As 2019 comes to a close, we’ve been reflecting on the opportunities we have to make lending truly better for all. Based on our conversations with industry leaders, lenders are poised to provide a richer consumer experience, but not without tackling some challenges. It’s clear that lenders need to provide a digital experience, but that won’t be enough. A high-tech, high-touch strategy is what will bridge the digital-interpersonal divide and provide the holistic experience consumers are looking for.
Physical locations supplement a digital presence
Joe Welu, founder and CEO at Total Expert, expects that “the future of financial services belongs to firms that combine human interaction with technology.” The various digital solutions on the market — and the artificial intelligence backing them — haven’t done away with the need for local intelligence. Hardworking bankers and loan teams still provide immense value by having their feet on the ground or their ear to the phone. In many cases, consumers want to complete the application process on their own — until they can’t.
72% of borrowers said they prefer to apply for a mortgage online, but most people still expect access to an expert. Providing opportunities for loan teams to support the modern consumer with both best-in-class technology and real-life assistance is a differentiator. Even digital natives value physical experiences, with 72% of Gen Z and 60% of millennials making monthly trips to the local branch. Companies can take this as a clear signal not to count out branch locations. Offering customers in-person interactions with trusted advisors is a necessary component to a lender’s successful digital transformation.
Increased touchpoints elevate the consumer experience
It’s not just Welu who sees personal touch as a key ingredient for digital solutions. Even the biggest tech companies, once exclusively online, are heavily investing in retail locations. Amazon is expanding its store presence in order to “provide a more comprehensive customer experience.” Direct-to-consumer companies are following suit with brick-and-click strategies, which means they have both physical and online operations. Casper, the online mattress company, currently has more than 20 stores and is aiming to reach 200 by 2021. Providing as many meaningful touchpoints as possible, particularly for major purchases, is what will separate future industry leaders from their competitors.
Michael Ovitz, co-founder of the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and former president at Disney, sees it in much the same way. “Bankers and financial service people will fully embrace digital services but will retain humanity by increasing interpersonal interactions in newly thought out ways.” Those two dynamics — digital and personal interactions — complicate the path to purchase, but they’re necessary components of the consumer experience in 2020 and beyond.
Best-in-class tech makes the difference
The integration of in-person and online touchpoints is significantly easier for lenders who employ top-notch technology. Joshua Fraser, CEO of Estated, noted, “Staying ahead will mean being successful at improving operating efficiencies and creating better user experiences.” The best technology will fade into the background and allow your staff the time and support they need to provide the best consumer experience possible. It will integrate seamlessly into your operations, improving them so you can focus on what will truly be the differentiator in 2020 — the customer.
It will be interesting to watch who pushes the industry from a reactive to a proactive mindset going forward. Will it be legacy lenders, fintechs, or partnerships between both? According to the experts, the pieces will start to come into view in 2020.