Residential Magazine

Stay Ahead of the Learning Curve

The best way to handle upheaval in the mortgage industry is stay informed

By J. Tony Thompson

Today’s mortgage environment is being reshaped by technology and innovation. It was less than five years ago that Quicken Loans introduced Rocket Mortgage, creating a fully online mortgage. The debut pushed the entire industry into the digital age, launching a new world of e-closings, artificial intelligence, voice assistants and more. If all of this can happen in less than five years, imagine what can happen in the next five.

While the phrase “continued education” might produce a negative reaction, the words “lifelong learner” shouldn’t. At least, they shouldn’t when presented correctly. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Some people naturally carry a deep love for learning and have an unquenchable thirst to learn more. Others simply know the industry is rapidly changing, and they can either keep up or get left behind. Neither of these motivations are wrong.

Lifelong learning can come in so many forms, allowing each person to pick and choose how they want to digest information. The common variable in how everyone chooses to learn simply needs to be that they don’t stop learning. If they do stop and opt to not evolve with the tech changes, the risk of being replaced is growing just as fast as the growth in technology.

Changing job description

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the employment of loan officers is projected to grow 11% from 2016 to 2026. This is significantly more than the 7% average growth rate for all occupations over the same 10-year period.

While this is good news, it doesn’t mean that the job description for a loan officer is going to look the same in 2026. As one of the last sectors to experience the technology revolution, the mortgage industry does have the advantage of being able to look to other industries for insight on how disruptive technology can be.

The massive change in the hospitality sector provides one example. Airbnb completely shocked the hotel industry, as it swept up market share from the big hotel chains. An online marketplace that lets users rent out their properties, Airbnb now boasts more than 6 million listings worldwide, has listings in 100,000 cities and averages more than 2 million people staying in an Airbnb per night. Given that Airbnb has been around just over a decade, that’s impressive growth.

Some of Airbnb’s competitors also took notice. Rather than ignore the growing trend toward tech and the sharing economy, Marriott International created Homes & Villas by Marriott International, showing their power to adapt, adjust and acclimate. The new venture is a home-rental initiative that offers 2,000 premium and luxury homes located in more than 100 destinations throughout the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Stephanie Linnartz, global chief commercial officer for Marriott, said, “We’d all be living under a rock if we didn’t see how the sharing economy has changed things. Last year we talked to customers, and about 30% of Marriott’s best customers had used home rentals, which was up quite a bit from the year before.”

Marriott didn’t just copy and paste what Airbnb was doing, however. They capitalized on an area of the market that they believe they are uniquely equipped to be best at. In the article, Linnartz added that her company was doing home rentals and “not rent a couch in someone’s apartment.”

This is the same type of drive that originators needs to have. Even if they aren’t giant hotel chains with deep financial backing, they need to have the willingness to adapt in order to have the potential to grow. Since they’re working on a much smaller scale, the stakes also are higher.

Mortgage and operations professionals can no longer assume that if they are laid off, another company will hire them. They need to make themselves relevant in order to stay resilient. This is critical in order to achieve long-term success.

Staying relevant

The ability to stay relevant comes through training, learning and development. From formal classes to informal YouTube videos, there are countless ways to absorb information and data. Interestingly enough, the mortgage industry has abundant consumer data, creating a lot of opportunity to learn more.

It’s important to emphasize that there is a difference between learning about new technology and learning about the latest trends in the industry. Yes, technology changes are one of the hottest trends in the market, but it is not the only trend. The secret to standing out against the competition is to know how to pair the latest technology with the latest industry trends. It’s the combination of both of these that will help loan officers stay relevant.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) recently published the study “Beyond the Loan: Lessons from PwC’s 2019 Home Lending Experience Radar,” which shared some eye-opening data on how lenders and originators can navigate the new digital age. Although the study found that more borrowers have warmed to the idea of tech companies offering mortgages, it also shared that lenders still have a number of built-in advantages because they truly understand their clientele. They simply need to capitalize on their data and third-party data to get a more complete picture of who their borrowers are.

With a better understanding of their clientele and predictive analysis, lenders and originators can be the first in line with the perfect offering at the right time, even before the borrower shows an interest in a loan. To do this, they need to always be learning about their borrowers.

For example, a growing number of purchase loans are being made to minority borrowers — a number that will only continue to increase as the nation diversifies. It’s one of the most important trends in the lending industry and yet training in this area remains slim for many companies. How many other important facts is the typical originator skipping over when it comes to borrowers?

If lenders and originators continue to ignore the data, they’ll miss out on one of the bigger trends out there. According to the PwC study, lenders can beat the competition by looking for ways to become a true partner with borrowers. Borrowers are looking to lenders for advice on the buying process. It’s vital that originators train up on how to connect with borrowers, so they can serve as a guide during the complex homebuying process.

When the right technology is combined with the correct training on how to help a borrower, it’s bound to not only make the originator’s job more relevant, but it helps provide the dream of homeownership to more people. It’s important that the industry not give up when the roadmap starts to change. Instead, originators need to remain vigilant to the ever-changing landscape, so they can remain pioneers in the industry.


  • J. Tony Thompson

    J. Tony Thompson is the founder and CEO of the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America (NAMMBA), an organization dedicated to increasing the engagement of women and minorities with the Mortgage Bankers Association at the local, state and national level. Since its inception in 2016, NAMMBA has grown to more than 25 chapters and 2,500 members nationwide. Currently, Thompson works for Silverton Mortgage based in Atlanta. 

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