Mortgage pros have done a great job this year. They’ve hit record origination numbers, mastered new technologies, managed historically slow turnaround times, and consistently served their clients with professionalism. Ahead of 2021, however, many mortgage professionals are asking themselves where they dropped the ball, what mistakes they made, and how can they do even better next year.

To find out how mortgage professionals can improve key stats like pull-through rate, turnaround times, and client satisfaction, MPA spoke with Dan Bailey senior VP at WFG Lender services and WFG Enterprise Solutions, who is responsible for DecisionPoint, an automated title decisioning tool designed to improve conversion rate. Bailey shared some of his key suggestions and strategies for streamlining processes and adding efficiency into mortgage practices next year.

“If you’re borrower, you’re in the driver’s seat,” Bailey said. “The difficulty that folks have encountered are delays once they apply, and once they decide on the lender that they would like to utilize. Those delays are mostly due to the capacity that we see. This year, as odd as it seems, this is a great year for the refinance industry… simply because of where the rates are. That has spurred a refi boom, where everybody’s applying. If there’s a challenge overall in the industry, it’s how do you process all these transactions in a timely manner and with the same level of customer service.”

Bailey noted that, according to Black Knight, 19.4 million high-quality refinance candidates are still out there to capture. To secure those deals, mortgage professionals need to process their volumes in a timely manner and increase their efficiency with the right toolkit.

At DecisionPoint, Bailey focuses on tools that help acquire and retain client information which can, in turn, move the transaction along the whole life of the loan. His tools are designed to streamline the information acquisition process, knowing that a hodgepodge of calls and emails with a busy client are often the norm. Collecting and collating all that information is crucial to an efficient start in the loan process.

While stats like 72% pull-through rates in Q3 might make it seem like mortgage professionals are losing more than a quarter of their clients, Bailey noted that a rate in the low 70s is pretty good, compared to a normal year where that might sit in the 50s. Rate shopping will happen and, even in a low-rate environment, there are a myriad of reasons why a customer might not stay with one originator. The key, he said, is now holding on to those customers into 2021 and beyond for their next purchase or refinance.

While Bailey expects the 19 million-odd refi candidates to keep that market going strong, he accepts the wider consensus that the market will shift to a greater purchase focus next year. In that context, he stressed the importance of ensuring your customer service efforts are top notch. Customers need to be informed and reassured at every possible stage. As is so often stated, communication is key.

Mortgage professionals, however, are confronted with a cacophonous market of tools and solutions. Every solutions company is promising to streamline and improve your practice and it’s hard to tell which will actually help. Bailey explained that one area mortgage pros can look to is the longevity and reach of their solutions’ providers, for at least the reassurance that the company will still be around in a few years’ time.

Finding the right tool also takes serious self-assessment on the part of a mortgage professional. Brokers and originators need to think about how these solutions will fit into their practice long-term. Bailey has seen people struggle when their new tool doesn’t fit their existing process, and it’s crucial to get that integration right.

“Mortgage professionals looking for new tech [need to] evaluate their service provider partners, like title companies, like appraisal management companies. They want to look for an alignment,” Bailey said. “Whether it’s an alignment between your organizations on customer service or on process improvement. You really want to seek out true partners. Anybody can find a vendor but the only thing you’re going to get from a vendor is a widget. If you want to build a better process for your employees and your customers, I think you need to be very careful, and evaluate your vendor partners to make sure that they share those same values and to truly partner with them.”