For mortgage brokers looking to automate the tedious process of down payment verification, Lendesk’s release of Level in early December was something of an early Christmas gift.
It is touted as the only product on the Canadian market that automates the collection of client bank statements on the mortgage broker’s behalf.
Brokers simply use the app to send the borrower a request for documentation. The app then guides the client through the process of obtaining their statements, which are sent directly from their bank to the broker’s inbox.
This is Lendesk’s first broker-facing product, but it won’t be the last according to CEO Alex Conconi. He says Level is the “tip of the iceberg” and only the first of more solutions to come that will automate some of the “bottlenecks” in the mortgage process.
We reached out to Conconi for some additional details about Level and how it is helping to modernize the mortgage process.
CMT: Why do brokers need this?
AC: Just think of the thousands of hours that are spent—wasted—trying to gather documents by both clients and brokers alike, every single day. We believe that if a client has given you express consent to gather the information you need to process their application, you should be able to obtain that information quickly and easily. Doing so improves the client experience, sure, but it also saves the broker time, and lets them provide better-quality information to the lender.
CMT: Describe the traditional process brokers currently use.
AC: Traditionally, down-payment verification is obtained by reviewing a borrowers’ bank statements. As with most documents today, bank statements are obtained directly from the client, who needs to first find them, determine which months and which accounts are required, and send them to the broker, typically via e-mail, and heaven forbid, possibly via fax.
In some cases the search for statements will lead to a client going to the bank to obtain the bank statements they need, and unfortunately for the broker, tellers are trained to recognize this as an obvious opportunity to poach a client. In other cases, brokers will need to go back and forth with their client to request additional months or accounts to make sure that they have all of the statements they need. Only then do brokers start the work of actually tracking the money in the various accounts, to make sure that the required amount has been there as long as it needs to have been. If there are multiple applicants, each with multiple accounts, it can be a lot of work.
CMT: Do you have any competition for this automated down payment tool?
AC: While it is very common to use this sort of technology to gather loan-qualifying data in the U.S., at the moment we are the only company in Canada that I am aware of that is offering an online down-payment verification tool for the Canadian mortgage industry. That said, I have noticed the concept popping up in a number of other technology providers’ roadmaps, and frankly that gets me excited.
CMT: What does it cost to use?
AC: Today Level is free. As this is the first-time online down payment verification has been done in Canada, we’re asking brokers to learn with us and help us make it better.
CMT: Which banks or other financial institutions are on board?
AC: Using Level, brokers can currently pull PDF bank statements from 11 of the largest banks and credit unions across Canada. It’s proven to be enough coverage for many early Level users, but over the coming months we’ll be increasing the list of institutions along with a number of other user-requested enhancements.
Other types of accounts (like investment accounts, credit accounts, etc.) are definitely something we’re working on. If the down payment is in an RRSP, for instance, we should be able to access that information as well. We’ve got that working for a few institutions in the background, but we aren’t yet ready to release that for everyone.
CMT: How does the app address the issue of document falsification?
AC: The beautiful thing about Level and DFS (documents from source) in general is that the custody of that document is controlled. There are no opportunities for fraud, just as there are no opportunities for typos and user errors.
CMT: Since your launch in December, have there been any additions/improvements?
AC: We were impressed with how well Level functioned in the wild out of the gate, but we have a lot of additions and improvements planned, and in progress. To date we’ve made a number of improvements to the client experience, the reliability of connections with the institutions, compatibility of the Android app with various versions of Android, etc.
CMT: Can the broker initiate the client request from a desktop browser? Can the client respond to the request from a desktop browser? Or do both the broker and client need to use a mobile device app?
AC: A client who receives an invite to use Level can open that invite on their phone or on their desktop computer: the client experience is guided by a mobile responsive web portal that will work on any device.
That said—just for the time being—on the broker side you must download ‘Level by Lendesk’ to your mobile phone in order to authenticate as a licensed mortgage broker and create a request for one of your clients.
CMT: What new features can we look forward to?
AC: We’ve started with down payment verification by Level because we can, but it doesn’t stop there. DFS is the future, and together with our partners, we’re making that vision a reality faster than you might think.
CMT: Is the limited-time free use of the native mobile apps and borrower portal still available? Can you say roughly how long this free offer will continue and what pricing will look like thereafter?
AC: Yes, it is still free, but not for much longer. We will have an announcement about the evolution of Level in the next few weeks.
CMT: When do you expect to see more competition for this product?
AC: I know for a fact that other groups are working on this right now, but I don’t have any insight into their timelines. That said, I expect that documents from source, and online down payment verification in general, are an unstoppable trend. Level may be the first on the market, but it’s not the last.