During Forward, our digital mortgage summit, we shared how Blend is working to chart the most promising path forward for our customers. Blend has been listening to lenders since the early days of understanding the pandemic’s extensive impact, and over the last 60 days we’ve built tools to help streamline processes and meet new borrower needs. We’ve leveraged our technology to continue building our platform for the future, and our customers have seen impressive results implementing a digital mortgage experience.
Lenders on the forefront: A customer panel discussion
In the last few months, the mortgage industry has faced a rapidly-changing environment defined by a new set of rules. During Blend Forward, we spoke with a few of our partners to learn how their organizations have adapted and how Blend has empowered their teams to offer better digital lending experiences during COVID-19.
Financial institutions have been forced to adapt to contactless lending with a variety of challenges, including:
- Remote work migration — updating tools and processes for lending teams
- Refinance volume boom — handling a surge in refi volume
- Enabling eClose — pivoting a traditionally in-person process
Many lenders have risen to the challenge in this short period of time. The lenders on the panel agreed that both their workforces and their customers have become more comfortable with interacting digitally, with a noticeable increase in digital applications. “Our Blend application usage is at an all-time high,” said Tom Parrish, director of consumer lending product management at BMO Harris Bank. “Almost 95% of our applications are being submitted via Blend.”
How banks and lenders have adapted to working remotely
Navy Federal Credit Union migrated 96% of their staff off site in about three weeks, according to Randy Hopper, senior VP of mortgage lending. “I’m really proud of our teams and how they adapted and responded,” he said. Hopper credited the implementation of agile operations, saying, “That’s been a really important element recently because decisions were able to be made and executed quickly.”
In addition to transferring back office teams to remote work, BMO Harris Bank pivoted to a model where all of their branches only offered drive-through service. Parrish said he thought the team did a tremendous job with the transition and that customers weren’t impacted.
How lenders have increased loan volume capacity to accommodate the refinance boom
The combination of loan volume increase and working from home has been difficult for all lenders. “What we’ve found over time is that an educated member is more likely to move quickly through the financing process,” Hopper said. He pointed to unified messaging across all channels, which includes proactively communicating timelines and pointing out which parts of the process might look different in the current environment.
In early March, Navy Federal suspended certain complex products in order to simplify the experience and make it easier for their teams to work with members on their best option.
“Education is always easier when the programs you’re offering are more straightforward,” said Hopper.
At this time, Navy Federal also made the decision to suspend their home equity originations. Hopper explained, “That enabled us to focus entirely on mortgage refis, where we’ve certainly worked with Blend to introduce more precise application routing and leveraged all of the different elements of the application in place to get loans we thought would close more quickly to the specialized team that could work them.”
How lenders have adjusted to offer customers eClose options
CrossCountry Mortgage introduced Blend during the pandemic. “The adoption has been really great for us,” said Sonya Barcomb, VP of originating platforms. The organization has used the platform to offer a fully digital mortgage experience.
With the drive-up branch model, BMO Harris has focused on a hybrid closing. “We’re able to close 90% of our documents in Blend,” Parrish said. They’ve offered customers two options: to send out a remote notary or use the drive-through to get the remaining documents signed. According to Parrish, eClose has almost doubled in the last couple of months, which he said will undoubtedly have a lasting impact and push the industry to fully digitize the end-to-end process.
Blend’s commitment to future-proofing our platform to deliver a seamless digital mortgage experience
Blend is dedicated to listening to our partners and working tirelessly to stay on the bleeding edge of technology. “If the rate of change is accelerating, we have to accelerate with it. So that is our commitment to you.” said CEO Nima Ghamsari during his keynote session.
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