Poll results show hyperautomation and a data-driven approach is key to customer experience and employee productivity

Many mortgage companies and banks have recently struggled with manual, bottlenecked processes, a bombardment of customer data, COVID distress and slow response times for borrowing, servicing, processing and underwriting. Interest rates remained low and home sales skyrocketed this past year as the economy bounced back in some areas, causing a high volume of mortgage loans and processing. In fact, the industry average for processing a home loan takes 49 days with 30 touchpoints.

In a recent live webinar panel hosted by National Mortgage News, panelists from AnnieMac Home Mortgage, Zia Consulting and Ephesoft engaged in a vibrant discussion on automation strategies in the mortgage industry to help combat many of these recent challenges of the past year. Paul Centopani, Editor at National Mortgage News, Craig Ungaro, COO at AnnieMac Home Mortgage, Pat Myers, EVP and Co-Founder at Zia Consulting made up the panel that was moderated by Darin Pendergraft, VP at Ephesoft. The key point from the session was that process automation and developing a hyperautomation strategy are necessary to mitigate risks and industry challenges in mortgage. 

With almost 200 registrants, the audience was filled with executives, CIOs, chief lending officers, loan officers, mortgage bankers, mortgage verification services, client relations, home lending operations, underwriters and growth marketers from small, medium and large mortgage companies and banks mostly from the United States. Through a polling platform with audience engagement, we were able to ask the audience three questions on their quest for automation. Here are the results and the panelists’ commentary.

#1 Poll Question

We already have plans to automate or digitally transform the following: (Select one)

  • Automatically extract data from loan documents – 15%
  • Classify and separate loan packages – 5%
  • Automate the underwriting process – 5%
  • Automatically onboard data into our LOS – 5%
  • All of the above – 55%
  • Not at this time – 15%

The majority of respondents, 55%, said they already or had plans to automate all of the options: extract data from loan documents, classify and separate loan packages, underwriting and onboard data into their LOS. For the others, 15% said that they had plans to only extract data from loan packages. Classifying, underwriting and onboarding data each accounted for 5% of the poll. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of 85% already had plans to digitally transform some or a majority of their loan processes. What surprised the panel was that 15% of the audience said they had no plans at all to automate these processes – so the question became, why not? Possibilities could be resources, budget or change management difficulties.

#2 Poll Question

What are the main reasons to automate your mortgage/loan processes? (Check all that apply)

  • Improve the customer experience – 92.6%
  • Eliminate manual data entry – 59.3%
  • Expedite processing with efficiency – 85.2%
  • Cut costs – 55.6%
  • Boost employee productivity – 88.9%
  • Reduce human error – 74.1%

Paul Centopani from National News Mortgage was surprised that cutting costs was the lowest at 55.6% but after more discussion, the panel thought that it was because it was a byproduct of what would happen if everything else was automated – especially productivity – as part of the hyperautomation strategy. “Customer experience might be the biggest opportunity,” said Craig Ungaro at AnnieMac Home Mortgage, explaining why 92.6% of respondents checked improving customer experience (CX). Paul also gave an example of why CX is so important: “Waiting to get a home appraisal for two months doesn’t meet customer expectations that they are used to, which is a service like Amazon.” Pat Myers from Zia Consulting pointed out, “So if you have the capability to do it [refi] quickly and boost employee productivity and improve the customer experience, you’ll not only be able to retain customers but grow your customer base.”

Tied to this poll question was the next panel discussion on how mortgage companies can stay competitive. “Take a step back and look at your processes,” advised Pat. “Unless you fix your process, technology can only help so much.” 

“Break your workflow down to its core components,” added Craig. From here, mortgage companies can see what can easily be automated and start there. As for hyperautomation, he also suggested, “Start in the background. Work on small things. Get the confidence of the user community. Get buy-in.”

#3 Poll Question

What are the top 3 technology priorities at your company? (Check your top 3)

  • AI or Machine Learning – 58.3%
  • Automation (e.g. automated underwriting) – 75%
  • Low/no-code – 12.5%
  • Cloud – 20.8%
  • Centralization of data – 45.8%
  • Data-driven reports or analytics – 70.8%

There were no surprises here from the panel based on their experiences. “I am perfectly aligned with the audience,” said Craig. “Data-driven reports and analytics are important for productivity, especially in a decentralized workforce. As a result of the pandemic, you’re going to need to fine-tune analytics to be able to understand performance.” Automating loans using intelligent document processing (IDP) is a big area of opportunity for the mortgage industry. For modern applications, many of them will be developed using AI or machine learning algorithms, low/no-code and built in the cloud, which suggest synergy and a mix of technology priorities. 

Automation cuts down lender processing time, which can lead to lower costs and higher revenues by enabling mortgage companies to do more business and improve customer satisfaction. Examples given by the panelists included self-servicing, forbearance and using intelligent document processing to build a dynamic needs list based on borrower information.

“Internally, our ah-ha moment was looking at our flood certification process. You never need a human involved in this transaction. Another example is an appraisal delivery. These are examples where intelligent document processing solutions or hyperautomation that are real-time upon the event that is occurring and the activity happens. Once you identify these stare-and-compare processes, you’ll say, ‘I can’t believe you spent the time doing that!’” – Craig Ungaro, COO

Key Takeaway: Mortgage companies must develop a strategy to keep progressing their data-driven, hyperautomation journey even if it means starting small – in order to stay competitive, accelerate processes, improve productivity and boost customer experience. Automation comes in different shapes and sizes but a great start often begins with intelligent document processing to extract the data you need and minimize tedious time-consuming tasks.