Learnings from an eClose Operations leader who successfully implemented digital closing technology.
“In my time leading eClose Operations for a large national mortgage lender, I experienced many intangible (even unexpected) outcomes that contributed to positive ROI and business growth.” - Whitney Vogt, Solution Principal at Snapdocs
This is the second article in our two-part series on the impacts of eClosing in a down market. Click here to read part one of this series, and connect with Whitney to learn more about how to achieve your eClosing goals at scale.
In recent years, lenders have successfully incorporated technology solutions that reduce errors, cut cycle times, and improve security. Yet, with all the success in digitizing loan applications, loan processing, and underwriting, it’s surprising that closings often remain a largely manual, paper-based process. But why?
The pandemic was a catalyst for eClosing technology adoption, as lenders sought ways to provide safe, low-contact or no-contact closings for their borrowers. At that time, eClosing was seen by many as a necessary means to overcome social distancing. The discussion around eClosing has evolved considerably since then, with lenders realizing its impact on cost-savings, staff retention, improved security, and borrower experience.
In my time leading eClose Operations for a large national mortgage lender, I experienced many intangible (even unexpected) outcomes that, while difficult to measure on paper, contributed to positive ROI and business growth. Here are a few of my hands-on learnings and observations for lenders in similar positions.
Benefit #1: Borrower Experience
eClosing has proven to be a key driver of customer satisfaction and loyalty. As homebuyer demographics shift, we must adapt and appeal to a generation of technologically savvy customers. Today’s borrowers automatically expect a digital loan experience that complements the personal relationship formed with their Loan Officer.
A digital closing is the last step of an already-enhanced homebuying experience that starts with digital loan application and automated preapprovals. eClosing completes this digital journey, giving borrowers a more convenient, efficient, and flexible closing experience.
With eClosing, customers sign closing documents with more confidence (giving ample time to preview docs and ask questions before the closing appointment) and convenience (by eSigning a large portion of the closing docs early). The outcome? Eliminating what used to be a lengthy and stressful closing experience, and giving all parties the ability to focus more on each other at the signing appointment.
In my experience leading eClose operations, it was always a highlight to hear positive customer testimonials passed on from our Loan Officers, praising how quick and easy the closing went. We often heard how great it was that we could easily accommodate our borrowers’ busy schedules, not in spite of them.
Benefit #2: Stakeholder Satisfaction
A mortgage closing involves five or more stakeholders, all with a vested interest in a timely and successful closing. Stakeholders include real estate agents, loan officers, buyers, sellers, settlement agents, loan closers, and notaries. Clearly understanding how eClosing technology impacts and benefits each stakeholder was a big part of our eClose success. We made sure to focus on each stakeholder, understanding and articulating the benefits for each of their respective roles.
A prime example is how settlement agents benefit from eClosing. Our settlement partners often had the misperception that eClosing would eliminate or marginalize their important role in the closing, diminishing the valuable “personal touch” they provide.
However, our settlement partners found the opposite to be true. Because digital closings remove many of the non-value-add elements of the closing process (printing, copying, scanning, emailing), settlement had more bandwidth to focus on the customer.
It was rewarding to observe this mindset shift over time. In my conversations with settlement partners, many expressed that although initially hesitant, they came to realize that eClosing increased their own capacity and gave them more time to build relationships with customers and referral partners at the closing table!
By acknowledging each stakeholder’s perspective, we simultaneously improved closing outcomes and generated goodwill with important referral partners.
Benefit #3: Employee Retention
Professional growth and development is critical to increase staff loyalty and retain top talent. I found that success with eClose (or any technology transformation) starts with identifying high potential, high performing employees and enabling them as change leaders within your business. Not only is being part of a transformational initiative professionally rewarding, companies benefit from promoting skilled staff with a demonstrated ability to take initiative and drive outcomes.
Simply put, eClosing makes life easier for staff. By reducing mundane tasks (like manually checking and rechecking docs), closing teams gain the bandwidth to focus on more technical or challenging activities that might otherwise delay or stall a closing transaction.
Even Sales staff can use eClosing to gain a competitive edge. Our LOs appreciated our commitment to innovation, especially in ways that enabled them to stand out to borrowers. eClosing became a tool our LOs used to both benefit their customers as well as increase referrals over time.
Benefit #4: Headcount Utilization Amid Market Cyclicality
The painful reality of market uncertainty is that lenders must adjust headcount when loan volumes fluctuate. During times of low volumes, eClosing allows lenders to be more efficient with smaller teams (doing “more with less”), and avoid additional headcount reductions that are costly and time-consuming to manage.
But our industry will inevitably recover, and when it does, we must consider the additional expense of rehiring, onboarding, and training new staff. I observed that eClosing was not only a tool to help avoid staff reductions, but also one that gave existing staff the flexibility to easily handle large loan volumes as well.
Successful adoption of eClose up front will help organizations be more agile in the long term.
Tips for achieving successful eClosing outcomes
As with any transformational project, change can be hard. To reach your eClosing goals and attain the highest degree of adoption, a focus on change management (People and Process) is as critical as the technology implementation itself. Here are a few of my best practice tips to keep in mind.
Tip #1: “Tone from the Top” (incorporate eClosing into your culture and mindset)
To achieve your strategic goals, leadership at all levels must be prepared to embed eClosing into the company culture - this is how we close loans! A clear, unambiguous Tone from the Top leads to faster adoption and scale, which in turn, accelerates realization of full ROI. Additionally, setting clear targets and metrics add accountability and visibility across the organization, reinforcing that strategic vision.
Tip #2: Engage and empower staff in order to drive successful outcomes
eClose adoption requires strong support and escalation channels. This ensures smooth and efficient closings, and gives staff confidence that they have the technical support they need, when they need it.
The best way to achieve this support is by getting the commitment of people who are viewed as eClosing knowledge leaders, and are available when questions or concerns inevitably arise. Timely answers from a live person provides a level of confidence that FAQs, guides, and reference documents just can’t provide. Strong support goes a long way to fostering confidence in eClosing, ultimately promoting successful adoption.
Tip #3: Partner with a tech solution that fits your business
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to digitizing any business process, and eClosing is no exception. A strong partnership between lender and vendor is often the most critical factor for eClosing success. Selecting a provider that isn't the right fit can result in underutilized technology, frustration, and risk to customer experience.
My experience implementing eClose left me with three “must have” criteria:
- Your eClosing vendor should be an experienced eClosing provider, with deep industry knowledge to help inform your digital strategy
- Your eClosing vendor should align with your existing business strategy and be able to complement your tech stack
- Your eClosing vendor must be willing to partner beyond initial implementation and rollout
eClosing is truly transformative, changing the way closings have been conducted for decades. The benefits I experienced after implementing eClose (improved borrower experience, closing team satisfaction, and staff retention) became revenue drivers that we had not initially anticipated.
Personal experience also taught me that embedding eClosing as a standard part of the origination process is the key to quickly realizing these huge financial and operational outcomes.
Today, I work with lenders to establish their eClosing strategy, sharing my insights as someone who has been in their shoes. I am excited to help lenders transform the closing experience and achieve eClose success at scale. Let’s go!