A bank known for communicating with mortgage applicants through computer screens has concluded that some customers would rather not.
Earlier this fall, Flagstar Bank of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., dropped a requirement that home loan applicants be present along with their mortgage brokers for all video conferences related to securing a mortgage.
The shift comes two years after the bank began making video conference systems available to mortgage brokers who pair mortgage applicants with lenders.
Though its mortgage business has grown since then, Flagstar learned from brokers that not all applicants relish the prospect of being interviewed through the TV-size screen of a personal computer by a stranger thousands of miles away, said Michael Hillman, business development chief.
Some worry that in their anxiety they "might put the wrong spin on things" and queer the deal, Mr. Hillman said.
A number of brokers feel it's better that they rather than the customers field the myriad of questions that underwriters come up with, Mr. Hillman said.
"Consider it this way," he said. "Why did O.J. Simpson's attorneys not want him to testify?"
The new arrangement also allows more flexibility in scheduling interviews with Flagstar underwriters, because brokers don't have to plan around applicants' availability, Mr. Hillman said.
So far, Flagstar has given only its top 20 brokerage clients the option of conferencing with or without applicants, and is already encouraged by the results.
Some of the brokers have doubled their use of the conferencing system, and Flagstar is adding underwriters as a result, Mr. Hillman said.
David Snetzinger, president of Bayside Mortgage Services, a Jupiter, Fla., brokerage doing 80% of its business with Flagstar, sees merit in the system, whether the customer is present or not.
Video conferencing "is a heck of a tool," he said.
Homebuyers are used to working with brokers who wield pens, or, at the most, laptop computers, Mr. Snetzinger said. "Applicants walk out of here thinking video conferencing is just the neatest thing."
The system also allows Bayside Mortgage to handle more volume in a shorter period, Mr. Snetzinger said, because video conferencing underwriters, aided by automated processing systems, can make decisions in hours, not the days required by conventional underwriters.