Michael Ball: Online Lending Platforms Will Increase Competition

PERSON OF THE WEEK: Michael Ball is vice president of markets and strategy for Integrated Media Management (IMM), a provider of e-signature and automated transaction technology. MortgageOrb recently interviewed Ball to learn more about how mortgage lenders can differentiate themselves in an increasingly “commoditized” technology environment, as well as how lenders are leveraging technology to improve their marketing and branding efforts.

Q: With lending being an increasingly competitive area for financial institutions, how can they set themselves apart from others?

Ball: Financial institutions are well aware of the rising competition they are up against when it comes to lending. However, in today’s era of online mortgage services, the stage is set for even greater levels of competition and more options than ever for consumers. Financial institutions cannot leave the innovation up to the emerging online lenders; they must find ways to make it easier for borrowers to engage with their lending products. Lending has to become a less cumbersome process and one that is simpler for consumers to understand and use.

Although completely online mortgages are novel, what consumers actually desire is an experience with a trusted lender that is also expedient and convenient. Offering tools that allow borrowers to manage various elements of the loan process and complete certain documents online and from a mobile device, at a time and place that is best for them, is what will set financial institutions apart.

Financial institutions can also distinguish themselves by giving borrowers the opportunity to refinance or adjust the terms of an existing loan in a way that is just as simple and fast. Completing a loan modification or a refinancing transaction has notoriously been a tedious process; if financial institutions can take this service online and enable consumers to complete something as important as a loan adjustment from the comfort of their homes, without having to interact with a live person, they can truly provide an unmatched level of service.

Q: How can lenders continue to serve borrowers after the origination phase is complete? Is there an opportunity to serve them months or even years down the line?

Ball: Financial institutions that consider the service complete after a loan is originated and funded are doing themselves, and their borrowers, a disservice. Lenders should aim for their borrowers to view them as a trusted, ongoing financial provider. Life situations can change a borrower’s financial situation or requirements. By providing options to adjust loan terms or refinance a loan online, lenders can deliver a truly impactful service for borrowers to take advantage of months or years down the line.

At IMM, we have already seen financial institutions change the lives of borrowers by giving them the opportunity to modify existing auto loans or adjustable-rate mortgages online and, in many cases, increase their monthly cashflow as life circumstances may call for it. A borrower relationship absolutely does not end after origination; financial institutions are increasingly embracing this idea and finding additional ways to apply this type of service to personal loans and even credit cards.

Q: What are ways that lenders can ensure customers are aware of their unique services and capabilities?

Ball: Of course, financial institutions must ensure that prospective and existing borrowers are aware of any new offering or capability. Websites, email campaigns and social media are all critical, especially for reaching consumers on a mobile device; however, traditional marketing methods remain more important than many might assume.

Marketing Sherpa’s recent Consumer Purchase Preference survey indicated that more than half of consumers, 54% of respondents, still prefer to receive promotions from brands in the mail. For lenders working to build awareness for new products and services, it is important to understand the distinct role each marketing methodology plays and employ a multichannel communication strategy to engage and retain target audiences.

Q: Considering market factors and various economic indicators, where is it advantageous to allocate spend in the area of mortgage lending?

Ball: The mortgage lending space is as competitive as it has ever been. At IMM, we continually hear from financial institutions that the growing cost of acquisition to generate new loans is a challenge. At times, it can be a Catch-22; gaining new loans is key to sustaining or growing a lending business, but the cost of doing so can inhibit lenders at the same time.

Many are wisely turning to online tools designed to attract new borrowers yet also engage existing customers with new services. Often today, consumers go online first when shopping for a loan; financial institutions should ensure their competitive loan options are readily available online and that consumers can indicate their interest and even complete initial steps, thus giving the lender a chance to follow up. By leaning more heavily on technology, financial institutions are finding themselves able to meet borrowers’ lending needs faster – and at a lower acquisition cost.

Q: How is IMM working to help lenders remain competitive and serve borrowers with both mortgages and other personal loans?

Ball: IMM’s eLoan services help lenders remain competitive and, at the same time, provide borrowers with an exceptional service and online experience. Our easyReset product allows qualified borrowers to engage a lender online, explore its options for modifying the terms of an adjustable-rate mortgage and, right then and there, complete the process online, including signing all required documents electronically. Borrowers can alter their loan terms to increase monthly cashflow without ever entering a branch, and lenders retain the loan business and improve profits without increasing funding. Lenders set parameters for borrowers based on loan policies and compliance requirements but essentially give borrowers the chance to be in the driver’s seat of this significant financial decision.

Our companion product, easyLead, solves lenders’ challenge of rising customer acquisition costs. Consumers can explore a lender’s loan options through an intuitive, online engagement experience, notifying the lender of their desired loan preferences and selections. If lenders have strong, competitive loan offerings, they can really let these services speak for themselves and attract new borrowers without the resources and spend typically required.


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