Joe Ludlow: Wider Access to Financial Data is Key For Mortgage Operations

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PERSON OF THE WEEK: Traditionally, mortgage lending companies have restricted access to sensitive financial data to a select few high-level executives (in particular the chief financial officer) and employees in the accounting department.

But with the advent of Web-based mortgage accounting software, many lenders are now discovering that the advantages of giving branch managers and other key employees in the mortgage process real-time access to financial data – particularly at the loan level.

To learn more about this and other trends on the accounting side of the business, MortgageOrb recently interviewed Joe Ludlow, vice president for Irvine, Calif-based Advantage Systems.

Q: Should financial reporting be easily accessible and digestible to more than just the CFO of a financial institution? If so, why do branch managers need heightened access to financial data?

Ludlow: The days of financial reporting being confined to a small number of people within an organization are over. Although accounting data used to be limited to the accounting department and the CFO, now access to it has widened to branch managers, department leaders and more.

For example, employees are all measured on their performance. With department heads, they need current financial data to see where they stand and where each employee stands. Up-to-date data gives branch managers the ability to see where they are in mid-month, which enables them to have better sense of how their branch is stacking up.

And, managers should have access to see loan level details on the loans they produce, enabling them to have more interactions with customers and make better decisions with every borrower.

Q: Outside of the office, people are used to seeing their bank balance in real time or having the ability to check the status of an order they placed an hour ago. With real-time access in everyone’s daily life, why should a mortgage manager expect to wait for data about their business?

Ludlow: Telling people they have to wait just won’t fly because mortgage industry professionals are expecting the same level of access to real-time data in their jobs that they get outside the office. This access to intuitive and easily digestible financial data gives employees the ability to do their jobs more efficiently, make better internal decisions and cater to each borrower’s individual needs. 

Q: Is the recent increase in loan volumes impacting branch managers’ and lenders’ day-to-day jobs? Is better reporting the key to handling the increase in loan volumes?

Ludlow: Recently, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported an increase in mortgage applications, which, of course, means more applications and more loans to process. Lower mortgage rates are boosting business – particularly on the refinance side. With this boost in volume, lenders and branch managers need better access to data to help them make better decisions for their customers.

Financial systems must be able to highlight what’s working and what isn’t. Better reporting allows managers and lenders to make improved internal and external decisions during each stage of the mortgage process. Having reporting tools that can create reports that are easy to consume increases productivity and efficiency. Today’s reporting tools allow managers to compare loans and see more detail on each loan.

Q: With lower than usual rates and an increase in mortgage applications, how can accounting help lenders do their jobs more effectively?

Ludlow: Modern accounting software speeds up the process, reduces the number of staff required and provides real-time reporting to managers in the field.

In older manual systems, the number of accountants needed to handle, let’s say, each 100 loans of monthly volume was fairly linear. Outdated systems were slower and reporting only occurred at month-end. This meant that transactions for the new month were held up until the previous month could be completed.

Today, we can enter new transactions every day and report as of any date. 

With a modern process, real-time transaction processing eliminates the peaks and valleys of accounting activity, which means everything flows, leading to efficiency and better reporting for employees.

The best of today’s mortgage accounting systems offer the ability to upload data from many sources and vendors and automate workflows, thus reducing the need to manually enter data. These systems can change the way managers and executives do their jobs.

Just the ability to import loan transactions rather than entering them manually can significantly cut costs.

Today’s modern systems also have the capability to reconcile balances quickly, which also helps lenders to stay on top of increasing mortgage volumes.

By giving more employees in the organization – from loan officers to managers to executives – greater access to granular, loan-level data, more people can use that data to their advantage, ultimately making better, faster decisions with each customer.

Q: As we enter 2020, what future innovations are managers, lenders, C level executives and accounting professionals looking for, in terms of mortgage technology?

Ludlow: Clearly, the move is to browser-based technology with the ability to access data from anywhere. Whether they are at the kitchen table, at the office or in a café in Budapest, mortgage executives and managers need – and should have – instant access to loan level data.

The key is to deliver financial accounting software – and data – that enables employees to work wherever they want and on the device of their choice.

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