Mobile food-delivery apps offer multiple status alerts when we order a $10 pizza. Shipping companies let us not only see every step in a $40 package’s journey but reschedule delivery or redirect the package mid-route. Amazon’s “Mayday” button lets us instantly connect with a live support agent when we can’t figure out how to rent a $2.99 movie. So why do mortgage lenders think that customers are willing to wait patiently for a month or more to learn whether they will be able to finance perhaps the most significant purchase of their lives? Shouldn’t borrowers expect the same level of ease, empowerment, and transparency they enjoy in their more trivial purchases?
Until recently, lenders could plausibly argue that the question was unfair – they couldn’t offer better consumer experience because of the regulations that govern them, the documents they must review, the complexity of the decisions they make, and the thin profit margins they earn. Today, however, customers have had a taste of the digital mortgage experience through providers such as Quicken.
Before the financial crisis, lenders could compete based on their willingness to do riskier loans, fund growth through the private-label securitization market, and aim for efficiency through greater scale. Today, thanks to uncompromising regulation and risk-averse investors, the focus of competition is moving to sales effectiveness, customer experience, and efficiency through better technology and operations. But the steps lenders have taken so far haven’t worked: mortgages are still a people-intensive business, and its people – specifically sales and fulfillment employees – are less and less productive. Cost per loan continues to rise. Digital capabilities can help reverse this trend by improving productivity and management of operational risk.