As Federal Housing Administration mortgage originations surge, quality underwriters with experience working on such loans are in hot demand. Some lenders are using technology to gain an edge in recruiting these pros.
For example, Oceanside Mortgage in San Diego found what it thought was a great underwriting hire, but the person was in another state. Oceanside used technology to train the underwriter on the company's policies and allow her to work remotely.
"We made our transition from broker to banker three years ago," said Steven Stone, Oceanside's vice president of secondary marketing. "The hardest part of that transition is finding an underwriter that you trust. You're going to do a 45-minute interview with someone that could cost your company millions if they're bad."
The technology from Del Mar DataTrac "has helped us not just with the underwriter, but with all our employees," Stone said. "In general, having a good technology platform makes people want to work with you. Not having to deal with paper and FedEx makes the process smoother. Without having the right technology, you put yourself at a disadvantage."
Rob Katz, Del Mar DataTrac's president, said most lenders don't know all of what their system has to offer to use the technology as a training and recruiting tool.
"Clients think they know the system and use it effectively. We learned, though, that they can use more training," Katz said.
"A lot of times their staff has turned over and the new employees got trained by a prior employee," he said. "It's kind of like that game where one person whispers something, who whispers it to someone else and so forth and so on until the last person says it out loud and the first person laughs because that's not what he said."
That's why Katz emphasizes the importance of continually communicating with the technology vendor.
"We always follow up with our clients to see if the feedback on our training was positive," he said. "People say, 'I wish your system did this' and after training they realize that it does. If, in the recruiting process, you can show that you have a Web portal that can answer any borrower question with the software, that's powerful."
Some lenders go so far as to say they won't hire people who are averse to technology.
"If somebody is not familiar with technology and still wants to handwrite a 1003, they are not the right fit for us," said Mike Grego, the chief operating officer of Draper and Kramer Mortgage Corp. in Lombard, Ill., which does business as 1st Advantage Mortgage.
"The technology we use is easy to train and deploy" — loan officers can be brought up to speed "in a day or so."
In the last year his lender, a unit of Draper and Kramer Inc. of Chicago, adopted pricing software from Optimal Blue LLC that directly links to WebTrac, Del Mar's portal for loan officers.
"The LO doesn't know they've left Del Mar when pricing and locking a loan," Grego said. Given how quickly things like mortgage pricing and loan-to-value guidelines are changing in today's market "it's impossible to work off of rate sheets." 1st Advantage also rolled out electronic disclosures in the last year "to streamline the process and increase our turn time," he said. "Technology makes everything easier."