In a recent panel discussion series hosted by Mortgage Professionals Canada, a cross-section of some of the country’s top lenders provided updates on how COVID-19 has impacted their operations and shaped their outlook.
The overwhelming message was one of positivity and resilience. Within a matter of days, many lenders smoothly transitioned to having thousands of employees work from home to ensure business continued “as usual” for their clients.
Here are some of the key takeaways from two of those panel discussions…
Operating in a ‘New World’
Jason Ellis, President and COO of First National: “In a very short period of time we have pivoted to an entirely work-from-home operation…our greatest challenge, as it is for probably all financial service providers, is the number of requests from concerned borrowers looking to defer their mortgage payments.”
Mark Aldridge, CEO of MCAP: “We have over 800 employees across the country working from home…I’m happy to say employees from underwriting, sales and all kinds of other MCAP employees have joined in with our call centre, so it’s all hands on deck” to work through the backlog of client requests.
Lysa Fitzgerald, VP of Sales at Manulife Bank: “We’ve got 12,000 employees across Manulife all working from home and that’s going extremely well for us.”
The Opportunity at Hand
Jared Morrison, COO of Alta West Capital: “As the experts in the mortgage space, more than ever it’s time [for brokers] to stand up and help your clients, provide that advice and be a calming influence on their lives. This is when they need it most. And as lenders in our space, we do have the flexibility to offer products that can help people right now,” Morrison said, noting their underwriters are working about double the normal volumes on deals that include debt consolidations, refinances and other restructuring of mortgages.
Michael LeBlanc, CEO of FCT: “From a technology and a support perspective, our people are working really hard, our systems have been performing excellently, and we hope, like you, that this doesn’t last too long and that we’re all able to weather the storm. As an industry, like everything else, these kinds of events actually allow us to come out on the other end stronger than we ever were before, and I think that’s a good opportunity here too.”
New Appraisal Techniques
Lysa Fitzgerald, VP of Sales at Manulife Bank: “First and foremost we want our appraisers to be safe, so we have to revisit some of our credit policies. We want to make sure that if an appraiser deems it an unsafe environment…that we have the ability to perform drive-by appraisals, so we will take those in lieu. If we cannot provide a drive-by appraisal, then we are, on exception basis, looking at desktop appraisals.”
Mark Aldridge, CEO of MCAP: Aldridge confirmed that MCAP and RMG have approved modified full appraisals, and now allows appraisers to rely on “virtual inspections completed by the customer by various means.”
Hali Noble, Senior VP, Residential Mortgage Investments & Broker Relations, Fisgard Asset Management: Noble confirmed they have approved modified approvals, which could include the use of video, but added they could revisit appraisals following the crisis. “Even though the money is already out and we’re already funding it, a couple of months from now we’re going to require an update to the appraisal” when the appraiser is able to enter the home, Noble said, “to see if everything is as the pictures showed, or maybe it isn’t, so we can act sooner rather than later.”
The Use of e-Signatures
Hali Noble, Senior VP, Residential Mortgage Investments & Broker Relations, Fisgard: “Just like the appraisers have done, our lawyers and legal teams across the country have made adjustments, and this might be a really good thing. They’ve had to take a look at all of their processes, and look at doing more online. I think there are some good things that will come out of this as far as signings and witnessing, etc.”
Mark Aldridge, CEO of MCAP: Aldridge confirmed MCAP is accepting e-signatures for purchases. “That’s something we already had up and running.”
If Employment Position Changed Since Initial Approval
Jason Ellis, President and COO of First National: “At this stage, First National is going to close mortgages as planned despite the fact that a borrower may have had a change in circumstances in the commitment period. Obviously, a difficult decision to make from a risk-management perspective, but from a social accountability perspective, we feel it’s the right thing to do right now.”
Mark Aldridge, CEO of MCAP: “Insurers came out with a collaborative approach to those who had their employment change, and we’re following that process for all insured and insurable loans. For uninsured loans, we are looking at those on a case-by-case basis and employing common sense.”
Ryan Lee, President and CEO of Three Point Capital: “We made an internal decision to not go back and pull commitments…The one thing we’re going to try and account for is to ensure people don’t close on this file in the next 30 days and then give us a call the following day to get on our payment deferral program. So, we’re having some conversations with the brokers and borrowers upfront.”