Digital voice assistants have become a staple for many. Whether it’s Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, these artificial intelligence applications can do everything from playing music, turning on lights, or telling you the weather. What if Alexa could take a home loan application?
That’s the question behind Gregg Harris’ newest project. Harris is working toward using automation and chat bot technology to respond to leads and customer inquiries, and eventually take an entire loan application through a virtual loan officer.
“It’s my goal for borrowers to be able to apply for a loan hands-free, interview-style,” said Harris, who is working with developers to launch the project next year. “The mortgage industry has been so slow to embrace technology, but we are finally starting to see that change.”
Harris closed $112 million in volume in 2019 and is on track to eclipse that this year. He owes a lot of his ability to close such a large volume to the efficiency that technology provides. The application process at LenderCity is heavily automated, allowing borrowers to upload their documents and access real-time rates to get their mortgage closed as quickly as possible. The process is designed to be simple and straight forward, allowing for as little or as much communication as the borrower needs.
Harris prides himself on his commitment to his borrowers in any medium they choose. He’s always accessible vie email, text or a phone call, but in most cases, borrowers choose efficiency and a simple process over human communication. As systems develop, more and more people are comfortable with using technology in every aspect of their life.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, technology adoption was accelerating at a rapid pace. We are seeing it in restaurants, retail and airports, and I don’t think clients are missing out on human interaction,” he said. “I certainly don’t mind shopping online and having an item shipped directly to me.”
Harris adds that he’s excited about where the industry is headed in terms of technology, especially considering what it was like when he started in the business 23 years ago.
“I remember going to the library and looking for books on becoming a loan officer and finding very little. The lack of resources was the biggest challenge at that time,” he said.
Harris started off in the industry at a small brokerage in St. Louis, and within a few months, decided to apply for a brokerage licence to open his own shop. He had already opened two restaurants with his wife: one in Kansas City and one in St. Louis, so he knew what it meant to work round the clock to get a business started.
“Starting my mortgage business wasn’t scary. Fear is the biggest obstacle for most people breaking out on their own, but after opening a restaurant, I knew it couldn’t be anywhere near as hard as that, and that alleviated any fear I had.”
Harris encourages young originators to take that leap of faith if they are considering it. While it’s a different environment today, he says it’s certainly possible. Harris warns that being self-employed isn’t for everyone, as he reflected on his 12-14-hour days, but being a mortgage broker still excites him, even 23 years later.
“It’s kind of crazy how things came together for me; I always say it was meant to happen. People say success is a combination of hard work and luck, and that’s the truth.”