Expert: The greatest hurdle for mortgage technology is culture


We are in the adapt or die moment for mortgage technology, and lenders must quickly move from doing digital to being digital, one expert explained.

“Leaders in the lending space need to understand that the greatest hurdle for technology in the housing industry isn’t technical,” said Steve Smith, Finicity co-founder and CEO and 2018 HousingWire Vanguard. “It’s cultural.”

HousingWire’s Vanguards represent some of the top influencers in the housing space. It is one of the highest awards housing professionals can earn.

And now, we are accepting nominations through September 27, 2019.

The HW Vanguard Awards program recognizes C-level industry professionals and business unit leaders who have become leaders in their respective fields within housing and mortgage finance — those whose leadership is moving markets forward, each and every day.

And they will be featured in HousingWire Magazine, so nominate your Vanguard today!

How do you become a leader in your space? Smith says it like this:

“The secret to success has always been about taking a very consumer-centric view,” he said. “While our solutions solve business problems, they’re always rooted in positive impacts for consumers and borrowers. We fully recognize that our customers only succeed when their customers are happy.”

“Additionally, I’ve always been driven by a desire to help people improve their financial wellness and, ultimately, their lives,” Smith continued. “I believe we are accomplishing this by providing the data-driven financial insights that enable individuals, families, and organizations to make better financial decisions. Real success requires a real purpose.”

HousingWire sat down with Smith to talk about what technology decisions lenders should be making today.

HousingWire: What is the greatest hurdle technology needs to overcome in the housing industry?

Steve Smith: Leaders in the lending space need to understand that the greatest hurdle for technology in the housing industry isn’t technical. It’s cultural. We’ve made great strides in digitizing the home buying process and consumers are embracing it. However, there remain many digitized facets of the process that currently face low adoption from lending professionals.

There’s a wide range of new technologies, like digital verifications, that are simplifying the process. Organizations that are incorporating these technologies into the buying and ownership experience are gaining market share. So, in addition to implementing new technologies, organizations must also implement new policies and programs that push for cultural adoption of the solutions.

HW: What are some of the greatest advantages of using technology in the lending space?

SS: Clearly, there are many friction points in lending. The length of time it takes to go from application to closing demonstrates this. As illustrated in many other industries, digitization can reduce or eliminate points of friction, dramatically streamlining core processes.

Beyond this, incorporating digital solutions into the lending space reduces fraud and human error by leveraging technology and multiple sources of data. Now we can drive accuracy, speed, and improved decisions with more data.

Finally, consumer expectations are changing at a rapid pace. Technology has fueled superior experiences in so many aspects of our day-to-day lives. Creating simple, elegant experiences is key to winning future borrowers. Those organizations that embrace technology today and then demand even more from their technology partners will be the dominant players tomorrow.

HW: For lenders starting from the beginning, what is the best way to tackle the digitization process?

SS: We are truly in an adapt or die moment. I don’t think that anyone is arguing that digitization isn’t the way to go, but there may be some debate as to how fast it needs to happen and to what degree it impacts the entire lending experience. From my vantage point, lenders can’t afford to hesitate. They have to jump in and get started. This doesn’t mean they can afford to be careless. But they can quickly adopt solutions that are already proven in the market.

There are a variety of great vendors in the market that can help lenders scope out a plan of attack and provide solutions that will jump-start the digitization process. So my advice? Set aside some time every week to talk with those vendors that are constantly reaching out to you.  Take the time to listen and understand their solutions. This will help to paint a picture of what we’re capable of today and where we’re going tomorrow.

From there, select a few areas where you can start implementing new tech. Digital verifications are a great place to start because they’re easy to integrate into your existing workflows. That one simple switch will pay immediate dividends in time savings. But don’t stop with a few processes. Analyze your whole procedural stack and plan on attacking each piece. It’s imperative that you move from a place of doing digital to actually being digital.