This article is based on a breakout session from MBA Annual 2023 in Philadelphia. The session was titled “Make the Most of Your Tech Stack” and featured longtime LodeStar friend, Roy K. George, CMB, President and CEO, MOR Lending, LLC, as well as the following panelists:
Anyone with even a little bit of experience in the mortgage industry is no stranger to a down cycle. Most have seen their fair share. But there are some signs that say we need to recognize this time is different.
Unit volume is down 65% since 2021. Headcount is down 30%. We’ve seen five consecutive quarters of loss. Yeah, it’s bad.
But just because things are bad—worse than usual, even—it’s not time to panic. It’s time to ask the right questions…
Let’s start with tech. But not what tech you should buy next.
How much are you getting out of your current tech stack? That is, how effectively are you leveraging tech you already have to soften the blow of a difficult market and protect your operation?
In an informal survey of CIOs and mortgage executives, the majority believed they were only getting 60–70% out of their current technology. Operations professionals said even less. If this survey is any indication, the industry has a long way to go.
Buying tech is one thing. Getting your team to effectively and efficiently adopt it is another story. It’s not impossible—far from it—but it takes intentionality and leadership.
Take underwriting, for example. Even if your team has automations in place, many underwriters still want to double check the file for their own peace of mind. That can take a lot of time. Checkers checking checkers checking checkers… And telling the underwriters not to double check the file doesn’t always work. Even if you do it over and over…
Allison Johnston of Success Mortgage Partners had to lock her team out of an automated appraisals folder, because they couldn’t help themselves from double checking something that didn’t need to be checked. The tech had it handled. The underwriters had other work to do.
A slight shift in processes—solidified by intentional leadership—ensured the team got the most out of tech they already had. And if you lose some people because they refuse to adopt tech, don’t worry.
To navigate roadblocks to adoption, one of the most powerful things you can do as a team leader is to include LOs and tech people in the testing and implementation of a given piece of technology from day one. Not only does this let everyone get on the same page about how to use the tech and how it will fit into or change the current workflow, but also it creates a sense of ownership among the team.
And if you want to go a step further, you can invite your team down to originate a loan in front of you. It might be a little nerve-wracking for certain members, but it will pay off and ultimately build confidence. Not only will you, the team leader, get to see the tech in action (whether it’s a prospective purchase or something you’re already using), but you’ll also better understand potential pain points and inefficiencies in your team’s current origination workflow. This kind of exercise lends itself to a culture of constant training and growth. Instead of training new hires once at the beginning of their employment, you’re training constantly and growing as a team. People will feel more engaged, and you’ll close more files.
Another way to maximize tech adoption is to incentivize closing more files. Maybe you can award points for each file closed. Some good-natured competition or prize-winning could make the adoption process, if nothing else, just a little more fun.
No matter what, nurturing adoption among your team and proactively solving inefficiencies will always, always pay off. You’ll spend less time wringing your hands over new purchases, you’ll get more out of tech you’re already paying for, and your team will close more files. And at the end of the day, your whole operation will become resilient in difficult markets and scalable to rises and falls in origination volume.