The tools the mortgage industry needs to survive post-2020

Industry leader explains how to navigate today’s industry and succeed in 2021 by using the right technology, with one key twist

The tools the mortgage industry needs to survive post-2020

After a year of tumult, change, trend acceleration, and endless ‘pivoting,’ it’s time to take stock for a moment and think about what we’ve learned. As historically low rates sparked a refi boom and big moves in the housing market, many mortgage professionals have had their best year on record. After a year of unexpected success and unprecedented challenge mortgage professionals should take the time to think on what we’ve learned and how the circumstances of 2020 will inform this industry into 2021 and beyond.

With that in mind, MPA spoke with John G. Stevens, chief revenue officer at SRE Mortgage Alliance Inc. Stevens, an industry veteran who’s made his reputation by thinking about the future, shared the three big forces that he believes are already changing the mortgage industry. They are increasing role flexibility and the rise of dual-role real estate and mortgage professionals, the limitations of refinancing and the need for a purchase-centered approach, and a growing need to integrate human contact in a tech-enabled market.

In this article, Stevens weighs in on the means by which brokers and originators can navigate all the trends shaping the industry’s future: our technology tools. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends of digital client service and tech-enabled deals, and clients have responded to this digitization. Nevertheless, Stevens believes they’re craving a human touch at the most important points in their mortgage process. He said that the industry needs tools that integrate the human back into that process in these crucial moments.

“That digital piece of the mortgage process is critical,” Stevens said. “But one of the greatest tools in technology is that human-assisted piece. No matter how great the tools are, without the human assisted piece of the transaction it can’t go as far. That human assisted tech is the future of our industry.”

Finding those tools that strike the right balance between human assistance and automation can be exhausting. Stevens said that many mortgage professionals suffer from “shiny object syndrome” when looking for their tools. The latest piece of tech can show up, promising the world, and professionals will flock to it before thinking about how it fits with their processes and the tools they’re already using.

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At the same time, though, Stevens acknowledges that many lenders have missed the boat on some of the huge tech innovations to rock the industry, thinking they were fads at first before being force to play catch-up.

Stevens’ answer is a mixture of self-assessment and critical assessment of the tool, asking how it can expedite your process, whether it will serve you better than your current tool, and where you can integrate a human touch.

He said it’s crucial to always stay cognizant of the fundamentals of your business to understand where a piece of technology could help you or hinder you. If you are going down the path of the shiny object, Stevens believes incorporating nostalgic touches like handwritten letters to clients can help ground a tech-focused practice in human connection.

“At the end of the day, if you look at the companies out there who are focused 100% on digital, they've shifted back to human connection,” Stevens said. “The best thing for them to start today is to reengage with their clients and reengage with their industry partners…Clients do business with people they know, they like, and they trust. If you don’t engage with them personally, they often won’t trust just a digital platform. If they know you, if they trust you as a person they'll use your digital technology.”