The mortgage industry is at a pivotal moment. Today’s consumers are demanding a mortgage process that is fast, easy, and transparent. According to a recent J.D. Power survey, 21% of homeowners are dissatisfied with their mortgage lender. And that number is even higher for first-time homebuyers, at 27%.

However, mortgage technology has slowly been catching up. In 2016, we saw an explosion of new tech-focused lenders, origination platforms, and other tools to help professionals provide consumers with a better experience.

This year, loan originators will be the deciding factor in which technologies are adopted – and which die – as we head into 2018. Startups that are able to thoughtfully balance ease-of-use with compliance and security will gain serious traction and emerge as clear leaders.

I recently spoke with executives and leaders in the mortgage space about how technology will affect loan originators this year. Here are their insights and takeaways:

Josh Lehr, Mortech, a Zillow Group Business

I think the lenders’ theme for technology this year should be “Embrace.” Much of the B2B software in the market today is designed to make their lives easier but many are reluctant to adopt the technology because of compliance concerns or the fear of being excluded from the transaction. Many loan officers are concerned that they are being replaced by Artificial Intelligence and therefore are not embracing the amazing tools that have recently been developed in the marketplace. This has been validated by the number of conference sessions and webinars where this is the main point of discussion.

Millennial buyers are quickly adopting technology to provide self-service on the front end, but they still want professional expertise from lenders they can trust during the process as well. The loan officers that realize they can leverage this technology to improve the experience for their borrower and make their own lives easier by letting the borrower do the simple tasks such as doc collection and income verification for them will be the ones that succeed in building a better brand and increase the amount of traffic they can handle.

Jason van den Brand, Lenda

For those that have consistently embraced tech, and invested the time and resources to differentiate themselves toward a younger, digital native demographic, they should expect more automation each and every year. This will allow the role of an LO to rapidly evolve toward that of a support role, answering customer questions that aren't answered online.

Machines will ultimately be responsible for helping consumers find the best product and price for their unique financial goals, as well as determining income and document needs before underwriting approval. But beware – Tesla isn't Tesla because they put marketing on top of the Ford factory; they built it from the ground up. In other words, don't expect banks or large lenders to be the drivers of change.

Clayton Collins, HousingWire

Forward thinking lenders are integrating automation and data collection solutions across mortgage application, underwriting and servicing processes. Automated solutions that order reports, verify assets and income, and reduce manual processes empower loan officers to complete loan applications in less time with greater accuracy.

Solutions that digitize the credit decisioning process pave the road for improved and higher-quality interactions between loan officers and borrowers, reducing the likelihood of unpleasant surprises at the closing table and the strenuous back-and-forth as borrowers track down financial records.

John Paasonen, Maxwell

Many are heralding this year as the year when lenders turn their full attention to technology investments. Loan originators should be ready to begin to adjust their workflows to become more efficient leveraging technology. Loan officers of the future will be successful by transforming fully into what they love already – coaching people through the complex transaction that is a mortgage – while leaving the tedious, repetitive tasks to technology.

Ori Zohar, Sindeo

The digital mortgage will become more common in 2017, and even the lenders that can’t provide this experience will begin adopting elements of it – like eSign, document verification at source, embedded chat, etc. The mortgage providers that do it right will use technology to enhance service, not replace it. The originators that don’t adopt new technology will be left behind.