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TMS’ Anthony Forsberg talks servicing, forbearance exits

Today’s HousingWire Daily episode features an interview with Anthony Forsberg, the senior vice president of The Money Source’s mortgage servicing division. Forsberg discusses the options and services TMS is providing to its customers as they exit forbearance plans.

He also explains how digital tools can help teams better communicate with customers and what servicers need to do to improve customer retention. 

Here is a small preview of the interview, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity: 

Alcynna Lloyd: I really want to know what TMS does to help customers on their forbearance exit journey, so I’d like to focus on your procedures during this tumultuous time. How successful has your company been in navigating the nation’s moratoriums, and also offering customers post-forbearance options?

Anthony Forsberg: We’re making sure we have proactive education, good communication, availability, and finally, a lot of self service options. Our goal at The Money Source is to ensure the customer is given every avenue to succeed when coming out of forbearances. We focus on education with our customers because we want them to know their options, understand their impacts, and make sure they know what’s going on along the way. We made sure to push information through our website, online banners, FAQs, blogs, customer notifications, walkthroughs, and every other possible digital way, to ensure they’re informed.

Although we did everything from an education perspective for our customers, and we tried to give it to them via many avenues, we knew that there still be a lot of questions. We also needed to make ourselves available during this time, so we immediately moved a lot of our employees from other areas that weren’t being utilized at the time.

HousingWire Daily examines the most compelling articles reported across HW Media. Each afternoon, we provide our listeners with a deeper look into the stories coming across our newsrooms that are helping Move Markets Forward. Hosted by the HW team and produced by Alcynna Lloyd and Elissa Branch. 

If you have a pitch or an inquiry relating to podcasts, you can reach our team at [email protected]

Below is the transcription of the interview. These transcriptions, powered by Speechpad, have been lightly edited and may contain small errors from reproduction:

Alcynna Lloyd: Good afternoon, “HousingWire Daily” listeners. I’m Alcynna Lloyd and today I’m joined with Anthony Forsberg, the SVP of The Money Source‘s mortgage servicing division. Thanks for joining us as a guest on “HousingWire Daily”, Anthony.

Anthony Forsberg: Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate you having me.

Alcynna Lloyd: Of course. So, to get this interview started, can you let our audience know more about you? I did my research and I found you’ve been involved in the mortgage industry for quite a while. You’ve held several positions at many companies including Ameriquest Mortgage, Specialized Loan Servicing, LandAmerica and more. But how did you end up in this field and how has the market changed from when you first entered the sector?

Anthony Forsberg: Yeah, so I entered this market, it’s been about 20 years now. And I actually started off in accounting, believe it or not. None of us really kind of start off and, you know, either come out of school and wanna get into mortgage. But it kind of happens. And with my path, I started in accounting. Started with LandAmerica, lender services. And I’ve learned the opportunities to do other things and what that was was really learning the foreclosure process. So, I did specific accounting for foreclosures and that kinda takes me to where I am today.

So, my next job was over at Ameriquest where I ran their invoicing team specifically around the default route. And I also ran their claims team. That later actually took me back to LandAmerica where I had the ability to run foreclosure, run bankruptcy for the national outsourcing team and then in 2008, when kinda the crash occurred, a lot of companies were affected and I ended up moving out to Colorado actually where I got an opportunity to join the Specialized Loan Servicing team. I ran their foreclosure and bankruptcy. As we know, those types of numbers grew a lot. I had the ability to really develop a large foreclosure and bankruptcy team. Then got the opportunity to assist in their loss mitigation team. I ended up spending nine years at that company. And then most recently joined the TMS team where I’ve been here for about three years and growing happiness ever since.

Alcynna Lloyd: Wow. So, you have an extensive background in this field?

Anthony Forsberg: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been doing this for a while now.

Alcynna Lloyd: Thank you for letting us learn more about you. All right, let’s move on to today’s main conversation which will focus on the nation’s forbearance exits and servicing. To start off today’s interview, let’s discuss what options are now available for the thousands of Americans exiting moratoriums. As you and our audience know, the forbearance weight is falling as many homeowners who participated in moratoriums due to financial impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are either exiting or approaching an end to the forbearance periods. But my first question for you is today, for customers who have actually exited forbearance, what options is TMS seeing them ask for?

Anthony Forsberg: Sure. So, when we look at our book overall and our book includes subservicing clients as well, we’re very fortunate enough to be able to focus on two primary types of loans, our GSE book and our government book. Our total servicing book is made up of approximately 45% GSE and the remaining being the government, 55%. While the numbers of customers that enter into the forbearance programs drastic differently, the outcomes that we’re seeing are pretty, pretty similar. And the biggest difference we noticed overall is customers who have needed post-forbearance options, only 7% of those customers are in our GSE book while the remaining 93% are actually in that government space.

The similarities we are seeing around what they are asking for though is what seems to be the same and we’re gonna dig a little bit deeper into that. I will say my next couple of items I wanna touch on are a little stat heavy but I really love the numbers so this kind of excites me overall.

Alcynna Lloyd: Okay. We love numbers. Our audience loves numbers.

Anthony Forsberg: Yeah, so looking at our GSE poll specifically, we’ve seen this change over time. We initially saw the majority of our customers coming in through deferrals while they were on forbearances. Now we’re seeing our customers actually want flex modifications. So, breaking that down overall and looking at kind of where each GSE customer lands, 73% of our customers are asking for either a deferral or a flex mod while 50% are asking for reinstatements and the remaining customers are going down some type of, you know, repayment plan or other evaluation option.

You know, I wanna focus on the deferral modifications and when we studied the data, we noticed that customers early on who were entering forbearances had very little delinquency and they even entered, you know, as a just in case precaution that they took. The early customers seemed a little more cautious and didn’t really need any help when it came to payment affordability. They just needed a few more months of catching up and kind of tacked everything on to the back end for the deferral. But much recently we’ve actually seen customers with different struggles. They’ve been impacted more financially and these customers are the ones coming to us asking us for the flex mods which, as we know, flex mods have more of a principal and interest payment reduction. So that’s what we’ve been offering them. When we look at the FHA, USDA and VA loans which, as I mentioned, kind of make up 55% of our servicing book, we see most of those homeowners fall into, like, one majority population. A majority of those homeowners fell into asking for a post-COVID option and 15% are asking for a reinstatement, and again, the remainder just kinda following either complete packages or repayment plans.

One of the main questions I get asked about from either colleagues or clients is around the percentages of customers who are requesting a straight partial claim versus a modification. When we dug into that waterfall, we saw that approximately 64% of the customers are going straight into a partial claim versus medium modification that time. So ultimately that means that the customers are able to continue to make their payments and don’t really need payment reduction. So, all in all, regardless of the type of product that we’re looking at, the numbers paint the same picture. Customers actually need some type of post-forbearance option to be able to get them out of being delinquent and that’s kind of what we’re seeing overall.

Alcynna Lloyd: So, you gave us some data on options and how that plays into the experience for customers once they exit forbearance but I really wanna know what TMS does to help them on their journey. For my next question, I’d like to focus on TMS and the procedures during this tumultuous time of forbearances. How successful has your company been in navigating the nation’s moratoriums and also offering customers post-forbearance options?

Anthony Forsberg: Okay, yeah, good question. So, I actually touched on this topic recently as subservicing, a required route for clients. The main things I touched on were…usually we have proactive education, good communication availability and finally, a lot of self-service options. So, our goal at TMS was to ensure that we have the customers given every avenue to succeed when they’re coming out of forbearances. When we focus on education of our customers, we want them to know their options, understand their impacts and they need to know what’s going on along the way. So, we made sure to push the information through our website, through online banners, FAQs, blogs, customer verifications, walkthroughs and, you know, every other possible digital way so that they knew how to get the information, right. And that it was clear. We want all these things to be easy to find while speaking to what the customers’ language is. A lot of times we can get caught up in the industry jargon and we know what that means but a lot of times the customers don’t so we wanna make sure that we’re speaking their language.

And although we did everything from an education perspective for our customers and we try to give it to them, you know, via many avenues, we knew that there’d still be a lot of questions so we needed to make ourselves available during this time. We immediately moved a lot of our employees from other areas that weren’t being utilized at the time and we restructured it and we did a lot of cross training so that they can deal with the influx of calls as well as ensure that we could focus on outbound calls to customers whether they were on forbearance or not. We were very intent on watching payment habits as well so that if any customer broke their normal payment habit, we’d be able to touch base with them and provide them with any assistance right away.

Alcynna Lloyd: Wow.

Anthony Forsberg: So lastly, we made a push to provide a lot of self-service options and digital communication. We really wanted to increase our communication via text messages, emails. And for those customers who weren’t able to opt into those communications, we wanted to send out additional letters. We also wanted to continue to let all our customers know that when the forbearance was ending that we were there right away and we were there to be able to help them and give them the evaluation they needed based upon their current circumstances.

So, what we did is we actually created a waterfall program that our live agents could talk through while they were on with the customer or a customer could actually go to their customer portal and answer a series of questions that presented them with options. And it was basically a yes, no, can you do this, can you do that and it provided them a best fit scenario based upon their situation, their loan type and their investor and insurer guidelines.

So, what we noticed by creating this technology is it really helped a lot of departments within TMS. It really assisted our customer facing team as they were able to walk through the options they had presented in a lot of detail. It really teed up everything to them to say, “This is what a deferral is, this is how it impacts the customer,” you know, all of those types of Q&A scenarios, and it laid the foundation for the loss mitigation team to pick up where the customer facing team was able to leave off. So, although they never talked to the customer, they were able to get enough details to walk them through and place all the information in the waterfall so that the output of the waterfall was exactly what the customer facing team and the customer talked about on the initial call so that we didn’t have any disconnect there, right. And it really made the teams in sync and it made a huge difference for the customers’ experience.

Alcynna Lloyd: Well, it sounds like you tailored a lot of options for your customers.

Anthony Forsberg: Yeah, absolutely. So, we really wanted to, you know, use technology where customers didn’t wanna talk to us, right. Where they wanna talk to us, absolutely. We were there ready, willing. We had the staff to do it. But we really just wanted to make sure that any avenue that the customer wanted to actually talk to us, we gave them that opportunity.

Alcynna Lloyd: Okay. So, while it sounds like your team has been super helpful and offering options to your customers and answering their questions, that may not be the case for the rest of the industry. A recent report from the Mortgage Bankers Association revealed that while forbearance exits are gaining, the delinquency rate is also rising. To avoid a larger uptick in this number and help borrowers who are coming out of forbearance avoid foreclosure, personally, what do you think servicers can do to help them?

Anthony Forsberg: Yeah, I think for servicers to be successful this current space, I think it comes down to a few key components. I think you’ve gotta be excellent at communication, you’ve gotta have great technology and you’ve gotta care. I think every company needs to be constant and effective in their communication with their customers, educating along the way, right, for that process is super key.

Too many times I see companies asking and taking for granted what they know and what they understand in the process but we need to kind of walk a day in their shoes. And, you know, the customers don’t always know what’s going on. We’ve gotta be able to give them the education, the communication to let them know what’s going on every step of the way.

They have a lot of information at their fingertips and we need to provide them clear directions. A lot of the information they get out there, you know, whether they’re searching on the internet or anything like that, it is false. It’s a lot of misnomer. So, we need to ensure the customers have the right information from us, right, us being the servicers.

When we talk about technology, the more options you have for your customers to get in touch with your company is better. TMS is able to provide so many different avenues for customers to get in touch with us and I think that companies need to make this stuff more available. I know a lot of companies like to limit their communication to their call centers only and they really need to move past that singular communication. Customers like to communicate in multiple ways and frankly, some customers just don’t like to talk to anybody at all. Yeah. I mean, that’s literally something we saw when we were able to stand up our customer face…our web portal. How many customers actually went there as opposed to giving us a call.

So, I think, you know, the best opportunity here in technology is allowing customers that ability to choose their options. You know, give them the comfort they need and I think everybody’s gonna succeed at that point. So, to reiterate all that, it’s really customers need options.

Alcynna Lloyd: Yeah.

Anthony Forsberg: Yeah.

Alcynna Lloyd: It’s definitely sounding like that.

Anthony Forsberg: Yeah, and I think one more point that I kinda wanna touch on real quick is, you know, it’s not always easy to care. It’s not always easy to be empathetic to somebody’s hardship as you’ve never actually had to walk a day in their shoes, right, but it’s easy to be sympathetic. So, I think servicers need to teach caring and it’s not always an easy thing to do. However, what you can do is you can ensure that you’re hiring the right team members within your organization who have natural sentiments towards caring. When you care about your customers, I think you see all of the results come in and you see positive performance, you see customer retention and you see glowing reviews.

Alcynna Lloyd: Well, you touched on this a bit in your previous answer and I wanna expand on it a bit more. So, let’s discuss the significance of customer relations. In a market that is experiencing such high volume, why is customer retention so important?

Anthony Forsberg: Yeah. I think to alleviate customer confusion in any process, right, I think you just wanna be consistent with them. So, I know our goal at TMS is delivering happiness to over 1 million homeowners and we wanna keep customers within the TMS family. Some customers may never know that they’re actually even in that TMS family because they’re under our subservicing clients’ names. But we want those customers to feel the same way about them. So, all the great work we do at TMS to maintain customer retention is then spread across all of our subservicing clients. And it can be easy to bring customers in. It’s easy to have them in there for a couple of months or even a year and never really have to do much. And then they transfer out, they pay off or refinance. But our goal is to get a customer for life and make them happy. We wanna hear that a customer has been with TMS, and I say TMS and our subservicing clients, for 10 years and they continue to get exceptional service.

Obviously, there’s always economics when it comes to this and losing customers is part of the business. But when we talk customer retention, we really want the customers who pay off whether they refinance or, you know, buy another home, we want them to come back to us. We wanna continue our developed relationships with them and we wanna hear the smile over the phone. We wanna see those positive reviews and we wanna hear, you know, “Thank you. This has been a great experience.” We just…it’s not just about being a customer but it’s about being part of our family.

Alcynna Lloyd: Well, if anything, the housing industry is a business built on people and those interactions between customers are extremely important.

Anthony Forsberg: Yeah, absolutely. I think we are. I think we’ve definitely proven ourselves, not only to ourselves but I think, you know, we…when we’re able to talk to a lot of our colleagues, a lot of them are taking the same approach. So, I think we’re paving the way there.

Alcynna Lloyd: That’s great to hear. Anthony, before we wrap this interview, is there anything else you’d like our listeners to know about you, servicing or TMS?

Anthony Forsberg: You know, I think as time moves on and we’re gonna start moving away from the forbearances and we’re gonna get back into the foreclosure space, I think it’s imperative that we don’t give up on the customers. We continue this communication. And we definitely know that customers will start to try and get back in loss mitigation as soon as foreclosure notices get sent out and that typically tends to be a trigger point for customers to actually pep up and get into the loss mitigation game. So, let’s make sure that we are appropriately staffed within call our centers, that we have those technology items so that customers who are wanting and needing loss mitigation are getting that help quickly. We’ve gotta make sure that… You know, again, it’s all about the customer. Just make sure that they’re getting the help they need.

Alcynna Lloyd: Right. Well, Anthony, thank you so much for joining us on “HousingWire Daily”.

Anthony Forsberg: Oh, thank you for having me. I really appreciate your time today.

Alcynna Lloyd: Of course. Listeners, we’ll see you back here tomorrow. Thank you.

HousingWire Daily

Hosted by the journalists behind the headlines, HousingWire Daily examines the most compelling mortgage, real estate, and fintech articles reported from the HousingWire newsroom.

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