Jeff Williams of FICS: Support Strategic Planning with Audit of Mortgage Software, API Capabilities
Jeff Williams is API Team Lead for FICS (Financial Industry Computer Systems Inc.), Addison, Texas, a mortgage software company that provides in-house mortgage loan origination, residential mortgage servicing and commercial mortgage servicing software to mortgage lenders, banks and credit unions.
Fall signals the start of strategic planning for many lenders. With 2022 around the corner, mortgage lenders and servicers are evaluating how their business has changed over the past 18 months. More importantly, they should be planning how to best grow as the nation continues to adapt to the changes wrought by COVID-19.
A key part of strategic planning is identifying the mortgage software lenders and servicers will need to meet their goals. As in past years, they will perform due diligence required to choose the right vendor partners, but it is easy to be distracted by all the new options on the market without a clear guide.
Leaders need to include software audits in their strategic planning process. A good software audit sets the stage for effective budgeting and decision making this fall. Leaders should analyze the company’s current Application Programming Interface integrations to existing mortgage software. By connecting mortgage servicing software and loan origination software with other key functions, these API integrations streamline the full scope of mortgage operations.
Assessing future software needs
Newly adopted software must support the lender or servicer’s competitive strategy. To make wise decisions regarding software investments, evaluate the available tools through the lens of your strategic goals. Many purchasing decisions made during the last year were influenced by the challenges presented by COVID-19. As everyone adapted to working and conducting business transactions remotely to protect health, lenders and servicers quickly implemented technology to meet those needs.
As lenders plan for 2022, however, executives are not under the same kind of pressure. Now, they can look at their future goals in terms of what they learned last year and what their borrowers are likely to need in the future.
Servicers may need functionality that improves communication with borrowers coming out of forbearance. Originators may need tools to help them find more purchase money business and close loans more efficiently. Identifying these needs is critical. Going to market before the institution has set its strategic goals will not allow purchasing executives to separate potential vendor partners from those who will distract from the organization’s strategic plan.
The power of APIs to meet lender needs
Executives should closely examine whether their existing automation capabilities allow them to meet their institution’s goals. Without this type of automation audit, lenders and servicers may not be aware of APIs that have been built into their existing systems. They may be performing work manually that could be automated. Furthermore, today’s powerful APIs may add the required functionality to existing mortgage software without the need to harness additional technologies or middleware, opening the door to a faster, more cost-efficient implementation.
APIs are software-to-software interfaces that enable applications to easily communicate back and forth without the need for direct user interaction. They enable secure connections between loan origination software and mortgage servicing software, core systems, credit bureaus and government sponsored enterprises, eliminating the need for manually inputting data into each system.
Through these connections, APIs allow mortgage professionals to order fulfillment services from MISMO-compliant service providers or share data across platforms, allowing users to remain in one system to provide support to their customers. Work that previously required phone calls, data uploads and report processing can be completed with a single click. APIs can also automate recurring processes, such as end-of-day and end-of-month reports. By leveraging mortgage software APIs, mortgage servicers can schedule work that was previously done by staff to be automatically completed after hours.
Today’s borrowers desire quick, convenient transactions. By utilizing APIs, lenders and servicers can expedite their processes and eliminate much manual labor, allowing them to deliver updated statements and loan information more quickly and accurately to borrowers via a consumer-facing website. Borrowers gain immediate, real-time access to their specific loan data and statements and can conveniently make online payments 24/7.
Conduct a simple but effective tech audit
The first step in an effective tech audit is to closely examine your current software and processes. Some institutions delegate the audit process to loan production executives, while others enlist servicing executives or IT professionals. But an audit should really include both origination/servicing executives as well as IT staff. Together, these groups can consider (a) the processes currently in use in your institution and why/how they benefit borrowers, (b) the software systems in use across the enterprise and (c) the overall goals, as discussed above.
Gathering input from all stakeholders and following these three steps help lenders and servicers make better mortgage software investment decisions:
1. Identify and document all current processes. An audit is, in its basic form, a search for answers. To get the right answers, you must ask the right questions. Start with these:
- What repetitive tasks do staff handle (e.g., end-of-day reports)?
- What systems and software do you currently use?
- What steps do personnel using these systems take?
- Who is responsible for each step?
- Does the software utilize APIs to automate these tasks?
- What steps, if any, are required to connect your systems?
- What data is transferred between systems?
In most cases, the answers to these questions allow management to find opportunities to streamline processes, eliminate unnecessary or redundant software, and fully utilize APIs to automate tasks.
Evaluate your loan origination and mortgage servicing software’s automation capabilities. How can you leverage APIs to connect these core systems to fulfillment services and desired software such as accounting software, borrower portals, or mobile tools?
2. Set up your test environment. This step is essential to protect the current production process and customer data. A test environment makes it easier to prevent disruption while determining which tasks can be effectively automated.
A good test environment:
- Protects live data while letting you test on actual data.
- Allows lenders to run multiple tests by restoring from database backups.
- Makes it easy to compare results to production.
Lenders should always test new automation on realistic data without putting actual data at risk. Regular backups can be an excellent pairing for the test database, allowing the project manager to ensure that expectations are met before new automation is put into production.
3. Assign a project manager to handle the audit. A project manager who can take a top-down view is essential when conducting an effective technology audit and improving the institution’s mortgage software stack. Choose someone who:
- Is familiar with the software and systems in use.
- Has a top-down view to spot bottlenecks and inefficient processes.
- Is capable of finding and connecting the required resources.
- Is an established project management expert.
The right loan origination software and APIs enable lenders to achieve faster originations at lower costs. Mortgage servicing software and APIs reduce the cost of servicing and create a better borrower experience at every step of the relationship. Choosing the right mortgage software and APIs starts with knowing what your organization already has and what you need to fill the gaps.
The fall planning season is upon us. Use this information to go into strategic planning meetings armed with knowledge of your organization’s real needs and a clear strategy for success in the year ahead.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at email@example.com.)