BLOG VIEW: As the mortgage market shifts from refinance to purchase, the profitability, perhaps even viability, of many firms will depend on how quickly lenders maximize purchase opportunities, build and nurture relationships, and convert leads to closed loans. But in the fervor to acquire customers, lenders can't lose sight of compliance. The common link between these two imperatives, I'd argue, is technology.
The good news is that today's advanced customer relationship management (CRM) systems, if properly implemented, not only drive conversion but can effectively monitor and demonstrate compliance with applicable federal and local regulations governing the sales and marketing of mortgages.
CRM Circa 2014
The concept of CRM isn't new. Stand-alone software packages that manage contacts and leads have been around for years; however, the effectiveness of CRM solutions often depended on both the organization's and the individual loan officer's (LO's) commitment to them. A common complaint often heard from corporate marketers is that the data that is captured is often woefully out of date and unreliable.
Functionality has also long been an issue. Yes, you could do simple email blasts or send holiday cards to Realtors and past customers. Beyond that, however, LOs had to invest a significant amount of time and energy in programming and content development in order to produce relevant marketing and communications campaigns. The catch-22 here, of course, was that the time that went into developing these one-off programs was time away from the LO's primary mission: selling.
Fast forward to 2014. Today, the next generation of CRM and automated marketing systems are end-to-end solutions for both the LO and the parent company.Â
Contacts are easy to create and input, so there's no excuse for not adding or updating them. The LO no longer has to be a combination of a technical and marketing expert to create relevant and brand-appropriate marketing campaigns for prospects, customers and referral sources.Â
With the most advanced systems, for example, an LO can pull timely, compliance-approved and audience-relevant content from our content curation system, which contains thousands of articles on mortgage, real estate and homeownership topics. This content is updated daily and can be easily repurposed as an email, brochure, e-newsletter or other marketing elements and then shared and distributed to a contact in your CRM system. This creates a steady stream of helpful information for customers, real estate agents and other referral partners. This same content can also be published to social media sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, or used for blogs.
Marketing campaigns and emails can be scheduled in advance or automatically triggered based on a contact's status in the origination process or over the life of the relationship. It can automatically keep the borrower and the Realtor in the loop as various steps in the process have been completed. For example, it might generate an email to both the customer and his or her Realtor, saying that the appraisal has been ordered. Then, a week or so later, it might follow up saying the appraisal has come back and the valuation is fine. When the loan closes, it might initiate another campaign to both the borrower and the referral source, thanking them for their business. The Realtor might also get 10 home buyer kits as well.
The LO can also nurture the relationships with ongoing communications, such as birthday and holiday cards, long after the loan has closed.
These new CRM programs are also designed to be an integral part of the mortgage originator's daily activities. They include online scheduling – functionality that makes LOs more productive and prompts, follow-ups and tasks.
In advanced systems, all contacts, marketing materials and scheduling can be accessed securely via any mobile device, and of course, all of the material available to the LO would be determined at the corporate level to ensure not only control, but most importantly, compliance.
Strengthening brand integrity, delivering insight
CRM also offers corporate marketers greater control over their brand and the content and tone of branch communications. These rule-based systems can promote brand standards and rein in LO's who might be tempted to "put on their marketing hats" after seeing one too many episodes of Mad Men.
Companies can decide how much leeway they want their branches and LOs to have and who, within the firm, is empowered to sign off on collateral, email and advertising campaigns.
These systems also give sales and executive management new insight into the volume, source and quality of the leads they are generating and how well they are converting them. An owner or sales manager can drill down and see what's happening at the LO or branch level everyday.
Encompass CRM also includes Web technology that tracks what prospective clients are doing on company websites, what pages they are visiting and what they are searching for. With significantly more data and insight, executives can quickly gauge the success of various marketing campaigns.
Retail pioneer John Wannamaker once said: "I know half of my advertising works. I just don't know which half." A fully integrated CRM can answer that question.
Are you compliant? Prove it!
So far, marketing and sales haven't been the primary focus of the first round of audits from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But the agency's statements about the amount of advertising that lenders do, compared to their investments in borrower education, may be a signal that greater scrutiny is coming. If it does, lenders should expect to face this question: What steps has your company taken to monitor the whole realm of communications that goes on between LOs and borrowers?
From a compliance standpoint, a fully integrated CRM and automated marketing solution enable management to demonstrate the steps that they are taking to oversee sales and marketing activity. In the event of an audit or complaint, the lender will know who created the marketing piece, who approved the marketing piece, who sent it and who received it. This gives lenders greater insight and visibility into their entire sales and marketing organization and provides an audit trail for all marketing efforts.
On a more granular level, a rule-based CRM system can prevent innocent errors from turning into expensive compliance problems. For example, it would assure that all out-bound, consumer-facing marketing elements – ads, emails, brochures – have the LO's updated licensing information, as well as any appropriate disclosures for that communication.
CRM can even be integrated with consumer direct/call center solutions to monitor and record interaction between loan representatives and prospects. CRM systems deployed within a call center can help track inbound calls and leads and automate outbound dialing, improving a lender's response time and increasing the likelihood of connecting with prospects.Â
One system of record
The more integrated a CRM system is into a lender's basic loan origination system (LOS) and workflow, the more useful it will be. Today, most systems can be integrated, to some degree, with leading LOSs. Through such integrations, critical data can move seamlessly back and forth to the originator's LOS, drive automated marketing events, and eventually be stored in a single, secure system of record. This eliminates data integrity issues and creates greater efficiencies by eliminating double entry from different systems. As we've already seen, a tightly integrated LOS/CRM combination will also take time, cost and risk out of compliance audits, if they arise.
So as conversion of opportunities in a compliance-driven environment becomes the key to profitability and viability, an advanced CRM solution that is fully integrated into your core origination system of record is certainly a central part of the overall solution.
Susan Scarth is senior vice president of marketing for Ellie Mae, a provider of Web-based software to the mortgage banking industry.
(Do you have an opinion to share with MortgageOrb? Get in touch! Send an email to email@example.com.)