COVID-19 Interest Rates Present Mortgage Industry Challenges

Phil Britt

As terrible as the pandemic is, COVID-19 interest rates are at an all-time low never seen before. As a result, people are rushing to refinance their mortgages. According to a CNBC report, in mid-March, mortgage refinance applications spiked 79% as homeowners rushed to take advantage of lower rates.

The mortgage industry is hardly prepared for this business influx under normal circumstances, let alone now. Under normal conditions, offices are staffed with loan officers and support staff using technology to easily access and share documents within the organization. Even in familiar working conditions, documents get misplaced or aren’t always kept secure.

But the coronavirus pandemic forced most employees to work from home with limited human contact. There is no physical sharing of documents, and extra precautions must be taken to ensure any electronic document sharing is done securely, amongst a host of other challenges. The mortgage officer suddenly displaced from the office and working remotely doesn’t have a filing system or the robust security precautions found in the typical mortgage lender’s office.

The Challenges of Remote Work

Ensuring adequate support, security and governance for a remote workforce can be challenging at any time, but the rapid switch from an onsite environment to a work-at-home scenario adds more complexity, especially in an industry like mortgage lending, with the inherent legal and security considerations.

For many mortgage lenders, the remote work environment is new territory. For others that conducted some of their business out of the office, the current scale of remote work goes beyond what they have done before considering the influx of new loan applications.

In addition to the challenge of enabling remote user access at a volume never before attempted, remaining compliant in a workplace that has undergone significant fundamental changes means getting your house in order — and fast.

Reinforce Policies for Offsite Workers

For mortgage lending and other financial services work, security issues can be particularly challenging. All employees, including the mortgage lenders and any support staff, need to continue following the same organizational policies.

Policies need to be established, followed and reinforced for:

Secure communications. Documents need to be secure throughout the entire lending process, from origination to closing. Without the security inherent in lending offices, employees need to exclusively use secure communications instead of publicly available Wi-Fi, which can be easily compromised. Similarly, any communications from a wired or wireless home connection must be secure at all times. This is a good time to revisit BYOD policies, as well.

Privacy of files. Mortgage files contain sensitive personal data. Letting that information fall into the wrong hands can lead to fines and penalties for the organization. Even working from home, files and the details they contain cannot be left unsecured, either on the computer screen or desk. Employees must also know and follow their organization’s established protocol for file disposal.

Tagging and classification. Documents must be readily available when needed. Mortgage lenders need to call up details quickly, so a standardized tagging procedure must be implemented and followed.

Rely on an Experienced Partner

Mortgage lenders have had to adapt to the new remote work environment with little notice. To ensure you are following the best practices for remote work, enlist a trusted partner with deep industry experience for document security, privacy, retention, storage and retrieval.

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