The T-Shirts vs The Suits

A look back at the first ever Digital Mortgage Conference

National Mortgage News recently hosted the first ever Digital Mortgage Conference, and Approved was there to take notes, dish snark, and report back our observations. It was striking to see new technology upstarts (fueled by Mountain Dew and VC funding) rub shoulders with the old mortgage guard — the T-Shirts vs the Suits.

Fashion aside, Approved couldn’t help but note some trends:

1. Automatic document import and analysis will soon be the norm

Don’t laugh. 20–30% of real estate transactions still use this bad boy.

Many companies (including Approved) are attacking the problem of paper in the mortgage process. From automatically collecting and processing documents, to securely delivering these to loan officers, a Rocket Mortgage-like digital experience will be the norm within the next 1.5 years.

Approved believes that differentiation will be all about building a better user experience — delivering something that borrowers and back-office teams truly love. It’s one of the reasons we’re building our platform so that any lender or broker can offer their homebuyers the same world-class experience that cost Quicken Loans hundreds of millions of dollars. We’re ex-Redfin, and we’re brining that same sense of love we brought to the real estate space to mortgages.

2. Tech is not just for millennial homebuyers

They’re hip. They’re tech savvy. And they’re not going to tolerate a fax machine.

Sure, millennial homebuyers were the single biggest cohort of buyers last year. However, don’t let the term ‘millennial’ cloud your vision — today’s homebuyer, no matter what the age, has been trained by Redfin and Zillow that buying a home should be tech-forward, easy to use, and beautiful. They’re shocked when lenders ask them for reams of paper. It’s like landing a rocketship in the stone age.

When we launched the Approved Alpha Pilot last year, the very first homebuyer to use our document collection engine was a 64 year old woman from Irvine, CA. Tech is not the sole purview of the young.

3. They’re not dead yet

Bring out ‘yer dead. Photo: Monty Python and the Holy Grail”

Legacy heavyweights were out in full force hawking the latest versions of their (LOS) Loan Origination Systems and consumer portals. We’re smart enough never to discount entrenched players, but a lot of what we saw seemed like a flimsy UI refresh on top of legacy underpinnings. Homebuyers are smart enough to tell the difference and will reward those lenders that choose technology with an eye for user experience.

Better Mortgage CEO Vishal Garg pointed out that direct to consumer brokers & lenders are increasingly building their own technology stacks, giving rise to the “LOS Agnostic” lender. This is going to be a big problem for companies like Ellie Mae if the trend continues, and one that companies like Blend Labs are likely to accelerate.

What’s in store

We were astounded just how fragmented the mortgage technology space was. Everywhere we looked, there were at least half a dozen different ways of tackling the exact same problem. If we can move the state of the art forward, this is not a bad thing.

The mortgage experience needs to change, not the least of which because homebuyers are spending the most amount of money they’ve ever spent, but because they’re vulnerable, apprehensive, and scrambling in the dark. Approved came away from the conference invigorated and excited to be a part of this movement, and we can’t wait to see what will be on display at next year’s conference.

Did I miss anything? Disagree? Drop me a line, or please comment below.