By Sue Woodard, Senior Advisor, Total Expert
Rising interest rates have dramatically shifted market dynamics in the mortgage industry. Demand for new loans has dipped to the lowest level in more than 20 years, and requests to refinance existing mortgages have dropped 80% from this time last year.
Faced with a tougher sales environment, lenders are looking to the technology investments they’ve made during better times to help their teams adjust. Unfortunately, gaining user adoption of those platforms was challenging during boom times. Loan officers with a strong pipeline of potential borrowers took the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, relying on the same processes they had used for years.
Today, however, technology can help teams to operate more efficiently, deliver exceptional customer experiences, reconnect with repeat borrowers, and drive more activity with less actual work. A recent Technology Insight Study conducted by mortgage consultancy STRATMOR Group found that two of the top perceived benefits of digital mortgage platforms were a faster time to close and workflow automation. With the market cooling from last year’s peaks, now is the right time for teams that might have resisted changing their ways to embrace new digital solutions.
Start With the Why
Loan officers are scrambling to find new leads and generate business in a tough market. It’s critical that lenders lead adoption initiatives with a clear definition of how the technology will benefit loan officers – including automated workloads, increased sales, and a more efficient process.
Be specific about the pain points the platform may solve. These pain points could include disconnected data stores, paper-based manual processes, inconsistent follow-up with potential buyers, or a remote workforce. Keep in mind that the changing market may mean that today’s problems were not the ones that initially drove the decision to invest in digital mortgage tools.
Once you’ve defined the issues that technology can resolve, create a clear benefit statement or bulleted list of what success looks like and how adoption of the platform will benefit not only the company but the individual. (If you struggle to identify benefits, your tech vendor can help.)
However, be sure to keep your stated goals realistic. Overselling benefits that don’t materialize will likely cause the team to retreat back to its old ways. No single piece of technology can solve all issues overnight.
The next step is to identify internal champions who can help advocate among their peers or serve as mentors for those wrestling with the platform. Automating mundane, everyday tasks can reduce workload for operational members of the team, freeing them to serve in this role without adding to an already busy workload.
Be sure to carve out time for formal and informal training. One of the biggest barriers to successful technology adoption is insufficient training. Keep in mind, however, that each person has their own learning style. Offering different types of training – including online video tutorials, hands-on sandbox sessions, and formal classroom-type lessons – ensures that there will be a session for any learning type.
Also, keep in mind that adoption will happen at different rates. Your champions will be your early adopters, the majority of your team will likely fall somewhere in the middle, and inevitably, you will have some team members who might be resistant to change or slow to adopt the platform into their daily routine. It’s important to support team members at each step of their technology adoption journey to realize the full benefits of a platform.
Monitor, Adjust, and Expand
While adoption is incumbent upon each individual team member, leadership is key throughout the entire process. In these tumultuous times, teams look toward leadership for guidance and stability. Taking an “all aboard” approach (with exceptions for those who might require special treatment) and chugging forward full steam ahead with clear direction and strong leadership will set the right tone.
Once the team has fully embraced the platform, look to see what other adjacent technologies might be valuable additions. It’s important to build on the momentum of the initial adoption phase. Many digital mortgage platforms offer many levels of functionality, but they don’t all need to be rolled out at once. Taking a phased approach not only eases adoption, but it spreads out the financial impact of your technology investments.
While there is no single technology that can address your company’s problems all at once, identifying the right platform can lead to short- and long-term improvements. Trusted companies like Total Expert have made a name for themselves by providing financial institutions with data-driven insights and automation capabilities to simplify the lending process and prepare lenders to better assess their customers’ needs. It may take time to adopt a new technology across an entire organization, but once the right platform has been implemented, it won’t be long for teams to begin realizing the benefits.