How New Technology is Helping the Mortgage Process
Interview with Jon Bridges, Chief Operating Officer Home Loans
Buying a new home or refinancing? In either situation, technology really can make a difference in making the experience easier. In the still historically low-rate market of 2022, Atlantic Union Bank Home Loans uses both tech and a personal touch to up the customer experience game for a more fluid process. Jon Bridges, Chief Operating Officer Home Loans, shares some insights on how we have implemented state-of-the-art technology to make the mortgage process easier for our customers.
How has the market been shaping up lately?
While interest rates have started to rise recently, they continue to be at historically low levels. We’re seeing more and more customers take advantage of these rates for new home purchases. Whether for a refinance or a new home mortgage, the advancements in our technology has made it easier to apply and to stay informed throughout that process.
How has our technology evolved?
When the COVID pandemic first hit, we recognized the need to elevate our customer technology platform to best–in-class with end-to-end digital mortgage solutions. The goal was never to remove personal contact, but rather to provide more options. One of the things our team really leans on is creating relationships – walking customers through what may be the biggest transaction of their life is what we do best. But, what we wanted was to have a digital platform that helped the process function more efficiently and effectively and that provided options for how and when they wanted to talk with us. To that end, we implemented a new cutting-edge application platform called “Blend” to help customers fill out applications quickly and efficiently. We also began using e-sign for a large portion of the closing package. We expect to eventually evolve to an e-sign option for the entire closing package in front of a notary, via video*.
While this is all high tech, our Mortgage Loan Officers (MLOs) are still there to help clients along the way. Even when a customer only takes advantage of e-sign, they’ve removed a lot of the inefficient back office paperwork from the process. We’ve been supporting e-sign without Blend since 2013. With the new platform, there’s less confusion and it’s a smoother process. For banks our size, it’s unusual that we’d be utilizing such a high end platform. It makes it that much more appealing for our customers who prefer a mid-size bank known for outstanding customer service, without having to trade off having tools that make the process more efficient.
How unique is the technology in the industry?
While more lenders are using technology to improve the customer experience, the majority are still using outdated approaches that don’t align to the more evolved expectations of their customers. And, once we’re able to do the full digital close, we’ll be in the small minority of lenders capable of such an advanced closing. These enhancements will give our customers choices about the experience that works best for them.
How specifically does it help customers?
It makes everything easier. Beyond the digital close option, it also improves and streamlines the application process, both for customers and the loan officers. It gives options to link bank statements, so they don’t have to be uploaded. It gives options to connect different accounts, so they don’t have to be manually provided. On average, it takes less than 30 minutes for the customers to go end-to-end through the journey. And at the end of the journey, customers are very well-positioned with a robust application. The application engine will automatically run and predictively ask them for other follow-up documentation depending on what was submitted: W2s, pay stubs, etc. It gets the ball rolling on all the other ancillary documents that loan officers need to collect to start the mortgage process. The other thing Blend does is connect to a lot of third party services that involve credit reporting or income verification. All of this results in a more streamlined process for the customer and the loan officer, speeding up the entire process and creating more awareness of the loan status.
What feedback are you getting from customers?
At the end of the day, we’re trying to elevate the customer experience. After all, if our customers aren’t happy, then we haven’t done our job. We collect feedback about the application experience, and we’ve learned through that research that we are viewed very positively, and many would recommend us to others. And we also learn ways that we can continue to improve. We’ll keep pushing to serve our clients in a compelling way, and appreciate their positive recognition of our efforts.
What are some key takeaways?
We want our customers to be successful. That starts by helping them find the right home loan solution for their needs – whether a refinance or new home purchase. And, for those purchasing a home, we encourage them to get a pre-approval from us. That way when they make an offer, they are in the best position to get that offer accepted. From there, we’re going to help them by focusing on execution, keeping our promises, and giving them the technology they are comfortable with that can help expedite the process. In this hot purchase market, it’s going to come down to execution. There will be lenders that aren’t going to get it done in the timeframe they need to close deals. We always challenge ourselves to get better and better for the sake of our customers. These new tools are a big part of us getting better.
Learn more about our mortgage offerings or find a local mortgage professional here.
*Some location limitations may apply, thus, a full digital closing may not be available in certain areas.