As lenders continue to adjust to a new normal, the pivotal role of technology has become increasingly clear in maximizing productivity and keeping lending pipelines flowing.
“Ultimately, we are preparing for the digitization of the entire mortgage cycle, front-to-back,” said Brent Chandler, FormFree Founder and CEO and HousingWire 2019 Tech Trendsetter. “[Lenders have] turned to technology that bridges digital process gaps, facilitates remote collaboration and maximizes the efficacy of their workforces through workflow automation.”
HousingWire reached out to Chandler to discuss how COVID-19 has propelled a much-needed modernization among lenders. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
HousingWire: How has COVID-19 impacted technology strategies for mortgage lenders? What are some examples of these strategies?
Brent Chandler: COVID-19 forced mortgage lenders to overhaul their entire strategies overnight to launch remote operational models while simultaneously shifting to accommodate an unprecedented refinance boom. As a result, they turned to technology that bridges digital process gaps, facilitates remote collaboration and maximizes the efficacy of their workforces through workflow automation.
Most notably, we’re seeing concentrated efforts to launch and drive adoption of automated borrower data verification, remote online notarization and eClosing platforms — initiatives that would have dragged on for years under more typical circumstances.
Coming from the frontlines of automated borrower verification, I can tell you that demand for our service has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. Lenders who had not previously taken advantage of programs that streamline borrower data verification acceptance, like Fannie Mae’s Day 1 Certainty, Freddie Mac’s asset and income modeler (AIM), the VA’s Loan Guaranty Service and HUD’s FHA and USDA‘s loan products, are now flocking to these programs.
HW: Where would you advise clients and colleagues to focus their technology resources as we navigate the second half of 2020 and prepare for 2021?
BC: Now, and moving into the first half of 2021, lenders need to ensure they have technology in place that maximizes their workforce productivity and keeps lending pipelines flowing.
The question lenders ask us most is, “How do we further drive adoption of automated verification?” My advice is first to make sure you are optimizing the potential of your tech stack. If there is an existing integration between your borrower data verification provider and your loan origination software (LOS) and point of sale (POS) vendors, contact your vendors to switch on those integrations. The ideal time to capture a clear picture of a borrowers’ financial DNA is up-front, at the point of application. But as we all know, every lending situation is different, so it would be ideal to empower borrowers with the flexibility to easily verify their ability-to-pay at several points in the lending process.
HW: In your business, where are you finding opportunity to meet client needs and grow relationships?
BC: We are developing key partnerships that help our clients succeed and our industry evolve. With such a massive shift in how the industry does business, we’ve bolstered our team with tenured mortgage professionals to help lenders understand how best to utilize direct-source data in a high-touch, high-tech consumer lending experience.
To help the industry move forward as a whole, we are continually helping the GSEs identify potential uses of direct-source data and partnering with them in pilot programs that make our innovations available to lenders.
HW: How are you and your team preparing for increasingly digital future?
BC: Years ago, FormFree introduced mortgage lending to automated data verification, revolutionizing how lenders had been manufacturing loans for the past 35 years. We are visionary by nature, and what we’ve accomplished so far is just the beginning for us.
Most immediately we are still improving upon ways to automate access to the direct-source data for loan manufacturing. We employ AI and machine learning experts at the top of their fields to develop patented algorithms that deliver reliable decisioning data of the highest integrity.
Ultimately, we are preparing for the digitization of the entire mortgage cycle, front-to-back. Our vision is to tokenize every dimension of consumers’ “Financial DNA” — asset, employment, income, credit, identity and liens-and-judgments data — so that it is portable and accessible to consumers and their financial partners.