as busy on the 12th as they are the 30th.
The tendency in our industry seems to be to stop the bleeding. If a borrower needs something, we surely don’t want them going anywhere else so we stop the presses and give it to them.
I don’t care how big or small you are, you have fires that tend to creep up and you can identify them. If you can identify them, you can plan for them. If you can plan for them, you can get ahead of them.
It’s what I was referring to around the assembly line. You can use automation for the sake of automation. Or, you can use it create as repeatable a process as possible.
Adam Batayeh thinks:
4.) Origination numbers will continue to spread as the playing field levels. Wholesale, Retail, Consumer-direct, etc. will all experience slight shifts in portfolio focus.
2.) The “Amazon Effect” will have more of a positive impact on housing supply as millennial and first-time homebuyer awareness shines even brighter.
3.) A greater focus in 2018 from a Digital Mortgage perspective will be on further automating backend processes. This will trend well into funding and servicing.
Adam Batayeh is President of Lodasoft, the mortgage industry’s leading solution to help lenders eliminate complexity and automate the manual workflow involved in the everyday loan process. With more than a decade of experience in the mortgage industry, Batayeh has held executive sales, marketing, product and strategic partnership positions with key mortgage technology providers. He is responsible for overseeing the daily operations, growth of organization, strategic partnerships and long-term strategic vision of Lodasoft. You can contact Adam at email@example.com or to find out more about Lodasoft visit website www.lodasoft.com