PERSON OF THE WEEK: More often than not, the mortgage banking industry needs to run faster to keep up with changing environments. A case in point: the evolving high-tech world, where social media and mobile computing have reshaped both interpersonal communications and consumer-facing business operations. To understand where the industry stands in this new digital age, MortgageOrb spoke with Mark Coupland, vice president of business development at Appleton, Wis.-based LoanSifter Inc.
Q: It seems like everyone is using social media today, including mortgage bankers. But is this industry using social media to its fullest advantage?
Coupland: Right now, lenders are using social media to stay in front of borrowers and educate them by pointing out interesting articles on housing prices or interest rate trends. But there's not a huge push to actually empower the borrower. When I look at LinkedIn or Facebook, I see originators all over the place – but a lot of them are posting the same things.
One of the things I see as a huge opportunity for lenders is to take tools such as loan pricing and rate search tools and propagate them on social media. This empowers borrowers to take action and initiate the mortgage process rather than just reading about trends and reports. This could open a lot of opportunities for lenders in a new way, bringing in new sources of production and revenue.
The good news is that it's not hard to do. We know loan officers who are taking the widgets of our loan pricing and rate search tools and easily embedding them in their social media pages.Â
Q: A recent survey by the Aite Group predicts a tripling in the usage of mobile banking within four years. In your opinion, has the mortgage banking industry been ahead of the curve in responding to the distinctive technology and marketing challenges posed by mobile banking?
Coupland: No. In fact, when it comes to technology in general, many would argue that the mortgage banking industry is behind the curve compared to consumer banking. However, mobile banking is about simplifying common consumer transactions, and mortgages are inherently more complex than paying your bills or even opening a six-month CD.
On the front end of the mortgage transaction, mobile technology has helped originators stay in touch with borrowers, illustrate rate trends and price transactions. But today's financial institutions are rarely interested in a mobile processing or underwriting device, because much of the mortgage process today is so centralized and controlled. In fact, some originators don't want much mobile technology at all because of growing compliance concerns. They'd rather have the lower risk of a completely centralized and controlled mortgage process.
But these same institutions would nearly all argue that driving information and education to consumers to help initiate the mortgage process online, where information is secure and sent from the comfort of their own home, is a direction the industry will continue to head. As the mortgage transaction becomes more and more transparent and commoditized, more power will eventually be given to consumers through mobile technology.
Right now, the industry is focused on educating borrowers, empowering borrowers, and streamlining the mortgage process. This should help pave the way for a much more commoditized solution that could eventually be even more mobile-centric, a bit more similar to what you see with the travel industry today.Â
Q: Over the past several months, a number of concerns have been made by cybersecurity experts on financial institutions being under cyber attack. Do you believe that cybersecurity is a major problem to mortgage banking, and is the industry ready for a wave of new cyber attacks?
Coupland: Cybersecurity is a major concern in our industry since mortgage bankers deal with sensitive consumer information. It's a good reason why banks, credit unions and especially smaller mortgage companies need to partner with reputable technology vendors that take the same security precautions that the largest financial institutions currently do. If they don't, they are exposing themselves to huge risk.
I think the mortgage industry takes this issue seriously and that we're headed in the right direction. So much of the mortgage transaction is now paperless, for example. If you're leaving documents with sensitive consumer information sitting on your desk at night, that's a huge risk. But paperless technology now helps lenders avoid those situations and allows them to create automated controls based on best practices. This protects consumer information on the front and back ends of the transaction.
Q: You've worked in banking, and now you are working in technology. What have been the advantages and challenges of being in these two different industries?
Coupland: One of the benefits of coming into the technology industry from the mortgage banking space is that you bring a fresh perspective. So, for me, the ability to drive very relevant initiatives right out of the gate was very refreshing.
Also, much of what I did in mortgage banking was about defense – particularly in secondary marketing, where I was from. It's about safeguarding yourself from all the different regulations coming in your way and using technology to protect internal practices. Technology, on the other hand, is about offense. You're trying to build things that are relevant to the market, things that will eliminate risk and save companies a lot of money. It's about creating solutions.