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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   October 2018

Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Technology

Digital angst may be a part of a mortgage professional’s workday, but it shouldn’t be

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Real estate data company Zillow recently made waves in the marketplace by acquiring online originator Mortgage Lenders of America, adding more angst to an industry where the terms “disruption” and “fintech” are becoming part of everyday conversations. Will technology replace us? Will it replace the real estate agents many of us work with through mutually beneficial relationships?

For many, the answer is yes, a resounding “absolutely.” As an originator or real estate agent, you may see technology erase a large piece of the industry’s workforce.

The misconception lies in why and who.

It’s not that technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have become so smart and advanced that they can replace people. The pending disruption is the result of people who have fallen so far from true sales and customer service professionals that it’s become difficult to differentiate the average sales person from the robo-voice telling you to, “Press one for English. Para Español, presione dos.”

Let’s face it. AI and tech have been advancing in leaps and bounds over the past decade while many in the mortgage industry fell into the lazy comfort zone of quoting rates in the 3 percent range and enjoying the road to recovery from 2008. For the crowd who refuses to wake from that era, fintech (financial technology) and AI may well come to be seen as “Apocalypse Now.” For those embracing change and learning as they strive to become better mortgage professionals, however, technology is going to be a boon for their careers and economic futures.

Saving precious time

Technology is enabling the mortgage industry to perform so much better than it could just a few years ago — good, fast and cheap. In the past, only two of the three were available at a time. Technology has enabled not just a good, but a great loan process, that is fast and, compliance aside, affordable.

From application through the post-closing processes that a mortgage originator must implement to have long-term industry success, time has been drastically freed up to allow a good originator the opportunity to bring more business through the doors.

Nothing is so valuable as time, and time is what technology has bestowed on professionals everywhere, including mortgage originators. Priceless time isn’t wasted asking clients how many years they’ve been in school and recounting their past two-plus years of residency and job history.

Despite the automation, algorithms and artificial intelligence, people still want to do business with who they know, like and trust.

Online platforms and mobile applications allow them to get that out of the way and provide valuable information before a conversation begins. Get that online application and spend your invaluable half hour of phone time not checking boxes, but getting to know clients. Discover their hobbies. Address their concerns. Show them value. Connect.

Market data is at our fingertips, along with tools and charts that highlight expertise and answer questions clients didn’t even know they had. Comfort levels with what is likely the biggest transaction a borrower will ever make can be incredibly high, thanks to the tech tools available today.

Borrowers can see the value in what they’re doing in buying a home or refinancing. It’s easy to understand and digest, making an originator’s job exponentially easier. Remember, people are choosing a professional they know, like and trust. That trust is built so much faster with visuals and real market data to support the fact that, “Yes, Mr. or Mrs. Borrower, this is a great time to buy.”

After the Great Recession turned the mortgage process into a document-laden nightmare, technology has finally brought the pendulum back to sanity, allowing loans to move fast. Single-source data and programs like Day 1 Certainty are allowing loans to close at light speed with minimal client documentation.

The mortgage industry now exists in the best of both worlds — responsible lending and a streamlined process. Borrowers are benefiting, but only those borrowers working with lenders familiar with and utilizing the technology available to them.

Those in the rut of yesteryear’s process — asking every client for a standard document checklist — are going to be annihilated. AI can do that job. AI can’t offer up the most streamlined process based on individual circumstances, however. At least not yet it can’t. For now, the modern, professional mortgage originator has the edge — over the competition and technology.

So, the industry now has streamlined lender systems that utilize digital-application processes that result in a fast and easy loan process and data resources that allow complex financial ideas to be translated for clients into easy-to-understand charts and flyers. What does that leave? Marketing.

Relationship marketing

Despite technological advances, one thing that has remained true decade after decade is the price tag of traditional marketing. Newspaper, TV and other forms of major media advertising are not cheap. In the era of satellite radio and cutting the cord, terrestrial-radio and standard cable-advertising costs can still easily reach the millions of dollars for an effective long-term campaign.

In the past, it took deep pockets to reach the masses. Today, it takes some creativity, a few bucks and a social media account. Never have we seen an era where it’s so easy to get a message to so many. For the lazy order-taker who refuses to embrace social media marketing, there’s a place in the market — right next to the T. rex in the natural history museum.

For the professional learning to use the tools available to connect to the masses, the possibilities are endless. Thanks to technology, the smallest of companies can compete with the biggest of budgets with just a little bit of creativity and know-how. Turning knowledge of things like social algorithms, search engine optimization and content marketing into mortgage applications is what the modern professional is doing.

After closing, technology makes it’s easy to keep in touch with clients. Yes, a decade ago everyone in the mortgage business and elsewhere discovered drip marketing — a prewritten set of messages sent to clients over time. But somewhere along the way, after many of these so-called professionals began using CRM software that enabled drip marketing, they forgot what the “R” stands for. Spoiler alert: It’s “relationship,” as in customer relationship management, or CRM.

For the crowd operating on “set it and forget it,” the news is bad There’s a robot doing the job, and it demands a smaller paycheck and complains less. For those using a CRM to enhance relationships, not replace them, the future is bright. CRMs don’t have an emotional quotient.

They don’t follow your clients on social media to see when a congratulations card is appropriate. When the new baby is born, they aren’t reaching out to see if the now-bigger family needs a bigger home. Technology has made it so easy for thousands of pre-canned “Happy Birthday” e-mails and social media messages to go out that a handwritten card or phone call now stands out from the crowd. Technology has, in fact, made old-school, person-to-person relationship marketing more effective than it’s ever been.

The mortgage industry is a people industry. Despite the automation, algorithms and artificial intelligence, people still want to do business with who they know, like and trust. Do they want to talk to or work with a robot? Perhaps they will, if the alternative is a lackadaisical human order-taker just waiting to quote a rate and get off the phone. If there’s a real professional with the skillset and expertise to guide them through a complicated transaction seamlessly, someone who cares (and shows it), then they’ll choose the human every time.

•  •  •

Technology is here to stay, and social media certainly isn’t going away. But neither are people. For those who embrace technology to improve relationships, business will boom, and the consumer experience will be off the charts for borrowers.

Income, volume and growth will all be enhanced by the tools readily available. That growth is going to come at the expense of those replaced because they refused to get on board. Those folks have already met their replacements when they’ve used a press-to-order kiosk, an online property-value estima-tor and when they’ve talked to the robot voice after pressing one for English. 


 


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