After making an initial push into making key servicing features available to borrowers with the launch of an online portal and dedicated mobile application for servicing tasks, Mahwah, N.J.-based Longbridge Financial has rolled out a pair of new, additional features to further fill out the capabilities of its online servicing functionality.
The two new key features allow for borrowers to take signatureless draws, and for borrowers to complete an occupancy certification entirely online through the portal or app. The occupancy certification is a feature that is only available through December 31 according to relief handed down by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
RMD caught up with representatives from Longbridge to learn more about these servicing features, the need they create for enhanced security and additional features that the company hopes to implement into its digital infrastructure in the future.
Developing the new features, impact of use
The incorporation of these new features into the existing servicing platform was guided primarily by customer requests, according to Richard Burke, head of servicing and vendor risk management at Longbridge.
“We started receiving requests for these online features shortly after the launch of our servicing website,” Burke explains to RMD. “With today’s population of borrowers becoming more tech-savvy than ever before, we found that it would be especially advantageous to make as many Servicing functions digital as we could. The online forms in particular streamline the process of having to print out the physical forms, ‘wet sign’ them, and then upload to the Servicing website.”
In terms of the ways in which the new features are expected to impact use of the servicing portal and app, ease of use should inform potentially higher levels of adoption, Burke says.
“These latest features are designed to give our customers even greater convenience,” he explains. “Less steps means improved ease of use for our customers.”
Self-sufficiency is a big selling point for reverse mortgage borrowers, Burke says. Because of that, the ability to rely more on themselves in order to accomplish these servicing tasks has led to a generally positive reception of these additional features, he explains.
“They’re currently able to log on to our site and take care of a variety of servicing functions, without having to call-in to check balances, access monthly statements, or submit draw requests,” he says. “The introduction of these two latest features has been especially well-received so far by our borrowers. They appreciate the time and effort they’re saving by completing the forms entirely online as opposed to having to physically print, sign, and upload the forms.”
Online occupancy certification
The process for utilizing the online portion of the occupancy certification is based on waivers issued by FHA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) earlier this year, and eliminated the requirement for servicers to obtain a signature on an occupancy certification from a HECM borrower in an effort to facilitate physical distancing for all involved parties. Because that waiver is expected to expire in December barring an additional extension from federal housing authorities, the feature on Longbridge’s portal and app will expire at that point, as well.
“Since early on in the pandemic, the FHA has allowed for verbal verification – and will continue to do so until at least December 31,” Burke says. “During this time period, our customers have had the ability to verbally verify their occupancy. Since we were working on introducing a signatureless draw form to our servicing site, we wanted to continue to provide this same convenience – by adding Online Occupancy Certification as well. This is currently available for a limited time – until December 31, 2021 – as allowed by the FHA. If this deadline is extended, we will follow the FHA’s lead.”
The process for an online occupancy certification will be a little more involved upfront, but is expected to add to the convenience of borrowers once properly set up.
“In order to complete the occupancy certification online, our customers first need to log into our servicing website with their account credentials,” Burke explains. “We’ve added a menu item for ‘Online Forms’ where the borrower will be able to complete the certification digitally – after they’ve enabled two-factor authentication and entered their unique code. The entire process is paperless. Since the borrower can complete the form online, this eliminates the need to download the form, physically print it out, sign it, and then upload it back to the servicing website.”
“Two-factor authentication” (2FA) is a digital security mechanism which requires the registration of either a phone number or dedicated authentication app on a mobile device. This way, even if an illegitimate user manages to gain an account’s password, they would be unable to login to it without access to the mobile device that either receives authentication codes via text message, or the installed authenticator app that constantly cycles through different verification codes.
For the taking of a draw without a signature, enhanced security is a cornerstone of this new feature and also revolves around two-factor authentication, Burke says. For Longbridge’s online portal and app, it uses a text message-based form of 2FA. There are other additional verification measures for a signature-less draw that can be taken if necessary.
“While a signature is not required, we still take extensive measures to protect the security of our borrowers,” Burke says. “One of the key measures we’ve taken to ensure our borrowers’ account security is requiring two-factor authentication for all Signatureless forms. Should a borrower elect to submit a Signatureless Draw or Occupancy form, they’ll be prompted to enter their unique username and password, followed by a two-factor authentication code sent via email or SMS text message. There are also dollar thresholds that our subservicer monitors and reviews and outbound calls are made should a draw request need to be verified.”
Competitive landscape, future features
Servicing has been a bit of a focus for other reverse mortgage lenders recently, with servicer Reverse Mortgage Solutions (RMS) having recently been acquired by the parent company of Liberty Reverse Mortgage. Still, in spite of the servicing moves being made elsewhere, Longbridge feels like it has a competitive edge in offering a suite of options for borrowers to manage their own accounts, Burke explains.
“Couple this with our team of servicing professionals, and we’re confident in our ability to continue to provide the same level of exceptional service our customers have come to expect from Longbridge even after their loan closes.,” he says.
In terms of other features that may be coming in the future, Burke says that Longbridge will aim to focus on new ways to expand the technology it uses in the coming months.
“Technology is at the heart of all of our new features and we’re actively working with our vendor partner to continue developing new servicing features,” he says.