Though financial institutions were already headed in this direction, the pandemic massively accelerated the industry’s use of technology! Now, even as the lobbies of banks and credit unions are opening, the demand for digital offerings is not subsiding.
In early 2021, Cornerstone Advisors released the results of its annual survey of community financial institutions. The results showed that technology priorities placed “improve customer experience/service delivery” at the top—far above other priorities, including improving efficiency and generating operations.
While this survey reflected early 2021 sentiments, we expect that improving the customer experience will continue, even increase, for community banks across the country. The Delta variant has shown that there are still many unknowns, and “return to normal” isn’t a linear path. On the lending side, in particular, community financial institutions need to focus on ways to create an entirely remote experience, from application through closing.
Provide Loan Details on the Website
Gone are the days when prospective borrowers walked into a bank lobby and asked to speak to a loan officer. Today’s borrowers are savvy and do their research in advance. A survey by The Mortgage Reports found that 92% of mortgage borrowers did online research before talking to a lender.
Essentially, the bank or credit union website is now that first impression. By providing loan information, financial institutions are more likely to attract borrowers wanting to learn more and take the next step.
This is the opportunity for community financial institutions to set themselves apart and play up their experience and personal touch. The loan products page of a website should answer the question “Why choose us?” over other financial institutions. Providing these details enhances the initial borrower experience by giving potential customers the information they need to continue with the application process.
An Online Application, With a Personal Touch
Even if potential borrowers find the information they need, the hurdle is submitting the loan application. Not all take the next step. An online application removes the hurdle with the added bonus of addressing Covid concerns; lobby traffic is limited during the pandemic and borrowers have flexibility when applying, like outside of banking hours.
While an online application may feel like removing the personal touch of a loan officer, it doesn’t. Banks and credit unions should still send personalized emails -- or make phone calls -- to borrowers confirming receipt of the application and discussing the next steps. By making a connection with the applicant, community financial institutions set themselves apart from larger competitors.
Streamline Underwriting Requests
Most loan applications require that borrowers provide documentation. From paystubs to tax returns, the underwriting team must quickly gather information to keep the loan application moving along.
By providing file transfer options, banks and credit unions securely and remotely collect borrower information. All the customer has to do is click a link and attach a file. It saves the borrower a trip to the bank and eliminates the risk of mistakenly attaching sensitive information to an email.
Electronic Closing with Remote Online Notary
While many financial institutions have moved to e-signature platforms, the pandemic heightened the need for closings to occur as an entirely remote experience.
Outside of health concerns, remote closings are now a convenience for borrowers. They don’t need to leave their homes, or jobs, to attend a loan closing. Borrowers in remote locations are better served, online, if a branch is not nearby.
e-Signatures serve the needs of many loans, but remote closings face a challenge. Typically, loans requiring a notary signature happen in person for verification of the borrower’s identity. However, technology now makes these closings possible with remote online notary services.
Here to Stay: Convenient, Flexible Lending Experiences
While the pandemic accelerated the adoption of flexible lending solutions for borrowers, the borrower demand for such conveniences is not diminishing. Why go into a bank branch when the entire loan process happens in the borrowers’ homes, on their schedules?
By implementing various technological solutions, banks continue meeting borrower expectations and their own goals for improving the customer experience.
Epic River offers secure digital document signing and remote online notary for community banks and credit unions. The ease and convenience of these products provide added value for, both, the borrower and financial institution alike. Contact us today to learn more.
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