Editor’s note: This feature originally appeared in the March issue of DS News
At Equifax, Jennifer Henry is responsible for pricing, product management, product marketing, campaign management, and mergers and acquisitions. Henry brings more than 20 years of experience to her position at Equifax, including operations, technology, marketing, sales, product management, and mortgage loan quality and loan origination services.
Henry recently spoke with DS News about the changes facing the mortgage industry, staying nimble amidst unexpected industry shifts, what impact housing could have on the November elections, and more.
What are the trends currently defining the housing market, and do you see them changing in the year ahead?
What we're seeing a lot is the maturity down the digital mortgage journey and a focus on looking to drive a better consumer experience by streamlining the process through technology and data-enabled solutions. The big wins are evident even amidst last year’s refinancing frenzy. We've been able to, as an industry, keep the consumer at the center of the process and work to both drive efficiencies and provide a better customer experience.
There's a lot of opportunity for re-imagining those processes and bringing the consumer into the center of that world by enabling self-serve tools for homeowners, as well as borrower-centric technologies and data access. Also, standardizing the servicing data feed allows the industry to pull in other data sources in order to make better decisions. This can help servicers and those working in the portfolio management space.
Typically in an election year, the rates generally hold fairly steady. Some trends that we do typically see in an election year are that housing prices do not increase as steadily as they do in other years. There’s just a lot of uncertainty about what's going to happen in the market. This year will be super interesting because the presidential candidates are talking a lot about housing reform and GSE reform. Can we give people rental credits if their rent is more than 30% of their income? That’s the type of thing candidates are running on.
With the industry landscape continuing to offer up surprises like last year’s refi boom, how can servicing companies and other stakeholders best manage shifts in the marketplace?
Make sure that you not only make the right investments—the technology and the data—but that you are also thinking through how your operations need to support those technology and data assets that you've enabled. When you're looking at either digital mortgage strategy or a traditional mortgage strategy, ensuring that operations are maximized and optimized is critical. That's one of the bigger challenges, as many organizations think, "I'm going to plug in these technology and data assets," but they don't change anything on the operational side. As such, they're not getting the maximum efficiencies that are available. Working to deploy new technologies in the most efficient helps ensure you have the ability to manage the spikes and volume changes because your operations are streamlined and you're taking the most advantage of the data and the technology that's available to you.
How is data changing the marketing aspects of the mortgage industry?
The marketing side is interesting right now because interest rates remain low. There's not as much marketing required because the volume continues coming in.
Data standardization is important in that space as you pull data into a system—credit data, employment data, and other data assets. We are seeing people monitoring triggers more often and also looking at propensity models. “What is the propensity for this person based upon other third-party data?”