No offense to Madonna, but the material world we used to live in has given way to one that runs almost solely on data. (Let’s call it the “immaterial world”.) A healthy mortgage business is no different. Client data pours in constantly, providing agents and brokers with all the information they need to ensure their customers’ needs are being met in real-time.
But for that to happen, a client’s data must be accessible to anyone who needs to see it. And if that data has to travel across a company’s various systems, those systems must be able to communicate with one another seamlessly.
Many a tech-wary broker’s eyes will glaze over at the mere mention of “system integration”, but the concept is as simple as it sounds. A fully integrated system means data gets entered at one point and is then accessible at all others, meaning more accuracy on the data entry side and less time wasted when it comes to data retrieval. It’s a strange thing to be afraid of, but according to Tom Hall, product manager at software company BluRoot, there are plenty of Canadian mortgage companies who remain resistant to the concept.
“We get some folks who are like, ‘Look, I’m mortgages. I work with my clients and build really strong relationships,” he says. Such companies view systems integration and open data transfer as being small, barely obligatory pieces of the back-end puzzle. That’s a risky attitude.
“You’ve got to be open, or you’re going to be someone who’s considered more of a relic,” says Hall.
That’s because a growing segment of the industry, propelled by the increased tech awareness of younger agents and brokers, is waking up to the benefits of open, integrated systems.
“Even the people who have previously been quite closed are opening their eyes,” he says.
The goal of an integrated system is what Hall calls “absolute data transparency”, wherein a company knows all of its data is as accessible as it is accurate. In such a system, errors are reduced to the point where there should be no unpleasant, potentially costly incongruencies hiding among a company’s ones and zeros.
“If you mess up one number, or if one thing gets miscommunicated to the client or the lawyer or whoever, that can have serious implications on the whole mortgage process,” Hall says. “In the world of mortgage brokering, you can’t be looking at one thing while the truth is in a different system or a different place.”
For brokerages considering an integration solution, the choice often comes down to using an all-in-one platform that covers all the bases or picking and choosing a best-in-class product for each specific need and integrating them all separately. At first glance, the former sounds like the most convenient option, but Hall says many all-in-one packages tend to underdeliver.
As he explains, companies can find themselves trapped by an inefficient all-in-one, where swapping out disappointing components for more effective ones can be near impossible. Piecing a system together bit by bit, though more labour intensive, provides increased levels of control and scalability, generally at a cost comparable to that of all-in-ones.
“That modularity provides a lot of value for brokers,” Hall says.
As recently as two years ago, integration was seen as a luxury in the mortgage space. Those days are long gone. That’s a fact forward-looking business owners need to recognize if they want to remain competitive.
“It’s starting to be more, ‘You’re not integrated? What’s going on?’” Hall says. “I think that’s going to continue to the point where brokers are going to start expecting it, and rightfully so. It’s something they deserve. It’s their data, and if they want to see it in this screen or that screen, they should have the ability to do so.”