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Can We Talk?

Most people recognize “Can we talk?” as a catchphrase used by the late Joan Rivers. But it should be a phrase that lenders are asking of their business partners and borrowers. Many of the regulations and pilot programs introduced recently will fundamentally change the way that lenders will interact with them both.

Let’s start with the consumer. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is responsible to make sure the American consumer gets all of the information they need to make an informed financial decision when it comes to mortgages, credit cards or other types of consumer financing. To ensure borrowers are kept informed throughout the lending process, lenders are being asked to provide consumers with information and documentation from the point of sale through servicing the loan. Consumers must receive copies of their initial disclosures, appraisals, closing disclosures and documents, privacy notices and many others. The result is that consumers are becoming involved in the mortgage process as never before.

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To facilitate this new level of interaction with borrowers, many lenders are turning their static websites into interactive communication portals. Instead of just presenting information to a consumer or asking them to fill in a form or application, lenders are creating a two way dialogue with their customers. They are implementing tools such as: live chat where a consumer can electronically chat directly with a loan officer or help desk; secure messaging for communicating sensitive non-public personal information; document exchange where consumers can go to not only electronically view their documents, but also send documents back to the lender if necessary; and finally electronic signatures where borrowers can electronically sign and return documents with the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen. With today’s on the go consumer, these features need to be available not only from a consumers computer, but from their smartphones and tablets as well.

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But it’s not only borrowers that lenders need to step up their communications with. Business partners such as closing agents, attorneys and title companies are going to need additional attention as well. Starting in August of this year, the current Truth in Lending disclosure document and HUD-1 Settlement Statement will be combined into a single document known as the Closing Disclosure. Currently, in many cases the HUD-1 statement is not produced by the lender but rather by the closing attorney and is delivered to the borrower at the closing table. But since the HUD-1 is now included in the final Closing Disclosure, and the final Closing Disclosure is required to be provided to the consumer at least three business days prior to the closing, a new level of collaboration between lender and closing agents will be needed. By implementing a communication portal with secure messaging and document exchange, it will be much easier for a lender to streamline this collaborative process.

So the next time you deal with a consumer or business partner, maybe the first words out of your mouth should be “can we talk?”

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Are Your Borrowers Engaged?

Borrowers today are more connected than ever. You only need to look around you to see evidence of this. The next time you are walking down the street, sitting at a restaurant or just waiting in line at the grocery store, take a look at how many people have their noses buried in their electronic devices. Today’s do-it-yourself generations are connecting with the world in ways unimagined only a few short years ago. Reading, shopping, music, entertainment and even banking are industries that are being changed by consumer’s immediate access to a wide variety of content. The concept of idle time has been replaced with information gathering. But with all of this content to choose from, how can you stand out to your customers and prospects?

The key is to engage your customers and give them fresh and relevant content before, during and after their loan process. Become a go-to resource that they can count on when they need information or have questions regarding the lending or home-buying process. By becoming a trusted resource prior to them needing a loan, they are more likely to use your services when the time arrives.

There are plenty of tools that allow you to actively engage your customers. The first and most obvious is Social Media. Services like Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter allow you to easily get your message out to a wide variety of consumers. You can use this medium to promote new products, educate consumers or simply drive traffic to your own website.

Speaking of your website, you want to make sure that once a prospect arrives that the engagement continues. Include content that appeals to your client base and keep it updated. Change your content frequently. If a consumer knows that new information is posted regularly, they are more likely to return.

But the most important way of engaging visitors once they arrive at your website is through two-way communication. Don’t just present information. Interact with your customers. Answer their questions and get their input. Live Chat is a great tool that allows you to have an online conversation with a prospect in real time. Being available to help a prospect with questions without them having to pick up a phone and call you will increase customer satisfaction and drive additional throughput. For those times that real-time communication isn’t needed, a secure messaging system is ideal. Secure messaging is preferred over e-mail due to security concerns and the type of information that may be exchanged during the loan process.

Speaking of security, another great tool that you can use to keep customers engaged is document exchange. More and more consumers are choosing to go paperless and desire their documents electronically. But delivering documents electronically is only half of the battle. While many lenders have implemented a secure delivery system, they have no way to securely accept documents back from a borrower. By implementing a true document exchange system for both delivering and receiving documents electronically, you can take days off of the loan process.

And finally, once the loan process is completed, continue to engage your customers with content regarding their new purchase. Update them with information about their account, inform them of special deals or offers that you may have, or advise them on other programs or services that may benefit them. By being a resource rather than just a vendor, you can build a relationship that both parties can benefit from for many years.

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Borrower Communication Comes Of Age

Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a new electronic closing pilot program to allow consumers the ability to review mortgage documents prior to reaching the closing table. This follows closely on the heels of changes to Regulation B back in January that required lenders to provide borrowers copies of appraisals or other written valuations promptly upon completion. Add these to the existing regulations requiring documents to be delivered to the borrower within three days of application, and it seems that you are being asked to send information to your borrower at every turn.

The intent of these regulations isn’t to just provide borrowers with the appropriate documents, but to give them time to review, analyze and ask questions. The last thing anyone wants is for the borrower to be surprised when they get to the closing table. An informed borrower is a happy borrower.

So how exactly do you accomplish this? The answer is with a secure communication platform. A secure communication platform allows you to not only deliver documents to the borrower throughout the entire loan process, but also allows for the borrower to securely ask questions and return documents back to you if needed.

When considering a secure communication platform, there are several things to consider. The first of course is security. While many lenders would never consider sending sensitive information via e-mail, it is amazing how many sensitive documents are delivered back to lenders in this manner. Paystubs, W-2’s and previous year’s tax returns all contain information that should never be sent via e-mail. Unfortunately, many borrowers have no other option of delivering this information back to the lender.

The next thing to consider is availability. Today’s borrowers are always on the go. For any communication platform to be effective, it must be able to be accessed via mobile devices. By making sure that your platform is mobile ready, you are assured that you can always reach your client, and more importantly, they can always reach you.

Workflow is another factor to look for in a communication platform. What happens if a request goes unanswered? What if the borrower doesn’t consent to receiving their documents electronically? To stay compliant with all of the regulations it is very important to be notified when manual intervention may be required.

The last, but definitely not the least, thing to look for is a complete audit trail. Being able to produce proof positive that documents were delivered on time and that all ESIGN requirements were met, along with a history of messages exchanged between lender and borrower will keep you in good graces with your auditors.

As I mentioned earlier, lenders are being asked to deliver information to borrowers at every turn. By installing a secure communication platform you can not only meet both the letter and intent of these regulatory requirements, but make the entire loan process faster and smoother for the borrower.

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The New Electronic Document Exchange

You Can Download This Article As A PDF HERE

Schmidt_RandyThe time to send, receive and sign documents electronically has arrived. Recent regulatory and agency changes have brought the electronic document exchange discussion back to the forefront. Regulatory changes requiring lenders to provide additional documents to borrowers prior to closing have renewed lender interest in electronic document delivery. Market changes, requiring lenders to be more competitive, have them looking for better ways to communicate with their borrowers through document exchange. And the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Housing Administration recently announced their acceptance of electronic signatures paving the way for more lenders to implement electronic signatures.

Let’s start with electronic document delivery. Electronic delivery has been around for a long time. It gained momentum after the tragedy of 9/11 when airlines were grounded and lenders were forced to find alternatives to overnighting packages. In the years since, most lenders have adopted electronic delivery of their closing packages to their attorney and closing agent networks. But with the recent changes to Regulation B requiring lenders to provide borrowers a copy of appraisals or other written valuations promptly upon completion, many lenders are starting to look at delivering electronic documents directly to the consumer.

Delivering electronic documents to the borrower was made possible on June 30, 2000 when President Bill Clinton signed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) into law. The ESIGN Act allows the use of electronic records to satisfy any statute, regulation, or rule of law requiring that such information be provided in writing as long as certain conditions are met.

ESIGN requirements specifically state that applicant must affirmatively consent to receiving their documents electronically. It also states that prior to receiving this consent that the lender must provide the consumer a clear and conspicuous statement informing them of:

>> Right to have documents made available in paper form

>> Right to withdraw consent and any conditions, consequences or fees in the event of withdrawal

>> Whether the consent applies to a particular transaction or to an entire category of electronic records

>> Procedures for withdrawing consent

>> Instructions on how to request paper copy and whether any fee will be charged

>> Any Hardware and/or Software requirements necessary

If a consumer consents electronically, it must be done in a manner that reasonably demonstrates that the consumer is able to access the information in the electronic form that will be presented. The lender must also assure that once presented, the consumer has the ability to retain a copy for their own records.

ESIGN however did not change any of the timing requirements required of lenders. Initial disclosures must still be sent three days after application, appraisals must be sent promptly upon completion and final disclosures must be received by the borrower three days prior to closing. Fortunately, one of the benefits of electronic delivery is that an audit trail of the entire delivery process is created. Each step along the way is recorded with a date and time stamp making sure that you stay compliant.  Rule sets may be created alerting you to any packages that need special handling.

But document delivery is only the first piece of the puzzle. While many lenders have done an excellent job of making information available to their customers, all too often it is a one-way street. Document Exchange allows for two-way communication with your borrower. Not only can you deliver documents to them safely and securely, but document exchange allows them to send documents back to you just as easily.

Many times documentation will be needed from a borrower. Perhaps you need a copy of their most recent paystub or W-2. Or maybe you need to request their last few years of tax returns. Unfortunately, many lenders have been asking borrowers to send this information via e-mail putting their customer’s personal information at risk.

A recent survey published by HALOCK Security Labs of Schaumburg, Illinois found that many mortgage lenders allow practices that put their customer data at risk. In their survey of 63 U.S. mortgage lenders, they found that 45 lenders (over 70%) permitted applicants to send personal and financial information over unencrypted email. Even large lenders were not immune to this practice as their survey indicates that eight out of the eleven top lenders surveyed, again over 70%, allowed for the same unsecure transmission of customer data.

While it may be the most convenient way to communicate with today’s always on the go borrowers, both lenders and consumers need to rethink this practice.  As Terry Kurzynksi, Senior Partner at HALOCK Security Labs, states: “Any type of weak link in a system involving sensitive information exposes people to unnecessary risk.  It takes months to recover from an identity theft and minutes to log into a secure portal.  Do the math.”

Fortunately, creating this two way document exchange portal is relatively easy. There are many vendors offering document exchange on a Software as a Service (SaaS) or cloud platform making the barrier to entry quite painless. By using cloud services, lenders can get started with a minimal investment. They don’t need to invest in multiple servers or expensive software. Scalability is also taken care of as computing power can be scaled up or down as needed. Infrastructure costs such as redundancy, disaster recovery, virus scanning, intrusion detection and others are all handled by the provider. By spreading the cost of the infrastructure among its many clients, SaaS providers allow companies to make use of a much more robust security shield than if they were to provide it themselves. Couple that with per sender, loan level or transactional pricing where you only pay for the services that you use and document exchange makes even more sense.

The final piece of process, and the one getting the most news lately, is having your documents electronically signed. Last year the Internal Revenue Service began accepting electronic signatures on the 4506-T income verification form. And most recently, the Federal Housing Administration has widened their acceptance of electronic signatures on documents associated with mortgage loans.

With the new QM rules and lenders needing to verify the borrower’s ability to repay, income verification with the IRS has become commonplace. By accepting electronic signatures, the entire process can be speeded up.  Instead of sending a document out to be wet signed and waiting for its return, lenders can now request the 4506-T be electronically signed and then sent directly to the IRS or their IVES vendor saving days in the verification process.

On January 30th, 2014 the Federal Housing Administration announced that it is granting expanded authority to lenders to accept electronic signatures on documents associated with mortgage loans. According to their announcement, the new policy allows e-signatures on origination, servicing, and loss mitigation documents, as well as FHA insurance claims, REO sales contracts and related addenda. Previously, FHA only allowed for electronic signatures on third party documents like sales contracts or other documents on controlled by the lender.

As part of their announcement, FHA has defined certain standards that mortgagees who wish to use electronic signatures must comply with. These standards include:

>> Associating an electronic signature with the authorized document

>> ESIGN Act compliance

>> Intent to sign

>> Single use of signature

>> Authentication

>> Attribution

>> Credential loss management

>> Integrity of records

>> Quality control

>> Record retention

>> Information collection requirements

More information regarding these standards can be found in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s mortgagee letter 2014-3. Many people regard FHA’s acceptance as a significant milestone which will become the tipping point of widespread use of electronic signatures in the mortgage industry.

So what exactly is an electronic signature? The ESIGN Act defines an electronic signature as “an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”

And just like document exchange, the process for adding electronic signatures to your documents is relatively easy. There are many vendors available that have solutions that will walk both you and the signers through the entire process. A typical signature process starts with the creation of your documents. Once the documents are electronically printed, signers are defined and signature points are placed on the document. The document is then delivered to a signing room where an invitation is sent to each signer. Once the signers enter the signing room and authenticate themselves, the document is presented to them for their review. The signers are taken to each individual signature point, where they can affix their electronic signature. Once all signature points have been signed, the signer is presented with a final notice that they are creating a legally binding signature and by acknowledging such they are proving their intent to sign. Once all signers have completed the process, a tamper proof seal is affixed and the e-signed document is complete.

So whether you are looking for document delivery, document exchange or electronic signatures, there is no time like the present. When it comes to electronic documents, you can finally say signed, sealed and delivered!

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Electronic Documents: Signed, Sealed And Delivered

The concept of taking paper documents and turning them into electronic documents has been around for quite a while. What started out as lenders electronically transmitting their closing packages to the closing table to have them printed out and wet signed has evolved into a fully electronic process for both closing and disclosure documents. But recent events have made delivering documents electronically become more mainstream.

The first is Technology. Advancements in electronic signing and transmission technologies make the process of sending electronic documents easy. Previously, special documents had to be setup in advance in order to contain electronic signatures. Today, virtually any document that you can print to a printer can be electronically delivered to and signed by the recipient. Previously, expensive software or servers had to be installed and maintained to process documents electronically. Today, much of this processing has been moved to the cloud. The benefits of moving processes such as this to the cloud is that the costs of the infrastructure, hardware, security, redundancy, etc. can be shared among all users of the service. Many providers offer monthly subscription or pay per use pricing. Only paying for services that you are actually using is a great way to manage your costs as the market fluctuates.

The next factor that is driving adoption of electronic documents is acceptance. While consumers have been using electronic documents in other industries for years, many in the mortgage industry were reluctant to make that switch. One of the primary reasons given was that not all investors or government agencies were accepting electronic signatures. Documents such as the IRS’s 4506-T still required an actual handwritten signature. And since lenders still needed to mail out a package containing a paper document to be signed, it didn’t make sense to do some documents on paper and others electronically. But with most major investors onboard and the IRS now accepting electronic signatures on the 4506-T, the last remaining hurdle has been eliminated.

The final factor is regulatory compliance. On January 18, 2014 a change to Regulation B (ECOA) went into effect that requires lenders to provide borrowers “…copies of each such appraisals or other written valuation promptly upon completion, or three business days prior to the consummation of the transaction (for closed-end credit) or account opening (for open-end credit) whichever is earlier.” Where previously lenders would deliver these documents at the closing table, they must now deliver them prior to closing. The only exception is if the borrower signs a waiver of their right to receive these early. So whether you are delivering the appraisal, or asking the consumer to sign a waiver, doing this process electronically not only assures your compliance with the regulation but also provides an audit trail for your auditors.

So given the advanced state of document technologies, the current acceptance level with investors and government agencies, and the new regulatory environment that exists today it is easy to see that now is the perfect time to take the plunge into the world of electronic documents.

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Are You Prepared?

You can Download this article as a PDF HERE

TME-RSchmidtNew rules and updates to current regulations in the mortgage industry are being rolled-out at an astonishing rate. During the last few months alone, regulators have crafted revisions to a number of the regulations that have been a part of the mortgage industry for years. As a result, lenders are forced to quickly change policies and procedures within their organization to comply with these changes.

With many of the implementation deadlines for these new and updated regulations quickly approaching, the question is, “Are You Prepared?” Have you made the appropriate changes to your processes and procedures to correctly handle these changes? Have you been able to implement technology that allows you to better respond to impending changes and ones that have not rolled out yet?

One such change is a modification to Regulation B (ECOA), which takes effect on January 18th, 2014. The regulation is §1002.14 Rules on providing Appraisals and other valuations reads in part: “A creditor shall provide copies of each such appraisal or other written valuation promptly upon completion, or three business days prior to the consummation of the transaction (for closed-end credit) or account opening (for open-end credit) whichever is earlier.”

In addition, the regulation states that applicant may waive the timing requirement to receive the valuation prior to closing as long as the waiver is received at least 3 business days prior to closing. In any case, a copy of the valuation must be received prior to or at closing or within 30 days after the creditor determines that consummation will not occur.

The regulation goes on to say: “The copies required by § 1002.14(a)(1) may be provided to the applicant in electronic form, subject to compliance with the consumer consent and other applicable provisions of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN Act) (15 U.S.C. 7001 et. seq.).”

ESIGN requirements specifically state that applicant must affirmatively consent to receiving their documents electronically.  It also states that prior to receiving this consent that the lender must provide the consumer a clear and conspicuous statement informing them of:

>> Right to have documents made available in paper form

>> Right to withdraw consent and any conditions, consequences or fees in the event of withdrawal

>> Whether the consent applies to a particular transaction or to an entire category of electronic records

>> Procedures for withdrawing consent

>> Instructions on how to request paper copy and whether any fee will be charged

>> Any Hardware and/or Software requirements necessary

If a consumer consents electronically, it must be done in a manner that reasonably demonstrates that the consumer is able to access the information in the electronic form that will be presented. The lender must also assure that once presented, the consumer has the ability to retain a copy for their own records.

In addition to Regulation B (ECOA), a host of other changes have taken place over the past few years that have put pressure on lenders’ ability to quickly change and adapt to regulatory requirements and current market conditions.

For instance, Regulation Z changes added very significant new timing and delivery issues for early truth-in-lending disclosures, which are required for all closed-end mortgage loans. In essence, lenders are required to provide truth-in-lending disclosures (early/ initial disclosures) within three business days after receiving a mortgage loan application and before any fees are collected from the consumer, other than a reasonable credit check fee.

The rules also impose a waiting period of seven business days between the early disclosure and closing date. Additionally, lenders must provide revised disclosures, including a revised annual percentage rate if the existing interest rate significantly changes between the time the early disclosure is provided and the closing date.

As lenders continue to scramble to address these requirements and a flood of other regulations, it is important to look to technology solutions that can not only address these immediate needs, but also how they can be applied to future requirements and market opportunities. Lenders are quickly realizing that electronic delivery solutions can be very effective in meeting specific, new regulatory requirements.

As lenders look to effectively respond to these current market conditions, what should they being looking for in an electronic delivery solution? Here are the Top 7 things a lender should demand in an electronic delivery solution.

>> A solution that compliantly addresses new regulatory requirements.

>> A solution that can be easily deployed.

>> A solution that delivers document tracking and verification.

>> A solution with enhanced security and encryption.

>> A solution that provides ease of use for recipients.

>> A solution that provides increased loan profitability.

>> A solution that has a proven track record in the mortgage industry.

1. A solution that compliantly addresses new regulatory requirements.

Lenders looking for the ability to effectively respond to the flood of new regulatory requirements must work with an electronic delivery provider that has in-depth knowledge and experience in the mortgage industry. For the solution to effectively meet the new regulations, the provider must have a proven track record within the mortgage marketplace.

2. A Solution that can be easily deployed.

In today’s fast pace and constantly changing mortgage market, lenders need solutions that can quickly and easily be deployed while enhancing compliance. Dynamic electronic delivery solutions can provide the flexibility and compliance that today’s lending environment demands.

3. A Solution that delivers document tracking and verification.

To meet regulatory requirements lenders must be able to track and verify delivery of critical lending documents at all stages of the lending process. Having on-screen delivery confirmation ensures that all of the lenders’ transactions are completely traceable for audit purposes. Automatic email notifications can be sent to anyone, indicating the lenders documents were successfully transmitted. Industry leading document delivery solutions provide lenders with online history available in real time.

4. A Solution with enhanced security and encryption.

Your solution provider must employ state-of-the-art encryption technologies to ensure your institution’s privacy and security. The provider should also undergo an annual SOC 2 audit that is completed by an independent accounting firm.

5. A Solution that provides security and ease of use for recipients.

The provider needs to have the experience of successfully registering tens of thousands of users worldwide. Your provider should deliver a single user name and password, so that your recipients can receive documents from all parties of the transaction without having to remember multiple passwords. In addition, the solution should be able to be used to transmit lock box reports, board meeting notes, payroll data and other confidential materials such as wills and trusts.

6. A Solution that provides increased loan profitability.

Your electronic delivery solution should eliminate the time and expense of traditional overnight delivery. Documents may be sent to multiple recipients simultaneously. Last minute changes to your documents should be able to be made within seconds, and your revised documents should be able to be re-submitted and made available to the recipients at no additional charge. Your solution should not charge for redraws.

7. A Solution that has a proven track record in mortgage industry

Your electronic delivery solution provider must have in-depth mortgage industry experience if you are going to fully leverage it in today’s lending environment. The provider must also provide world-class support, one that is proactive in deliver new solutions before the regulatory deadlines.

When you or your recipients have questions, your provider needs to have the answers. They should have industry established procedures in place, and be able to effectively respond to any potential issues you may have. They need to be able available when you have questions. This includes extensive Customer Support availability, seven days per week, every day of the year (major holidays excepted).

RemoteDocs from Data-Vision, Inc. enables you to deliver documents to anyone, anywhere, anytime using a secure, internet based document delivery system. RemoteDocs allows documents to be easily sent within seconds and protects sensitive information with leading-edge security and encryption technologies. Immediate document delivery means on time closings and real bottom line results for your business! RemoteDocs delivers critical lending information where and when you need it, through the power of the internet. Point, Click, Delivered. It’s just that simple.

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Magazine Feature: The Tablet That Means Business

*The Tablet That Means Business*
**By Randy Schmidt**

surface-datavision***There’s no denying that the world is going mobile. Consumers are conducting more and more business from their mobile devices. Lenders are also looking to make the move to mobile. As a software vendor, one of the first questions that we get asked is whether our products will work on a tablet. Although Data-Vision specializes in utilizing the Internet for our Software as a Service applications, this question was not always easily answered. While our LoanQuoter point-of-sale product is browser based and will run from virtually any platform, our RemoteDoc document delivery product was a different story. RemoteDocs utilizes a virtual printer to create packages and that printer was designed specifically to run on Windows devices. This dichotomy is the biggest hurdle that lenders face in trying to make the move to mobile. Although many new products are being designed with mobile in mind, the majority of legacy applications still need to be run on a desktop. On February 9, 2013 Microsoft bridged that gap when they released the Microsoft Surface Pro. The Surface Pro is a fully functional Windows 8 machine with the form factor and touch screen of a tablet. But don’t let looks fool you. With an Intel i5 processor, 4GB of Memory and 128GB of storage space this new device is more of a PC or ultrabook than it is a tablet.

****The timing was perfect for me. My aging laptop was in need of replacement and I was intrigued by the possibility of moving to a single mobile device for both office and travel. So I took the plunge and ordered the Surface Pro 128. Upon unpacking my new device I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of it. The Surface Pro is made from a magnesium alloy and has a very sturdy feel. There is also a kickstand on the back that flips out to allow you to place the tablet on a desktop or table. At two pounds, it was a little heavier than my current tablet but far lighter than the laptop I have been carrying around. The dimensions of the Surface are also a little unique. At 10.8 x 6.8 by .53 inches the Surface Pro looks more like a small widescreen monitor or television than a traditional tablet. But as soon as I clicked on the magnetic full touch keyboard, it began to resemble a smaller version of my laptop.

****I turned on the device and was immediately impressed with the stunning display. Although the 10.6 inch display is a little small for full time use, the 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution delivers true HD quality making all text and graphics crisp and bright. The touch screen was quick and responsive incorporating all of the swipes and gestures that I have come to know from my phone and other tablets. By hooking up a docking station through the USB 3.0 port on the Surface, I was able to attach a full size keyboard, mouse, Ethernet connection, printer, scanner, speakers and dual monitors making this a true desktop replacement machine for my office environment. When it comes time to leave the office, all I have to do is unhook one cable and attach the magnetic keyboard and I have a portable device, which can function as both laptop and tablet.

****My next order of business was to start adding all of my software. Since the startup brings you to the Windows 8 start screen utilizing live tiles, I decided to visit the Windows store and see if my favorite tablet applications were available. Although the Windows store isn’t as robust as either the Apple or Android stores, I was able to find many of the tablet applications that I use when travelling. I downloaded and installed tablet applications for my Kindle reader, Pandora, USA Today, Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Skype and a couple of games.

****With the personal stuff out of the way, it was now time to get down to business. I switched over to the desktop view and began to install and configure my daily applications. Internet Explorer was already installed as the default web browser but I also installed Firefox and Chrome to allow for full testing of our Web applications. I then installed Microsoft Office (including full versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote), Outlook, Project, GoToMeeting, and a host of other software. They all seemed to install fine and run as expected.

****With all of the standard software loaded the only thing left was to try our own software. I figured that if anything could go wrong, now would be the time for it to happen. As I mentioned earlier, our RemoteDocs document delivery software creates a virtual printer that you can use to print documents from within your Loan Origination System or any other Windows application and send those documents to anyone through our secure servers. Given that the underlying operating system was Windows 8 I felt fairly confident that everything would work but I held my breath anyway as I started the install. A few clicks later everything was installed and worked perfectly.

****After a short learning curve of figuring out the nuances of the touch interface of Windows 8, I spent the next week happily using my new device as my only machine. By totally replacing both my previous laptop and tablet, I figured I could quickly determine the strengths and weaknesses of the Surface Pro. While the Surface Pro isn’t the best tablet or for that matter the best laptop that I have ever used, it is the only device that lets me do both with the power and speed to which I have become accustomed.

****As a desktop device I have absolutely no complaints. When hooked to my docking station, I have a powerful office computer that makes me forget its diminutive size. But the main reason I purchased this wasn’t to leave it sitting on my desk. I wanted to see how it would perform out in the real world. I unhooked the USB cable, attached the magnetic keyboard and headed out the door.

****As a tablet or mobile device, the first thing I noticed was my lack of Internet connectivity. My previous tablets all had cellular data connections that allowed me to use them anywhere. The Surface Pro on the other hand only connects through Wi-Fi. Luckily my phone has the option of doubling as a Wi-Fi hotspot. After a few taps on my cell phone, I was back in business. I’m still trying to decide if this is a benefit or drawback. On one hand there are a few extra clicks on my phone that are needed whenever I want work somewhere there isn’t a Wi-Fi connection. On the other hand by connecting through my phone there is only one data plan that I have to be concerned with.

****While out of the office, I put the Surface through its paces. I checked and replied to e-mails, worked on a couple of spreadsheets, got caught up on the daily news and even read a chapter of my favorite eBook on my Kindle reader. Everything worked flawlessly. My only concern going forward is the Surface Pro’s battery life. Because of its full-blown processor and HD display, I was only averaging about four and a half to five hours of work before I needed to reconnect the power cable. While that was slightly better than I was getting out of my previous laptop, it was far short of what I was getting from my tablet. Given all that I was able to do with this device, I suppose that’s a tradeoff I can live with.

****At $999 for the 128 GB model and another $129 for the magnetic keyboard cover, the Surface Pro is a little pricier than either a comparable laptop or tablet. But given that it is a reasonable replacement for both it is actually less expensive than buying one of each.

****In conclusion, I am very happy with my purchase. I honestly believe that the Surface Pro could be a real game changer for the Mortgage industry. By equipping their loan officers with Surface Pro tablets, lenders can give their originators the convenience and portability of a tablet while still maintaining the power and ability to run all of their legacy applications. By not having to learn different versions of their software, loan officers can be much more productive and offer borrowers a much more personalized level of service.  It also makes sense from an IT perspective. The Surface Pro will work seamlessly with your existing infrastructure and your IT department won’t have to worry about maintaining security across multiple platforms. Disk encryption, password rules and other security features are already in place. And the best part is that by utilizing your existing programs you won’t have to worry about how to transfer data from one device to another.

****From my perspective, the Surface Pro is a tablet designed with business in mind.

Magazine Feature: The Mobile Impact

*The Mobile Impact*
**By Randy Schmidt**

***The mobile revolution is expanding at an unprecedented pace.  In a research report called “The Mobile Revolution & B2B” by Christina Kerley, she says,  “with over 5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, that eclipses the combined penetration of PC’s, landlines and TV’s”.

****But it doesn’t stop there, as nearly 6 out of 10 U.S. consumers use smartphones, while tablets are used by more than one-third, according to a new survey from Frank N. Magid Associates. Smartphones are now used by 58% of American consumers and by 76% among those under the age 44. Meanwhile, tablet usage has risen to 34% from zero just two years ago.

****Here are some additional mobile statistics that reflect the growth and importance of the mobile channel for reaching your potential borrowers:

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  • Global internet usage will more than double by 2015, and most of these users will be mobile. (Boston Consulting Group, Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins, Morgan Stanley Research, Berg Insight via Business Insider)
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  • Adults spend more media time on mobile than newspapers and magazines combined. (eMarketer December 2011)
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  • In 2012, the U.S. saw a 55% increase in smartphone subscriptions to make for 98 million smartphone subscribers, representing nearly 42% of all U.S. mobile users. (comScore 2012)
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  • In the U.S. alone, there were more than 400 smartphone devices on the market at the end of 2011. (comScore 2012)
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  • In 2011, smartphone adoption increased 99% among 6-person households, 98% among those making less than $25,000, and 92% among retirees. (comScore 2012)
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  • Apple and Android represent more than 75% of the smartphone market. (comScore 2012)
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  • QR code scans increased 300% in 2011 over 2010. (ScanLife)
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  • QR code usage jumped 617% from January to December 2011 in top 100 magazines. (Nellymoser)
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  • In 2012, the audience of internet users in the U.S. will expand by 3.1% to 239 million, representing 75.6% of the total population. In other words … more than 3/4 of the total population will be online in 2012.
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  • Mobile Internet users will reach 113.9 million in 2012, up 17.1% from 97.3 million in 2011.
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  • Smartphone users will reach 106.7 million in 2012, up 18.4% from 2011.
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  • In 2012, 94% of smartphones users will be mobile Internet users.
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  • All mobile phone users will reach 242.6 million in 2012, up 2.3% from 2011.
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  • Tablet users will reach 54.8 million in 2012, up 62.8% from 33.7 million in 2011.
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  • iPad users will reach 41.9 million in 2012.
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  • In 2012, 76.4% of tablet users will be iPad users.
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  • Adult-aged eReader users will reach 45.6 million in 2012, up from 33.3 million in 2011.

****Are you overwhelmed yet? Well, you should be. The facts are resoundingly clear, mobile is huge. What does all of this mean for the mortgage market you might ask? Despite signs of continued housing market distress, most homeowners and perspective buyers are optimistic about the housing market, according to a survey by real estate website Trulia.

****In the biannual American Dream Survey, 78 percent of homeowners said their property was the best investment they had ever made. But 20 percent said they felt trapped in a home that was worth more than their mortgage, and 14 percent told surveyors that they would walk away from their homes if they could.

****The people least likely to be affected by the housing crisis, 18 to 34-year-olds referred to as ‘millennials,’ were most optimistic about a recovery. According to Trulia, 26 percent had become more positive about owning a home over the past six months compared to 18 percent of 35 to 44 year-olds and 45 to 54 year-olds, and 22 percent of baby boomers.

****Millennials—also commonly referred to as Generation Y and echo boomers—are the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. Unsurprisingly, the internet’s role is paramount among the age group’s media habits and usage. From shopping to socializing to watching TV, they do it all online.

****“Millennials represent a critical target for marketers, and the best place to reach them is where they are—online,” said Jared Jenks, eMarketer analyst and author of the new report, “Demographic Profile—Millennials.”

****According to Wells Fargo, there are 51.5 million potential first time homebuyers born between 1979 and 1991, people born in between these years are also known as the Millenials. Approximately 6 million more of these Millennials are making of these years the prime home buying age.

****Millennials comprise nearly a quarter of the total US population, and are evenly split between males and females. Less than six in 10 are white, and aside from children under 18, millennials are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in the country’s history.

****Virtually all members of this age group are online, and nearly as many are social network users. Millennials are ahead of the curve by almost any digital metric: online video viewing, mobile internet usage, mobile commerce, and location-based services.

****Their presence on such a wide variety of digital media offers marketers a plethora of opportunities to target them, but millennials are typically unenthusiastic about advertising and prefer to avoid marketing messages that seem insincere.

****“What appeals to them is authenticity,” said Jenks. “They are not opposed to connecting with brands, but do so only when there is an exchange of value and, of course, when it is on their terms.”

****Millennials were also more likely to aspire to own homes, with 88 percent of the 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed saying they planned to buy property. Many argue that this demographic will be key to reviving the real estate market.

****Kerley points out, “In the mobile revolution, what is most important—yet not widely understood—isn’t that we’re changing our technology, but that this technology is changing us. Mobile is driving sweeping changes across the needs, expectations and thresholds of today’s consumer and business audiences.  Mobile is pervasive in every aspect of our lives”.

****After all, what is more personal to you and your borrower than their mobile devices?  Mobile devices are:

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  • Always on
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  • Always with them
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  • Tailored to their preferences

****Going mobile today means that you can conduct business; with anyone, from anywhere, and at any time. Can your business do this? If not, now is the time to start thinking of ways to accomplish these very goals. The days of needing to be tied to a single location to conduct business are over. It’s time to cut the cord and move into the mobile arena where information can be easily accessed from anywhere.

****All of the tools to make this happen are readily available today. Almost every part of the lending process is available via the web. Online point-of-sale and consumer portals are available to allow you to reach out and communicate with your prospects and customers. Cloud-based document storage allows you to collaborate with customers and business partners. Online LOS systems let you process loans from anywhere by using only a web browser. If you are considering purchasing or upgrading any part of your lending process, now is the time to think mobile.

****So, what should you be doing as lender active in the space today? Align your products and services with this profound, permanent shift that mobile is driving across your core audiences… or risk your company’s relevance in a business world forever changed by anytime, anywhere, always on access to critical lending information.

Magazine Column

*Recovery Tips: Expanding Your Footprint*

**By Randy Schmidt**

***Today’s highly competitive market and tech savvy consumers are challenging lenders to deliver a robust online lending experience if they want to compete and expand their mortgage footprint.

****For instance, despite the challenges of the local and national economy, The Juniata Valley Bank remains a well-capitalized, fiscally sound community bank, ready and able to meet the credit needs of the markets it serves. Those needs are many and varied as they face a rapidly evolving constituency.

****”Throughout 2012, we will continue to deliver financial services through traditional community offices, offering face-to-face service from friendly personnel seven days a week; in addition, we are expanding our electronic delivery system to meet the demands of an increasingly technology-dependent clientele. Text banking and full service Mobile Banking are now augmented by online delivery of mortgage-related loan products” stated Suzanne Booher, VP Marketing/Facilities/Security for The Juniata Valley Bank.

****What lenders are realizing is that the online mobile revolution is expanding at an unprecedented pace. With over 5 billion mobile subscriptions world-wide, that number eclipses the combined penetration of PC’s, landlines and TV’s. Smartphones are projected to surpass 110 million by 2015 according to eMarketer. The statistics clearly demonstrate that today’s consumers are online, they are mobile, and are increasingly “tech savvy”.

****Lenders need to be where their potential borrowers are. A recent study showed that there are 51.5 million potential homebuyers born between 1979 and 1991. This group of people commonly referred to as “millennials” comprise nearly a quarter of the total US population. This represents a critical audience for lenders and virtually every member of this group can be found online. By not having an online channel, lenders are missing out on a tremendous opportunity.

****It is essential to make online offerings more interactive. Lenders must engage their borrowers and instantly provide them with the information needed to make an informed buying decision. In addition, lenders should provide secure communications with their customers to keep them informed during the entire lending process.

****In order to better serve their customers, The Juniata Valley Bank made the decision to expand their online offerings. To successfully offer an interactive online experience, they looked for a partner that fully understood what customers expect online, delivers the security that their institution demands and has the experience to quickly implement.

****Suzanne stated, “We partnered with one of the industry’s most trusted sources for online lending to collaborate with our team to deliver a secure online user experience. Data-Vision’s highly skilled staff explained what borrowers are looking for and were extremely easy to work with”.

****Members of today’s “do it yourself” generation, prefer to have an interactive online experience available to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This online experience should contain all of the tools necessary to allow the borrower to gather the information they need to make a decision and then allow them to execute on that decision.

****>> A variety of mortgage calculators

****>> A pre-qualification process

****>> An easy to use and secure application process

****>> Instant approval capabilities

****>> Up-to-date product and rate information

****>> Up-to-date loan status information

****>> A secure message center between the Loan Officer and the Borrower

****>> Electronic delivery of initial disclosures and other documents

****>> On demand live chat

****In addition, having a partner that understands today’s compliance challenges, the demands of tech savvy borrowers and the expertise to quickly deliver solutions to market is absolutely critical.

****>> Proven track record of successful implementations

****>> Highly skilled staff that can drive implementation process

****>> Understands mortgage market complexities

****>> Professional and easy to work with

****>> Responsive to individual institutions’ needs & requirements

****>> Award winning customer support

****”Data-Vision was able to deliver on our aggressive implementation schedule and exceeded our expectations to deliver to our customers a dynamic user experience”, stated Suzanne.

****Today’s consumer is online and mobile. Smartphone and tablet use is growing exponentially. People are constantly connected and expect access to information 24/7. Lenders must align their products and services with the profound, permanent shifts that online mobile is causing, or risk relevance with a client base that has forever been changed by anywhere, anytime accessibility.

****ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Randy Schmidt is President of Data-Vision, Inc. and is responsible for overall operation and strategic planning for the company. Randy became involved in the IT side of mortgage banking almost 30 years ago and has been involved in numerous projects on both the origination and servicing side of the business. In 1993, Randy co-founded Data-Vision, Inc., in Mishawaka, Ind. as a Web design company.

Nothing But Net: Channel Integration: A Dynamic Single Online Platform

*Channel Integration: A Dynamic Single Online Lending Platform*
**By Randy Schmidt**

***As origination volumes decline and lenders battle for prospective borrowers, it is critical for lenders to be where their potential borrowers are.  A recent study showed that there are 51.5 million potential homebuyers born between 1979 and 1991.  This group of people commonly referred to as “millennials” comprise nearly a quarter of the total US population.

****This represents a critical target audience for lenders.  Virtually every member of this group can be found online.  Therefore, lenders must have an online lending presence that meets the needs of this potential audience.   By not having an online channel, lenders are missing out on a tremendous opportunity.

****But online lending shouldn’t be thought of solely as a separate channel, but a as an extension of your existing lending channels.  By allowing loan officers, correspondents, third party originators and help desk personnel access to your online lending tools borrowers can receive the same up to the minute information and service levels regardless of the channel they choose.  This multi-channel approach allows for a consistent borrower experience that creates customer satisfaction and builds loyalty.

****The key to successfully integrating these lending channels is through a single dynamic online lending platform that can be specifically tailored for each channel.  Some of the solutions on the market today try to sell multiple products addressing each channel separately and then claim seamless integration.  This significantly adds to the total cost of the solutions and presents obvious integration challenges.

****Do you really want to have to train your staff on multiple systems?  What about the time and effort in maintaining multiple systems?  The ability to successfully integrate all of these separate solutions adds complexity and the potential of integrity issues to the equation.  As lenders are pushed to do more with less, having multiple systems to maintain and integrate is simply not a prudent business decision.

****What lenders need is one dynamic single online lending platform that works across all lending channels.  A solution that can be specifically tailored to the unique needs of borrowers, loan officers, correspondents, third party originators and help desk personnel.  This can improve the user experience for each of these groups while reducing the overall cost of ownership for lenders.

****In today’s highly competitive lending environment, being able to deliver a consistent borrower experience across all lending channels through a  dynamic single online lending platform improves customer satisfaction in the most cost effective manner.