Going Digital Direct Requires Lenders To Adopt A ‘Whole New Mindset’


What’s the biggest misconception among mortgage lenders when launching an all-digital mortgage process?

That all they need to do is flip a switch and the applications will swiftly and efficiently flow in.

“Mortgage lenders think that by going online, life is going to be great and they’re going to have high margins,” says Tim Nguyen, co-founder and CEO of mortgage technology start-up BeSmartee, which launched an advanced, Web-based mortgage application solution and lender marketplace in January.

“But when a lender transitions from a traditional retail operation to online direct and they start doing business online only, it requires a fundamental shift in mindset,” Nguyen tells MortgageOrb. “They can no longer touch and feel the customer – they can no longer talk with them. You have to look at analytics, and you have to look at conversions – and that’s a whole new ball game for most mortgage lenders; they need to become online marketers, so to speak. And they’re not accustomed to that.”

Indeed, the elimination of human interaction in the mortgage process, by way of Internet technology and automation, is both a blessing and a challenge for mortgage lenders – a blessing in that it creates tremendous operational efficiencies and a challenge in that lenders are basically blind as to what is going on during the interaction. As such, lenders need new ways to monitor and measure the customer experience because they’re no longer “in the room” with the borrowers.

But can they be “in the same room,” if not virtually? According to Arvin Sahakian, co-founder and vice president of BeSmartee, there is a relatively simple technology fix for this problem of monitoring the customer experience online: BeSmartee has included a “co-browsing” capability with its e-mortgage platform that lets a loan officer (LO) monitor the process and even intervene in order to assist a borrower in filling out an application.

“We never wanted to remove the LO from the process,” Sahakian says. “We just wanted to make them better. We never wanted to remove that personal experience.”

Sahakian says lenders have several options to make it easier and simpler for an online shopper to get immediate assistance – which is critically important when launching a new online platform. He recommends that lenders always prominently display a “help” button that lets a borrower connect with a live agent or LO to offer assistance at any point during the transaction.

“Lenders have options for making sure they aren’t over-automating,” Sahakian says. “For one thing, there should always be a link to let an applicant chat or talk with a live agent at any time during the process.”

At the same time, lenders need platforms that are very intuitive and simple to use so that borrowers seldom need to “zero out” to live help.

“With our platform, we’re finding that borrowers aren’t getting stuck that often because the software is so intuitive,” he says. “Also, the lender is alerted continuously as to what the borrower is doing.”

“Our system automates everything – but the LO can also watch everything and hover over the process,” Sahakian continues. “They can see what the customer sees – and they can collaborate just as if they are sitting at the local branch. Yes, it is a balancing act, but the LO is acting like a conductor; they’re sitting there watching things happen, and they can step in and intervene if things start going awry.”

Sahakian recommends that lenders look for systems that deliver automated, real-time alerts to LOs to let them know not only when a borrower is online filling out an application, but also when a borrower is stuck. For example, if a borrower’s computer goes idle at some point during the process, the LO can get an alert and then intervene through chat or co-browsing and determine if the borrower is stuck and needs assistance.

BeSmartee’s online mortgage automation platform, Smart Mortgage, is unique in that it can be customized to meet the requirements of any mortgage lender. The company claims its white-labeled platform enables lenders to take their customers from initial contact to the doorstep of the underwriter with a full application, tri-merge credit report, e-signed and e-delivered disclosures, paid appraisal, and collected documentation in less than one hour. In addition, Smart Mortgage helps to decrease compliance issues and increase sales conversions while reducing overall costs to lenders.

Sahakian says since the platform launched in January, lenders of all types and sizes have signed up for it – however, he says many are still in the trial stage and are running it in parallel with existing processes.

“Some of our customers might not be the most tech-savvy – but they certainly are tech-oriented,” Sahakian says. “Their IT is very robust, and their executives weigh heavily on the opinion of their tech staff. Those are the types of lenders that are gravitating to us.”

“Then there are the ones that aren’t that tech-savvy – the ones that are relying on their LOS from 10 or 15 year ago … They’re not turning their heads for us right now,” he adds.

Sahakian says the lenders that are the most tech-savvy are the ones that are incorporating payment platforms with their portals. They’re the ones that are looking to fully automate the process and hand full control over to consumers. Others “are just happy to get a customer to the door of the loan officer,” he says. “Basically, they’re just trying to pre-qualify borrowers and then get them to the LO’s doorstep.”

“None of the lenders we work with that have brick and mortar are looking to shut those down – what they’re really looking for this technology to do is make their brick-and-mortar locations more efficient,” he says. “I’m sure they all have their own unique pain points – but all of them understand that this is where the industry is headed. Within a decade, this is just how mortgages are going to be originated.”

BeSmartee also offers a consumer-facing Mortgage Marketplace where prospective borrowers can rate shop for loans, research and ask questions about products, and then connect directly with a lender to get further details – all before signing a contract.

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