During its 2019 strategic planning process, Educators Credit Union in Mount Pleasant, Wis., identified a fundamental but critical flaw in its mortgage process: communication—or a lack thereof.
This led to lower satisfaction among members and real estate agents.
A roundtable discussion with these groups unearthed certain pain points, says Ashley Madala, vice president of lending at the $2.1 billion asset credit union.
Educators Credit Union won an Excellence in Lending Award for mortgages (more than $500 million in assets) during the 2019 CUNA Lending Council Conference.
“We weren’t bridging that gap between members and agents,” she says. “For the mortgage process to move along smoothly, everyone involved needs regular updates.”
Madala says real estate agents need to know when appraisals are scheduled and completed, when commitment letters are mailed and signed, when the credit union receives certain information from members, among other important milestones.
The home-buying process involves uncertainty, she says. “Part of the real estate agent's job is to educate and guide their client through the process. We try to do the same for our members. We have a common interest. It works better when everyone’s informed.”
Educators tapped its information systems department and service providers to create a more comprehensive and efficient communication process.
A new portal allows members to view the status of their applications and upload documents. It also tracks correspondence among all parties.
“We were able to offer preapproval letters during that initial appointment, which was big for members because they want to get that process moving rather than wait a day or two to hear if they’ll be approved,” Madala says.
Educators also brought mortgage servicing in-house. “That was important. We want to be a one-stop shop for members so they know we have answers to their problems when they call us. It can be frustrating when you have to transfer people to another area or ask them to call another number.”
Educators became more aggressive in the secondary market by monitoring rates daily and selling long-term, fixed-rate loans and higher loan-to-value products to the Federal Home Loan Bank. This allowed the credit union to increase loan volume without adding risk, and lower closing costs.
“That’s made us a lot more competitive,” Madala says.
Educators’ mortgage turnaround took less than six months. It’s now known as a mortgage leader in the communities it serves.
“It’s been a total team effort,” says Madala. “We’ve worked hard to put automation in place, and we’ve reached all the milestones we envisioned when we started this process. Most important, our mortgage process works much better for our members and key partners. We’re real leaders in our market now.”
► Learn more about the CUNA Lending Council's Excellence in Lending Awards, sponsored by CUNA Mutual Group.