We recently hosted Wes Williams, an attorney and leading expert on cryptocurrency and blockchain, on LLL. The conversation was fascinating—you should check it out if you get the chance.
A good part of our conversation was devoted to the fear in some corners of the title industry that blockchain will soon be rendering title agencies obsolete. Wes did a great job explaining exactly why that’s incredibly unlikely to happen any time soon.
We can toss the wariness about blockchain into a pile of other fears as well: Amazon (or Google or Zillow or Walmart or Sunoco) is coming with the first true end-to-end platform to dominate the entire housing and mortgage process. Regulators will be putting top lenders out of business any day now with jaw-dropping, Fair Lending or TRID penalties. The industry is unable to recruit or train young talent, and will soon be short-handed.
There’s a little bit of truth in all of those fears. But by and large, the mortgage industry is thriving in ways it never has before.
The conversation got us thinking, however. Both the title and origination (and valuation) sides of the mortgage industry have long shown tendencies toward being hesitant, tentative…maybe even fearful of new technology. We usually explain this predisposition as the result of the industry being “traditionalist” or “conservative.” That’s warranted. The industry is built upon banking and insurance in many ways, which are, at their core, focused on mitigating risk. And we’re also a favored (and easy) target for regulators at many levels.
It’s time, however, to revisit that hesitancy and do a better job of looking forward and planning for the future. You’ve likely heard the phrase many times before, but it’s time to embrace change. It’s happening all around us. Every day we see another amazing advance in innovative technology or new idea or approach to solving old problems. And while more than a few other industries tend to hop on this kind of innovation, we’re always a little late to the party.
There’s a fantastic saying attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Yes, I know we spend a lot of time here exhorting our industry to put more focus on automating and improving the consumer experience, which relies in part on listening to what the people want. But there’s also a time for innovation and getting outside that proverbial box—as heavily regulated a box it might be.
Even something as simple as a closing cost calculator can affect positive change to the process!
The good news is that we’re starting to see a little more calculated risk taking and willingness to embrace change out there. More technology start-ups using innovations from other industries or previously untried platforms or technologies to address age-old sore spots for the mortgage process. Every industry evolves to stay up with the community or society upon which it depends to exist. American consumers today are absolutely not the same people we sold mortgages to 20 years ago. So why are we, by and large, still marketing to them, selling to them and serving them that way?
Choosing innovation over fear in approach to change starts with an attitude or disposition. Instead of worrying that blockchain or some other boogeyman is coming for our jobs and businesses, why don’t more of us ask how blockchain will improve our businesses and lift the industry as a whole?