Advancements in technology have accelerated the development of most business operations, even in the mortgage industry. Dru Brents is the founder and CEO of PreApp 1003 (now Broker Plus), the mortgage industry’s leading all-in-one Point-of-Sale, LOS, and CRM platform. In this episode, he joins Jen Du Plessis to talk about the possibilities of AI integration in finance and the importance of maintaining a human touch. He also shares the value of mortgage professionals and how they should adapt and prepare for this future.
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Future Of Finance: Integrating AI In The Mortgage Industry With Dru Brents
Thank you, Jen. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.
As a loan officer for many years, I use PreApp 1003. Ironically, I send some of my coaching students to PreApp 1003 as well because some companies still have very antiquated systems where they need the 1003 to be able to pull things into their LOS. I want to start with your career. Why did you develop PreApp 1003? Were you in the mortgage business? Were you not? Did it come from your own mess that you needed to create a message out there?
I’ve been in the business for many years, everything from wholesale to retail and back to wholesale. I started my own broker shop back in ‘05. I still own the mortgage broker shop to this day. In PreApp, the idea was I was needing to reconnect with some realtors and revitalize my business. I pulled out an old pre-core form that we use in the ‘90s that you would hand out to realtors. They’d fill it out and fax it in. I said, “I want this digitalized where someone could text the keyword, do a shortcode and get a secure form where they could fill it out. That’s how it started. I reached out to a friend of mine that program that. I saw that they were onto something. This was before we ever saw the first rocket commercial.
The idea of a mortgage mobile app or our PreApp was novel. I didn’t even plan on starting a tech company. I looked high and low. I even asked other tech companies, “There’s a big niche, a big market for this. Can you please build it?” They’re like, “We’re not interested in it.” Someone said, “Just do it.” As soon as I saw it I said, “We could call this PreApp 1003. Let’s start a company.” That’s how it started it. Fast forward then I was like, “Now we need to pull credit, manage docs and run DO.” In the last couple of years, it was like, “Let’s scrap it, start over. Let’s build it into a full-blown LOS with a CRM and a point of sale for the broker community.”
It’s specifically for brokers. For the readers who are lenders, wholesalers and warehouse line companies this is not for you necessarily.
Not yet. The point of sale is the CRM but the LOS is for brokers now. Later we are rolling out with Lender Plus.
What’s happened in the umpteen years? It’s funny because there’s a lot of time but there’s a lot of the tsunami of technology. We are now on the brink of another tsunami of technology. Tell us a little bit about your forecasting for the future of the lending space. For those that are reading that are still handwriting a 1003, still sending someone to their website to fill out an application, what does the future look like on that side?
There’s a lot of people a lot smarter than me out there building technology. I will admit that. You have some companies and some tech platforms that are all about trying to automate and remove the human touch out of the equation with the robotics type of AI. I understand that there’s a big push for that. The way we’ve approached this is we want our system to involve the human touch and be something that is not only user-friendly for the borrower but also facilitates systems and ways to keep the loan officer and personal loan consultant involved in the transaction either through video or through interaction. There are a lot of systems that have been around umpteen years. That’s 1990’s technology. Ours is browser-based, cloud-based and mobile responsive. I know this isn’t a commercial but I’ve got to give this testimony. I was giddy like a kid when it happened. I was deer hunting down South Texas. If that offends anyone, forgive me. Overlook that I’m from Texas.Technology is not replacing us, but it’s helping us serve our customers better. Click To Tweet
I’m good with it.
I had a doctor that reached out and filled out my PreApp the night before. I’m sitting in a deer blind the next morning. I’m waiting for the sun to come up. I’m like, “What am I going to do?” I had cell service. I said, “Let me work this guy’s loan.” I literally structured this guy’s loan, pulled his credit, reviewed his docs. I then ran DO, issued an approval letter and a closing cost worksheet all from my cell phone. I looked it, what is he lacking, updated his needs list in ten minutes from my cell phone. That I believe is what makes technology great for our industry. It’s not replacing us but it’s helping us serve our customers better. That’s the lane we’re in and stay in. We’re going to stay in but you never know how things evolve.
It’s in alignment so much with what I talk about all the time. As you were talking about this I remember probably in the late ‘90s or the beginning of the 21st century, everything that I had on my flyers that I was making said, “High tech. High touch.” It was this buzzword that we use. It went away. I feel like it’s coming back a little bit because people are saying, “We want the high tech. We need it. We’re moving at 100 miles an hour. We absolutely want it.” We also want the human touch especially post-COVID. We got to have conversations with people. We have to meet them. I love that you’re integrating both and the keyword is integration into our lives. As loan officers, it’s that integration that allows us to have a beautiful lifestyle. That’s what I coach on. I hate the word balance but I say it a lot when I’m talking to people because then you understand what I’m talking about. For me, it’s more integration. When you go back to think about putting this together in your career, in the lending space and it’s still going strong now to a certain extent, what do you think is your biggest gift that is a gift that for others is very hard to see or hard to do? It’s one of those things where you say, “I don’t get why you don’t get this,” because It’s such a gift for you. What are your gifts?
I’m just in tune with people’s pain points. I’ve been in the ditches, originated loans, know pain points and I hate to say it but they say, “If you can make someone’s life easier or more comfortable, you’ll be a billionaire.” It’s all about how can we make LOS’s or borrower’s life easier? How can we remove pain points?” That’s why we even decided to go from the Point-of-Sale to build it into a full-blown all-inclusive platform. I had pain bringing the Point-of-Sale Fannie files into the LOS. It was too many steps. I said, “Forget it. We got to streamline this.”
My gift is to be able to look at something, look at a problem and think outside the box. “How can we get from point A to point Z a little faster and better? How can we get it done if other people say we can’t be done?” I’m thinking, “It can be. We just got to navigate it right.” Those would be my strengths. Fannie Mae did a poll years ago with Millennials. It was Millennials said, “We want better tech.” They said, “Do you want more or less human interaction in the home buying process?” They said, “We want more human interaction.” That was from Fannie Mae. They did an official poll and came up with the same conclusion.
There’s no time in history have we ever had this situation which is we have five generations working at the same time. This is the first time that that’s happened. We have to be able to look across all of those to see how we can serve every one of them. It’s important for us to be able to serve every one of them. Even though there’s technology, being able to have that human touch bridges that gap for those that aren’t a techie. That’s an important piece.
You’ve developed also a CRM. As a coach and mentor this is one of the biggest problems. Systems are everyone’s problems. It seems like people have a lot of problems with systems. When people ask me about CRM for years, I worked on Salesforce. In fact, I created my own platform which later Salesforce purchased from me which subsequently became Jungo. They’ve blown it up into beautiful things since then. When people say to me, “What CRM do you use? I said, “I use Salesforce/Jungo.” Getting to market with it is very difficult. The learning curve is substantially high. Tell us about your CRM. Have you made this user-friendly? The Baby Boomer who has said, “I’ll get a Facebook account.” It is just now grabbing onto the technology. What have you done in your CRM that makes it unique and different so that people use it? We know that, “What CRM do you use? The one that you use.”
I believe in the KISS principle, Keep It Super Simple. People have asked us, “What platform did you build your CRM on?” Everything in our system is proprietary. We built it from scratch. Our CRM, as of June 18, 2021, is in phase one. I don’t think any technologies are going to be completely finished. We have a lot of things still under the development list that we’re going to be adding. I’ve been pretty adamant with my programmers and people involved in our team that if you’ve got to hire someone to configure your CRM as far as ongoing like, “I have to have someone dedicated for this,” or you need an engineering degree to figure it out then that’s bad for mortgage professionals. Jen, you understand how we are. We want plug-and-play. I want to throw a little bit of money at it. I want it to work. Our CRM is tied into our system. It does email drips, text drips, you can inject videos into it or be in a loan file and we have a little communication there. Instead of making a phone call to the person, “You know I’m going to blow in twenty minutes,” you could just pull up a little window and send them a video text or record your screen and send it that way if maybe you want to go over fees.
The milestones are part of that, whereas transactional or history milestones. It’ll update the realtor and borrowers. It’s about seamlessly staying in touch with someone throughout the process. We have preset campaigns that things that are very plug and play or you could customize it. You can even manage it from your mobile phone and something quickly. You do it from your cell phone even if you want to take a quick video and shoot out a Merry Christmas to all your referral partners instead of it being preset. For instance, one time I was sitting outback, barbecuing and it was Christmas Eve. I was cooking a turkey on the grill. I said, “I’m thinking about my partners. I want to wish them Merry Christmas and how much I appreciate them.” I pulled out my cell phone and sent it out that way. That was when we were playing around with some tests for phase one before we went live with it.
To answer your question, it is simple, it does what it needs to do and pretty turnkey. If you want to get details for those geeky LOS, you can dial in, “I want to target my database that closed over six months ago with the loan amount of X or higher and credit score of X and higher. This zip code. I want to dial that in anybody in my system that meets those criteria. I want to automatically add them to the group. Put them on this email and the drip campaign.” It does that but it’s going to take a little more dialing in.
I’m going to ask a very self-serving question for CRMs because Salesforce build this for me. Thankfully, they didn’t charge me. I was lucky. I do something called The Great Retrace. My dear friend, Michael J. Maher who wrote Seven Levels of Communication also wrote the foreword to my book launch. He does something called The Great Retrace. I picked up on it immediately and started using it. I find that most CRMs don’t have a way for you to do a backward retrace on where you got the referrals. if I got a referral from you, I’d want to look at who referred you and them so that we could do a great retrace with every single referral that came in. “I got a referral from so-and-so. Remember when you referred me to that person? They just sent me a referral and now we’re five referrals in. Thank you so much for that.” Do you have something built in that? Would you consider building something like that so that people could exercise on the great retrace?
We don’t have that. I hadn’t even thought about that, to be honest. That’s a great idea. We definitely would be open to adding that to our development stack. What I described is just phase one. We’ve got a lot of things planned for the CRM and also we keep it user-friendly. That would be a great feature. If you want to be involved with helping us, advising us on that, I’m totally open to that as well.
That was where I was going with. I would love to advise on that. These are some little things that I think would be so beneficial for people. It’s something I call Momentum Multiplier. People have all these loans and these acres of diamonds underneath them. Loans have been falling from the sky like stars, landing on the ground and there are all these beautiful acres of diamonds. We’re still looking up at the sky going, “Where’s the next one? Where is it happening?” We have these acres that we could be digging in and pulling up and manifesting. That’s one of the things that Great Retrace does. It allows you to take one transaction and turn it into multiple just with a simple strategy of what you already have in your hand.
Thanks for allowing me to say that. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. You didn’t have to say that you would develop it or anything. Thie one of the reasons why I ended up building my own Salesforce is because I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t have all the pieces I wanted. I want to divert from the product and move into what are you seeing with loan officers moving forward as far as the technology piece? Those that are going to adopt are going to survive? Those that aren’t aren’t going to survive? Do you see that there’s a nice mix? What are some of the predictions that you’re hearing and seeing from the colleagues you’re speaking with as to what the role of a loan officer will be in the future? What’s going to happen with our industry as a whole?If you can make someone’s life easier or more comfortable, you’ll be a billionaire. Click To Tweet
I’m definitely not an expert to answer that question.
What’s your opinion? It’s okay.
My opinion is I think guys and girls out there that are let’s say taking handouts. Somehow and someway, they’ve survived and carved out a relational environment and they’ll get business. If they want to work hard then don’t use tech. You’ll still service that clientele and make it easier for everybody but I don’t think they’re going to go out of business if they don’t get the latest and greatest tech. I just think technology is convenient. It’s definitely a facilitator for everybody involved. Where are loan officers going in the future? We’re going to have to adapt to be loan consultants.
We’re almost like financial advisors. It’s more than just taking an app and lock a loan. You’ve got to advise people, know your stuff, strategize and bring added value to people. Otherwise, AI is going to replace us. We’ve got to build in more value to what we do. I don’t think you can ever truly replace the human, counsel, consultor. Even some wholesale lenders out there as a broker if I can’t talk to someone, I have a problem and I can’t work with an AI that can problem-solve, they’re basically a sales rep then I don’t want to put my loans with them because when I have a problem, I need somebody to help me. I think that’s what consumers feel. That’s why we need to be that person that can help them solve problems. Sometimes AI can’t do that.
One of my clients on one of our coaching calls said, “It’s like dealing with Jake from State Farm. Every time that you’re contacting someone and pushed twenty different buttons to get to that person you’re dealing with Jake from State farm.” He’s a character. Still, that’s who you’re dealing with.
You deal with Jake from State Farm or you could deal with Flo, the lady that’s on the beach that overhears the conversation. She’s like, “Let me go help you.” That’s who we need to be not the other one.”
There’s a statistic out there that they took 600 companies and said, “How is your customer experience?” This is what it’s about. When you think about Amazon, for example, it’s convenient. There’s no doubt about it. We do have an experience as a result of it. It’s not just the conveyor belt of getting something but the experience and why it’s so good to get it. They follow up with little, “How was your experience?” Making sure it was done is one thing that most of us in our industry don’t do. We just closed the loan and closed the casket on our relationship, we go and bring flowers.
They surveyed that of those 600 companies 82% of them said, “Our client experience is good.” I’m not saying customer service. I’m saying client experience. There’s a difference. When they surveyed the clients associated with those people, only 8% said that the experience was good. There’s a big disconnect in what we think is a good experience. Particularly, when we’re talking about AI, we’re talking about the digital revolution and evolution that we’re having that digital version is providing the experience that the consumer is looking for. Quite frankly, it’s not. That’s a huge disconnect. Even as individuals and humans when we think we’re providing good service by all the tech. Going through the system, following the process and all the technology, if we don’t inject the human component of it, this is why we don’t get repeat business and why we lay in bed at night and go, “I did a good job. Why aren’t they sending their friends?”
Something else that as originators and mortgage professionals we got to remember is the mortgage. We do this day in and day out. It’s an old hat for us. These people don’t buy a house every day. Buying a home is a stressful process. People got to move and we got to remember that. It’s almost like a doctor that loses his bedside manner because he does it so much. We can’t lose our bedside manner with people. We’ve got to be there to, I hate to say, pat them on the hand and said, “It’s going to be okay,” and give updates because if you don’t, they’re going to fill out a survey like you said and go, “I had a bad experience.” Getting a mortgage is not fun. We’re not selling a mortgage. They’re buying a home. We got to remember that. We’re just the instrument for what they really want.
They don’t go to customer school. There’s no such thing as customer school. “I’m going to customer school to know how to act as a client.” It’s important for us to remember and not that everyone should do this. Please don’t take my advice on this, everybody. My husband and I never had a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. We’ve been married for many years and we’ve always had adjustable-rate mortgages. It’s kind of like the hairdresser who always has different color hair because she’s testing it out on herself. That’s how we’ve always done that. We’ve always had adjustable-rate mortgages which have forced us to go through the process, to relive it, understand what adjustments we need to make. That is not advice for everyone because there are risks associated with arms, as we know but we’ve always had an adjustable-rate mortgage. We have one even in this market. Why? It’s cheaper than a 30-year fixed still. I haven’t had to do anything.
I see what you’re saying because it forces you if it goes up then you can tighten your belt.
If we’ve refinanced, we’ve refinanced back into another ARM again but we haven’t done a mortgage on our home. We’ve had our home for many years. We started with a 5/1 ARM and we still have it because there’s no need for us to do anything with it. We do forget that people take it for granted and we have to slow down sometimes so that we can help our clients. A couple of quick questions. What are you reading or listening to?
I have been so busy. Honestly, the only thing I’ve had time to read is my Bible. I do my devotions. I liked to read. I have been going 90 to nothing. That’s the only time I’ve had time for as my morning devotion.
I love that habit and consistency because that is exactly what top producers do. What great professionals do is that they have consistency on the things that are most important in their lives. Do you have a mantra that you live by?
I do but it would be deemed as a religious mantra.
It’s okay. I’ve had this show for a few years and people know.
I’m going to give you where I came from and the illustration I think about. Thinking about the movie Schindler’s List. At the end of the movie, after he spent all this money and wealth to buy the Jewish people from the ovens in the concentration camps, when everybody’s standing there and applauding him he begins to weep and said, “I could have done more. You have no idea how much money I’ve wasted.” They said, “You did so much.” He said, “I could have done more.” He looked at his car and he said, “This is ten more people.” He looked at the little Nazi pin on his lapel and said, “This is gold. This is to at least one more person.” He was broken. Even though they applauded what he did he realized, “I could have done more.”
There’s a scripture in Ecclesiastes that says “It’s better to go to funerals than at parties. Everybody will die and the living should take this to heart.” I think about at the end of my life, everything I did, all the success, everything I’ve acquired. Did I accumulate this for my own selfish desires? Did I use the things that I’ve been entrusted with in order to make a difference in people’s lives whether it be orphans in the Philippines or in Africa?” Those are not random things. I mean, “Are you using something? Where your neighbor down the street that is about to lose their home in foreclosure, have you written them a check to help them out?” We’ve been blessed with our resources. This is my mantra. The day that Schindler was faced with what he did. I want to live my life now for that day and make sure that I invest in other people’s lives while I’m here.We can’t lose our bedside manner with people. Click To Tweet
I thought you were going to go to, “To whom much is given much is expected.” It’s funny you say that because we talk about it quite a bit when I’m working with my students because we do live in this beautiful industry we have that the dollars that we make on every widget that we sell are so exponential to the next guy down the street. I’m not originating anymore. To hoard that is ridiculous. We want to be able to give it away, serve and give to others. We definitely talk about that all the time. It’s beautiful. I love it. Lets us get deep into who you are. That’s what attracts people to people, their products, service or whatever it is they’re doing. They love reading these stories. Dru, thank you so much for being with us, sharing your information and making the change in our industry that is impacting our industry. At the end of the day, you’ve already made the impact and you continue to do it more. It’s been an honor to have the opportunity to interview you.
Thank you, Jen. I appreciate the opportunity. It’s been great.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read. We hope that you got a good nugget here. You got some scripture, AI, technology, relationship building. We’ll catch you next time.
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About Dru Brents
Dru Brents is the founder and CEO of PreApp 1003 (now Broker Plus), the mortgage industry’s leading all in one Point-of-Sale, LOS and CRM platform that is also mobile responsive.
In 2015, after being in the mortgage industry for over 20 years, Dru founded PreApp 1003 out of a need to help mortgage loan originators to better serve their borrowers and referral partners. Since then, PreApp 1003 has evolved into an industry leader in the mortgage technology space with thousands of subscribers across the nation.
Dru’s personal interest are overseas mission work, local youth and men’s ministry, hunting, and occasional kite surfing. He currently resides in Houston, Texas with his wife and two children.
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