The Milwaukee Business Journal recently announced their inaugural “Tech Awards,” which honors innovative technology projects completed by businesses in Southeastern Wisconsin. We are thrilled to share that our Remote Online Notarization (RON) eClosing project is the winner of the financial/e-commerce category. Our CIO Tom Knapp was featured in this week's Milwaukee Business Journal issue, discussing the project.
Nearly 50 companies in seven counties (Milwaukee, Kenosha, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington, and Waukesha) submitted projects featuring their top work in technology, and a panel of tech experts determined the winners.
Over the last 18 months, we have made great strides toward offering a fully digital mortgage process, allowing our customers in select locations to complete their mortgage documentation and their closing entirely remotely. This might seem like a simple shift, but the process included many people– from information technology specialists to legal pros.
The Path to a Fully Digital Mortgage
In January 2020, a team of our employees – led by Tom Knapp and VP - Information Services Jake Rowoldt, began the process of transitioning toward a digital mortgage. We teamed up with Snapdocs (the leading digital mortgage closing solution) to create our hybrid closing process – which allowed customers to sign some of their closing documents electronically and some at the in-person closing. This shortened the amount of time that customers needed to spend at the closing table.
Next, we introduced the hybrid with eNote process, which allowed our homebuyers to electronically sign the Note. The only bummer? This still required customers to be at the closing table in person, so we continued to work toward a fully digital mortgage process.
Finally, in the fall of 2020, we implemented our first Remote Online Notarization (RON) mortgage eClosings. This allowed our customers to complete their entire closing appointment virtually, beginning with eSigning documents then completing the appointment with the notary via webcam. (This has been especially helpful during the COVID pandemic, as social distancing became a priority.)
The completion of the initial RON eClosings is a major accomplishment in working toward the “Digital Mortgage.” In the final quarter of 2020, we completed several dozen RON eClosings at our branches throughout the country.
Overall, the project involved more than a dozen individuals working to ensure that the eClosing process was streamlined and efficient. Our employees from the information technology, closing, loan operations, funding, accounting, and capital markets teams all contributed to the project. The process also involved a TON of research, because even though most states allow for Remote Online Notarization, some counties have restrictions around it. Communication with our investors was also a key part of the process; their approval was needed so we could use RON for certain loan programs.
Because the transition to RON eClosings is often complicated and costly, even many larger lenders have not introduced the process yet. While major players such as Bank of America, LoanDepot, Rocket Mortgage, and Wells Fargo offer some form of eClosing, this solution is basically non-existent among smaller and mid-sized lenders currently.
Rave reviews for our full eClosing process!
Our loan originators have received amazing feedback from their customers who utilized our RON eClosing option.
Mike David (Loan Originator, Tulsa, OK) values the flexibility of our RON eClosing process. His clients, Alli and Dillon W. said, “We would do it again, because we were able to close from our hotel room in Branson instead of having to travel home.”
Sandy U., a customer of Joe Spisak (Branch Manager, Libertyville, IL), was relocating from Florida to Illinois. Sandy really wanted to focus her efforts on moving into her new home versus wasting an extra two hours driving back and forth to the title company, which wasn’t located near her new home. With our RON eClosing process, Sandy was able to sign all her closing documents from the convenience of her hotel, which saved her time and improved her overall experience.
Cathy Kohlbeck (Loan Originator, Green Bay, WI), was working with a couple (Trai and Linnea) who were unable to travel back to Wisconsin in time for their closing due to a family emergency. Trai’s father, who lives in Georgia, had a brain aneurysm. Trai and Linnea had traveled south to be there for Trai’s father’s brain surgery, which was scheduled for the Monday right before their home closing. Cathy and her team quickly set up the RON eClosing for Trai and Linnea, and they were able to close their home loan entirely on their laptop and phone. Everything went smoothly, and the customers were very thankful and mentioned that the process was “super easy.”
In this way, the RON eClosing process has opened doors for many of our customers. Family emergencies, sickness, busy schedules, and travel obligations don’t have to delay the home closing process. And for those who just want the convenience of an electronic closing, this is also the perfect solution.
What’s next for our fully virtual home loan closing process?
While the RON eClosing project has been a big success for us already, we are committed to taking the next steps to ensure the eClosing process is accessible to as many of our customers as possible. From a technical perspective, the project is complete, but we are currently working to get approvals from more of our investors. We are also planning to automate the request and assignment of the RON eClosing process. Overall, we are dedicated to making the loan process a positive and efficient experience for our customers, business partners, and employees.