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Opinion, commentary, and analysis on everything that makes the U.S. housing economy tick -- not to mention the ghosts in the machine, too. Written by HW's team of editors and reporters each business day.
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Monday Morning Cup of Coffee: The dark side of mortgage automation

Plus, the latest on the New York Fed's cyberheist

March 27, 2017

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee takes a look at news coming across HousingWire’s weekend desk, with more coverage to come on larger issues.

Lots of people, including your friends here at HousingWire, have noted that the mortgage industry is ripe for tech disruption. But buried in all the good news about efficiency, lower costs and borrower satisfaction is the potential for serious job loss.

How serious?

An analysis by PwC, reported on by the Los Angeles Times, says 38% of U.S. jobs could be taken by robots in the next 15 years, which is significantly higher than countries like Britain, Germany and Japan. And the PwC analysis identified jobs in the financial and insurance sector as especially vulnerable in the U.S. compared to other countries. The reason cited by the article? A lack of education by U.S. bankers.

“While London finance employees work in international markets, their U.S. counterparts focus more on the domestic retail market, and workers ‘do not need to have the same educational levels,’ the report said. Jobs that require less education are at higher potential risk of automation, according to the report.”

But it’s hard to see how more education would stop the juggernaut of automation. Would a master's degree really benefit loan officers, identified by Salary.com as No. 2 on the list of jobs mostly likely to be taken over by robots? Seems pretty unlikely.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, for one, doesn’t seem too worried about the coming robot apocalypse. In reaction to the report, Mnuchin said, “I think we’re so far away from that that it’s not even on my radar screen. I think it’s 50 or 100 more years."

That did not sit well with the good folks at Wired.com, including Emily Dreyfuss, who published an article entitled "Hate to break it to Steve Mnuchin but AI is already taking jobs."

Despite being slightly jealous of the familiarity Dreyfuss apparently has with Steve Mnuchin (we are still on a Steven basis), I thought she had some pretty valid points. “Artificial intelligence is not only coming for jobs, the jobs it’s coming for are the precious few left over after old-school automation already came for so many others,” Dreyfuss writes. 

Dreyfuss attended a recent conference on the topic at MIT and observed lots of worry among experts on AI and employment, in stark contrast to those in Washington. The article quoted Gene Sperling, former chief economic advisor in both the Obama and Clinton administrations.

“When you are outside of Washington, this is often the most significant issue, but it’s not back in D.C.,” Sperling said.

Which is ironic, because if we're looking to supplant humans with artificial intelligence, D.C. would strike many people as a good place to start.

There were new developments this week in the hunt for perpetrators of the $81 million cyberheist last year at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors are now looking at North Korea as the culprit behind the massive theft from Bangladesh’s bank account.

On Friday, the president of the New York Fed, William Dudley, said the bank is working to improve its cyberdefense. From The Wall Street Journal article:

“Mr. Dudley said the New York Fed phishes its own employees to test them on cyberawareness, and is working with international stakeholders to help ensure the cross-border payments system is more secure. The focus of that work is to make sure everyone understands their responsibilities in the global payments chain, he said.”

(That heist has inspired many in the mortgage space to tighten cybersecurity. Check out our feature in the latest issue of HousingWire Magazine by Caroline Basile, which outlines what companies like Black Knight are doing to be more secure.)  

What's almost as valuable as the money sitting in bank vaults? The treasure trove of consumer information that banks have access to. That's according to this article in the New York Times, which details the battle between tech companies and banks for this valuable data.

Banks are pushing for new data agreements with third parties, contending that they are only looking out for consumers as they seek to limit access. Tech companies say the banks just don't want the competition that would come from revealing what consumers are paying in interest rates, etc. From the article:

In recent weeks, several large banks have been pushing to restrict the sharing of this kind of data with technology companies, according to the tech firms. In some cases, they are refusing to pass along information, like the fees and interest rates they charge. Both sides see big money to be made from the reams of highly personal information created by financial transactions.

We reported last week that Americans are returning to their traditional migration patterns, as suburbs grew more than cities in 2015, reversing a decade-long trend. Cities with high housing prices are feeling the impact the most, but in at least one red-hot market, that's just leaving more room for buyers from other countries.

The Miami Herald reports that the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area is seeing a huge shift. From the article:

Today, far more people are moving out of South Florida than moving in from other parts of the country, and by margins that are growing every year, the analysis shows. Net domestic migration has plummeted by a startling 2,670% since 2010 — and that number is not a typo, Ilcheva stressed.

Meanwhile, net international migration to the region has increased 397% over the same period, she found, more than making up for the domestic losses. 

“We have people coming here from other countries to invest and to migrate for other reasons,” Ilcheva said. “On the other hand, the locals are looking for exit strategies.”

With housing inventory at an eight-year low and home prices at a 10-year high, the trend is only going to gain momentum.

On that happy note, just be glad you haven't spent the last 12 months as a contestant on a reality show stranded in the Scottish wilderness, only to find that the show was canceled after four episodes.

Have a great week!

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