Executive Conversations is a HousingWire web series that profiles powerful people in the financial industry, highlighting the operations and the people that make this sector tick. In the latest installment, we sit down with Krish Swaminathan, global head — mortgage solutions and client relations, and Neil Armstrong, head of global business development at Sutherland, to discuss how mortgage companies are using various automation tools including RPA.

Q. How is Sutherland using RPA and other automation tools to help mortgage companies?

KrishKrish: Sutherland provides a connection point between artificial intelligence and human effort with three key solutions that can be deployed separately or work in tandem to generate a smarter loan process: robotic process automation (RPA), data analytics, and customer journey mapping.

Neil: The greatest reward I have working at Sutherland is being able to sit down with clients, review their processes and uncover opportunities. Every client has different needs and are at different points of their digital journey.

With our suite of automation tools, including SmartXtract, SmartOCR, SmartRPA, SmartMortgageAPP, you can be at the beginning or at a mature stage of your road map and we can find opportunities to drive costs down or enhance your customer experience.

One example is machine learning, which is a part of AI that specifically allows for a process to develop over time and learn what a document is and what to look for going forward. The machine learns what the required information is and how to find it. We are also seeing how AI can be used in servicing to reduce customers affected by natural disasters and connecting with them quicker in the process.

Q. How do mortgage companies benefit by implementing RPA? 

NeilNeil: There are many benefits to mortgage companies using AI — it’s not just about cost reduction, though that’s the most common benefit clients are seeking. AI can also improve the customer experience, help client retention, reduce cycle time and reduce errors in the process.

Mortgage companies should expect a quick return on their investment in RPA because it enhances productivity and improves the value chain without IT disruptions. We encourage companies to measure the productivity per employee before RPA is implemented and then again after the learning stage. It is a remarkable difference.

Q. What does the implementation process look like for SmartMortgageAPP and SmartMortgageRPA? 

Krish: Sutherland adopts RAPID (Robotic Automation Process Identification) to help build a framework to discover, develop and deploy. Before we deploy RPA or the APP or any automation tools we sit down with our clients, ask several questions and guide them through the best solutions.

For instance, we will talk about their organization’s transformation strategy, whether their applications support APIs to read and write data, and whether their apps change often. We will also explore the quality of their data and whether their data contains hand-written text. All of this information is important in guiding them to the right solution.

Our first targets are usually processes with big ROI where the client can see immediate payback, with low security requirements and minimum to no system integrations required.

We then identify a second and third set of target processes and identify processes that will not be included in the automation initiatives.

Q: How do these automation products increase efficiency and compliance?

Krish: They allow companies to connect with borrowers where it’s most important. Giving repetitive tasks to robots frees up human staff to connect with borrowers at critical touchpoints. Why tie up human staff in manual processes when robots can do it faster with fewer errors?

Automation also allows companies to easily scale up or down to meet changing workload needs. RPA means work can be done all day every day, working in the background of mortgage companies to increase efficiency. And since every robot can do the work of between three and 20 people, scaling becomes much easier than hiring, training and potentially laying off regular staff as businesses go through peaks and valleys. Sutherland conducted a time-in-motion study with a leading mortgage company and expedited processes by over 20%.

By its very nature, RPA provides detailed audit trails and more transparency. But even more important, the number of errors made in formerly manual functions can be astoundingly small. For example, a robot working at a pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco, filled 350,000 doses of medication without making a single error. Imagine the difference RPA accuracy could make at mortgage companies, which would be able to limit overlapping checks to uncover errors.

Neil: I would say the year-over-year learning aspects of the robots and the reduction of errors. I am a big proponent of going through each process and finding ways to increase productivity. RPA provides employees with a valuable “assistant” working beside them to increase productivity and reduce turn times.