Exec highlights tech options for members
Technology is as important to the mortgage industry as breathing, according to Valerie Saunders (pictured). Without it at this point, there might as well be no industry at all.
“Without technology the mortgage industry would cease to exist,” said Saunders, a board member and vice president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, an industry group with more than 43,700 members. “The days of doing things by hand, with a piece of paper and a pencil, are long gone.”
Saunders is in a unique industry position in terms of her relationship with mortgage technology. She’s vice president of RE Financial Services in Florida, a mortgage broker and loan originator. As a small business owner, she has brought on software designed to help improve CRM, pricing and loan origination processes and make them smoother both behind the scenes and with consumers.
At the NAMB, she helps shape broader industry use and approach to technology, showcasing options to brokers and others pursuing their own ideal technology choices. That’s because in addition to her VP and board member slots, Saunders also serves as NAMB communication chair and industry partner co-chair, through which she helps highlight and point members to technology-focused tools and resources.
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“They offer discounts to our members,” she explained about participating tech companies.
Saunders also helps shape the website nambtoolbox.org, run by NAMB to as a way to highlight technology providers and provide a one-stop shop platform that lets members find tech tools that could help their businesses.
Saunders views “cutting edge” technology as something vital for the mortgage industry’s evolution.
“To me, ‘cutting edge’ means looking at things that are existing and making them better, or something that is missing and trying to create that and bring awareness to it,” Saunders said.
“Whether it’s the mortgage industry or anything else, ‘cutting edge’ technology is a wonderful thing because most of us don’t have the capacity of even contemplating trying to create something that is going to streamline the [mortgage] process, so it plays a vital role.”
With that in mind, tech companies and “extremely smart people” pursuing ways to streamline the origination and servicing process are valuable parts of the industry, she said.
Two technologies are particularly important to the mortgage industry right now, she said. One involves streamlining the administrative side of mortgage origination, servicing, and other aspects of the business.
“We’re all restricting or limiting the number of administration staff we have in our origination process. A lot more is being placed on the loan originator, at least in my small business,” Saunders said. “Having those pricing engines where they can very quickly look to see what company is going to provide the best product for that particular consumer based off [his or her] financial profile is extremely important.”
Saunders added that “when all of the extras go away and you’re forced to do it yourself, you’re going to want to be able to have some sort of technology that enables you to do it quickly, efficiently and accurately.”
Technology that helps brokers and others communicate with their referral base and customers – such as CRM systems – has become equally important, she said.
“We have more equity available in our homes than we’ve ever had … so being able to share that information, whether via email, text message [or] some other mechanism is extremely effective, because we’re in an age where people have expectations of receiving information quickly,” Saunders said.
Where it should be
The mortgage industry from a small business perspective is in a generally good place, Saunders said, though she added some larger industry processes still have a way to go.
“I think the [mortgage] closing aspect of it, just getting to where more states have online notarization available to them, that’s the last step in the whole entire process” that needs improvement, she said.
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Overall, Saunders explained, she wants to help the mortgage industry evolve and adapt to its technology needs by providing them options to help them do their jobs better.
“I refer back to our nambtoolbox.org site in trying to develop an ecosystem for people where you can have various providers that create the circle of everything you need, from website platforms, pricing engines, loan origination software … even your prequalification systems,” Saunders said. “We spend so much time focusing on our customers, rightly so, that going to the platforms that create this sort of ecosystem that make it an easy one-stop shop-type of entity is extremely appealing.”