MBA Chairman: Time for Industry to Go on Technology Offense

DALLAS–Mortgage Bankers Association Chairman Christopher George says while the mortgage industry has come a long way since the financial crisis, it must continue its focus on technology.

“For a long time, we had to be in a defensive mode–and rightfully so,” George, Founder, President and CEO of CMG Financial, San Ramon, Calif., said here at the MBA Technology Solutions Conference & Expo. “We made the adjustments. Today’s loans are better documented, better disclosed, better appraised and better understood. Now, it is time to focus on innovation.”

ChrisGeorgeGeorge noted many home buyers today were teenagers during the financial crisis. “They expect us to be relevant,” he said. “They want more speed. They want to move from mobile to mortgage; they want this to be a seamless process in which they can see their mortgage. This is not their grandfather’s mortgage. But at the same time, they want the human touch; they want an advisor who can provide them input that is not necessarily part of the transaction.”

The challenge for mortgage lenders today, is not whether to invest in technology, but how. He cited three key issues: consumer demand, data tracking/compliance; and cybersecurity. “Technology should be part of any business’ strategic plan,” George said. “We need to remove the angst and uncertainty in the mortgage process…we need to ask ‘why’ more often when it comes to processes.”

To keep pace with consumer demands, government agencies must also modernize their processes and systems, George said. He said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continue to move toward modernizing and innovating, in income, assets and property valuations of customers, while transferring risk away from the taxpayer. “We continue to have a healthy conversation with the GSEs about pilot programs designed to better support business partners, our members and ultimately our collective customers, our borrowers,” he said.

The GSEs have seen a lot of turnover in the past few years, “and each new face is a new opportunity,” he said.

George added MBA also continues to work with HUD and Congress in ensuring HUD, and particularly FHA, get the funding they need to modernize the department’s technology.

George said as an industry, we must have a conversation about consumer data privacy. “We constantly work to ensure our customers’ data security, but we are only as secure as our weakest link,” he said. “Vet your vendors and partners. The opportunity to take the data we have and keep it secure is something we all need to do.”

By industry, George said, he means working with other trade associations as well, including the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors. “When all of us are on the same page, we have more influence,” he said.

MBA supports regulators’ efforts to protect consumer data, George said, “but regulations should not be overly prescriptive. They should not impede or slow down the verification of data we need to approve loans.”

And as cybersecurity hackers become more innovative, “so should we,” George said. “We cannot afford not to protect our systems.”