The Impact of Technology During Covid-19

Saxony Partners recently convened a virtual panel of mortgage industry chief information officers to discuss how they have navigated the global pandemic, and the effect it has had on their companies and the industry as a whole.

Renee Galitis of Caliber Home Loans, Michael Brady of LeaderOne Financial, and Joe Hamilton of First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation joined Saxony’s Angel Armendariz for the hour-long chat, which took place in September.

Armendariz, Saxony’s Director of Financial Services, asked the panel about the impact of technology throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“My viewpoint with technology is that it’s the offensive lineman of the corporate world,” Hamilton said. “We need to augment what has been done and help others be successful on that front.”

Hamilton said his team has started relying more on technology they can access from their smartphones due to the fact that their workforce is now mostly remote. This has helped everyone stay connected.

“I think one the areas that we slowed down and are now hurrying up is updating our phone system,” Hamilton said. “Now we are upgrading that … the chat features and conferencing features are all integrated together. From that perspective, that will help to create community as best we can.”

Brady said that while his team was always equipped with the right technology for remote work situations, his team members weren’t aware of all the resources on-hand until Covid sent everyone home from the office.

“In the financial sector, you’ve always got to be forward-thinking,” Brady said. “I think one of our biggest challenges is that we’ve had the tool bag from a technology standpoint for our employees, but they get focused on their day-to-day and they forget what is available to them.

“The simplest thing is a printer – now that they’re at home, they can’t print. But we have a fully integrated DocuSign environment with our LOS system. We have an AI system with this huge knowledge base of answers for everything. They forget all of these tools that are available to them because they didn’t need them. Now our biggest thing is reeducating them via chat or Slack.”

Despite the learning curve, Brady said he doesn’t mind helping employees rediscover resources that can help them do their jobs.

“Our job is a support mechanism to give them the tools that they need to take care of the customers.”

Galitis said her team has faced some specific challenges surrounding rapid growth and security measures.

“We are working with technology to let it do what it does best and automate as much as we can,” Galitis said. “We have to deal with this paper situation. Paper is controlled at Caliber, but there are lots of use cases where you have to print. Printing at home is a whole new vector of security that you have to deal with.”

“We are growing – we have added about a thousand to our staff during Covid. It’s unbelievable that we have staff that we have never even met face-to-face. It’s a whole new way of hiring.”

As a result of such massive growth over the course of this year, many new employees need to be educated on the resources and technology they have at their fingertips. Galitis said she has tried to make that process as flexible and user-friendly as possible.

“Our help desk tickets have been skyrocketing,” Galitis said. “We are reminding people that they have a wealth of knowledge to self-serve in their own time. Especially during this blurring of hours – people are working later because they are helping their kids with virtual learning and working after dinner – people need a way to be able to serve themselves when they need it.”

Looking to the future, Galitis said her organization is focused on any technology that can streamline processes and help their employees to become as productive as possible in their new working arrangement.

“We are really pushing the gas on anything from a technology perspective that can make people more productive and that can control security risks from a work-from-home perspective.

“If we could get to the point as an industry where we could have an entirely electronic closing process, that would be fantastic. I hope that happens. As soon as we have the ability to do that, the focus will go right there because that will reduce a lot of our risk, increase our productivity or our staff, and delight our customers.”

Click here to watch the entire Mortgage CIO panel discussion.