Tech­nol­ogy

Alexa, get me a mort­gage

National Mortgage News - - Contents - By bryan yur­can

vir­tual as­sis­tants such as ama­zon’s Alexa can tell the cus­tomers of a se­lect few banks their check­ing ac­count bal­ances, but could she one day help them se­cure a mort­gage?

It’s a sce­nario that some banks are al­ready con­tem­plat­ing, as voice­based as­sis­tants get used in more and more as­pects of the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try and life in gen­eral.

“We see a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties for con­ver­sa­tional in­ter­faces, and we have a stack of ideas we are ex­per­i­ment­ing with now,” said Pa­trick Kelly, as­sis­tant vice pres­i­dent for emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy at USAA in San An­to­nio, one of the early banks to offer cus­tomers the abil­ity to get ba­sic ac­count in­for­ma­tion from Alexa.

“There are lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties with mort­gages,” Kelly said. “By their very na­ture they are a com­pli­cated, mul­ti­step process for some­one to en­gage in.”

One thing USAA is think­ing about is how voice-based vir­tual as­sis­tants could take steps out of the mort­gage ap­pli­ca­tion process. For ex­am­ple, a cus­tomer could share per­ti­nent fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion an as­sis­tant could then in­put into the proper places in a dig­i­tal doc­u­ment, Kelly said. Or a cus­tomer could ask about cer­tain as­pects of a home loan with­out hav­ing to sift through much of the “banks­peak,” as Kelly put it, found in typ­i­cal mort­gage doc­u­ments.

“There’s a lot of fric­tion points in the process,” Kelly said. “If we can elim­i­nate steps or make some­thing eas­ier to un­der­stand, then you’ve cre­ated a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence.”

As bank cus­tomers in gen­eral be­come more com­fort­able with voice-in­ter­ac­tive vir­tual as­sis­tants to con­duct a wide range of fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions, mort­gages will be a nat­u­ral fit, said Gareth Gas­ton, head of om­nichan­nel bank­ing at U.S. Bank, which re­cently be­gan let­ting let­ting its cus­tomers in­ter­act with the bank through Alexa.

“Voice [in­ter­ac­tions] will be­come an in­creas­ing part of a con­sumer’s ev­ery­day life,” he said. “It’s not about just adding an­other chan­nel, but tak­ing a mas­sive step in how cus­tomer in­ter­ac­tions hap­pen. Mort­gage ap­pli­ca­tions are a great ex­am­ple — [a vir­tual as­sis­tant] can record some of that ba­sic in­for­ma­tion; you can also dig­i­tize some more of the back-end work, too.”

Tech­nol­ogy will not com­pletely re­place hu­man mort­gage ad­vis­ers, Gas­ton noted, but rather “aug­ment their ca­pa­bil­ity; and it will al­low [cus­tomers] to self-serve in some ar­eas, or help them make their own de­ci­sions in con­junc­tion with an ad­viser.”

Even be­fore the mort­gage process is started, voice-based ser­vices could be used to help con­sumers with in­for­ma­tion-gath­er­ing or fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy, said Amory Booher, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of risk tech­nol­ogy and ex­e­cu­tion at BBVA Com­pass in Birm­ing­ham, Ala.

“New home buy­ers, for in­stance, are ed­u­cat­ing them­selves on the process as it is hap­pen­ing, so there is a need to in­form,” Booher said. “[Ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence] could pro­vide a cus­tomer-spe­cific re­sponse to bor­row­ers ask­ing ques­tions like, ‘What is an APR?’ with an ex­pla­na­tion of APR and also spe­cific in­sight into their loan and their APR. Many other prod­ucts and ser­vices start off a con­ver­sa­tion with a chat­bot and then tran­si­tion to a per­son as the con­ver­sa­tion gets more com­pli­cated or in­volved. Cou­ple this ca­pa­bil­ity with open ar­chi­tec­ture and ser­vices, and in­for­ma­tion could be pushed via per­sonal as­sis­tants like [Ap­ple’s] Siri.”

If you think of a per­sonal as­sis­tant “more broadly than within the con­text of soft­ware that can com­mu­ni­cate ver­bally,” it opens it up to other ar­eas in the mort­gage process, Booher added.

“Imag­ine the sce­nario where a per­sonal as­sis­tant knows the spend­ing be­hav­ior or fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity of a cus­tomer,” Booher said. “The vir­tual as­sis­tant could pro­vide the cus­tomer with ad­di­tional in­sight to guide them to­ward a bet­ter mort­gage de­ci­sion or help them man­age their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties dur­ing the orig­i­na­tion process.”

This more con­sul­ta­tive ap­proach is likely how the tech­nol­ogy could re­ally im­prove the mort­gage process for cus­tomers, said Roberto Her­nan­dez, prin­ci­pal at PwC.

“Right now, the in­for­ma­tion you can get [from banks’ vir­tual as­sis­tants] is the same you can get from quickly go­ing to the app: ‘What’s my bal­ance’ and things like that,” he said. “But if you can make that into, ‘Alexa, what’s the op­ti­mal loan for that house I found on­line that I’m in­ter­ested in,’ or ‘Hey, can we start the mort­gage ap­pli­ca­tion process,’ then you are re­ally lever­ag­ing AI and chang­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Her­nan­dez said it is im­per­a­tive for banks to get to that point with mort­gages as cus­tomers be­come more com­fort­able re­ly­ing on voice-in­ter­ac­tive vir­tual as­sis­tants. In­deed, some in­sti­tu­tions are al­ready on this path: The non­bank whole­sale lender AFR Whole­sale re­cently an­nounced a part­ner­ship with Ama­zon to in­te­grate its orig­i­na­tion por­tal with Alexa.

Like Gas­ton, Her­nan­dez said tech­nol­ogy like Alexa can be used to com­ple­ment loan of­fi­cers.

“Loan of­fi­cers add a tremen­dous amount of value, but much of what they do you can lever­age tech­nol­ogy for,” he said. “So if a cus­tomer is just look­ing for the sta­tus of an ap­pli­ca­tion, they don’t need to chase down the loan of­fi­cer, they can just ask [the as­sis­tant]. Then later when they want to speak with some­one for help through some of the more com­pli­cated parts of the prod­uct, they can do that.”

In the end, the ways in which banks can in­te­grate voice-in­ter­ac­tive ser­vices into the mort­gage process will not be dic­tated just by how ad­vanced the tech­nol­ogy can evolve, but by reg­u­la­tory stan­dards as well, said Kelly. “The mort­gage process is very doc­u­ment-heavy, but that’s what reg­u­la­tors want; they want to see all this in­for­ma­tion doc­u­mented.”

How much of that doc­u­men­ta­tion can be trans­mit­ted through a de­vice like Alexa “is some­thing the in­dus­try will have to sit down and dis­cuss with reg­u­la­tors.”

AMORY BOOHER

BBVA Com­pass

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