In recent months, the mortgage industry has been hit with a surge in borrower demand as record-low rates coincide with the unknowns around a global pandemic.
“Homeowners and renters have a lot of questions about navigating the financial fallout of COVID-19, leading to overwhelming demands on lenders and servicers,” said Tracy Stephan, Vice President of Enterprise Innovation, Fannie Mae and 2019 HousingWire Tech Trendsetter. “Lenders have been forced to rethink how they interface with borrowers, which up to now has been a largely in-person experience.”
We reached out to Stephan to discuss how Fannie Mae is working to support both clients and consumers during this unique time for the mortgage industry. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
HousingWire: Where are you prioritizing technology resources as we navigate the second half of 2020 and prepare for 2021?
Tracy Stephan: During this hectic year, our focus has remained on streamlining the mortgage lifecycle through digitization and workflow automation. Like many other companies, we’re also working to ensure our newly remote workforce is supported by the tech and security they need.We do a lot of important work, and we want to make sure our people can get it done – safely and comfortably – from their homes.
HW: In your business, where are you finding opportunity to meet industry needs and grow relationships?
TS: Homeowners and renters have a lot of questions about navigating the financial fallout of COVID-19, leading to overwhelming demands on lenders and servicers, who are our customers. We saw an opportunity to help and in a matter of weeks, launched a Virtual Assistant on our consumer website, KnowYourOptions.com. The Virtual Assistant uses Natural Language Search to give easy-to-understand answers on topics like mortgage forbearance, eviction protections, and repayment options. The 24/7 resource is available on mobile, which helps us meet homeowners and renters where they are, when they need us. This solution is providing trusted information and resources to homeowners and renters so that our customers can focus less on answering questions and more on addressing specific needs.
HW: As an executive, how do you keep your learning curve steep and prepare for an increasingly digital future?
TS: Challenging times force us to rethink the best way to do things. I know I’ve had many “aha” moments while testing my long-held assumptions. One way I keep my learning curve steep is by connecting with innovators who are discovering new ways to solve problems inside and outside my industry. While podcasts and articles are great ways to learn, my greatest ideas are sparked in conversations with others who face similar challenges.
HW: How has COVID-19 impacted technology strategies and roadmaps for mortgage lenders?
TS: In the mortgage industry, lenders have been forced to rethink how they interface with borrowers, which up to now has been a largely in-person experience. In fact, Fannie Mae’s recent Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey (MLSS) showed that customer-facing technology was one of the top two business priorities for lenders during COVID-19.