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The Future of Remote Work in the Housing Finance Industry

In a survey published Tuesday by Fannie Mae's economists, lenders overwhelmingly agree that telecommute situations have led not only to a more productive workforce but also lower operating costs, but does that mean managers will continue allowing staffers to work from home? Not entirely. There is some incentive to return to offices, reportedly. Most lenders who responded to Fannie Mae's survey expressed tentative plans to employ a hybrid model utilizing a mix of remote and in-office staff, reported Mark Palim, Fannie Mae's VP and Deputy Chief Economist. Senior management and customer-facing personnel are the likeliest to need to work at the office after the pandemic, most respondents agreed.

While the positive aspects were clear, a majority also reported worse employee collaboration within and across business functions.

Most lenders, 77% of those who responded, said they anticipate an increase in employee requests for long-term or permanent remote work arrangements.

As management weigh the pros and cons of telework, the survey revealed the factors they consider most important.

"Lenders cited productivity as the most important factor, followed by company culture, talent retention, and customer experience," Palim noted on Fannie Mae's Perspectives blog. "Among the lenders who expect their remote workforce to decrease post-pandemic, they expressed greater concern with business process flows and talent onboarding and integration."

While most seemed to deem widespread remote work a success, it has had its disadvantages too.

The shift to remote work in 2020 coincided with loan origination volumes reaching historical highs, Palim pointed out.

"Despite capacity constraints and the challenge of skyrocketing consumer demand, lenders commented that remote work had the effect of making many employees feel siloed, which made it difficult to communicate day-to-day business challenges and assign resources accordingly.

Additionally, although the industry has made tremendous strides leveraging digital technology to streamline the mortgage process, many lenders continue to consider human interaction critical to cultivating trust and business relationships."

The pandemic and lockdowns forced companies to employ technologies in which they had already invested—lenders appear comfortable with remote-work technology and IT security, Palim notes, which suggests as much.

The attitude among responses indicates investments in IT infrastructure and digitization over the past few years are paying off, he says. "These tech capabilities should enable employers not only to recruit talent without geographic limitations but to also better retain talent considering that many lenders foresee employee requests for permanent remote work arrangements to increase, perhaps foreshadowing the trend of a distributed operational workforce."

The full report and commentary can be accessed at FannieMae.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media and Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning News, among others.
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