6 Takeaways from the Blend Forum

Dale Vermillion leading a panel discussion on mortgage innovation at the first-ever Blend Forum at the Carmel Valley Ranch in San Francisco, CA. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Sullivan.

Dale Vermillion leading a panel discussion on mortgage innovation at the first-ever Blend Forum at the Carmel Valley Ranch in San Francisco, CA. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Sullivan.


Written By Dale Vermillion

This past month, I was honored to attend the Blend Forum, a new venue for mortgage and tech executives to discuss the future of the mortgage industry and consumers’ growing demand for a digital lending experience.

Let me start by saying that Blend put together an outstanding agenda. With time dedicated to every opportunity (and challenge) facing today’s lenders, no stone was left unturned in assessing today’s market and the changes lenders will need to make to stay competitive.

Walking away from the Forum, it’s clear that lenders have more ability than ever to serve their clients well by combining the incredibly innovative technology that companies like Blend are introducing into the mortgage space with proven sales methodology.

And thank God, because to survive the tremors already emanating through the marketplace, let alone the seismic shift still to come, lenders have to start balancing their investment in a digital mortgage experience with investment in their people—a conversation I’ve been having with mortgage execs for the past several years.

While there was (and should be!) healthy debate about how to best navigate today’s market and the digital mortgage experience; I want to share six resounding points of agreement from this year’s Forum.

No. 1: LOs are here to stay.

Experts agree, the mortgage loan officer is (and always will be) essential to the home buying process.

When executives from the top fin-tech firms in the mortgage space agree that human interaction is foundational to the digital lending experience, it's safe to say the MLO is far from obsolete.

In fact, many (myself included) would argue the best technology around keeps the loan officer at the forefront of the sales process—empowering them to spend less time wrangling disjointed programs and more time building relationship with their borrowers.

Companies like Blend have invested millions in developing technologies that digitize the lending experience without losing the essence of a mortgage transaction: a person talking to another person about the biggest financial decision they’ll ever make.

No. 2: Good technology shines through good salespeople.

The best technology on the planet can’t overcome poor salesmanship. If you’re invested in tech, you have to be invested in your people’s soft-skills. Period.

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, lenders cannot afford to rely on their technology to convince borrowers to buy.

Simply providing a digital mortgage experience will not differentiate lenders from their competitors—to compete and win in today’s industry, lenders have to provide a digital experience that builds relationship, develops trust, and delivers value, which can only be accomplished through a well-trained salesforce.

Think of it this way: to succeed in the digital mortgage era, lenders need ‘sales stacks’ to capture and convert the opportunities generated by their tech stacks.

Attracting tech-forward borrowers with a digital experience only gets you so far. Lenders need well-trained salespeople to assuage their borrowers fears, affirm their dreams, and reflect their values throughout the home buying process.

No 3. When it comes to tech, mindset matters.

To thrive in the era of digital, lenders have to tackle negative attitudes toward tech in their organization head-on. And fast.

Lenders are responsible for their cultures, and cultures that tolerate negative attitudes toward tech will struggle to keep up with those that embrace the deluge of opportunity technology represents.

We are at the dawn—not the setting—of the digital mortgage era.

Which means companies who want to compete in 2019 and beyond have to build a salesforce that isn’t just willing (and able) to embrace the future of mortgage lending, but one that’s fired-up about meeting consumers’ demands for a simpler, more-engaged home buying experience.

No. 4: It’s time to think data, not docs.

As consumer adoption of bank-connectivity grows, lenders can free-up their salesforce’s time by calling the hunt for documentation to a close.

Powerful, AI-backed sales platforms like Blend present a paradigm shift in mortgage lending: lenders and loan officers are no longer beholden to the painstaking process of collecting and verifying documents to qualify borrowers.

Will document collection and verification remain a vital part of completing a mortgage application in the digital era? Yes. But, with day one certainty, bank-connectivity, and borrower-driven self-declaration, technology is streamlining the process—freeing up loan officers to spend less time qualifying their prospects and more time cultivating them into committed borrowers.

The best part? The process is only going to become more streamlined and automated overtime. Which underscores the need for training your salesforce on what to do with all the extra time they’ll have on their hands.

No. 5: Embracing change is an acquired skill.

The mortgage industry is experiencing unparalleled disruption with the shift to digital—and so are your people. Helping them accept the new norm will position your company for success in 2019 and beyond.

Lenders can’t afford to simply expect their staff to weather the seismic shifts disrupting the industry in strides—many are going to struggle to adapt to a primarily digital mortgage sales environment, and that’s ok!

With clear communication, strategic training, and consistent encouragement, lenders can (and should!) coach their staff through the changes the industry is undergoing and help them to see the exciting roles they have to play in the digital era.

Intentionality, understanding, and commitment will be necessary to helping teams accept shifting consumer demands, embrace cutting-edge technologies, and capitalize on the coming wave of tech-forward homebuyers.

No. 6: The future of mortgage sales relational, and digital.

A mortgage will continue to be the largest financial transaction most people make in their lifetime. So, while the process of securing a home loan may change, the fundamental nature of sales won’t.

Top producers today, tomorrow, and ten years from now will continue to share one, uncompromising value: they see themselves as advocates for their borrowers, taking precious time to understand their borrowers’ needs before presenting solutions specifically designed to meet them.

It’s what I like to call an OthersFirst approach to sales, and its foundational to succeeding in any market—including the highly competitive, technology-driven environment our industry has been barreling toward for years.

Lenders who want to succeed in the modern mortgage market have to embrace the future without letting go of the proven practices that have driven sales excellence for decades—through hundreds of different markets, industry outlooks, and regulatory practices.

Technology has disrupted the home-buying process in every regard except for one: borrowers are still people, and people want to know they’re making the best decision possible for themselves and their loved ones. Technology can’t offer a borrower that. Only a salesperson with a relationship-building mentality—an OthersFirst approach—can.

The future of mortgage lending is digital, and it should be.

Technologies like Blend’s digital mortgage experience empower lenders to offer their borrowers the simplest, most-convenient mortgage sales process ever.

But, technology is only one facet of the home buying experience!

Lenders and loan officers need to practice the pillars of true sales success—building relationship, developing trust, and delivering value—as much now, in the digital mortgage era, as they have in eras past.

Despite the shift toward digital, the fundamental nature of mortgage sales hasn’t changed: people buy from people they trust.

So, to position their organizations for success in 2019 and beyond, lenders need to make a balanced investment in both their technology and their people.

By combining AI (artificial intelligence) and EI (emotional intelligence) into a holistic sales approach centered on meeting today’s tech-forward borrowers’ technological and emotional needs, lenders can continue to guide their borrowers through the largest, most-complex financial decision they’re likely to ever make.

Attending the Blend Forum, it’s clear we’re past the point in the mortgage industry of needing to be sold on the importance of technology to the home buying process, and are now arriving at a point of needing to be reminding of the importance of people to that process.

If lenders can strike a balance between technology and human capital (and I’m confident they will), the future of mortgage lending is, without doubt, brighter than its ever been.

Dale Vermillion | President & CEO

34-year mortgage veteran, award-winnning trainer, nationally-renowned speaker, consultant, and author.