The Fight Of The Century

In 1975 the “fight of the century” took place in Manila. Known as the “Thrilla in Manila”, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali took to the boxing ring to determine once and for all who was the heavyweight champion of the world. As any sports fan knows, Ali won that fight by a TKO decision at the start of the15th round. The fight earned its reputation because of the two men involved. They were both well-trained and totally focused on being champion. Everyone who watched that fight, from then until now, is impressed with the grace and dignity these individuals displayed during each round. Both, many said, were champions regardless of the outcome.

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The mortgage industry is now preparing for the next “fight of the century” as two more well-known individuals face off. No, it is not Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury. Instead this fight will be between Trump and CFPB Director Richard Cordray. We all knew it was coming if there was a republican victory at the polls last fall, but when it will begin is still open to discussion. One thing is certain however, it will not be a graceful or dignified fight but a dirty, drag down, litigious drama with no clear winner and the only losers will be the mortgage industry and consumers.

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The impetus for this fight began several years ago, as the CFPB was created to stop the abuses of lending companies that lead to the Great Recession. The group was charged with creating new regulations for controlling financial organizations as well as monitoring consumer feedback on these company’s actions as viewed by the consumer. Because of its structure the CPFB had no interest or incentive in listening to or acting on the requests or efforts made by lenders to compromise on the details of these new requirements to make them more amenable or less costly. The examinations conducted by the CFPB resulted in tremendous penalties and fines that appeared to be exorbitant for the violations identified. This abuse of power came to a head with the litigation by PHH against the CFPB. In that case the court ruled not only that the CFPB was incorrect in its determination of the problem, but stated that the actual structure, which required no accountability to either legislative or administrative branch of the government, was basically unconstitutional. The call for significant changes in the organization and the new republican victory created an expectation that the Director would be fired immediately after the inauguration. Director Cordray however gave notice that he will not leave until his term is up next July and if necessary will use the courts to ensure his position. And so, the fight began.

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However, this fight is not between two equally strong opponents seeking to show through their training and skills that they deserve to be called champion. This fight is between two egotistical politicians whose interest is focused only in being the destroyer of the other. Although the republicans and their supporters hope that their fighter, Trump, will win, Director Cordray promises to not let that happen. Meanwhile the Trump administration has shown no sign of, or any eagerness to, get into the action. This fight of the century promises to be longer, nastier and much more contentious than the “Thrilla in Manila”. So, hold on to your seats. This is sure to be very entertaining even if it ends up as a draw.

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Lenders Are Expanding

Now is not the time to step back. Good lenders should look to break into new markets. For example,  Lehigh, Pennsylvania-area residents Patrick Rooney and Brian Fiore have opened a new branch location for national mortgage lender Supreme Lending. The branch, which is licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, will serve the Lehigh Valley and Poconos areas.

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Rooney (NMLS #203265) and Fiore (NMLS #376921) are co-branch managers for the location. Together, the Lehigh Valley natives bring more than 30 years of experience in all types of government and agency financing, including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, non-conforming and jumbo products. Their expertise with purchase transactions and first-time homebuyers is the foundation of their referral-based business.

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“Our job is helping borrowers navigate to a successful close,” said Rooney. “We evaluate the facts, present options, explain how things work, and allow our clients to decide what is best for them. The difference between us and your average loan officer is that we know mortgage guidelines like we know our own siblings. We know what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t.”

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“Qualifying for a mortgage can be stressful for first time homebuyers,” said Fiore. “They’ve never been through the process so they need a different type of communication. You have to really enjoy working with these folks, like Patrick and I do, to deliver service that makes everyone happy not just when the deal closes, but throughout the whole process. That’s what we strive for, and that’s what we deliver.”

Rooney and Fiore evaluated several mortgage lenders prior to joining Supreme Lending. “We chose Supreme because they value customer service as much as we do,” said Rooney.

Fiore agreed, adding, “Supreme’s dedication to customer care is apparent in everything from their proactive communication to their much faster turnaround times. That’s something that both borrowers and Realtors® appreciate.”

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Customer Experience Is For More Than Just Borrowers

How can mortgage lenders be more successful? For years, the focus was on lowering costs and squeezing out as much efficiency from the staff as possible. While those are still key factors to a lender’s success, lenders are also recognizing the impact a strong customer experience has on the company’s success.

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Customer service and the customer experience have always been important to lenders. But now, due to social media, customers’ opinions and experiences can have a much broader impact on the bottom line. Social media has given anyone a platform to spread one’s perspective, whether positive or negative, on a company. This has shown the importance of having open communication with borrowers and providing a superior customer experience.

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The customer experience is not just a concern for lenders working with borrowers, though. Vendors who provide critical technology and services to lenders should also keep in mind that building a strong user experience for lenders is necessary for continued success.

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What does a customer-centric vendor look like? Here are three characteristics shared by technology vendors dedicated to building long-term relationships with lenders.

Understand What Lenders Want

Often, the first thing that comes to mind when talking about customer or user experience is customer service. And yes, a culture of outstanding service is very important. However, providing a great experience is more than just providing outstanding service.

Having a wonderful product that meets a demand is one of the primary factors in defining a positive customer experience. To ensure lender satisfaction, the product must work as advertised, be easy to use, and be supported by a strong support and training team.

When evaluating technology providers, lenders are looking at a few key items.

First, does the product deliver all of the promised services? Nearly as important is usability. Are staff members able to improve productivity and efficiency by using the software?

Secondly, lenders want to be confident that the cost is transparent and fair. Most lenders are not shopping solely based on price. However, nothing ruins the vendor/partner relationship faster than surprises in the total cost of the service or product.

Finally, lenders want to know they have easy access to your staff when they need answers quickly. This is where a strong customer support infrastructure is vitally important.

Design Products Focused on the User Experience

To build a culture focused on lenders, mortgage technology providers should keep a few things in mind. The first is when it comes to designing updates and new services, put yourself in the users’ shoes.

Think through how the lender will interact with the software. What is the typical user experience when using the software? Are there key differences power users experience that are obstacles to getting the most out of the software?

Ultimately, a lender is going to stick with software for the long haul if it not only increases profit and efficiency, but also makes the lender’s job easier. Lenders are also making more efforts to build borrower-centric businesses, so mortgage technology that helps the lender deliver a better borrower experience is more valuable. Perfect examples of this type of service include online mortgage applications and servicing platforms that provide borrowers easy access to online account statements and payment services.

Making current and emerging technology work for lenders is the direction mortgage technology vendors should be moving in. For example, we at FICS created the Mortgage Servicer API to work with our main servicing solution. The API has enabled our servicing customers to execute their end-of-day process, monthly investor reporting, and generation of borrower statements without staff intervention, allowing the automated interaction of tasks between multiple systems, such as a servicer’s core system or other vital programs.

Listen to the Lender to Constantly Improve

The final step to building a customer-centric business is to remember that it requires constant improvement and analysis. In order to remain relevant, technology providers must listen to lender feedback to stay competitive.

There are several ways to gather this information. Formal and informal surveys are easy to set up, and they provide snapshots of how users feel about the product or service. Some technology providers even provide regular forums – both virtual and in-person – for lenders to share feedback, make suggestions for enhancements, and provide additional training. At FICS, we provide our users the opportunity to suggest software enhancements throughout the year and an enhancements survey that is discussed and voted on during our annual Users’ Conference.

Vendors can also look to unstructured data, such as evaluating service logs, to seek out common issues. Are there ways to change the product or the training to better address the most common issues?

Building a lender-focused business is the best way to build long-lasting partnerships and ensure that your technology services and products remain viable to lenders for many years. Making the customer or user experience a high priority at every level of the organization – from product design, to sales, to training and support – is the key to helping lenders best navigate the current lending environment.

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Learning Across Borders (LAB): Building Bridges To Unite And Serve

Early in my career as a loan officer, I had a very important realization regarding business processes that led me to understand not just my job better, but also the tasks and requirements of my colleagues. I was lucky enough to work with outstanding team players who, unbeknownst to me, were completing my work. They were doing things I could have easily done but I simply was not aware that I needed to at the time. Not only was my lack of knowledge inconveniencing those working around me, it ultimately created a less than optimal customer experience as well. My loan processor would have to contact the customer for additional information, which inconvenienced the borrower and extended the loan closing cycle time. The result was decreased efficiency across the board. Despite the fact I was a high producer, I had yet to detangle myself from siloed work habits. Once I better understood the nature of the broader loan process and could see the effects of decisions on the people around me, it enabled me to become a much better and stronger employee who was a better colleague and could now provide better service to customers.

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Understanding the Ripple Effect

What got me to that point of understanding in my career was a simple conversation with my processor. She explained what she had been doing “behind the scenes” for me. In essence, what we were doing was breaking down the barriers of communication and expectation. This level of communications between sales and operations, for example, gives employees more context which in turn translates to a better understanding of how important it is for them to do their job well and how it affects the rest of the process.

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The mortgage industry has traditionally had an uninspiring reputation for proper training. However, with intentionality and focus this can change. There are some companies making great strides toward implementing job training programs combined with a strong focus on creating a collaborative culture within their organizations. It is this training and collaboration component that is going to remove obstacles between internal business efficiency and customer-facing experiences. What has been missing is training across job specialties.

Training across job “borders” will open the opportunity for everyone in a company to learn how their role fits into the process as well as the role of their colleagues. This does not mean that everyone will be trained to do everyone else’s job. Instead, they will gain a deeper level of appreciation and a better understanding of the total process, which we believe creates empathy.

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This level of training goes beyond having a better quality process and better quality loans; it actually improves the culture of the organization. With it, companies can remove the wedge between people in different roles and departments and create an environment where employees understand the ripple effect of decisions throughout the organization to ultimately work better together.

So, consider mortgage LAB training where it is not an experiment, but is a culture of collaboration where everyone learns across borders. This additional training gives us as an industry the opportunity to learn from different perspectives. Generally, people want to do a great job but simply don’t know what they don’t know. This level of collaborative learning across boarders creates a deeper understanding of the process and empathy between roles, which ultimately results in not only a great consumer experience, but a great corporate culture of collaboration that breeds high performance and long-term employee loyalty. This will not happen by accident, though. It takes an organized effort from the top down to ensure the mortgage LAB is a priority and specific initiative.

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A Prepper’s Guide To Tomorrowland In Loan Origination

Perhaps you’ve just added digital tools to your menu of origination technology or you recently switched Loan Origination Systems (LOSs), boosting the confidence you have in your organization’s preparedness for the future. But, Tomorrowland in the loan origination business may be more drastic than you think. How prepared are you to compete with emerging business models and how prepared are your infrastructure and platforms for the upcoming technology advancements?

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In the last five years, the traditional mortgage lending model has modernized and become more non-linear with the increased usage and availability of data. Significantly. Paperless processing, OCR technology, data verification innovation, eSignatures and smart automation have made its way into the archaic and complex mortgage industry, simplifying some of the most cumbersome, costly and time-consuming processes. Considering how far the industry has come in the last five years, mortgage industry participants should anticipate even greater advancements in the next five years. By remaining watchful of emerging trends, lenders can take practical steps to prepare for ongoing business and technology transformation. Here are the biggies:

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Focus on Creating Value: You may hold that belief that providing a loan for homeownership is value enough for a customer. But, by today’s standards, value creation is about what you can deliver to a customer above and beyond their expectation and beyond a single moment in time. Some of the most successful businesses have dissected the journey of their customers to identify and satisfy “wish list” items that come up before, during and after a transaction. Pay attention to what the customer really wants in their home buying experience and find ways to combine forces with partners and peers to answer those needs.

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Trailblazers are Practical: Business trailblazers in every industry are focused on designing for an improved customer experience and it is not without good reason; data suggests that the better the experience for the customer, the greater the revenue stream. Unfortunately, many businesses operating in the mortgage space are still reluctant to incorporate customer experience design into their overall business and technology transformation efforts, not realizing the correlation between customer experience and business efficiency. Designing processes and systems around customer experience can increase customer participation, which in turn, speeds loan processing, generates significant productivity gains for the lender and reduces overall costs. Investing in the experience is not only good business to build loyal customers, but it is practical.

System of Growth and Opportunity: As the world becomes more connected, your origination technology platform is required to do more than react to business-driven processes and tasks. Systems need to support strategic growth plans including new technology and service integrations and extensions, business channel development, rapid product expansion and value creation initiatives. It should also support customer interactivity from various touch points, including online, mobile and video assistance. As you progress into the rapidly evolving technology and business environment, ensure that your business systems and infrastructure are more than just a system of record but offer opportunities to grow, evolve and engage with your customers.

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Attracting Borrowers In 2017

Are you looking to attract new borrowers in 2017? As the New Year approaches and many companies complete their goals and objectives for 2017, one item on the top of many lenders’ lists is attracting new borrowers. I am pretty sure that doesn’t surprise any of you. What is surprising is that lenders keep doing the same thing over and over, yet they expect different results. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

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It’s great to want to attract new borrowers in 2017. The challenge is if your methods didn’t work as well as you hoped for 2016, what is going to be different in 2017? Many lenders struggle with consistently reaching their target audience of potential borrowers with personalized marketing messages that trigger a response. That’s where marketing automation can make a difference.

Why is Marketing Automation so important to lenders’ success in 2017?

In order to survive and thrive in this mortgage environment of constantly changing rules and regulations, heightened competition for borrowers and extreme pressure to produce results, you must realize the need to identify high quality business opportunities. It is critical to identify leads quickly and efficiently and then drive them to the point-of-sale with compliant communications for converting them into borrowers. It’s equally important to retain these borrowers and to maximize their on-going value through repeat business and referrals.

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Consistently engaging these prospective borrowers in real time across a multitude of channels such as the Internet, email, social media, print, video, and mobile devices highlights the importance of working with a proven mortgage specific marketing automation solution that can bring out the best in your marketing while easing your compliance burden.

This requires a proven enterprise-wide marketing automation solution that supports you and your specific initiatives to consistently address these market conditions. Each person in your organization that is involved with driving growth is empowered to focus on what they do best. For example, Loan Officers are free to close more loans, instead of trying to create marketing materials. C-level executives are presented with sophisticated, yet easy-to-use tools for more effective oversight and management, while marketing managers can demonstrate their marketing genius and compliantly maintain brand consistency across the organization.

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Just having a CRM solution (electronic rolodex) or sporadically emailing some general marketing messages, and posting on social media every once in a while is not marketing automation. More importantly, it will not consistently and compliantly drive new business to the point of sale. So if you are serious about growing your lending business in 2017, it is critical to understand what mortgage specific marketing automation can do for your business.

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Get Personal To Ensure Success

The mortgage industry is all about relationships. So, when you are marketing, you have to make it personal. The pairing of Big Data and technology improvements has helped marketers get better at personalizing communications, says an infographic from Open Topic, an artificial intelligence platform.

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Although challenges in using data in an efficient and effective way still exist, technological improvements such as natural language processing and auto-publishing can help marketers navigate this territory, the infographic points out.

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And navigating that territory is worth it, as 66% of marketers say the main drivers of personalization are better customer experience and improved business performance, according to the infographic.

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With more personalized experiences leading to better, more loyal customers, there’s no reason not to be on board.

To find out more about how to make personalization a top priority for you, check out the infographic:

TLI1216-Data element

Communication Is Key

When considering operational risk management and preparing for disaster recovery a proper communication median is commonly overlooked. It is something so simplistic yet too often do we resort to outdated call trees. Relying on one person to call another and having that person call the next not only complicates the process but also leaves unlimited room for human error. An alert notification system will easily replace these old-fashioned methods. Implementing this type of system will help your business build an overall stronger risk management program by allowing key personnel to be notified in minutes. In doing so, management will be able to focus on critical decision making while eliminating human error, misinformation, rumors, and/or heightened emotions from causing additional difficulties during an event.

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It is important to look for an alert notification system that allows all types of communication including email, text message, and voice message. With all of today’s distractions, your alert notification system should allow you to cut through the noise and simply deliver the message. Always make sure to have back up contact information such as a second email address or second phone number to ensure that everyone is receiving the message at the same time. It is vital that your system allows you to easily create customized messages to be tailored to different target audiences based on roles within the organization and easily update your database with newly added and recently lost employee contact records.

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In addition, your alert notification system should support two-way communication to account for read receipts and acknowledgements. Tracking the delivery of messages is just as important as sending them. The objective of alert notification is to get the correct message to the correct people. With two-way communication, not only is the system able to track when the message is opened, but it will also track when the recipient made physical interaction by responding to the message. All report logs should display time stamps and contact records for proper disaster recovery eradication. Tracking this information and organizing current communications will strengthen the process and allow your organization to recover faster.

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For an all-encompassing operational risk management program, it is crucial for your alert notification system to integrate with your existing operational risk management systems. Company information such as employee contact information, associations to departments, locations, and even contact lists should only need to be updated in one system and automatically carry over to your other risk solutions. Whether you utilize the alert notification tool for operations closings, disaster notifications, or even to say “Happy Holidays,” a two-way communication tool will round out your recovery process and create an overall sufficient operational risk management solution.

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Get The Most Out Of 2017!

Believe it or not, we’re in 2017. So, you have to do everything possible to make this a banner year for your company. In the article entitled, “Want to Make 2017 Your Best Year Ever? This Olympic Coach Has a Super Simple Solution” by Chris Winfield, he asks if you ever had parts of your business or personal life that never change, despite your best efforts.

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Of course you have. According to Herman, everyone has. He’s helped Olympians, billionaires and professional athletes make those changes and break-through to new levels of performance.

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And he says it always starts with “game film” — regardless of if his client is a professional athlete, a movie star or an entrepreneur.

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In professional sports, athletes and coaches watch game film to review their performances and find ways to improve. It’s no coincidence that many of the greatest players and coaches of all-time have also been the greatest “film students”.

For example, Kobe Bryant watched so much game film that he was affectionately referred to as a “video friend.”

Legendary NFL coach, Bill Belichick, has watched so much film that he’s developed an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the game. He’s even been known to spend up to 20 minutes dissecting one single play!

So, how do you break down your game? There are five simple questions to ask yourself when looking back at the previous twelve months. When doing this, Herman says it’s important to pay attention to the “unexpected” things that happened and not just your “wins”.

  1. Is there anything you want to START doing?

A new year is all about starting something new, right? So when you look back at 2016, ask yourself if there’s anything you could have done that would have helped make it a more successful year. How can you start doing these things in 2017?

  1. Is there anything you want to STOP doing?

What held you back this year? What would you like to eliminate from your life? Whether it’s eating too many brownies or spending too much time on social media — figure out how you can stop doing the things that aren’t helping you.

  1. Is there anything that you want to CONTINUE doing?

What are the things that you are already doing that you’d like to keep doing in 2017?

With the next two questions, apply the 80/20 rule to what you spent the most time on during the year. You want to focus on the 20 percent of tasks that generate 80 percent of the benefit.

  1. Is there something you want to do LESS of?

This your “eighty percent.” Decide how to eliminate, delegate or cut down on these activities.

  1. Is there something that you want to do MORE of?

Figure out how you can spend more time on these activities.

Spend some quiet time to ask yourselves these simple questions and really break down what happened for you in 2016. Treat it like your own film session and have some fun with this.

This simple exercise will enable you to adjust your plans accordingly and drastically improve your performance in 2017!

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