As the country embraces technology now more than ever, lenders and title companies have an opportunity to embrace the possibilities of mortgage technology to connect with consumers in new ways and grow their businesses.
In an online event on Monday, Qualia and its partners discussed the ever-changing world of technology in real estate, mortgage, and title lending and what lies ahead in 2021. Among key topics discussed were the transition to remote online notarization, protecting against wire fraud, and maintaining relationships despite the pandemic, which has eliminated many in-person interactions.
Relationships are critical in the title lending business, as most business comes from referrals, according to Diane Tomb, chief executive officer of the American Land Title Association. But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to isolate and maintaining person-to-person relationships has grown more difficult.
Luckily, video conferencing and a transition to online portals for paperwork are positively impacting the day-to-day of the industry.
“We’re really trying to make all title lending folks stay engaged with customers – through technology – the best that they can,” Tomb said. “We’re creating a program on our end for customers to go online and understand everything about their loan and what’s going on. It’s a new time for our industry, with so much going virtual.”
“Having good relationships is good business,” said Rick Hill, vice president of industry technology at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “I think it’s even more critical to stay in touch with people during COVID. You want to maintain that ‘good feeling’ with your clients. This is such a big ecosystem that we are in, we have to keep an open line of communication with people.”
One major industry step has been the gradual integration of remote online notarization, Hill said.
“We were already doing digital closings, but the pandemic has really increased the need for all documents to be filled out and filed online,” he said. “Remote notary is certainly growing, but more companies are working to make it mainstream.”
Experts agree that, on cost alone, the use of RON is a boon for any business. The cost of printing could be slashed and the time saved would be significant, according to Aaron Davis, chief executive officer of Florida Agency Network.
“Just by doing business online, and using remote notarizing, we’ve seen closing times decrease from an average of 60 minutes to 20 minutes,” he said. “I think we might be the largest killers of trees in the country, with all the paper we have to print, have signed, and have to file. No paper or printing is a huge cost saver.”
Max Lamb, Qualia’s director of partnerships and integration, said he’s seen a huge increase in outreach from users wanting to implement RON technology.
“We’ve had vendors from outside of real estate contact us and inquire about using remote notarization,” he said. “People are looking for any way possible during the pandemic to make payments easier.”
Lamb admitted there are challenges ahead as RON goes mainstream.
“It’s certainly a change that needs to be adapted to,” he said. “When used, RON tech problems can be alleviated by having everyone involved work on the same platform. That would lead to less confusion and more streamlined information. But it’s going to need to be used by more companies before it becomes more of a mainstream program.”
As customers and employees continue working remotely, one danger has emerged as the highest risk to mortgage and finance companies – wire fraud.
Tom Cronkright, chief executive officer of CertifID, said that wire fraud cases have become a “daily” problem during the pandemic, instead of a bi-weekly or monthly issue.
“There are already many types of fraud that can go with mortgages and lending, but with everyone online all of the time now, it’s just that much easier for wire fraud to occur,” he said. “It’s really been an explosive year.”
Argun Kilic, chief executive officer of AREAL.ai, said the best ways to combat wire fraud – and other online malfeasance – is to use a certified identification, protect and monitor email and use multifactor authentication.
“Having any extra tools is going to go a long way in protecting yourself,” he said.
All experts agreed that, in 2020, technology has never been consumed at the rate it is right now – including mortgage technology. That’s not likely to change in 2021, even if person-to-person interaction resumes slowly.
“The companies that approach this technology-first mindset that is slowly sweeping over everyone are the companies that will thrive,” Cronkright said.
Lenders and underwriters aren’t going to flock to RON like the advertorial above suggests for one simple reason. Not a single so-called online notarization has survived a court battle. Lenders could get seriously hurt by this unproven technology.