When going mobile, listen to customers and be agile

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CIO Mobile

If you’ve ever purchased a home, chances are the mortgage process wasn’t your favorite part of the experience. Mortgage lending is a painful, highly-regulated system involving a lot of paperwork, a lot of back-and-forth exchanges between the buyer and lender, and a lot of other requests.

The good news for home buyers is that the future of mortgage transactions looks a lot different than it does today. Our ultimate goal is to let people buy a home with a phone. And although it may be a while before we get there, we’re on our way.

We began planning for the mobile transformation in the mortgage industry about four years ago. At the time, I won approval from PrimeLending’s leadership to proceed with a plan addressing the future of mortgage technology. Among the the key elements of the plan was going mobile. While speaking to our Chief Marketing Officer about the plan, she suggested our Technology Team engage a consumer focus group.

Boy, was that an illuminating experience – one that I highly recommend when you’re considering big, customer-facing technology initiatives.

Listen to your customers

During the focus group, we heard from a group of recent home buyers as well as prospective homebuyers, and I’ll never forget one of the remarks from a a participant. She said she saw the mortgage process as a “necessary evil.” Among the complaints: It’s a hassle to have to provide so much paperwork, and once home buyers do submit all the necessary forms, they often feel left in the dark about where they are in the mortgage lending process.

Two of the top demands that homeowners say aren’t being met in the mortgage process are transparency and mobility. They want to know where they are in the process, and they want to use their phone as a tool to get there.

We used that information to put together the first phase of our mobile app. Going into app planning, we knew it would be some time before we’d be ready to have consumers complete the entire mortgage lending process through their phones. But we didn’t let that delay our plans to go mobile. So we identified what problems we could solve in the interim and came up with two: education and paperwork gathering.

Release early, release often

We’re big believers in continuous delivery. When we began planning our consumer mobile app, we knew it would launch in phases. We see this as a win for our development teams and for consumers. If you hold off launching a product until you’ve packed in every feature and made everyone happy, you may wind up waiting a long time.

We’ve already launched the first phase of our consumer app, which offers users basic information such as a mortgage calculator, educational content on the home buying process, and a PrimeLending branch locator. In the next phase, consumers will be able to use their phone’s camera to securely scan documents needed for their loan applications, such as W2s and bank statements. After that, we’ll be working on the third phase, which will take us closer to where we want to be in the future of mortgage lending technology.

As the CIO, I could let it bring me down that the industry I’m passionate about is viewed by some as a necessary evil. But I don’t. Instead, I see it as a challenge, and it’s one that my technology team is actively working to overcome. We’ve reached this point by actively listening to our customers, collaborating with our marketing department, and by being agile.


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Tim Elkins joined PrimeLending in November 2008 as Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer. In October 2012, Tim was promoted to executive vice president, chief information officer, and he is responsible for information security, IT operations, and technology initiatives. Before joining PrimeLending, he served as chief information officer at AmericaHomeKey and BSM Financial. Tim has more than 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry. Tim is the chair of the Residential Technology Forum (RESTECH) for the Mortgage Bankers Association. He has a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree in finance from Texas Tech University.

Tim Elkins joined PrimeLending in November 2008 as Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer. In October 2012, Tim was promoted to executive vice president, chief information officer, and he is responsible for information security, IT operations, and technology initiatives.

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