Real estate and mortgage industry professionals are facing major challenges to meet the escalating demands of the housing market. These challenges have been exacerbated by historically low interest rates, which sparked a generational refinance boom while the industry was adapting to a work-at-home environment that further stressed operations.
It is no wonder then that, when asked, WFG’s lender clients and their borrowers identified training, collaboration, process efficiency and communication as the four major pain points they want to improve. In 2020, WFG launched an effort to identify and develop solutions for the biggest challenges facing the industry. Utilizing feedback from a series of surveys and interactions with clients and borrowers, we developed the following programs aimed at increasing collective knowledge, fostering collaboration, streamlining processes and enhancing communication.
There is no doubt that, in order to meet the rapidly expanding demand for mortgage transactions, firms were forced to quickly scale their operations not only with new employees, but with employees new to the industry. Responding in this way resulted in a shortage of experience in lending, title and closing processes, which is now a key concern for clients. To address this problem, WFG developed a comprehensive training program through which we partner with customers to assess knowledge gaps and identify relevant training topics and courses. These programs run the mortgage origination gamut – from valuation and appraisal, to title and closing.
Identifying where the deficiencies lie and creating training courses to address these gaps – whether in-person, remote or self-taught – is key to tackling this industrywide challenge.
Collaboration is key to success in any market, but operating in a quickly changing marketplace makes it all the more important. Through collaboration, we identify opportunities for improvement and also create solutions that will benefit the industry and solve persistent issues, such as communication deficiencies, closing issues, data accuracy, vendor costs and turnaround times.
At WFG, collaboration is one of the core principles, along with “communicate” and “co-exist,” which collectively comprise the “three Cs” that form our logo and power our mission. To answer the industry’s concern over how to improve collaboration, we’ve formed a counsel dedicated to seeking ways to foster and enhance collaboration with clients and market participants. Through this effort, we established an Executive Roundtable (ERT) comprised of industry thought leaders and decision-makers. The ERT meets quarterly to discuss industry challenges and debate possible solutions.
In addition to the ERT, we conduct routine surveys that have proven to be a valuable way of identifying additional opportunities for collaboration. WFG also makes it a point to participate and engage in industry-related events, panels and group discussions that benefit all through the development of far-reaching solutions. And we look to build strategic partnerships with complementary service providers to promote uniform practices that reduce errors and streamline processes.
The industry is right to demand improved process efficiency. Here’s why: processing and closing a mortgage loan transaction has many moving parts involving a number of participants. A failure or delay by one participant can slow or derail a transaction.
Building an optimized process requires input from clients and partners. WFG’s process optimization program is founded upon a program of partnership where collectively we painstakingly analyze the mortgage process from origination through closing to identify opportunities for improvement. Following this analysis we deliver a comprehensive plan for implementing prioritized process improvement initiatives. The program then initiates routine touchpoints to assess the effectiveness of completed initiatives.
Communication is the fourth obstacle identified in our survey as a major pain point. Nearly 10% of survey respondents indicated that communication failure is one of the industry’s greatest challenges. WFG agrees and has invested in telecommunications systems, platform integrations and new products that streamline the collection and distribution of transactional data.
Improving communication between transactional participants may sound simple, but in reality it is very difficult to accomplish. We live in a world where everyone is working on different systems, different handheld devices, in different time zones and at different times of the day.
WFG has developed a series of communication standards aimed at promoting communication among transaction participants that promote the exchange of transaction-specific information, provide insight into the mortgage loan pipeline and clarify outstanding requirements.
These standards rely first on making sure our teams are active and available during clients’ hours of operation, resulting in timely email and call response times. WFG’s standardized application programming interface (API) also allows us to integrate quickly with lender clients and third-party providers. Data exchange via systems integration eliminates emails, phone calls and lost documentation. We’ve also implemented standardized reporting protocols – distributing up-to-date performance and pipeline information enables pipeline health assessment, informed decision-making and eliminates surprises.
Continuous discussions about industry developments, order count fluctuations and service level expectations promote operational consistency and improvement, and a commitment to transparency means sharing real and meaningful data with clients. This enables WFG to identify and solve long-term problems.
In the end, it’s all about the borrower; whether the communication is through email, telephone or web portal, providing the borrower with timely information about his or her transaction is paramount.
WFG’s communication standards may seem simple, but remaining committed to them has led WFG and our clients to achieve borrower satisfaction scores that rank as “world-class” and form partnerships that can overcome any challenges we may encounter.