Mortgage lending has undergone a sea change in the last several years, requiring mortgage companies to do more with less as they look to meet increased borrower expectations in a low-volume environment. In order to deliver a seamless experience in a cost-effective manner, mortgage companies have turned to a wide array of technology solutions that solve discrete problems, but don’t always work well together.
To achieve true process transformation, mortgage companies are partnering with Sutherland Mortgage Services Inc. (SMSI), which combines technical acumen with human-centered design for optimal outcomes.
SMSI occupies a technological sweet spot where it can leverage the process transformation knowledge of its global parent company, Sutherland, which serves 120 clients from the Fortune 1000 and has developed conversational AI platforms for powerhouses like Google, Uber and Disney.
For the past 10 years, SMSI has been applying that intelligence to the mortgage industry, with a domain expertise that ensures it understands what clients need.
The company’s executive team is comprised of mortgage bankers with an average of 18 years’ experience in the industry, and they lead a group of 1,500 mortgage professionals with significant experience processing, underwriting, closing, servicing and auditing mortgages.
“We have been in our clients’ shoes — dealing with the issues that our clients are dealing with,” said Global Head of Mortgage at Sutherland Krish Swaminathan. “The depth of knowledge we have on our leadership team gives us a distinct advantage.”
The company’s domain experience means that SMSI understands at a deep level what its mortgage clients need, and takes a holistic approach to providing solutions. The company’s always-on organization features capabilities in multiple locations so clients can utilize efficient solutions without impacting customer experience.
For example, SMSI recognizes that certain functions are best executed from the U.S. — like those related to voice quality. At the same time, using offshore locations can make the most sense for more administrative tasks.
“Essentially, we follow a model of keeping the loan in motion for 24 hours — there is someone working on the loan at all times. This has resulted in better turn times, and in one case study Sutherland was able to improve end-to-end cycle times by 25% to 30%,” Swaminathan said.
The company understands the complexity of each client’s tech stack needs and offers a flexible engagement model so that clients can choose what’s right for them — whether that’s a true end- to-end fulfillment solution or a strategy that uses a la carte options. Solutions are customized for each client to ensure the right cost structure for their particular situation.
In addition, because Sutherland Mortgage Services employs mortgage professionals at every level of the organization, the company doesn’t need a six-month ramp-up time to figure out client processes and come up with solutions.
“When clients look at digital, they think it’s going to come with a heavy cost and a lot of intensive work on their end,” said Neil Armstrong, head of global business development at Sutherland.
“But we already understand their pain points. We can show them a very quick path forward and help them become more digital without sacrificing customer experience.”
SMSI has a number of tools at its disposal, and the first step of its due diligence with a new client is looking for low-hanging fruit that can save money in the short term by improving efficiency. Oftentimes, SMSI quickly identifies repetitive tasks that can be automated to free up staff for more complicated work.
“Repetitive, easily automatable tasks should be done by a robot, not a highly paid resource that can focus on higher-end work,” Swaminathan said. “At the same time, while a robot is a great thing, it doesn’t solve problems by itself. We combine robotic tools with other automation to solve the real issues.”
For example, SMSI has a client that asked for a specific robotic process automation project from another vendor, requesting bots that did specific tasks. That vendor delivered the bots according to the client’s requirements, but they didn’t work as well as expected and ran into issues once they were live.
That client gave SMSI the same robotic ask, but SMSI’s bot was more efficient and functional because SMSI understood the nuances of handling disclosures and combined the bot with a smart OCR solution and a smart extraction solution.
“What truly differentiates us in these situations is we don’t build it, deliver it to the client and go away. Because we’re mortgage bankers serving mortgage bankers we stay on and maintain our solutions and make sure they are working well. We understand the whole of their process and we’re not just offering one-off solutions,” Swaminathan said.
Armstrong agreed. “Automation is not one thing, it’s a combination of things. We actually understand mortgages, so we’re not just doing what is written in the business requirement document.”
In another instance, SMSI worked with a servicer to handle their customer call volume, which had escalated out of control. SMSI looked at the servicer’s business cycle and found that chat bots would be a good fit for the kinds of tasks consumers called in about.
SMSI built a mobile app that gives customers the option to take care of these tasks through their smartphone, with a chat bot ready to answer any questions. Instead of opening a second call center, the servicer was able to decrease call center volume with self-serve options while increasing the customer experience.
“Some of the world’s largest organizations trust us for this kind of conversational AI customer experience and we’re happy to bring what we’ve learned from those partnerships into the mortgage space,” Armstrong said.
Sutherland has long been known for its robust business process outsourcing (BPO), but has seen even more impressive results since opening its Sutherland Labs in San Francisco and London.
The company brings clients into its labs so design teams can study their challenges first-hand, often conducting journey mapping exercises to illuminate areas for improvement in the user experience and identify automation opportunities.
Working with one client led Sutherland Labs to conduct in-home interviews with customers who had started a loan application but fell out in the process.
The insights they gained from first-person interactions helped design thinkers to rebuild the application process for significantly better outcomes.
“We work with our clients to uncover areas where it makes sense to use business process outsourcing,” Armstrong said.
In this regulatory environment, with such a high cost to originate, BPO is a smart way to help offset the cost of the loan.
“As we walk clients through the process as their customer experiences it, many executives have that ‘aha’ moment where they can see where the bottlenecks are and where automation could help.
“Lenders and servicers have an open invitation to come and see how they can improve their business,” Armstrong said.