Many mortgage originators need to find a way to connect with consumers on their mobile devices to stay competitive.

Most consumers are now looking to do business at their own convenience, not the salesperson's, said Abhinav Asthana, a product manager at Wipro Gallagher Solutions.

"A loan officer with an iPad can truly offer that concierge-based service that most borrowers are looking for," he said. "As a loan officer, if I can walk into your house or at your office or at a Starbucks or even at a golf course and take an application immediately while still having a discussion with you, that is something that is very valuable in today's world of call centers and [interactive voice response] menus."

But the main thing that old-school mortgage loan officers need to understand, said Michael Kelleher, the founder and executive vice president of Easy Mortgage Apps in Salem, Mass., is that the shift to mobile communications is more than practical — it's mandatory.

"When you read 75% of millennials will purchase [a home] in the next five years and you understand that 93% of their communication is nonverbal, if you're the best verbal communicator out there, you are only relating to 7% of the way they communicate," he explained.

If originators don't have a mobile presence in the next year, they will lose out on millennial market share, Kelleher warned.

"This is the platform that they do everything else on. So this is how they want to get updates; this is how they want to be engaged," he said.

More businesspeople, in the mortgage industry and elsewhere, are moving away from using laptops when they leave their desks and replacing them with tablets that are easier to carry and have longer battery life, Asthana said. While some are using devices provided by their employers, there are many who bring them from home.

But in creating a mobile presence, originators need to remain in compliance with data security and privacy rules. So there needs to be mobile device management technology in place to handle the amount of data being transmitted.

Security Controls

Wipro Gallagher in Franklin, Tenn. released the second version of its 'Enterprise Mobile Origination' app for iPad in November. This version allows loan officers to pull the borrower's credit in real time, using just some basic data. The aim is to prequalify the borrower for specific products.

The customer's data is protected, as mobile device management controls what the loan officer can and cannot do ensuring all data is protected on the device or in transmission.

With the eMO app, explained Asthana, data is transmitted directly into Wipro Gallagher's NetOxygen loan origination system and placed behind the firewall.

If the user fails to transmit the data within a certain period of time, it is wiped off of the tablet automatically. Or if enough information is entered, the app automatically submits it to NetOxygen.

Another security precaution is that the app has its own authentication layer within NetOxygen's authentication server. That restricts access, even if the iPad gets lost.

If enabled, the loan officer is unable to take a screenshot of the iPad if there is any sensitive information. Companies which supply loan officers with a tablet are able to set that function. For bring-your-own-device users, another app is able to provide an opaque layer to cover sensitive information if someone wants to take a screenshot, Asthana explained.

And there are programs that allow companies (including Wipro) to track the items that employees use their portable device for, he added.

Reality Check

At the beginning mobile's involvement with the mortgage origination process was about finding rates, but today consumers are not just shopping for products but are starting some of the application process online.

Thus the mobile apps allow the loan officer to go where the customer is, like meeting at a coffee shop.

But are consumers hanging out in a coffee shop waiting to meet up with their loan officers anymore? There is one app creator who has found that while there have been a lot of downloads, there are few actual users.

Andrew WeissMalik is the chief operating officer of 360 Mortgage in Austin, Texas, but he also is the founder and owner of On the Go Technology. On the Go has its own iOS point-of-sale loan origination system app MobileLO.

Borrowers can use their fingers to sign disclosures, and applications can be loaded into any loan origination system.

MobileLO was released in early 2012. It has gotten more than 10,000 downloads since then. But a lot of people are just looking and not becoming long-term users, WeissMalik said.

"Even though we were first to market with a great solution, we got a lot of downloads, a lot of people that tried to use it, [but] there just wasn't a high adoption rate," he said.

"I don't believe that's because we have a bad solution. I just don't think there is a need," WeissMalik said, explaining that given the amount of online connectivity there is today, few mortgage officers are doing face-to-face meetings outside of their offices.

"I don't think originators are meeting borrowers at a Starbucks or at the borrowers' home. They're doing stuff over the telephone, or if they're meeting in person they're meeting at the office. And if you have your PC in front of you, why would you use a tablet?" WeissMalik said.

On the Go is still supporting the app, which is free, although a subscription is required to pull credit reports and generate disclosures.

The company is working on fixing a bug that makes MobileLO incompatible with the latest version of iOS. But it is not planning to create an iOS upgrade or versions of the app for other mobile operating systems.

Still, the lure for mortgage sales people to use apps like MobileLO, eMO and Easy Mortgage Apps is to drive sales through an inexpensive value-added marketing strategy.

Easy Mortgage Apps, said Kelleher, allow salespeople to "differentiate [themselves] from other loan officers in a purchase world where everybody is competing for those Realtors that produce 80% of the volume — that 20% which produces 80% of the volume. Those are the Realtors that the high-end loan officer is going for, and they're going to need something to differentiate themselves from the other high-end loan officers."

The app is free for consumers and real estate agents to download. It can be branded for the lender.

An upgrade to the app allows loan officers to create a preapproval letter in .pdf format, if borrowers already have been preapproved by the lender's loan origination system at any time, including weekends.

Customers get the preapproval letter quicker, allowing him or her to make a timelier offer on a property. In turn loan officers' family lives are not disrupted because they no longer have to go into the office or find a computer to work from when that client needs a preapproval letter, Kelleher said.

Wipro Gallagher made a conscious decision to stay away from offering disclosures on its iPad app. The device does not belong to borrowers and they cannot sign the disclosure on devices that belong to other people, Asthana said.

Going forward, Wipro Gallagher is looking to create a mobile loan-status tracker app so borrowers can determine how far along their mortgage applications are in the underwriting process and what documents are still needed. It could reduce the number of calls to lenders and the need for loan officers or other staff members to deal with them, he said.