MEQUON, Wis. (2/8/11)--A new study shows how loan officers are shattering the traditional production ceilings that prevent them from taking only a few applications each day. Instead of seeing the online channel as competition, tech-savvy loan officers are embracing the online channel with point-of-sale solutions. DFCU Financial of Dearborn, Mich., employs PowerSite from Mortgagebot. PowerSite automates the mortgage application, pricing and approval process, and helps free loan officers from the burden of paper forms and manual data entry. Between 2008 and 2009, DFCU increased online purchase and refinance applications by 220%. Online pre-approvals jumped by 113%. “Our loan officers are definitely using PowerSite technology to increase their volume,” said Cheryl M. Nelson, vice president and manager of mortgage Services for DFCU Financial, a 200,000-member credit union with 24 offices in southeastern Michigan. A recent market study by Lieberman Research Group of Great Neck, N.Y. confirmed that while the consumer-direct online channel will grow 157% by 2013, loan officers will continue to take about half of all bank and credit-union mortgage applications, said Scott Happ, Mortgagebot president/CEO. Mortgagebot retained the services of First Wellesley Consulting Group, an independent consulting firm from Wellesley Hills, Mass., to study the business benefits lenders can gain when they equip their loan officers with “smart” online tools that automate the mortgage application, pricing, approval, and disclosure process. “The lenders we studied have equipped their loan officers with user-friendly, loan-officer-specific origination tools,” said Jim Jones, president and founder of First Wellesley Consulting. “We found that while some loan officers see the Internet as competition and shy away, loan officers at Mortgagebot client organizations are embracing online-lending technology as their ‘best friend’--and they’re using it to boost production, provide a superior borrower experience, and increase their internal efficiency.” Advantis CU of Milwaukie, Ore., is an example. Using PowerSite, Advantis CU loan officers have tripled loan application volume since 2005, according to Darin Walding, lead real estate loan officer at the credit union. “We implemented Mortgagebot’s ‘Loan Officer Web Sites’ solution to give each of our loan officers a personalized mortgage Web site. Now they’re using their personal sites to bring in more loans--as well as to ‘brand’ themselves in our community and cement relationships with members.” First Wellesley’s Jones also noted more than application volume improves when loan officers take advantage of online technology. That’s because today’s borrowers want and expect the improved service afforded by the 24/7 convenience and speed of “smart,” interactive, online mortgage-application technology. “Our members are increasingly comfortable with shopping and applying for a mortgage online,” said Wendy Hewitt, a loan officer at DFCU Financial. “That gives me more time to spend with borrowers who really need personal attention. Now members can apply anytime over the Internet, and I am immediately notified when an application comes in. I contact the borrower, we discuss their options, and I answer their questions. After that, we communicate mostly by e-mail. Many times they only have to come into our offices for closing.” Nelson said that DFCU members rate their satisfaction with the credit union’s online mortgage application at more than 95%. Walding said that borrowers actually thank Advantis CU loan officers for directing them to the credit union’s easy-to-use, online mortgage application.