(#MBA Live) What to Think About Today, Tomorrow and the Next Phase

(Caption: William Packer of American Financial Resources Inc.)

The coronavirus pandemic has placed enormous strains on the mortgage industry in general and its technology teams in particular. 

William Packer, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer with American Financial Resources Inc., Parsippany, N.J., said nearly everything the sector does for customers and internal teams changed due to the pandemic and will change again quickly. 

Speaking Monday at MBA Live: Technology Solutions Conference, Packer noted mortgage company employees suddenly needed to work remotely. “We needed to socially distance by moving everyone out of the office and we needed them to be as productive as possible,” he said. “We needed our customers to be able to transact with us in a socially distant manner and we needed our employees to be able to support those socially distant transactions. So, the goals and success criteria were easily understood.”

Though most mortgage firms had disaster recovery and business continuity plans, few of these plans anticipated all offices across the nation and the world would essentially be closed, Packer said. “Many plans assumed there would be access to other facilities,” he said. “This put a challenge in front of us. As I look at our own staff and talk to my colleagues across the industry, I see that we became incredibly creative and extraordinarily resourceful to enable remote work, to enable self-service and to continue down the road toward digital transactions including remote notarization.”

Packer said mortgage technology professionals looked at the coronavirus challenges and figured out a way around them, moving away from an “office-centric, paper-intensive” way of doing business and essentially transforming the industry toward remote work nearly overnight.

Packer noted the pandemic initially reduced productivity somewhat. “But in some cases we’ve seen pockets of increased productivity as people have transformed what used to be commuting time into work time and have established new ways of working that have gotten us back to our standard model of productivity,” he said.

Another challenge: collaborating with colleagues when everyone is forced to work remotely. “We cannot have impromptu lunches at the moment,” Packer said. “And we don’t run into each other at the water cooler or coffee maker because we’re all trying to be socially distant. So, certainly there has been some reduction in collaboration, but again, we’ve embraced the technology and the tools–how I’m speaking to you today, for example–in a way that has enabled us to re-establish that collaboration.”

Packer called “virtualizing” the call center environment a heavy lift for many mortgage firms. “We had to make sure connectivity was sufficient at each employee’s home and to ensure they had the right equipment,” he said. “In some cases we had folks take their office equipment home with them. Apart for the mechanical logistics, one of the things we can’t forget is just the fact of not having that face-to-face contact. We had to logistically think through how could we still have that in-person contact with our employees. I think we are hearing a range of solutions to that question [in this live conference]. I think it’s one of those that we will need to careful thinking about as we move into the next phase.”