PERSON OF THE WEEK: Michael Kelleher is co-founder of Easy Mortgage Apps, a software company that offers a secure mobile platform facilitating real-time communications and transactions for mortgage borrowers, Realtors, loan officers and title agents. MortgageOrb recently interviewed Kelleher to learn more about the benefits of having a strong mobile strategy.
Q: Everyone is talking mobile, but what does that really mean?
Kelleher: Mobile is a broad term for marketing, communications and functionality that renders or transacts on a hand-held device such as a smartphone or tablet. A mobile strategy should cover the basics: a responsive design website so that the site contents and functionality render on mobile devices, consideration of mobile advertising, which puts lender content literally in the hands of borrowers, and a native appplication, which streamlines the process of borrowing in a way that suits the new mobile-savvy consumers.
Q: Is mobile necessary? What makes it a ‘must-have’ versus a ‘nice to have’ for lenders?
Kelleher: According to Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, which means that more than 60% of borrowers are probably connecting with other vendors via a mobile device of some sort. That makes mobile a must-have. Lenders tend not to be early adopters, but borrowers and Realtors are, so mobile is most certainly going to be where they will conduct most of their future business. Lenders need to be there with a strategy to accommodate them.
Q: How can a mobile strategy help streamline business for lenders?
Kelleher: Aside from the consumer and referral partner benefits, mobile actually offers lenders a relatively simple way to put additional efficiency and transparency into the loan process. First, with a mobile-ready site, lenders will show up more reliably in searches. Google actually changed its search algorithms earlier this year to favor websites that adjust for smaller screens (i.e., a responsive design). Second, having a mobile-based process offers the kind of production consistency that can help improve efficiency, as documents can be uploaded, tracked and easily checked by the loan officer and borrower, which allows the loan officer to spend less time checking and re-checking specific loans. This gives the officer more time to focus on bringing on more borrowers.
Q: Why is having a mobile app a competitive advantage?
Kelleher: Believe it or not, mobile apps have been around for almost 10 years. Consequently, it is a comfortable and familiar environment for borrowers. They can, and do, business online from their smart devices. Moving information and documents around electronically is often easier on an app, as is using the camera to capture and upload documents and enabling automatic updates to push to Realtors, borrowers and the loan officer simultaneously.
But perhaps most important is the ability to use an app to facilitate integration between different systems. An app can integrate with an existing loan origination system, helping to quickly get lenders and loan officers mobile-ready in days, rather than months. The bottom line is a mobile approach and an app signal to the consumer that a lender is willing to do business the consumer's way.
Q: One of the key objectives for lenders is to educate and inform borrowers about the mortgage process and, more specifically, about the specific mortgage products they are considering. What role does mobile play in educating and informing borrowers? How much of this type of content is now available in a mobile format?
Kelleher: Mobile gives information and details about the process and products' immediacy, which more and more consumers demand. The ability to have that information delivered to the hands of borrowers who are actively shopping should not be underestimated.
Websites that render on mobile devices are critical to delivering that information, and functionality or apps that offer product comparisons and loan calculators are where borrowers will look, often while they are standing in a potential new home. If a borrower can't get the information they need, they will move on to a lender site that provides it in the way they want. (Note: There is no good published/research information specific to mortgage industry on how much of that content is available in mobile format – but based on a quick and random scan of 15 independent lender sites on an iPad, there doesn't appear to be much.)
Q: Compliance with new regulations – such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rules – is a major area of focus for lenders today. How can mobile apps aid in helping lenders stay compliant?
Kelleher: The new TRID rules were designed to improve transparency and set realistic expectations with borrowers. The only way to offer true transparency is through a mobile app, which integrates directly with your business logic to expedite and enhance the mobile experience. A comprehensive mobile strategy represents the evolution of compliance measures resulting from regulatory requirements.
Companies are now able to more effectively track, monitor, and audit consumer interaction and data disbursement. Texting is a prime example of consumer behavior that most companies overlook. Waiting for loan officers to submit screenshots of their text conversations is not only outdated, but it is unrealistic and may prove to be a burden on operations.
An app, like we developed at our company, offers lenders a streamlined solution to the challenges of the new TRID regulations and requirements. Our technology allows loan officers the ability to offer their clients a way to accept, review and acknowledge receipt of documents via their smartphone. All TRID activity is available to the lender via our TRID log, which contains valuable audit information including, but not limited to, IP addresses, date stamps and time stamps. Push notifications complement the TRID disclosure process. Data shows that push engagement with notifications from financial service providers are read at nearly double the rate of retail and other industries, making push notifications a very effective way to alert, disclose and remind the consumer.
Q: One of the key challenges facing lenders is making the mortgage application process smooth and easy for borrowers. A big part of this is the secure uploading of borrower docs. Is it challenging or expensive to provide for secure upload capabilities via a mobile platform? Considering that most borrowers still tend to do their mortgage applications on a desktop or home computer, how important is it for lenders to offer this as a mobile capability?
Kelleher: Great question. Our technology was engineered as a compliance first solution. Documents or images related to the mortgage process are deliberately programmed to never be stored on the phone. This includes documents not residing in the sent box of emails, a huge compliance no-no. Using the camera function of a smart phone to clear conditions meets the behavior transformation of our society to mobile first. Consider that the camera on your smartphone or tablet can convert a paper document into an electronic file with a simple click, eliminating the need for a scanner. The app then takes care of uploading that document and putting it in the borrower file.
Q: One of the things people love about their mobile devices is the ability to get alerts – so they know what's going in real time. Are you finding that borrowers appreciate getting alerts on their mobile devices with regard to their mortgage application process?
Kelleher: I can't express enough how satisfied both borrowers and their real estate agents are once they download our apps, which are customized for each lender. When everyone is engaged with simultaneous, branded updates in the palm of their hands throughout the week, the enterprise becomes the center of their attention. A recent Bank of America statistic reports that the majority (81%) of those using their mobile banking app are using the mobile banking alerts as well. Push notifications do not necessarily replace emails, but mirror and match existing communication processes to offer a more comprehensive approach. Lenders are able to improve their funnel by reducing turn-around times using this technology for more instantaneous actions. As a result, our clients work through extensions on fewer rate locks, see increasing satisfaction scores and are becoming more productive and profitable.