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Going Modern: Embracing Technology for a Seamless Consumer Closing Experience

Aaron King
Feb 18, 2016

Word of mouth. It’s one of the most powerful phenomena in human history, and its influence has only grown over the last two decades. Far more efficient than Paul Revere, the Internet puts a megaphone to the lips—or fingertips—of every consumer. For the mortgage industry, upgrading the consumer experience has never been more critical to success.

The lifeblood of lenders is referrals. While referrals used to mean asking your cousin which lender he used to finance his beach house, they now often involve soaking in the reviews of countless consumers who collectively comprise a trusted source. Every interaction with consumers during the mortgage process shapes their opinion of the experience, but those final steps en route to the closing table, in particular, leave a lasting impression.

With on-the-go lifestyles becoming the rule rather than the exception, and finding and securing a mortgage online becoming ever easier, “mobile closings” (also known as “remote closings”) are proliferating. Every year, hundreds of thousands of loans are consummated with the help of a mobile notary signing agent, away from a local bank branch, at someone’s kitchen table, the library, or the neighborhood Starbucks. With the closing often being the only face-to-face interaction throughout the entire mortgage process, it’s critical that borrowers feel comfortable and well taken care of as they cross the finish line.

Throughout the mortgage process, technology can deliver that comfort and confidence to today’s digitally dependent consumers. Homebuyers are highly connected in nearly every aspect of their lives; they’re accustomed to information on-demand and constant contact. Modern tools can keep borrowers in the know and at ease—while making life easier for mortgage professionals.

But the mortgage industry has been behind the technological curve for decades. Why? Change and adoption is hard in the space due to a multitude of compliance and consumer experience risks. Thus, a struggle has emerged between companies that are thinking tech-forward and those that aren’t. Many businesses still have systems and processes in place that were developed 20 years ago when the consumer experience wasn’t a priority—and they’re clinging tight. While some have tried to build consumer-facing products, these efforts have often failed because the longstanding workflow isn’t designed for them and the processes and machinery in place are no longer relevant. The consumer experience can’t be an adjustment to what a company is already doing; it has to be reinvented.

Luckily, effective solutions have emerged that allow players in the mortgage industry to stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Today, there is a whole new set of technology tools—in the hands of consumers and businesses—and a different lexicon. Unlike legacy systems, modern technology can start with the consumer experience as the core experience.

In almost every industry, the bar for consumer experience has been set to seamlessness. Accenture defines seamlessness as “the ability to deliver a consistently personalized, on-brand experience for each individual customer, at every touchpoint—anytime and anywhere.” With many parties and moving parts involved in every remote mortgage closing, and compliance concerns to boot, achieving seamlessness is nearly impossible without technology tools that automate the process and draw on data to enhance the human element influencing the consumer experience. In truth, “wing it” has long been the approach to this unwieldy segment of mortgages with mobile closings.

Scheduling and managing off-site loan signings has long been a painful, manual process for consumers and closers. The traditional process of tracking down available, quality notaries is a tangled mess of phone calls and Excel tracking, and it unnecessarily drains time, money and manpower. Transferring sensitive loan documents online for mobile closings carries serious security risks, as well.

Now, the mortgage industry is able to gain control of the process. Modern, intuitive tools for mobile loan closings that solve these challenges and give consumers the experience they’ve come to expect have emerged. Imagine connecting all stakeholders involved with the transaction—the lender, title insurance, escrow, mortgage broker, real estate agent and notary—to ensure that they are all informed and coordinated during the closing process; sourcing notaries who will represent you well at the out-of-office closing table based on qualifications and reviews (instead of through a you-can-only-learn-so-much Google search); and taking a page from Uber’s playbook by sending the borrower an e-mail listing all details of the closing, along with the photo and profile of the notary who will facilitate the loan signing. This high level of communication will be appreciated by the homebuyer, whether she is becoming a first-time homeowner or adding a property to her portfolio. Consumer experience will determine who is leading the mortgage space and who is trailing behind.

Remote mortgage closings are sure to continue to rise, because convenience is key to delivering seamlessness (and key to getting those golden referrals). As lender models change, it’s crucial that mobile closings stay top of mind, as their decentralized nature increases the likelihood of a poor consumer experience, absent smartly-designed technology that simplifies the process.

In 2016, commit to seek out technology partners that will help eliminate the mortgage process hurdles that caused your company day-to-day headaches in 2015. While making legacy tools history may seem like moving mountains, it will be more than worth the effort. Also in 2016, aim to meet and exceed the expectations of consumers who are now accustomed to having groceries ordered online delivered to their doorstep, finding a popular nearby restaurant while sightseeing, and dispatching a car to the nearest corner with the tap of a screen.

Consumer experience determines what homebuyers will say to their friends and family, but also what they’ll say to the millions and millions of listeners on the Internet. Positively influencing word of mouth is the name of the game when it comes to evolving mobile closings and the mortgage process overall. Fortunately, innovative technology designed to meet the mortgage industry’s needs and consumers’ expectations is waiting for the players who want to differentiate and win.

Aaron King is the founder and CEO of Snapdocs Inc., a modern technology platform that simplifies mortgage loan closings. Snapdocs is an alum of Y Combinator, the prestigious Silicon Valley accelerator known for helping to launch trailblazing technology startups.

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. 

Feb 18, 2016
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