Even though it hasn’t been 2020 in terms of seismic change, 2021 has been another roller coaster of a year (and yes, we’re going to start referring to 2021 from the rearview mirror—2022 will only be about six weeks away by the time you read this!). We’ve talked enough about all the different factors, trends and changes which have shaken the “just another day at the office” mentality: pandemic and work from home; record refi ever so slowly turning to purchase volume; the slow emergence of RON and eClosings; “The Great Resignation” and the emerging labor shortage; talk of more aggressive regulatory enforcement and the return of emphasis on mortgage compliance; even shipping and delivery delays and shortages on all kinds of items we used to take for granted. This has all effected some serious (even if temporary) change upon the nation as a whole, and the mortgage industry as a part of that.
By all accounts, 2022 will see some of those conditions continuing as well as the inevitability of new changes as well. Mortgage data providers industry-wide are already whispering about the higher cost to produce loans and impending, inevitable wave of margin compression. Faced with a combination of hiring and recruiting challenges, the process and marketing changes necessary to meet a purchase market and the lingering challenges of The Pandemic That Would Not Go Away, will 2022 be the year that business owners and decision makers around the industry start going all-in on a more comprehensive focus on automation and digitization throughout the entire mortgage process?
Will 2022 be a year in which mortgage-related businesses put real emphasis on production technology? On truly improving the consumer experience, not just a better POS or LOS technology? Will it be a year when borrowers start to see an application process (or better yet, a closing process) that looks even a little more like the digital experience many have when applying for personal, auto or student loans? Will 2022 see mortgage businesses of all kinds finally employ smart automation to their production processes and do away with the expensive market strategy of “ramping up/ramping down” its FTE resources with any fluctuations in interest rates? Will we meaningfully start to employ things like AI and RPA so that we can empower our staffs to do what they do best?
And while we’re at it, will 2022 see the wave of change trending toward diversity and inclusiveness continue to rise, rather than recede as it has, at times, in the past. Sometimes we don’t realize that doing the right thing is often the right business decision as well. At a time when millions of Americans are rethinking their careers and lives; and when there are no longer surges of applicants for title, escrow or underwriting assistants, can we better empower all of the people who are available to help our businesses?
We don’t expect dramatic change in 2022—at least, none that will be patently obvious this year. But just maybe this unusual convergence of several powerful influences will shake the mortgage industry a bit more than usual. We’re a resilient bunch. We had one of our best years ever in the midst of the biggest pandemic of the past 100 years. But by their very nature, people tend to be a bit more open to change and willing to think strategically (rather than allowing inertia, momentum or stagnation to govern them) when they’re already being forced to adapt on other fronts.
So maybe, just maybe, we’ll look back at 2022 (or even 2021 or 2020) as the year the mortgage industry stopped saying “the way we’ve always done it” quite so often!
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