Although the mortgage industry often raises issues about the rising cost of compliance, another method of tracking how regulation, investor requirements, and the threat of indemnifications or repurchases have reshaped operations is through underwriter productivity.

The Mortgage Bankers Association has put together a chart that shows a 10-year trend in average monthly underwriter productivity for the retail production channel.

Click to enlarge

(Source: MBA, STRATMOR)

The chart excludes third party and consumer direct originations.

According to Marina Walsh at MBA, for large lenders — that is, firms generally in the top 25 nationwide — productivity is now five times lower than it was ten years ago, dropping to 33 applications per underwriter in 2014 from 165 applications per underwriter in 2005.

Productivity for mid-sized lenders, firms originating an average of $1.2 billion in the retail channel in 2014, has fallen to 37 applications per underwriter in 2014 from 135 in 2005, Walsh says.

Monthly productivity is measured as the average of the number of applications in a given year divided by the number of full-time equivalent underwriters, divided by twelve.

“While the trend in productivity is similar between large and mid-sized lenders, the value of scale economies observed among large lenders in the 2005-2009 period has diminished as reliance on automated underwriting has lessened,” Walsh says.