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Insellerate Adds AI Expert To Its Board Of Advisors

Insellerate, a mortgage CRM provider, has added Neil Sahota, IBM Master Inventor, United Nations Artificial Intelligence (AI) subject matter expert and noted author to its board of advisors to enhance its AI technology and strategy.


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The integration of AI into the Insellerate platform is helping lenders manage their lead generation, prospecting, engagement, conversion, and the lifetime customer value they provide to their borrowers. Insellerate’s platform reduces the daily inefficiencies that take loan officers away from serving their clients and closing loans and helps lenders consistently connect and engage their borrowers. By optimizing critical workflows, lenders are able to perform their jobs more efficiently and borrowers receive personalized communications for their individual situations. 


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“This technology could save hundreds of mortgage lenders from going out of business due to inefficient workflows and unprofitable, outdated marketing practices that result in high opportunity costs,” said Josh Friend, CEO and Founder of Insellerate. “Leveraging technology isn’t about eliminating loan officers. It’s about supporting them with bias-free, data driven suggestions that can optimize each unique borrower journey, extend customer lifetime value and help lenders operate at their most efficient.” 


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“I’m happy to join Insellerate as a member of their board of advisors and look forward to helping them develop successful strategies that merge their cutting edge technology with the real time business needs of today’s mortgage lenders,” said Mr. Sahota. “Having specific and deep business expertise, knowing where the problems are and where the real opportunities exist is critical to successfully leveraging AI for stronger commercial gains and better customer experiences. And that’s precisely what Insellerate delivers.”   


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“We’re thrilled to have Mr. Sahota advising us on AI technology and strategy,” said Mr. Friend. “It’s our goal to make sure that lenders stay in business in an aggressively changing world. As mortgage professionals we’ve experienced the antiquated technology that prevents lenders from reaching their full potential when it comes to closing loans and managing businesses. AI technology is the next big thing that will impact lenders and that’s why we’re so fortunate to have an expert like Neil joining us on our mission to help bring mortgage lenders into the future — so they’re still in business 5, 10, 20 years from now.” 

Insellerate’s CRM and Engagement Platform are standalone solutions that leverage technology to optimize intelligent engagement that uniquely serves each and every individual borrower throughout the entire borrower journey.

Follow The Leader

I have been critical of the industry’s inability to move forward on eMortgages, or what is now called a Digital Mortgage, without other lenders going first. Today there is great buzz around going digital so I’m shifting my earlier concerns. To every lender today I say: Please follow the leader and go digital. My hope is that we have reached a tipping point where not going digital is more of a risk compared to finally making that transition to digital mortgages.

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In order for lenders to make this transition there first has to be clarity around the term Digital Mortgage. “There is still quite a bit of confusion in the marketplace as to what a digital mortgage is actually comprised of,” noted Dominic Iannitti, President and CEO at DocMagic, Inc. “Put simply, a truly comprehensive digital mortgage involves zero paper whatsoever, from start-to-finish. That means from the time the loan is originated at the point-of-sale to when the loan is closed and the eNote is delivered to the investor, nothing is papered-out. This includes fully paperless eClosings for borrowers, which absolutely must contain eNotarizations. Also, another important component of the digital mortgage process is an integrated mobile strategy.”

Recently DocMagic, Inc. completed North Carolina’s first 100 percent paperless eClosing. The DocMagic-driven eClosing was completed on Friday, May 5th at North State Bank and was carried out in the presence of borrowers Jason and Karen Boccardi, the North Carolina Secretary of State, a closing paralegal, an eNotary, and members of the media who documented the historical event.

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Attorneys from the Hunoval Law firm attended via interactive video. The entire eClosing took only about 20 minutes to complete.

“Millennials in particular want the ability to start the origination process on a phone/tablet, check status, eSign documents and complete the closing process,” added Iannitti. “That technology needs to be integrated with the document preparation provider, eClose technology vendor, LOS, as well as other third party vendors.”

DocMagic’s Total eClose, which contains all the components to facilitate a fully compliant, 100 percent paperless digital closing, served as the single platform that enabled the entire transaction in North Carolina. eNotarization was facilitated by long-time DocMagic strategic partner World Wide Notary (WWN).

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In fact, DocMagic facilitated four of the five statewide-first eClosings, as well as the CFPB’s eClosing pilot program. The North Carolina eClosing was part of a state sponsored eClosing Pilot Program that was established in 2016 by North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall to create a best practices guide for mortgage lenders seeking the heightened security, speed and efficiency of eClosings.

“For the record, a comprehensive digital mortgage is really just a new term for an end-to-end eMortgage process,” stated Iannitti. “The reality is that most of the digital mortgage technologies that are currently available for lenders are hybrids, so paper is unfortunately still involved. However, the technology to go fully digital is here today. The biggest hurdle is still educating all the players on the benefits, the technology solution exist today. The CFPB was very helpful in evangelizing for lenders and vendors to embrace eClosings, which is now well on its way.”

Valerie Saunders, Vice President at NAMB – The Association of Mortgage Professionals and President at Title ClearingHouse of Jacksonville, agrees that a digital mortgage is a mortgage that is transacted 100% electronically, including digital signing and electronic notarization, with no semblance of paper, whatsoever. And while there is still jockeying among some over the definition of the term Digital Mortgage, nobody disputes the return on investment associated with adoption.

“Digital mortgages are a lot faster and more efficient than traditional mortgages,” pointed out Saunders. “It’s also a lot easier for lenders and settlement service providers to manage and keep mortgage files secure without all that paper.

“As far as the consumer goes, paperless mortgages allow more time for borrowers to review the documents they’re executing prior to affixing a signature. In a typical transaction, unless the borrower specifically requests it, the first time they’re seeing those documents is when they’re at the closing table. With a digital mortgage, borrowers can take the time to digest the information and ask questions well in advance of closing.”

That doesn’t mean that there are no hurdles to adoption. “I think the major hurdles are cost and necessity,” noted Saunders. “We need to remember the role that states and counties play in electronic mortgages. In order to transact a fully paperless mortgage, states need to allow for both electronic recordings and electronic notarizations, and counties need to be technologically equipped to accept those electronic documents.

“Technology is the foundation of a digital mortgage, so it plays a major role in how that experience is going to play out. That said, lenders and settlement service providers also play a key role in assuring that the digital mortgage experience doesn’t replace a personalized experience.”

Put simply, the digital mortgage is about the customer interaction. “Customers will interact how they want on their timetable,” noted Josh Friend, the founder and CEO of InSellerate, a Costa Mesa, California-based CRM provider that helps companies maximize their sales leads and convert them into closed customers. “The second part of the digital mortgage is the use of big data. Tax returns, pay stubs, w2s, etc. is all in the cloud. You need to leverage platforms so that documentation can be downloaded through the web without the borrower having to provide that. Third, is the technology required to take in and process all the loan data. You want to make the mortgage process easier.”

InSellerate is a specialized customer relationship management system that delivers incremental sales and revenue by optimizing consumer direct lead channels, increasing prospect conversion and maximizing sales opportunities through an automated nurture program. With InSellerate, companies can immediately connect to leads while the prospects are actively in the decision-making process, manage their sales team real-time for maximum efficiency and ROI, and build strong customer relationships through trigger-automated nurture marketing campaigns. InSellerate is SSAE 16 certified and built to satisfy the most closely regulated businesses, including community banks with mortgage subsidiaries.

“The cost to originate has increased,” noted Friend. “Having accurate closing fees upfront will allow us to be more accurate at closing. The digital mortgage will also lower buybacks significantly. From the view of the consumer, if they can go online, see accurate pricing, fill out the documents and submit the trailing documents online, that would be a big benefit.”

So what will it take for digital mortgages to finally go mainstream? “You need to tie the business and technology together,” concluded Dr. Rick Roque, President and Founder of MENLO, a firm that advises mortgage lenders on their M&A strategies. “You have solid technology, but there are failures in how to apply that to the business process. It takes a unique intersection in how the business process can be designed and reimagined with the use of technology.

“Lenders have to look at the net tangible benefit. Lenders may go after the latest technology, but don’t look at how it can be operationalized. A digital mortgage is not a switch that just gets flipped. It’s a progression.”

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Three Steps To Winning New Customers

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The mortgage industry has had a long run of good luck thanks to the low interest rate environment and consumer demand for homes. With rates remaining near historic lows and home prices rising, lenders have been handed a great growth opportunity. But not all lenders have chosen to or been able to take advantage of this opportunity.

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We only have to look at the rankings of the industry’s top lenders, which used to be dominated by the big commercial banks. Now there are a lot of new names on the list, such as Quicken Loans and loanDepot, which either didn’t exist 15 years ago or were just a fraction of their current size. Not coincidentally, they happen to be the most innovative lenders in the business.

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How have these lenders been able to make this jump without the benefit of a large servicing portfolio or wide brand-name recognition? The answer, simply put, is technology. These lenders have embraced the latest automated systems to make the mortgage process easier and faster for their customers and more economically efficient, which has paid off in increased volume that has pushed them to the top of the league tables.

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But these lenders don’t have a monopoly on this technology. In this article we will review three strategies that any lender can easily employ with what’s available from today’s technology providers.

Consumer habits have changed …

First of all, we need to appreciate how consumer buying habits and expectations have changed drastically over the last 15 or so years. Most consumers now shop online for everyday goods, while many prospective home owners search for a home online without the help of real estate agents. Borrowers seeking to refinance a mortgage either apply for a loan online or call a lender’s 800 number.

Today’s consumers want to be able to shop on their terms and on their own schedule. Many home searches take place after regular business hours and on weekends. How do lenders respond to this? The companies we’ve mentioned have adjusted to these changes in consumer buying habits by leveraging technology in all aspects of their processes.

On the other hand, many lenders have not adapted to this new reality and have failed to take full advantage of increased originations fueled by low interest rates. They have not realized the substantial ROI yielded by new technologies that help them adapt to this new reality.

… and so has financial technology

Financial technology vendors are now offering all lenders what used to be only available in costly proprietary systems. Now any lender can simply pay a monthly fee to access the same technology that the top lenders have deployed. It’s both easy to use and has a huge return on investment.

How can lenders leverage this technology to grow their business?

One way technology can help is by creating customers for life. Lenders work hard to find each borrower and to close each loan. If you deliver good service and stay in contact with your clients going forward, they will likely come back to you when they need to refinance or when they purchase their next home, even if you don’t have the lowest rates. It’s all about having the best service and staying connected.

Automated marketing

How do you keep your name in front of them? The easiest way is to use a system that allows for lifetime automated marketing, whether through email, direct mail or a phone call from the loan officer. Technology can you help you do this by ensuring that your customers get the message you want to send, when you want to send it, automatically.

But the message is just as important as the medium. Lenders must communicate compelling, relevant content at the right time. Fortunately, there are many technology providers who can help with this. They have the content and a system that will automate the communication. Many can also help with your communications strategy, providing guidance on when and what to send to customers. This can seem like a daunting task if you try to do it yourself, but today’s technology providers and their pre-built campaigns and collateral can help you get started.

An additional benefit to using an automated system is compliance. With compliance being so important with today’s lenders, having uniform material and messaging can help ensure you are being compliant in your communications with consumers.

Credit triggers

Another tactic employed by many top lenders in holding onto existing customers is by using credit triggers. This involves monitoring all of your closed-loan customers to see if and when their credit report is pulled for a loan application. This can help ensure that when your customer is in need of a new loan, you are there to help.

Monitoring past customers is actually fairly simple. Several technology providers can monitor credit inquiries for you. Simply send them your customer list, and then anytime a credit inquiry is made, they will alert you, usually within 24 hours. It’s important to note, however, that if you monitor credit reports and get alerted of an inquiry, you must make a firm offer of credit to the consumer. So when setting up your program, make sure you outline your credit criteria, so only those customers who meet your requirements will be sent to you.

But you also must to be able to respond promptly. Using this data and integrating it into your customer relationship management (CRM) system can alert your loan officers when customers are in the market so they can quickly respond with an appropriate offer.

Getting new customers

So far we have focused on how to get more business from your past customers. You may now be asking, how can you win new customers? There is good news on that front, too.

One of the largest growth areas is in consumer direct lending. Today 50 percent of all refinances and 20 percent of all purchase transactions come through a call center. Purchase mortgage volume alone has grown 10-20 percent through this channel in just the past five years. What’s driving it? Consumer buying behavior has changed. Most people are very comfortable with buying things online or from a remote business. And that includes getting a mortgage.

What’s needed to take advantage of that change is adopting technology that can offer a better customer experience. It starts from the initial contact. It’s imperative to reach your prospect quickly and have a compelling script the sales agent can use. Once that’s accomplished, the process then moves to getting the application from the prospect. But whether it’s done online or over the phone, creating a great user experience is critical. An easy-to-use CRM can help you capture the application easily and painlessly.

Once you have the application, you will need to provide and collect disclosures and borrower financials. This, too, is an area that demands a better consumer experience and where technology eases the process. There are several vendors that can obtain the applicant’s paystubs, W-2s, tax returns, bank statements and many other required financial documents online instantly.

Whether you are trying to retain more of your past customers or grow new business, there are many technology options for lenders that provide the experience consumers demand and expect today. The fact is, though, that many lenders aren’t responding to this demand. Instead, they are sitting back and letting their competitors steal their business. That’s good news if you’re one of those companies that is embracing this change. Not only will you see your volume and profitability grow, but you’ll be eliminating a lot of the competition.

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It’s Time To Broaden Your View

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As the mortgage industry shifts to a purchase lending environment that is more regulated, lenders have to have a broader view. It’s impossible to compete if you’re just looking at a piece of the process. You have to look at the whole process and devise clear strategies to cut cost, increase efficiency and offer a better borrower experience, all at the same time.

“First, you need to make sure that there is an easier disclosure process. Some people are still doing paper disclosures. There are portals out there where the borrower can sign in and you get all the borrower’s info without them having to provide it,” noted Josh Friend, founder and CEO of InSellerate.

“If we make the process easy, everyone wins. You need to give the borrower an easier way to see what they qualify for and a better process after they start the process. A lot of first time homebuyers don’t realize that they can buy a home and that it’s better for them vs. renting,” Friend pointed out.

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InSellerate provides sales management solutions to help sales teams contact, manage and convert leads. The system is fully integrated with leading online lead providers, inbound calls, web forms, etc. The InSellerate Sales Automation System enables lenders to deliver the virtual handshake to leads and improve the customer acquisition process.

“If you think about it, our costs turn out to be the borrower’s cost. So how do we lower those costs? Consumers are paying an additional $1,200 a loan because of compliance,” said Friend. “Lenders also need to be more efficient when it comes to marketing and prospecting. You need to make a customer for life.

“Looking ahead, regulation will be a large theme over the next 18 months because people are still getting over TRID. People have interpreted TRID, but we still need clarity about what the regulation means and what compliance means. If you look at large lenders like Quicken, how did they get there? They were able to gobble a lot of marketshare in a short period of time because they understand technology and they are always advancing. If you want to succeed, you have to think big picture.”

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So, how do lenders start to think more about the whole process vs. just fixing individual pain points? “Clear communication is a given. Borrowers want more discussion upfront and more mobile communication,” answered Wade Hamby, National Director of Sales and Marketing of Stonehill Group. “Education is important. If you look at the market, first-time homebuyers are 35% today, but they are usually 40%. But lenders that do it right like Quicken are doing better then 40%. We need to do financial literacy to get borrowers in the market, as well.”

Wade Hamby has more than 25 years of executive experience in mortgage lending, outsourcing and quality control. He oversees The StoneHill Group’s nationwide sales and marketing activities and is responsible for expanding use of the company’s solutions in the mortgage industry. A past recipient of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Florida’s Brown L. Whatley Award for his contributions to the Florida mortgage industry, Wade has held leadership roles at AmeriCU Mortgage, Triad Guaranty and Hovde Financial. He is the former president of AboutYourMortgage.com LLC, a web-based mortgage services provider.

“As we move forward, we need to have less touch points. Technology has to be pursued,” Hamby continued. “We are also seeing commissioned loan officers going away. There is always a place for commissioned LOs, but we need other models, as well. We also have to train new people to want to be good LOs. We need new people and new ideas coming into the space.”

In addition to attracting younger staff, lenders also need to attract younger borrowers. “Lenders need to focus their technology on what works with millennials,” noted Jeff Bradford, Founder and CEO of Bradford Technologies, Inc. “It’s all mobile and iPad-enabled. Quicken’s rocket mortgage was a great start. There are ways for the borrower to upload everything to a lender through an easy-to-use mobile app. The lenders have to become more like Home Depot in a way so they can enable the consumer to do it yourself. It’s an exciting time.”

Jeff Bradford is a renowned expert in appraisal analytics and accuracy in collateral valuations, and the mastermind behind computer-aided appraising, the most far-reaching and significant advance in the appraisal segment in decades. He frequently presents and speaks at industry events, on topics that include technology, valuation processes and valuation standards. He is a strong proponent of open industry standards and was one of the chief architects of the MISMO Appraisal XML standard.

“There is a lot of opportunity,” explained Bradford. “When I was buying a home a long time ago, I remember being shocked that I could buy a home with the money I was paying to rent. If you can get that information to everyone you would see a spike in homeownership.”

And smart lenders get the big picture. “Simply put, the way our parent’s got their loan isn’t the way you would get a loan today. You have to clearly set expectations upfront. You need to do process engineering because anything else will leave you vulnerable at closing,” said Jim Hopkins, Regional Vice President of Envoy Mortgage’s Central Region.

“We at Envoy Mortgage, are focusing on the rising number of Hispanic homebuyers. It used to be that you had to have 20% downpayment, then we went into the Wild, Wild West times and you didn’t need any money down, and today people assume they have to have 20% again. So, we have to educate the borrower. We also have to overcome the barriers like language and education.”

Jim Hopkins is a graduate of the University of Texas and has been with Envoy Mortgage since 2001. While at Envoy Jim has been heavily involved in the strategic development of sales strategies and recruiting. Jim is skilled in Mortgage Banking, Mortgage lending, loan origination and holds a CMB Designation from the MBA. He has held a variety of positions at Envoy and is currently the Regional Vice President of Envoy’s Central Region. Jim is a part of the Mortgage Bankers Association, Houston Association of Realtors and the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association (TBMA).

“From a lender standpoint, a lender’s cost becomes the consumer’s cost. The cost of producing a loan is close to $6,000. A lot of that is because of the regulatory burden, but there is only so much you can do about that,” Hopkins said. “If you want to have a meaningful reduction in cost you have to have an ironclad, streamlined process. The penalties are significant. You can focus on the micro level and automate this or that, but the biggest burden is the regulatory burden.”

The strongest of lenders will adopt more and more technology to gain a competitive advantage throughout the rest of 2016 and into 2017. “The story going forward is going to be about how quickly you can adapt. The old guys that can’t adapt will become the dinosaurs and they won’t be able to do the business that they are used to doing,” Hopkins concluded.

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Technology Can Optimize Lead Opportunities

Sekits Capital, a Manhattan Beach, California-based investor in rapidly growing financial services, financial technology and digital consumer services businesses, has made a “significant investment” in InSellerate, a sales automation software company that empowers mortgage lenders to optimize lead opportunities by communicating with borrower prospects within seconds of starting the buying process.

Sekits Capital, founded by Mike Sekits in 1999, invests up to $1.5 million of growth capital in companies and provides board level advisory services. Prior to re-launching his own investment firm, Mike Sekits was co-founder and director of private investments at JAM Equity Partners, where he was responsible for investing in high-growth financial services companies.

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Sekits Capital brought in seasoned mortgage technology executives to join in its investment into InSellerate, including Duke Olrich, formerly chief executive officer of DRI Management Systems, and Fred Melgaard, formerly executive vice president and chief operating officer of DRI. DRI Management Systems, a mortgage servicing workflow management technology company, was sold to ServiceLink, a subsidiary of Fidelity National, in 2012. Sekits, Olrich and Melgaard have previously worked together on a highly successful financial services opportunity.

“InSellerate is the most advanced and robust lead optimization and sales management solution we’ve seen in the mortgage industry, helping sales teams contact, manage and convert leads,” Sekits said. “What really impressed us about InSellerate was not just the functionality of the product, but the rigorous attention paid to compliance and security, which has resulted in several community banks adopting the software.”

“Surprisingly, less than a third of all mortgage leads are ever contacted due to inefficient systems,” said Olrich. “InSellerate provides mortgage lenders with the tools and technology to improve and accelerate the customer acquisition process and close more sales. InSellerate delivers higher lead conversion rates and lowers customer acquisition costs.”

“We are very excited and pleased to have this group of distinguished mortgage technology professionals invest in InSellerate and provide us with their expert advice as we move forward and expand,” said Josh Friend, founder and CEO of InSellerate. Friend was recently named to Mortgage Professional America’s “Hot 100 List” for developing companies for having “produced billions in loan originations and consistently beating national conversion rate averages by 30%.”

InSellerate helps companies optimize lead opportunities by communicating with prospects when they are actively engaged in the buying process. Its first-to-contact dialer technology empowers originators to respond to leads within 30 seconds of making a request. The simple-to-use yet sophisticated system delivers almost instant lead engagement, real-time sales and marketing resource management, and an effective prospect nurture program.

“As the percentage of consumers who research and purchase products and services online continues to increase at an accelerated pace, the keys to driving ROI will be efficiency and immediacy,” Friend said.

InSellerate consists of a three-stage system that includes inFlow, a sales force automation and lead management tool; inSight, a real-time sales reporting dashboard; and inTouch, an automated personalized email marketing platform. The system is fully integrated with leading online lead providers, inbound call systems and web forms.

What further distinguishes InSellerate from other lead generation software is that it connects the loan officer to the borrower and real estate agent in real time, gives loan officers up-to-the-minute status reports on the loan in process, alerts loan officers to proper disclosures and timing of disclosures to prevent compliance errors, and helps them turn current borrowers into long-term customers.

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