Debora Aydelotte: Mortgage Professionals Need to Prepare for COVID’s Impact into 2021
Debora Aydelotte is Chief Operating Officer with Promontory MortgagePath LLC, Denver. She is an established industry executive with more than 20 years’ experience in business performance leadership, M&A, business technology, risk management and strategic planning. Her diversity and inclusion work both in the industry and in her community over the years has enhanced her leadership style and effectiveness. Additionally, she has fostered a broad network of industry partners domestically and abroad, working with regulatory agencies and housing authorities in the UK, Australia and the U.S. During her career, she has worked in start-up and fintech development as well as taking industry firms to their next level. She has been named one of HousingWire’s Women of Influence in the mortgage banking industry, as well as one of the “Elite Women in Mortgage” by Mortgage Professional Magazine.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. in early March, the better portion of 2020 has been devoted to adjusting to the “new normal.” Although expectations are high that a vaccine will be readily available by the year’s end, the situation is complex and defies a neat solution. Therefore, as leaders we need to think about how to prepare for what 2021 might hold.
While the housing market cannot pull the country out of a health crisis, as history shows it is one of the largest economic drivers. As such, it is currently buoying the U.S. economy and will help propel the country out of the COVID-induced economic hangover as the pandemic subsides despite the forecast of increased foreclosures. With the U.S. facing the probability of a second shut down, the current situation (remote work, reduced travel, illness, etc.) could very well continue into early or mid-2021. Thus, mortgage professionals should be continually reviewing potential effects on the financial industry and assessing how to prepare for changes into 2021.
Without a doubt, continued emphasis needs to be placed on coupling enhanced technology and APIs with customer-facing platforms and operational improvements — with remote online notarization being a key example of such. Lending professionals realized quickly that fintech platforms were mission-critical tools for maintaining pipelines amidst social distancing and stay-at-home directives, and with some states and localities reverting back to Stage 1 re-opening plans, lenders need to make these platforms and systems a permanent addition to their operations. However, there are other areas in which mortgage professionals need to anticipate COVID’s lasting impact.
Historically, sales structures relied heavily on salespeople living within their assigned regions, which typically consisted of a few contiguous states. Over the years, and with the ability to hop a flight anywhere relatively cheaply, that model changed and allowed sales professionals to live anywhere. If travel restrictions or concerns for personal health continue, we may see a return to salespeople living and working within their “drivable” regions.
New Client Onboarding
Sending a team on-site for on-boarding and training has become less of a need. With companies forced to pivot to execute with a remote model, many realized the reduced costs of a remote onboarding process, which is likely to become the norm as companies grow more cost-conscious amidst lingering economic uncertainty. Thus, firms will need to develop and polish their remote training and implementation methods. The key to succeeding in this endeavor include effective organization and execution of training using various methods to keep people engaged over web training, super-charging the ability of the trainer to “read the room,” identifying champions at the client to drive participation, implementation toll-gate adjustments and temperature checks (more frequent and thorough) to keep the implementation on track and successful.
States that have temporarily relaxed requirements to perform certain functions from a licensed location may need to extend those actions until an approved COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available…or perhaps step out of the 90s and acknowledge the fact that remote work makes sense in today’s digitally-driven lending environment, and take steps to modify any existing statutes accordingly. More people are either unwilling to move for new job opportunities (very similar to what we encountered after 9/11), or are actively moving out of highly populated areas to reduce virus exposure. It will be interesting to see relocation pattern analysis for 2020-21, as this may also impact our industry beyond recruitment. In addition, as more companies realize they don’t need that expensive office space, or perhaps look for newer space to accommodate social distancing or rotational/shared desk office spaces, are we looking at the slow demise of the densely packed cube-world to which we have become accustomed?
Domestic Migration Trends
Early indications that people are moving out of cities and back to where the parents or grandparents live will change populations and origination patterns across the country, and property values should adjust accordingly over time. As such, will the cost of housing in San Francisco finally at least level off, while places like Madison, Wis., experience an increase in their tax base and property values due to higher demand? Only time will tell, but this outcome seems likely.
Another telling detail that is emerging is the dramatic increase in the cost of lumber during the pandemic. According to a Financial Times article, lumber prices have increased by 104% in 2020, a phenomenon that industry experts attribute to the increase in home renovations undertaken during the pandemic, as well as, “low interest rates that fast-tracked a recovery in housing demand, as urbanites pined for rural homes. ‘Pure and simple, I think this is people exiting the cities and suburbs,’ said Greg Kuta, president of broker Westline Capital Strategies.”
Some areas, such as Colorado, are also experiencing an increase in the number of second homes for sale, many of which were rentals that are no longer drawing income. This is somewhat countered with people wanting to leave the density of Denver for the mountain air. With the revival of so many of our cities in the past 20 years, we may now be in the midst of a flight to fresh air and diminished cultural centers and investment within our cities. This will further impact the property tax base and larger urban infrastructure projects, such as light rail.
The Disparity Question
Lastly, and of great concern, is how all of this and more will affect the disparity we already experience across income groups. If this is the “great re-tooling” of financial industry, as leaders we will need to continue to ensure access for all customers regardless of income level, tech-sophistication or location.
Just as one could not have predicted the turn of events related to COVID-19 that have come to characterize 2020, it is equally as difficult to ascertain what the future will hold if current conditions extend into 2021. However, as leaders, it is our job to analyze and plan for every possible scenario to mitigate uncertainty and position our customers and companies to thrive. The pandemic has undoubtedly altered how business gets done in today’s mortgage industry, and our preparedness is the best defense.
(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policy of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Mike Sorohan, editor, at email@example.com; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.)