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Mortgage Lenders: Thinking Through Tech Choices and Integrations

Technology is continuing to change the mortgage industry. This is what lenders are saying about choosing the right tech for the highest ROI.
Spencer Lee
June 24, 2022
5 min

Mortgage volumes hit record levels over the past two years, and purchases are expected to make up the greater share of originations in 2022. Efficient technologies have helped lenders in this year's Best Mortgage Companies to Work For ranking ensure their staff can operate at their most productive levels. 

Lenders have come to expect digital tools that can integrate smoothly with other systems, even the proprietary products they've designed themselves. Given that new platforms and fintechs are emerging on a regular basis, options keep growing. Determining which ones could serve these companies best remains an ongoing challenge. 

"With fintech, there was an explosion of offerings," said Michelle Juarez, vice president of business systems at SWBC Mortgage. The tricky part is finding the best match. 

"We know what's out there, so which version of that is going to make sense for us and how are we going to commit to making it work for us successfully?" she said. 

At SWBC, ICE Mortgage Technology's Encompass has been the loan origination system used since 2014, when the San Antonio-based lender was preparing for changes needed with the introduction of TRID, or the TILA RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule. 

"We found Encompass to be the best for keeping us in line with the regulations that were going to be changing, kind of rocking our industry," Juarez said. 

Encompass enabled the company to comply with the new regulations and also allowed customization of the tool to fit SWBC's needs. "What was attractive about Encompass too is there's high configurability. We can build out our own workflows and screens, so that proved to be pretty helpful to our organization," she added. 

For Inlanta Mortgage, the opportunity to unify lending tasks under MeridianLink's loan origination software - the "backbone" of the company - and integrate it to a customer relationship management platform or other tools led to noticeable improvements, according to Andrea Puricelli, the Pewaukee, Wisconsin-based company's operations director. Origination, processing and closing tasks once spread across multiple systems previously caused bits of information loss and required re-entry of data. 

"The cleanup involved there - all of those things really cost us a lot of time," she said. "Now that everyone's able to operate in one system that's fully integrated with our CRM and with so many other technology tools that we use, we definitely see increased efficiency as well as fewer errors." 

Puricelli also said that its adoption - or in Inlanta's case, readoption - of Top of Mind's Surefire CRM software has provided a boost to lending and marketing efforts alike. "We left at one point and the system we went to - it had a powerhouse marketing feature. It was great at that piece of it. But then, once we started, our loan officers found that it was very difficult for them to find what they were looking for. And this system really is built for them." 

Surefire also made it easier to steer business toward Inlanta's loan pipeline with targeted marketing, allowing the company to send tailored messages based on criteria it inputs and saves, a process which has proven to be much more impactful than large email campaigns. "This system allows us to dial in, tell the system what we're looking for and provide marketing directly to their specific scenarios." 

The willingness of vendors to work with their clients on customization and integration is a big factor when technology buyers and businesses invest in a large structural purchase. As companies develop proprietary tools, digital software companies with systems and teams nimble enough to adapt are likely to stand out as potential partners. Even lenders, such as Guild Mortgage or Civic Financial Services, which have come up with in-house loan platforms, still rely on other software to help manage many tasks, particularly with marketing. 

As investment lender Civic Financial builds its own proprietary system, called Origin8, to specifically serve business-purpose clientele - a tool it hopes to have fully operational in 2023 - it has continued to utilize Encompass at the same time, putting it to work alongside its platform. 

Company president William Tessar, who joined Civic Financial in 2017, said distinct differences exist in a conventional loan versus a business purpose one, which necessitated a solution for investor borrowers. When he initially tried to customize Encompass upon arriving at Civic Financial, his team found they didn't need the hundreds of fields within the product. 

"We dropped that down to 90, and we have an entire team in and around Encompass that to this day, five years later, customizes stages, fields, touches, pages, milestones, responsibilities while we're building Origin8," he said. 

Marketing and customer outreach to clients of the Redondo Beach, California-based Civic Financial also require a different approach compared to traditional residential lending. To keep clients engaged, the company relies on Total Expert, which can deliver targeted digital marketing tailored to investors, "whether they're-high volume customers that do 20 loans or a prospect or a lost customer that we're trying to recapture," said Elizabeth Hillis, the company's senior vice president of marketing. 

"It's cyclical - we look at our customer journey - it doesn't end at funding, because they do multiple loans a year," Hillis said. 

Bigger lenders like Guild Mortgage have similar digital and marketing needs as the smaller ones but need to be able to operate them on a much larger scale. The San Diego-based lender turned to Salesforce, the world's largest CRM vendor, which provided a marketing solution that could not only integrate with Guild's proprietary systems, but also gave its team an easy way to track client data across their relationship with the company. Guild wanted a tool it could use to narrow in on increased productivity but also portfolio retention. 

"This is a complete system of being able to manage your sales and customers and partners all the way through the life cycles. So the ability to put those actual insights in front of your loan officers is not something that was in the tools that we had prior," said Gemma Currier, Guild's senior vice president of national retail sales operations. 

While employing traditional technology tools to streamline processes like most companies, Embrace Home Loans, based in Middletown, Rhode Island, has also brought analytics into its strategy with major investments in cloud-based software and data science. With Snowflake, Embrace Home Loans houses data from all of its systems in a central repository and can easily merge information within it. 

"Just calling it a data warehouse is a little bit underselling what it is," said principal data strategist Joel Kehm, who was hired at Embrace in 2019 to help spearhead digital transformation at the company. "The nature of Snowflake is such that it can act as a data lake." 

The company's data scientists are able to easily grab terabytes of information from Snowflake and quickly run analyses. With the data, Embrace's staff can determine how they might want to do things differently, such as in marketing campaigns. 

"You can sort of trace all of the ways you've interacted with the customer. Yes, they got a piece of mail, called in on the phone, but then, while they were on the phone, they clicked over on our website. Or maybe this started with an email. And being able to really bring those all together, we see it as a huge strategic advantage," Kehm said.

This article was written by Spencer Lee from National Mortgage News and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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Spencer Lee

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