Helping Servicers Thrive

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Last month, Nickie Badalamenti-Kalas, President at Five Brothers, said that the servicing market has changed significantly since the mortgage market imploded in the mid-2000s where we saw dramatic increases in loan defaults and foreclosure volumes. These heightened volumes impacted servicers and those companies handling default services, property preservation and REO disposition. While REO, short-sales and foreclosures have existed for quite some time, the sudden influx of foreclosures and rapidly expanding REO inventories lead to significant growth opportunities in a sector that traditionally flew under the radar. So, how can mortgage servicers be successful? Here’s what Badalamenti-Kalas said about that to our editor:

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Q: What are the key trends and most pressing issues facing servicers as it relates to asset management and field services?

NICKIE BADALAMENTI-KALAS: We are seeing legislation that has an impact on our industry, and the methods in which we are able to reasonably protect and preserve the collateral investment associated with home loans.

The mortgage industry continues to adjust to new and ever-changing regulatory demands, which is becoming increasingly more complex. This is especially true for servicers and asset management companies tirelessly working to compliantly protect their assets.

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With the influx of new rules and regulations, property preservation is not just about securing a property or boarding up a window; it is about preserving the look and overall values of neighborhood properties as if it were your own.

Q: In addition to those mentioned, do you see other important regulatory issues on the horizon?

NICKIE BADALAMENTI-KALAS: There has been legislation implemented in June, 2016 that applies to first lien mortgage holders and loan servicers regarding inspections, securing and maintaining with a $500 daily penalty for failure to follow the statute.

Q: How is technology helping to improve results for today’s mortgage servicers?

NICKIE BADALAMENTI-KALAS: Technology has made significant advances in our ability to deliver reliable, repeatable and accurate data. Together with advances in our ability to train vendors in the field, manage subcontractors with proof of service, geo-mapping and the ability to provide data immediately from the field. Technology reduces processing time and allows for controls to be implemented.

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Servicers have to adapt to this new regulatory environment by finding innovative ways to do the important work of protecting and maintaining assets. Investors today demand transparency. To provide this degree of information, asset management providers must deliver innovative technology solutions that ease the burden of the field service representative while delivering in-depth information to the investors.

Q: How is technology helping servicers handle the influx of new rules and regulations?

NICKIE BADALAMENTI-KALAS: Technology can be an organizational tool, a training tool and a method in which property preservation companies can automate redundant tasks. Additionally, technology offers the opportunity to manage a myriad of rules and regulations that are specific to the findings at a particular property.

Q: What are the most pressing issues the industry is facing in preserving and maintaining properties?

NICKIE BADALAMENTI-KALAS: Risk mitigation is a key issue today. There has been great deal of media focus associated with the removal of personals, and the perception that property preservation vendors and banks/ sub-servicers are somehow complicit in breaking into homes and removing personal property. We all know there are a variety of circumstances that contribute to making a reasonable judgment call that a property has become vacant. However, we are seeing the judicial system weigh in. In Jordan v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC, the state of Washington Supreme Court on July 7, 2016, held that entering and securing a property before foreclosure completion by changing the locks constitutes “taking possession” in violation of Washington State law.

Q: How can Servicers and field services companies work together to address these market conditions?

NICKIE BADALAMENTI-KALAS: There is a general consensus that servicers together with field service companies need to take a more aggressive position while the property is in presale. A more robust approach is believed to reduce the need for more costly repairs down the line, diminish code violations and preserve curb appeal and property value.

A declining market with great pressure to comply and fewer resources mandate a need for collaboration within the industry.   The real answer is a collective effort to devise solutions.

Servicers and asset management companies need to come together to leverage each other’s expertise in a highly collaborative way. One that allows the servicers to meet constantly changing investor and regulatory demands while partnering with the preservation companies to deliver compliant field services in a timely and accurate manner. That’s where collaboration is key.

Q: What should servicers be looking for in an asset management provider?

NICKIE BADALAMENTI-KALAS: First, providers must have a vast vendor network that has the depth and scope of coverage to be provide quality results while adhering to timeline expectations. Reliable data collection that allows for introspective analytics to support industry solutions and providing pre-foreclosure and post-sale services that allow for the preservation of market values and REO asset disposition.

Insider Profile

Nickie Badalamenti-Kalas is president at Five Brothers. She works directly with Five Brothers CEO, Joe Bada, to oversee the daily operations and long term strategic vision of Five Brothers. A dynamic entrepreneur, business leader, and skilled executive who brings leadership, insight, and new strategies that drive customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and profitability.

Industry Predictions

Nickie Badalamenti-Kalas thinks:

1.) A servicer’s ability to maximize assets and minimize risk will continue to be a pressing issue in the year to come.

2.) Technology advances will enhance our ability to deliver reliable, repeatable and accurate data.

3.) Servicers and asset management companies will need to continue to come together to leverage each other’s expertise in a highly collaborative way to address today’s most challenging issues.

Managing Operational Risk

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A major issue in the financial industry is due to institutions maintaining a narrow scope on operational risk management programs resulting in miscommunication and gaps in the process. In the past, the biggest focus of operational risk management was on business continuity, which became a job task for one particular employee. As the market place evolved, vendor management regulations became more prevalent and another person was designated into the responsibility of maintaining the vendors.

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More recently, incident response regulations due to an escalation of cyber security threats increased resulting in another person taking on the task of maintaining incident response. Instead of consolidating all operational risk management tasks and looking at it as a bigger picture, the different areas of risk were delegated amongst a large span of people. Because of this, people don’t communicate and products don’t communicate with each other. As a result, these individuals rarely maintain a large focus on these operational risk management tasks and when they do they only focus on a small aspect of the larger picture.

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Another issue in the financial industry is that operational risk management is often over looked if the institution isn’t under an auditor’s microscope. Their approach to operational risk management is reactive and defensive rather than proactive and going on the offensive to auditors and regulations. They look for systems after it is too late and they don’t have the resources to devote someone entirely to managing all areas of risk. They often panic and purchase one system covering a small part of the bigger problem. They devote the time and money into the system and then never use it to its full capabilities. The minimal amount of information input is just good enough to get that check mark from the auditor but will leave them scrambling when an actual event occurs due to an inefficient process.

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RemoteComply is the solution for these industry frustrations. Our suite allows the financial industry to easily manage all areas of operational risk management under one platform. Instead of spreading the job tasks across departments, the suite allows complete communication throughout the risk management process. The suite will put institutions ahead of the game due to best practices and complete compliance built into the system. RemoteComply is cost effective and will eliminate the need to delegate different job tasks based on each area of operational risk management. These functionalities save valuable time and resources.

About The Author

Unleash Your Marketing Genius

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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 clients. It’s equally important to retain these clients and to maximize their on-going value through repeat business and referrals.

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 marketing automation solution that can bring out the best in your marketing while easing your compliance burden.

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The right solution delivers a proven enterprise-wide marketing automation that supports you and your specific initiatives to 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.

Unleash a marketing solution that brings your creative genius to life, one that provides the power to quickly and consistently execute your marketing objectives while compliantly meeting the ever changing demands of the mortgage industry. Energize your marketing with mortgage specific marketing automation that is both easy for you to use and extremely powerful. Mobilize a partner who delivers years of experience in driving growth in the mortgage industry, a trusted advisor that is a difference maker in your business.

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Your Marketing Team’s Best Friend

The right marketing automation platform provides you with a solution to demonstrate your marketing genius while compliantly maintaining brand consistency across the entire organization. This type of solution enhances the Marketing Genius in you to drive business through increased efficiency with a custom company-marketing library. Consistent, relevant communication can easily be sent to all contacts companywide through each milestone in the loan process including the lead and post-close stages.

>> Automate your marketing activities

>> Experience a surge in your response rates

>> Provide consistent and relevant marketing content

>> Produce high quality content more quickly

>> Easily strengthen your marketing compliance

>> Drive brand consistency throughout organization

Experience a surge in response rates by communicating through all possible channels; email, mail and phone. Client retention increases by communicating more effectively than your competitions’ standard email marketing. Strengthen compliance with easy tracking and approval processes for those loan originators who want to easily create custom marketing.

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Going End-To-End

The right marketing automation uniquely models the entire marketing process for converting opportunity into revenue

>> Lead capture and qualification

>> Database management and mining

>> Audience segmentation and targeting

>> Content creation, storage and management

>> Multi-media delivery (including print mail)

>> Fast and secure execution and fulfillment

>> Real-time response tracking and reporting

Marketing-Toolbox

Here you’ll find hundreds of ready-to-go marketing materials that have been professionally prepared. Choose from postcards, letters, greeting cards, newsletters, emails, and much more. The materials are categorized by format, purpose and audience for easy access to exactly what you need. Content is constantly refreshed to target current business opportunities. In addition there are holiday greetings, home maintenance tips, recipe cards … something for every occasion.

Copy and Edit

You’re welcome to these materials and adapt them to meet your specific needs and brand standards. That’s why you’ll find a “copy” button against each item in the Marketing-Toolbox library. Clicking the button allows you to make a copy of the piece in your company’s private library, where you can edit it as necessary. You can even limit access to a specific branch or branches: for example, allowing only reverse mortgage specialists to view reverse mortgage content.

Creative Tools

Online activity builder gives you creative freedom where you need it.

Create Activities

The “create activity” button in your company library enables you to design marketing materials from scratch. Clicking the button takes you into a simple wizard that guides you through the steps that turn your marketing ideas into actionable content – in three minutes or less.

Set Up An Activity Series

With Activity Series Builder (ASB) it’s never been easier to create end-to-end “set it and forget it” marketing for all contact types: prospects, applicants (in-process), borrowers (closed customers) and business partners. The ASB’s setup wizard guides you through the following simple steps:

Make the series available to all or any subset of loan officers

>> Define target audience criteria for the series (e.g. per bucket)

>> Select the marketing materials you want from the content library

>> Specify the trigger event or date for generating each activity

>> Choose pay up-front or pay-as-you-go for each activity

>> Set the series to run for as many years as you want

>> Implement an optional pause following activity fulfillment

“Set it and forget it” technology drives high-quality business to the point-of-sale and accelerates long-term profitability.

In the mortgage industry, where loan officers find themselves operating in an increasingly complex and regulated environment, “set it and forget it” Marketing Automation is more urgently needed than ever. After all, you want your LOs to focus 100% on what they do best: originating and closing loans.

Beyond CRM

Marketing Automation delivers to lenders a reduction in the cost per lead, increases the ROI from marketing campaigns and significantly improves borrower acquisition rates. In today’s highly competitive and highly regulated lending environment, lenders must not only be able to quickly and effectively generate new business, they must also do it in a compliant manner. This is the promise on which enterprise-level mortgage-specific Marketing Automation delivers where traditional CRM couldn’t.

Compliance And Control

These days we’re all operating in a stringently regulated environment. Communications with leads, customers and even referral partners – whether driven from the center or by loan originators – must be controlled, but without inhibiting genuine creativity and individual initiative. One of that establishes a controlled environment in which ingenuity and enterprise are able to flourish. It does this by providing five levels of management control – including outright prohibition, online alerts, real-time oversight and comprehensive reporting. A unique built-in authorization loop ensures that your nominated managers approve all marketing materials – for example: compliance officer, brand supervisor – before being made available for use. When anything is created, copied or changed, these managers are notified by system-generated e-mail. They are free to approve or amend or even delete the item.

Analytics and reporting

Revealing Mission-Critical Metrics.

In the end it’s all about results. That’s why the right marketing automation must deliver a wide-range of analysis of your companies and originators’ production and tracks marketing activity driven through the system. The platform intelligently delivers essential information – including the value of your clients, referral partners and other sources of business – and readily reveals opportunities for incremental sales.

Predefined reports should include:

>> Production Analysis

>> Mailing Activity

>> Source of Business

>> Branch Productivity

>> Loan Officer Productivity

>> Realtor Referrals

Post-Close Marketing Automation

Foundation For Your Long-Term Success

LoyaltyWise Automated Programs maximize the retention of current clients and the revival of past clients. These pre-determined sequences of strategically timed marketing communications typically run for up to three years (or more) and can be extended at any time. Experience over many years has demonstrated that a well-configured LoyaltyWise Automated Program lays the firmest possible foundation for long-term success – not only by generating a steady flow of referrals, repeat sales and cross-sales from a loyal audience, but also by ensuring maximum response to on-demand Custom Campaigns.

Not All Marketing Automation is Created Equal

At TTP, we bring you the mortgage industry’s most advanced marketing automation solutions that compliantly address every aspect of your lending business from prospect, to in-process, applicant, and closed loan marketing programs. Since 1995, TTP has developed an industry leading reputation for setting the pace, and solving the marketing and communication challenges of lenders to consistently deliver results.

Headquartered in Mesa, Arizona, with offices throughout the United States, including a state-of-the-art production facility in Mesa, Arizona, our passionate and engaging team provides key insights, best practices and unmatched expertise so that your marketing programs deliver. We personally take the time to understand your business requirements, communication objectives, and work alongside you to bring out your marketing genius.

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Getting The Lines Straight

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Some of you may be familiar with the old adage, you only have to do two things in life, die and pay taxes. While some people might add working out and watching your gluten intake, paying taxes still remains very true. For property taxes to be paid correctly, it is crucial for servicers to set up loans correctly on their system during the boarding process. Not doing so could lead to penalties or even the loss of a property.

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The tax line is a record in a loan servicing system that includes all the data needed to identify when property taxes need to be paid, the amount of payment and what jurisdiction receives the payment.

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The following charts represent the monthly number of items and dollar amounts for occurrences of paying the wrong amount of property taxes. The information is based on LERETA national data from prior servicer/lender acquisitions from July 2015 through April 2016.

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One important area to be cognizant of is the tax line, which includes all the data needed to identify when property taxes need to be paid, the amount and the jurisdiction to receive the payment. The line includes:

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>> The tax payee code is the unique number assigned to identify the tax collection jurisdiction on the servicing system. This code cross-references to another file that includes the taxing jurisdiction name and mailing information.

>> The tax identification number is the actual number assigned to the property by the taxing jurisdiction and is required when obtaining any information from the taxing jurisdiction about the property.

>> The disbursement amount or last amount paid is the last amount paid to the taxing jurisdiction for this tax line (can be an annual or installment amount) and is updated with the current amount to be paid when new taxes become due.

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>> The due date is the date the servicer assigns to this line to alert them to an upcoming payment requirement (this date is based on business rules and is generally 15 to 30 days before taxes are due to the taxing jurisdiction).

>> The type is a code that identifies the type of taxes due, typically county property taxes, city taxes, school taxes and some non-standard payees, such as sewer taxes, garbage taxes, ground rents, etc. Servicers are required to report escrow payments annually to borrowers, and the tax type is used in preparing tax deductions on the borrower’s income tax return.

>> The term is used to identify the frequency the taxes are being paid, for example a Term of three indicates the annual taxes are being paid every three months, or quarterly (three months x four installments = 12 months).

>> Other codes as determined by the business rules of the servicer.

Servicers cannot rest on their laurels once the tax line is set up on a loan. It is extremely important that tax lines are monitored and maintained to ensure the accuracy of the data due and to any potential changes. Those changes could include new payees or the consolidation of taxing jurisdictions that no longer collects taxes, and how they are now collected by the county or separating taxing jurisdictions (a city decides to collect its own taxes instead of them being included by the county). There could also be changes in the due dates, contact information or tax identification numbers.

Servicers can either take on the responsibility of managing this process or work with a tax service vendor that can offer and facilitate the tax line setup and tax line audit services on behalf of the servicer. Either way, the taxes have to be paid correctly, else penalties will be incurred, which no one wants to happen.

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Robots And AI Invade Banking

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From Rosie the Maid, a humanoid robot fictional character from the 1960’s animated TV series The Jetsons, to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Isaac Asimov’s ‘I, Robot’ and even WALL-E, C-3PO, Optimus Prime and R2-D2, robots have always fascinated and entertained consumers. But, in real life, they have been far less entertaining (or functional).

Sure, they have become a part of every factory room floor in manufacturing and have played major roles in space exploration and taken on difficult and dangerous tasks, but until recently, robots have not proven to be nearly as intelligently evolved (or financially viable) as projected.

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That is all changing. The exponential growth in the power of technology, digital sensors and information processing has improved the potential of robots at the same time as the innovation and investment in these devices is taking off. Both businesses and consumers can benefit from the rise of the robots.

While much focus is placed on making smart people smarter, the leading benefit of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) processes today is to standardize delivery followed by improved domain expertise and skills as subject matter experts, including language capabilities.

Robots and AI in Banking

The primary opportunity for robots and AI tools in the banking industry at this time is that they can extend the creative problem-solving capabilities and productivity of human beings and deliver superior business results, states Cognizant in a report on the use of this new digital technology. Their research shows that through these technologies, humans have the potential of attaining new levels of process efficiency, such as improved operational cost, speed, accuracy and throughput volume.

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The opportunity for cost savings is the first place where AI and process automation will impact banking. In the Cognizant study, 26% of banking respondents stated they have enjoyed 15%-plus cost savings from automation in their front office and customer-facing functions compared with one year ago, and 55% expect those same levels of savings (15% or more savings) within the next three to five years.

According to Cognizant, the top drivers for automation beyond cost savings include:

>> Reduced error rates (21%)

>> Better management of repeatable tasks (21%)

>> Improved standardization of process workflow (19%)

>> Reduce reliance on multiple systems/screens to complete a process (14%)

>> Reducing friction (11%)

Cognizant found that nearly half of the banks surveyed (45%) have also seen at least 10% revenue growth from analytics aligned with their front office and customer-facing functions, a number that is anticipated to rise to nearly three out of every four banks during the next three to five years. The result is that banking is more inclined than other industry surveyed to automate their processes, often due to their need to better focus on customers.

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While process automation and the processing insight from transactions can impact all areas of the banking organization, including human resources, finance and accounting, customer service and even new product development, the impact of FTEs is projected to be significant. In fact, 19% of banks surveyed by Cognizant believe there can be a 25% FTE reduction today, with 28% believing a 25% reduction in FTEs will be possible in the next 3-5 years.

So what jobs may be at risk? As noted in a recent post by futurist and best-selling author, Brett King on the future of AI in banking, a study released by Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology evaluated how susceptible are jobs to computerization. Evaluating around 700 jobs, and classifying them based on how likely they are to be computerized, the jobs in the financial services industry that fit the studies criteria include:

>> Bank Teller

>> Loan Officer

>> Mortgage Broker

>> Insurance Claims and Policy Processing Clerk

>> Insurance Underwriters

>> Claims Adjusters, Examiners and Investigators

>> Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks

>> Tax Preparers

When asked about the biggest challenges associated with efforts to digitize processes, executives across industries say that data security is the biggest issue they confront, now and in the future. Fifty-two percent of respondents to the Cognizant survey indicated that data security is the chief challenge today.

It is believed that as digital processes proliferate, and as leaders see the value they create, an entirely new ecosystem of value-added services will develop to ensure the security, risk, privacy and compliance of the value chain of information these processes generate.

Nao and Pepper Entertain and Serve Banking Clients

As a ‘living’ example of how robots can be utilized in financial services, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ took a first step toward employing non-human staff in April, with the introduction of a customer service humanoid robot at its flagship Tokyo outlet. Standing 58 cm tall and weighing 5.4 kg, the Nao robot worked at the reception area, according to Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc.

The robot, named Nao, was developed by French company Aldebaran Robotics, a subsidiary of Japanese telecom and technology giant SoftBank Corp., speaks Japanese, English and Chinese and was thought to be the first among the world’s major financial institutions to employ a customer-facing robot.

The robot uses various gestures and analyzes facial expressions and behavior to provide context appropriate responses to customer questions. It operates in 19 languages, offering the bank significant opportunity to expand the language coverage should the robot service take off.

While the robot is not intended to replace branch workers with a robot, they are being used to meet and greet customers, answering simple questions with various languages, freeing up some of the branch staffs’ time to work on more value added services. High-definition cameras record and match different customers, so identification can begin as soon as the customer steps through the door of the branch.

“Currently, in a lot of branches, there are cases where quite a few customers don’t speak Japanese or English and so we can have Nao do an initial check (on their needs) so that it can lead to a trouble-free setting up of an account or other carrying out of other administrative issues,” said Tadashi Betto, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Chief Manager of eBusiness and IT Initiatives Division.

Using stored insight, the robot routes the customer to the appropriate person based on past experience, products utilized or current mobile activity. Nao uses each interaction to learn a customer’s preferences and personality which enables the robot to increase the accuracy of each subsequent interaction.

Nao lasts 12 hours between charges, costs approximately $8,000 and can remember details from more than 5.5 million customers and over 100 different products. While there are limits to Nao’s capabilities (currently), this is both cheaper and more product conversant than any human in the same role.

Meanwhile, local competitor Mizuho Bank also plans to use a robot to assist customers in the next few months. Mizuho will use Pepper, Nao’s big brother, at several of its branches in much the same way as Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

Pepper, roughly twice the size of Nao, could become the first humanoid consumer robot and the beginning of an era of mechanized, cloud-connected ’emotion-reading’ digital assistants. Having gone on sale to the public in June for roughly $1,600 (plus data charges), the robot communicates in multiple languages, using sensors and cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and having the ability to evolve its skills over time through ongoing learning.

“Thanks to its ’emotion engine,’ Pepper can recognize human feelings and simulate them. It can also learn new skills as it spends more time with users and connects through the SoftBank cloud to thousands of other Peppers,”says its developers.

Robots Invade the U.S.

Sterling Bank & Trust in California have introduced two robots as greeters at the bank’s new locations opening in Cupertino and Alhambra, in the Los Angeles area. As part of their ‘training,’ the two robots made appearances at the bank’s San Francisco branches.

More a novelty than providing any significant off loading of duties during the initial use at Sterling, the robots are highly popular with children and grandchildren, said Steve Adams, senior vice president of Sterling Bank & Trust. The robots demonstrate kung fu moves and dancing while also greeting customers and handing out bankers’ business cards.

Hello Watson

IBM previously announced that its Watson-based chat advisor application built banking is being adopted by banks and other financial institutions for customer service and scaling wealth management. Genesys, a customer service company, will use IBM’s Watson system to better handle its clients’ customers’ needs. Banks are the service’s first clients. This same system is being used with the Pepper robot implementation discussed above.

IBM also sees artificial intelligence playing a big role in bringing wealth management to the masses. The intention is to take the expertise of wealth advisors and build it into a system so that people can interact with the system to get the first parts of the wealth management conversation handled. While using AI for wealth management goes beyond simple Q&A applications, Singapore development bank DBS as well as the Australian bank ANZ are already developing wealth management applications that are based on Watson.

“The goal is to take basic customer service and the wealth advisor to scale. Robotics are going to handle client interaction that doesn’t have to be face to face,” said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM’s Watson’s group. For more on robo-advising, Chris Skinner has discussed this well on his Financial Services Club Blog.

Barclays also made an announcement around the use of robot technology to make money transfers and to perform other rudimentary tasks. An artificial intelligence (AI) system similar to Apple’s iPhone personal assistant Siri may be used so that people will be able to talk to a device and receive the information they ask for.

“We’re very soon going to be entering a world where we may not have to be physically touching a device in order to execute transactions or to be able to engage with computers,” Derek White, chief design and digital officer at Barclays, told CNBC in an interview at London Technology Week. It is thought that Barclays could potentially design apps that integrate with such robot systems allowing users to do banking by talking to their mobile devices.

Preparing for the Robot Revolution

According to David Brear from Think Different Group, robots as the replacement for humans is a ways off. On the other hand, he emphasizes that, since the best customer branch experience is based on a deep understanding of the consumer, their situation and a good degree of empathy, artificial intelligence could definitely help in supplementing current, somewhat misguided and frustrating branch experiences.

“The better use of data and use of AI to standardize the decision making process should lead to every customer interaction being with empowered staff at the very top of their game. So rather than replacing them with an ‘android,’ we are heading towards improved technology and data facilitated discussions and meetings.”

Robotic process automation with sophisticated technologies is here to stay. Humans will remain essential to how knowledge work is orchestrated and managed, but technologies can now create more effective knowledge workers while simultaneously generating and capturing data that can improve processes and eliminate wasteful steps.

One of the insights of Asimov was that it is easier to ask such questions when the technology is more human-like. With this in mind, robots could serve as the collectors of new insights and perspectives – as people look at them and see them looking back … with some form of automated understanding of their needs, temperament and behavioral tendencies.

Start today, imagine how the future of work will look when digital machines, information and processes help humans do their jobs better, faster and with greater impact. By automating systems and interpreting data and insight, robots have the potential to work side-by-side with humans, allowing them to serve customers more effectively.

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The Changing Market

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A past article in Forbes magazine stated, “The mortgage industry has been extremely volatile since early 2005 – with a boom in 2005-2007 followed by the crash that contributed to the economic downturn. As the economy recovered from the recession, record-low interest rates and government-led incentives gave a boost to the industry in 2011-2012, when homeowners rushed to get their mortgages refinanced to benefit from the improved interest rate environment and lending terms. Refinancing activity dried up soon, though, and without much improvement in the demand for fresh mortgages, Q1 2014 saw the lowest mortgage origination volumes since Q3 1997. Things did not improve much till Q2 2015 – when the impending rate hike by the Fed gave potential homeowners a reason to apply for mortgages before mortgage rates head north.”

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Then along came TRID. I am not going to take the time to rehash the background, challenges, and concerns related to the implementation of this rule; numerous articles have been published on this topic already. Suffice to say that all the parties involved, with a few exceptions, could have and should have done better. However, we are not out of the woods yet. Now we are faced with the HMDA changes and implementation of the new URLA. Enough said.So what’s next? Let’s look at the Five Trends That Will Shape the Mortgage Industry in 2016, published by Tavant Technologies:

1.) Interest rates are on the rise – There is potential for future rate increases from the Federal reserves. Rates are expected to rise by up to 1% in 2016. Increased interest rates may prevent many first-time buyers from entering the housing market. The millennials, already reeling under student debt could delay home purchases.

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2.) The rise of Millennials – Growing up in a digital age, their set of priorities and buying behavior is different to the previous generations. Born between 1980 and 2000, millennial purchasing power is at an all-time high. As the first digital natives, they naturally expect lenders to engage with them on digital platforms. Lenders are cranking up their tech muscle and developing digital platforms to capture this lucrative market. However, rising student loan debts may withhold them from immediate purchases.

3.) Marketplace lenders continue to transform the industry – Marketplaces are revolutionizing industries across business lines. Marketplace lending platforms match borrowers with investors who purchase securities backed by notes issued by these platforms. By adding critical functions in the middle, they are leveraging technology to unlock value, deliver scale and in the process take a significant market share. In a digital world, technology allows marketplace lenders to use advanced data analytics to make possible credit decisions, reduce risk and enhance customer experience. Marketplace lenders will continue to disrupt the market

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4.) Automation is the way forward – Buying a home is a complex process. It involves multi-layered, levels of approvals across a relatively long timeframe. Equipped with an array of options, the digital consumer expects speed across the loan application cycle. Lenders are looking to eliminate roadblocks and deliver superior customer experience. Lenders will leverage automation and adopt advanced technology platforms to automate credit assessment process, track customer sentiment, and detect fraud.

5.) Cheaper to buy than rent – Rental rates across the United States continue to rise. Rental vacancy rates are at a low for both apartments and houses. Growth in rental rates is higher than inflation, and buying is cheaper than renting in major urban markets. With an increasing need to be mobile and lower than average employee tenure, millennials may not want to commit to living in a single location. This could impact buying behavior and keep rentals at a high.

We also have to consider the housing market’s impact on the mortgage industry. Let’s summarize some of the predictions for 2016 and beyond. According to a report from Kiplinger, the housing market is settling into a slower, more predictable pace. Home prices are up 3% in 2016, continuing the upward trend of 4% in 2015 and 6.4% in 2014. According to Clear Capital, homes values rose in 236 of the 276 cities tracked. For the most part they are still regaining ground lost in the 2808 meltdown. However, nearly 13% of homes are underwater by at least 25%, according to RealtyTrac.

Homeowners aren’t selling. For various reasons, people aren’t moving as often, so fewer existing homes are coming onto the market, particularly at the entry level. Some of this is related to the math of job hopping. The people most likely to move when changing jobs are younger workers, and Millennials often make the move without having a home to sell first. Many entry-level homes remain in the hands of other generations, and home prices have risen to a point where some of these potential sellers can’t afford to buy that next level home in their current neighborhood.

The number of housing units actually occupied has increased by two million units over the past four quarters. We only built 1.1 million new units, so the additional 900,000 units occupied came from previously-vacant housing. We are underbuilding housing right now. The new occupancy comes partly from population growth, but that only accounts for half the increased demand.

New construction remains slow. This spring, groundbreakings stood at an annual rate of 1.138 million, while an estimated 1.5 million is needed to get supply back in line with demand. These figures are even more imbalanced when we consider that the majority of homes built in the last few years have been constructed and priced with a more well-to-do consumer in mind—too often these are not the starter homes that would allow pent-up demand to find a ready outlet.

Alex Villacorta, chief economist with Clear Capital, states “The two most important housing market trends to watch in 2016 will be the continued growth of rental rates and the moderating trend in home prices. The pattern seen in 2015 was largely characterized by a white-hot rental market, and if this continues, more households will likely choose to rent over buy in 2016. In addition to driving rental prices up and vacancy rates down, this trend disengages an increasing proportion of potential home buyers — evidenced by the lowest homeownership rate in almost 50 years.”

The industry often considers the problem of Millennials and what it will take to get them into the home-buying market in greater numbers. Perhaps the problem isn’t with the Millennials so much as with the housing options available to them. According to a Trulia survey, consumers rank interest rates a distant third among their housing market concerns. Their top two concerns? Finding a home they like and qualifying for a mortgage.

Mortgage lending has always been very cyclical in nature. Analysis has showed significant contributing factors, some of which are beyond the control of the lender and some that are the result of the lender not being able to formulate strategic responses in a timely fashion. These factors include the job market, economy, interest rates, available homes, and the ability to obtain a mortgage.

Now the landscape has changed significantly. Current, pending, and future regulatory requirements need to be addressed. The future of the GSEs is in limbo. But the biggest challenge is to tailor your product and solutions to the different segments of the population. The next President’s vision for the industry is unknown.

A rear view mirror only has value when we use that perspective to adjust our current actions. We cannot use it to lament missed opportunities. If there ever was a time to significantly embrace technology and innovative solutions, it is in front of us.

About The Author

Progress Through Changing Industry Culture

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I grew up in western Pennsylvania. This is the part of the state west of the Allegany mountains and formerly the coal and steel center of the nation. Because of the mountains, most communities were small towns located in the low lying areas known as the “hollows” or as some say “hollers”. Towns named Crabtree, Red Onion and Hunker were located in my “neck of the woods” and those of us raised there were used to “reding up”, using “gum bands” and taking our lunches to school in a “poke”. Not only did I attend high school in this area, but graduated from a university is the same area. This was the American culture I knew, the shared values and patterns of behavior learned through the socialization process of that region.

Upon receiving my degree, I moved to the Washington D.C. area. It might well have been the moon for me. Every belief I had was challenged, the language was different and people inhabiting the area were from many different backgrounds and regions of the country. Their culture was totally different than mine and it took a while to learn to evaluate and appreciate the values, intellectual beliefs and moral faculties presented to me. Eventually however, the culture of the area became mine as well.

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Then I received an invitation to attend a high school class reunion and was shocked to discover that many of my fellow graduates still lived with the same cultural beliefs that were prevalent years ago. They still held to the beliefs, concepts and social structures that existed in that region of the country in the 1950s and 60s. After several discussions, and I admit, frustration on my part, it occurred to me that while they were aware of the changes in American society and the world, they had adapted only to those that were comfortable for them within their beliefs and behaviors. In other words, their culture.

This got me thinking. Could the same thing occur within a specific organization or industry? Could an occupation such as teachers or an industry such as mortgage lenders have developed their own “culture”. Would this culture have characteristics, knowledge and behaviors that are unique to it? What if this culture’s beliefs were different than society’s as a whole? If so, can that culture be changed if necessary?

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The answers to these questions required some research and I started by searching the internet. On a site called “Live Science” I found this definition of culture “The characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people…” and this as well, “Shared patterns of behavior that are learned by socialization.” It also included this rationalization of how cultures develop; “…the growth of a group identity fostered by social patterns unique to the group.” Merriam Webster defined culture as “A way of thinking, behaving or working that exists in a place or an organization.”

Where do we look to determine what an organization’s culture is all about? What will tell us about the industry, who belongs, what values they have and how they interact with others? One way is to become involved with them by joining the group, interact with them on a professional level or using the services they provide. Another way is to review what they have done, what has been written about them and what they claim are their standards and values. If we did this what would we find out about the culture of mortgage lenders?

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One thing is certain, we would find a lot of negative information based on the past 10 to 12 years. It is likely that not only would the problems of the mortgage crisis be heavily discussed, but it is very likely that much of the effort put into fighting regulations that came from that period would be included as well. Let’s face it, in the eyes of most consumers, mortgage lenders have not yet regained a trustworthy status. If asked, many consumers would indicate that they believe lenders are only interested in making money and many lenders, like the example given by Dan Ariely in his book Predictably Irrational, are representative of the industry itself. In this example a large bank was given the option of offering consumers a “self-control” credit card in order to prevent them from overspending and accumulating large amounts of debt. In doing so however, the bank would lose approximately $17 billion in interest paid on these accounts. The bank refused the offer putting the interest income above the benefit that could be gained by the consumer.

Do these examples really reflect the mortgage lending culture? Are we more likely to focus on the $300 Million loan package sale to an investor than the $100,000 individual loan? Are the loan officers we employ ignoring potential applicants asking for smaller loans or are products that are part of affordable housing programs in order to concentrate on larger loans? Even from an insider’s viewpoint the answer to this question seems to be yes. While the “originate and sell” focus that was so berated during the crisis investigation has been mitigated to some extent, it appears that the culture that created it has not changed much at all. Have we progressed in changing the culture that created the crisis in the first place? Have we endorsed the changes brought about by regulation and refocused on consumer interests? In the period since the mortgage crisis have we taken steps to change this culture?

Consumers and regulators must acknowledge that if looked at closely they would also see an industry that is trying to make itself more efficient by using technology to perform many of the tasks associated with its product as well as address the perception that consumers’ needs and concerns are not critical to the success of their industry. They would also discover that while there has been a tightening of credit in many products, there are still many options available to address their specific needs. They would see an industry that has added more staff to review loan files to make sure the regulations that were enacted are met. So do these changes reflect a better industry whose focus is the consumers’ satisfaction and investor confidence instead of their own profitability?

Rather than asking if these statements and examples accurately portray our culture, maybe we should instead ask ourselves what we want our culture to be? Are we truly interested in focusing on consumers; putting them first; meeting all the regulatory requirements, ensuring the quality of the loans by developing individual QC programs that accurately measure product quality, analyzing what issues really impact loan performance and developing better communications and loss prevention strategies? Haven’t we done enough already to change the culturally image of the industry? And if this negative culture still exists how do we go about changing it?

Based on previous experiences it appears that changing a culture is not something done quickly or by adding some new technology? All we have done to date is comparable to simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. If we want to make progress in the lending culture more effort is required.   Several years ago I worked with the MBA to rewrite the Code of Ethics for members of the industry. That may be a place to start. However, what we really need is the development of strong statements and actions that reflect our focus. We have to tear apart the very fabric of what we do and how we do it and in order to do that we must have some knowledge about the products and services we provide. Yet we have never taken the time to conduct a real analysis. For example, with all the defaults in Pay Option arms, there were some that performed yet there was never any analysis done on the loans that performed to identify what made the difference. Maybe if we had we would be able to identify if there are actually some opportunities for consumers to benefit. We have not analyzed our processes to determine what aspects of them, if done incorrectly, are more likely to result in a loan default. We make pricing decisions based on perceived risks such as product type, occupancy, property type, DTI and LTVs, yet those data points have not been analyzed in the context of process issues. As for Fair Lending, has anyone ever truly analyzed the HMDA data to determine if there are actual patterns or opportunities for expanding homeownership. For example, we are continually assaulted with the fact that approval rates for whites are higher than African Americans yet when you delve into the data the results show than almost 50% of the applications are for female borrowers and female borrowers of all races and ethnicity are denied at higher rates than their male counterparts.

Servicing actions have also come under greater scrutiny which resulted in the perception of the servicing culture as one of “just get the money or foreclose”. While the changes in the loss mitigation efforts implemented through the new regulations and government policies initially indicated that there was not a significant change in performance, little has been discussed or analyzed about the impact in an improving economy.

Becoming a respected and valued industry in American society and its economy is something that we all want to achieve yet our efforts to date do not seem to be improving our culture. Technology, while important, cannot and will not address the problems that are generated from the culture that continues to exist today. Only thorough digging deep into the issues and making changes based on the knowledge that comes from real analysis will we be able to make some real progress in lending. One need only look at the auto industry to see what can happen. This industry was regarded as “dead” by many Wall Street analysts because of its approach to producing cars that was made them profitable. Once they realized that this culture was the primary source of their problems and they made radical changes in the approach to the design and product of their products were they able to recapture their prominence in the American economy.   It is a lesson that could benefit mortgage lenders.

About The Author

The Power Of E-Mail

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When you talk about e-mail, you usually don’t equate it to a way of bringing in more revenue. That’s a mistake In the article entitled “A Guide to Cold E-Mailing” published in the Harvard Business Review, the author notes that cold e-mailing is harder than most communication for two reasons. You have no relationship with your audience yet, and you lack non-verbal feedback, so you can’t modify your approach in real time. As a result, most cold e-mails fail.

But they can work well. In this article it is noted that people have built careers and launched start-ups with little more than cold e-mails.

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There isn’t much research on cold e-mail, though Shane Snow did an interesting experiment for his book entitled Smatcuts. He sent 1,000 cold e-mails to executives and got almost no response. So, he tried again with a smaller slice of the same group and got better results by applying a few principles that line up with my extensive cold e-mail experience and some great advice.

An effective cold -mail does five things. It should:

1.) Tailor the message to the recipient. You need to do your research. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do that.

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You have to personalize your e-mail. Personalization means that you’ve thought about who this person is, how they see the world, what interests them, and what they like. This shows them you have put work into understanding them.

It’s also important to make sure your request isn’t easily fulfilled another way.

2.) Validate yourself. When we meet a stranger or get an e-mail from one, we want to know who that person is and why that person matters to us.

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Remember that when you’re the stranger. You’ve already done a bunch of research on the people you’re e-mailing, but they don’t know anything about you. You need to show them you’re credible and they can trust you.

Knowing someone in common is the strongest form of social proof you can offer. If you have any direct connections, mention them. A mutual friend means you are no longer a stranger.

Lacking that, if you have any authority, credibility, or social status that is relevant to this person and your request, mention it quickly — a line or two should do it. The more “important” you are, the more likely you are to get a response.

If you have no real status, that’s fine. Find a commonality. Being part of the same group, especially if it’s a personal group, is a core human attraction. Look for unexpected connections, like hometowns and unusual hobbies.

The point is, you want to find a way to go from “stranger” to part of the recipient’s group.

3.) Alleviate your audience’s pain or give them something they want. Why should the recipient care about your e-mail? Why should this busy person take time to respond to it? What’s in it for them?

If you’ve done your research and found a major pain point for the recipient, and you can offer relief, highlight that. If you can’t solve a problem, give people something they want. Offer to connect them with someone they’d like to meet — that stands out, since almost no one gives before they ask. But your gift needs to feel appropriate, from one stranger to another. An Amazon gift card would be super awkward and weird.

4.) Keep it short, easy, and actionable. The opportunity to help someone is very enjoyable for a lot of people — it may even qualify as a “want.” By asking for help, you are giving them the chance to feel good about themselves. But make it easy for them.

You probably know this, but short e-mails are more likely to be read than long ones. And e-mails that request clear, specific action get a much higher response rate. Long-winded, rambling cold e-mails suck.

One of the best ways to keep things short and direct is to write the way you’d talk. If you met this person at a cocktail party, you wouldn’t just walk up and start pitching them. You’d introduce yourself, say something nice, connect with them over a shared friend or interest, and then make a request that makes sense.

I would recommend reading your e-mail out loud before you send it. If it sounds natural, then it will read well.

To make your “ask” easy and actionable, do as much work for your audience as you can. “Let me know if you want to meet up” is terrible. This forces someone to exert mental energy to make a decision for both of you, and it puts the onus on them to sort out the details. It’s short, but not easy or actionable.

Compare that with this: “I can meet on Monday or Tuesday between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. at Compass Coffee on 8th. If that doesn’t work, tell me what does, and I’ll make it happen.” That gives them a clear, easy action to take, with specific bounded options.

But there’s more to a good “ask” than just telling people what you want. How you tell them matters a lot.

5.) Be appreciative — and a little vulnerable. I would even go so far as to say you should be slightly submissive.

By expressing gratitude and some vulnerability, you give them the feeling that they are a good person if they choose to help. You also give them a little rush of power and status, because you’re approaching them.

This gets results. Even just saying, “Thank you so much! I am really grateful” to a request doubles response rates. And tell people it’s fine if they are too busy. Giving them a way out actually makes them more likely to help you.

All this may sound obvious, but again, very few people do it. I’d say about half the people who have cold emailed me expressed no appreciation beyond a perfunctory “thanks.” And the other half either sounded brusque or entitled. Really — strangers asking for huge favors say things like “Lemme know how quickly I can expect you to get this done.” Clearly, they don’t feel like waiting around. But that tone has repercussions: I don’t feel like helping them.

Finally, don’t use a template. If you Google “cold e-mail template” you will find a LOT of them. I looked through dozens, and though some were very good for mass email and sales, I could not find a good template for a personalized cold email.

Which makes sense. By definition, if something is personalized, it doesn’t come from a template. That’s why this article lays out principles but has no scripts.

About The Author

Mortgage Fraud Trends

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CoreLogic released its latest Mortgage Fraud Report. As of the end of the second quarter of 2016, the report shows a 3.9 percent year-over-year increase in fraud risk, as measured by the CoreLogic Mortgage Application Fraud Risk Index.

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The analysis found that during the second quarter of 2016, an estimated 12,718 mortgage applications, or 0.70 percent of all mortgage applications, contained indications of fraud, as compared with the reported 12,814, or 0.67 percent in the second quarter of 2015.

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The CoreLogic Mortgage Fraud Report analyzes the collective level of loan application fraud risk the mortgage industry is experiencing each quarter. CoreLogic develops the index based on residential mortgage loan applications processed by CoreLogic LoanSafe Fraud Manager, a predictive scoring technology. The report includes detailed data for six fraud type indicators that complement the national index: identity, income, occupancy, property, transaction, and undisclosed real estate debt.

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“Mortgage application fraud risk will likely rise over the next few years if current trends of higher LTV purchases and increased credit availability continue,” said Bridget Berg, senior director, Fraud Solutions Strategy for CoreLogic. “Because post-fund quality control findings are biased to specific types of fraud that are easy to detect shortly after closing, lenders should not rely only on those results to measure fraud risk.”

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A Checklist To Find The Right Partner

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The CFPB, OCC and investors all require due diligence on your third party service providers, including your vendors in appraisal operations. The OCC published a bulletin in 2013 with specific mandates for your vendor selection process, as well as the ongoing performance reporting expectations.

Vendor due diligence is part of your compliance, but what should you really look for when it comes to technology partners in appraisal operations? What are the risks, and how can you effectively monitor performance over time? As compliance exams kick into high gear, here’s a list of recommendations:

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Consider a site visit. As stated in the OCC Bulletin, if the relationship is critical to your operations, you are required to minimize that risk for your borrowers. For relationships as important as your primary appraisal management companies (AMC) or vendor management software platform, we recommend a site visit. Take a tour of the facilities, meet the technology experts charged with powering your collateral valuation pipeline, and investigate their reliability first-hand.

Check client lists, referrals and experience. When you’re choosing an AMC and a technology platform, look at their client base. Are they handling significant order volumes every day? Is it a proven solution that can handle your volume? Choose a tested partner that’s endorsed by other industry leaders.

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Automate audit trails on every transaction for compliance. All the compliance safeguards in the world are irrelevant if you can’t prove it later. With any appraisal service provider, make sure you can get a full audit trail on the entire transaction, automatically stored so you can get it later if needed. Record when it was ordered, when it was assigned and completed and when the borrower was provided copies, with time and date stamps. In the case of an exam, these verifications of your due diligence on every file will be invaluable.

With vendor management software, choose enterprise solutions over custom-built, one-off implementations. Many lenders use multiple AMCs and need a software platform to manage the pipeline across all channels. Beware of a fully customized solution and place higher priority on your own risk mitigation in this regulatory climate. While software developers may offer to build you a custom application, you may be at a distinct disadvantage with that method for several reasons. ?First, if you have a custom software build, you’re not as likely to leverage the industry and compliance knowledge of your peers. Lenders and AMCs across the country are implementing intelligent quality and compliance safeguards every day, and without exposure to those enterprise-level platforms, it will be difficult to keep up with the latest innovations that help you with compliance and enhance your profit. Your appraisal operations unit isn’t an area of your business where any lender can afford extra risk, especially considering the penalties and consequences of non-compliance. For this reason, it’s always prudent to choose a solution that other industry leaders are also using. Another disadvantage of a custom software build is that it’s difficult to make changes or effectively scale your operations as your company grows. Development costs will always be unpredictable, and compliance deadlines will likely be difficult to manage without dedicated technology project managers on your staff.

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Rely on technology companies for software. Several appraisal management companies have introduced vendor management platforms, but their primary business is full-service appraisal management and report review, not technology development. Think about it this way: If you’re placing appraisal orders on your AMC’s corporate website, are you sure the AMC is protecting the non-public information of your borrowers? Is its website truly secure and compliant with Gramm-Leach-Bliley, PCI Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, and the other privacy regulations???This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use those same AMCs for the high-quality appraisal reports you need.  However, you should deploy a secure technology solution that integrates with their system, so you can rest assured your data is secure regardless of the AMC’s technological capabilities or vulnerabilities. In accordance with the OCC’s requirement of being able to switch vendors easily, deploying your own technology platform allows you to quickly change vendors should the need arise, because your internal systems aren’t entangled with the vendors’ technology.

Verify that your vendor’s tools are compliant.  Make sure your solution has automated tools to help you with compliance.  Here are a few common pitfalls we’ve seen. ??The new Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) Valuations rule:  We’ve seen many lenders and AMCs skipping the critical step of Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN) compliance where they must obtain acknowledgements from borrowers before electronic delivery of the report.  Verify your solution is handling this in compliance with the new regulations.??Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act:  As specifically mentioned in the OCC Bulletin, the most common violation of the consumer-privacy safeguards in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that we hear about in appraisal operations is the attachment of appraisal reports to unencrypted e-mail messages.  In other words, if an AMC or service provider attaches your appraisal as a PDF or XML in a simple e-mail message, they could be in violation of GLB. The steep penalties for non-compliance with GLB are calculated on a per-occurrence basis, so this risk should be avoided by selecting service providers with built-in safeguards. PCI compliance: If your platform or AMC accepts a borrower’s payment information, verify his or her PCI compliance. Is the borrower’s payment information secure?  We’ve seen popular platforms with serious security lapses when it comes to borrower credit card information.

Choose good solutions for production, but maintain compliance. Some lenders have sacrificed loan officer access for compliance, but you can still maintain appraiser independence while giving your production staff the tools they need. You can give originators permission-based access to tools that make entering orders easy; give them instant status updates; and give them the ability to send messages and revision requests, edit borrower contacts and even place appraisal orders on hold or cancel them. Another key to loan officer happiness with appraisal operations is a tight integration with your originator’s loan origination system (LOS) that will reduce errors and hassles from re-keying data, and lessen the work your production staff has to do to get the appraisal ordered.

Demand vendor-performance reporting. Whether you use AMCs, individual appraisers or a combination of both, the third-party oversight requirements mandate that you have the ability to monitor and report on the performance of all your vendors. ??When looking at platforms, this should be a priority — not only to satisfy regulators, but also to guide operations in vendor selection.  You should have access to vendor-performance statistics such as quality, turn time and revision rates.

Consider integrations and partner lists. Is your third-party provider integrated with your existing systems and other software companies in the industry?  Even if you don’t need an integration yet, readily available software integrations will enhance your operations, reduce delays and errors, and streamline your compliance.  Integration partners also reveal a great deal about the provider’s technological reliability and industry reputation.  If integrations are publicly announced but don’t yet exist, if they take too long to implement or they’re generally lacking, you have warning signs that your provider may not be as agile and modern as you need it to be. ??When you find technology that easily integrates with other software systems, it’s a sign that the company is customer-driven and innovates according to its user base.  In this industry, all of us need to use a variety of technology solutions and no one has a magic box that will solve all your challenges, so the ability to work well with others is critical to the success of your operations.

Ask for great support, uptime statistics and disaster-recovery plans. Get the support and service your team will need. If the relationship is critical to your operations, as most appraisal service providers are, it’s important that you select a provider that can answer your questions, and provides you with the service you need to avoid delays and deliver superior service to your borrowers.

More checklists like this to help lenders comply with regulations and optimize their internal operations are available as free downloads at www.MercuryVMP.com/Resources.

About The Author