PERSON OF THE WEEK: Wayne Steagall is founder and president of Lending Manager, which offers a website and point of sale platform used by mortgage companies to streamline the mortgage process through automation and technology integrations. Over the last 18 months, the company has expanded to more than 3,500 loan officers and currently processes more than $2 billion in loan applications online per month. MortgageOrb recently caught up with Steagall to learn more about how online lending has evolved over the years.
Q: In today's ultra-competitive mortgage market, lenders are finding that it is critical to meet potential borrowers where they are at, which is online. How has online lending evolved over the years? What online trends do you see gaining traction in 2015?
Steagall: Online lending has evolved over the years with lenders' understanding that a strong Web presence has gone from a ‘nice to have’ to ‘need to have.’ It is now a business imperative for lenders to focus time and resources with their Web presence if they want to remain competitive.
In addition to online lending becoming a business imperative, lender websites are being more widely used in purchase shops – and not just for refinance heavy lenders. Online lending is now impacting all lending channels.
Some of the trends we see gaining traction in 2015 are that there will be a significant increase in the amount of online loan applications and online lending documents. Today's borrowers are more tech-savvy and expect to do business with lenders online. They want to go online when and where it is convenient for them, typically during non-traditional business hours. It may be at 4:00 a.m. before they leave for work or as they are waiting to pick their kids up from soccer practice.
They expect a dynamic online lending experience that delivers comprehensive information on loan programs, interest rates, closing costs with the ability to access the lenders website on their smartphone or tablets; they demand this information and status updates instantly. The website needs to have a simple yet elegant design that is easy to navigate and provides the type of information that potential borrowers are looking for.
If lenders don't provide this type of online lending experience, the potential borrower will simply move on to the next lender. Companies that have long ignored their online lending strategy are quickly realizing that online lending is a business imperative and are now focusing heavily on their Web presence, borrower experience and online lending technologies to meet the needs of today's borrowers.
Q: What constitutes a great website in the eyes of today's tech-savvy borrower?
Steagall: Borrowers expect more from their lender and that includes a great website. What follows are some elements that we think make for a great mortgage website:
- Visually appealing design that matches corporate branding;
- Simple navigation menus (‘don't make me think’);
- Useful content for borrowers and referral partners;
- Powerful call-to-action buttons (‘apply online’);
- Domain name that's easy to remember;
- Integration to back-office systems (loan origination system and customer reltaionship management);
- Can be updated quickly (doesn't take a week); and
- Mobile- and tablet device-friendly.
Great websites deliver the dynamic user experience that today's borrowers demand.
Q: It is clear that millennials are online – what do they require when they go online looking for a loan?
Steagall: Millenials do business online and expect their lender to do the same. As millenials continue to represent a larger share of new home purchases, lenders can't afford to ignore this segment and their online lending expectations.
Millennials demand a robust website that delivers critical lending information in a simple and easy-to-use site. They expect a quick, efficient website that either lets them find out more about a lender and their lending options or it delivers a simple and easy-to-navigate website so that they can apply online at their convenience (instead of scheduling an appointment and filling out a paper application in person).
If the lender can't deliver a great borrower experience online, the potential borrower will simply move to the next lender.
Q: How has mobile technology and social media changed online lending?
Steagall: Today's borrowers are on the go and accessing websites from their mobile phones and tablets. Your website must be mobile- and tablet-friendly or your potential borrower will simply look elsewhere.
Mobile has helped make the loan process available 24/7 (not just at a computer) and improve the efficiency of the loan process. Borrowers can even apply on their mobile website while sitting with their Realtor or loan officer – instead of waiting hours or days later for a response.
Social media is heavily regulated for lenders, but if done correctly, can help drive traffic to the lender's website with a higher conversation rate because it's from trusted friends/referrals instead of generic search engine or banner ads.
Q: Can a great lending website level the playing field and allow lenders of all sizes to compete for today's tech-savvy borrower?
Steagall: Yes, your website is one of the first places a consumer goes to find out more about your company. A large lender with an outdated or poorly maintained website can lose out to a smaller lender with a strong Web presence, as the potential borrower can see it as a reflection of the overall company and comfort level with that particular lender.
Great websites deliver a dynamic user experience while leveling the playing field
for lenders of all sizes.
Q: Just having a website is no longer enough. How does the right online lending solutions impact the borrower experience?
Steagall: Today's borrowers are online for every aspect of their lives. They know what a great user experience delivers, whether that's from Apple, Google or the like, and they expect that same type of experience when dealing with a lender.
If the lender's website doesn't contain the information that the potential borrower is looking for, if navigation is confusing, if they can't access the website from their smartphone or tablet, it creates an extremely frustrating user experience for the potential borrower. When that happens, they simply move on to the next lender and never come back to your site.
Applying for a mortgage is one of the largest financial transactions of a person's life and most will only go through that process once or twice every decade – so delivering a great customer experience, one that is simple and accessible to the borrower, is critical. It is critical not only for that loan, but for the potential referrals that borrower will provide to other potential borrowers.
Q: How is Lending Manager meeting the needs of today's tech-savvy borrowers?
Steagall: At our firm, we are passionate about delivering great websites to our lender clients. We are constantly working to enhance our offerings to deliver the best possible online lending experience. We are investing heavily in the next version of our mobile websites. Borrowers accessing our client's website through mobile devices has increased significantly over the last year with 15% to 20% of daily website traffic coming directly from mobile or tablet devices.
Our newest website designs incorporate our best practices from managing 5,000-plus mortgage websites to help our customers increase the conversion rate of consumers to borrowers from their website and, in turn, increasing the return on investment and profitability of their online lending channel.
We will continue to enhance our strategic partnership with integrations to even more mortgage technology providers to help our customers save money. This will create additional production efficiencies in the back office, including loan officers taking more applications online and processors collecting borrowers' documents securely.