Following the initial push to make key service functions available to borrowers by launching an online portal and a dedicated mobile task service application, New Jersey-based Longbridge Financial introduced a couple of new additional features to further populate its online service functionality.
Two new key features allow borrowers to conduct unsigned sweepstakes and borrowers to complete their employment certification entirely online through a portal or app. The Certificate of Employment is a feature that is only available until December 31st in accordance with the relief issued by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
RMD met with Longbridge to learn more about these service features, the need they create to improve security, and the additional features the company hopes to incorporate into its digital infrastructure in the future.
Development of new functions, impact of use
Longbridge’s head of Supplier Service and Risk Management, Richard Burke, said the inclusion of these new features in the existing service platform was driven primarily by customer requests.
“We started receiving requests for these online features shortly after the launch of our service website,” Burke explains to RMD. “Today’s number of borrowers is becoming more tech-savvy than ever before, and we’ve found it particularly beneficial to make as many service functions digital as possible. Online forms, in particular, simplify the process of printing physical forms, wet signing them and then uploading them to the service website. “
In terms of how the new features are expected to impact the use of the service portal and application, ease of use should determine a potentially higher level of acceptance, Burke says.
“These latest features are designed to provide our customers with even greater convenience,” he explains. “Fewer steps means greater ease of use for our customers.”
Self-sufficiency is an important argument in favor of reverse mortgage borrowers, Burke says. The ability to rely more on ourselves for these maintenance tasks has led to an overall positive response to these additional features, he says.
“Currently, they can log into our site and take care of the various service features without having to call to check balances, access monthly reports or submit draw requests,” he says. “The introduction of these last two features has been particularly well received by our borrowers. They value the time and effort they save by filling out forms completely online, rather than physically printing, signing and uploading forms. “
Online Employment Certification
The process for using the online part of the employment certificate is based on to refuse issued by the FHA and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) earlier this year, and removed the requirement for service personnel to obtain a signature on a certificate of employment from a borrower HECM to facilitate physical distancing for all parties involved. As this waiver is expected to expire in December, barring an additional extension from the federal housing authorities, the feature on the Longbridge portal and app will also expire at this point.
“Since the start of the pandemic, the FHA has allowed verbal screening – and will continue to do so until at least December 31st,” Burke says. “During this period of time, our clients had the opportunity to verbally confirm their employment. As we worked to implement an unsigned raffle form on our service site, we wanted to continue to provide the same convenience by adding online employment certification as well. This is currently available for a limited time – until December 31, 2021 – under an FHA clearance. If this deadline is extended, we will follow the example of the FHA. ”
The online employment certification process will be a little more complicated in advance, but is expected to add convenience to borrowers once properly set up.
“To qualify for online employment certification, our customers first need to log into our service website with their credentials,” explains Burke. “We have added an ‘Online Forms’ menu item where a borrower can complete digital certification after he turns on two-factor authentication and enters his unique code. The whole process is paperless. Because the borrower can fill out the form online, this eliminates the need to download the form, physically print it, sign it, and then upload it back to the service’s website. ”
“Two-factor authentication” (2FA) is a digital security mechanism that requires registration of either a phone number or a dedicated authentication application on a mobile device. Thus, even if a rogue user manages to obtain the account password, he cannot log in without access to the mobile device, which either receives authentication codes via a text message, or an installed authentication application that constantly cycles through different confirmation codes. …
For unsigned draws, the cornerstone of this new feature is enhanced security, which also relies on two-factor authentication, Burke said. The Longbridge online portal and app uses two-factor authentication based on text messages. There are other additional checks on unsigned draws that can be taken if necessary.
“Although a signature is not required, we still take extensive measures to protect the safety of our borrowers,” says Burke. “One of the key measures we have taken to keep our borrowers’ accounts secure is requiring two-factor authentication for all unsigned forms. If the borrower chooses to submit the draw form without a signature or busyness, they will be prompted to enter their unique username and password, followed by a two-factor authentication code sent by email or text SMS. There are also dollar thresholds that our subservice monitors and validates, and outgoing calls are made if the draw request is to be confirmed. “
Competitive landscape, future features
Servicing has been somewhat of the focus of other reverse mortgage lenders lately, with Reverse Mortgage Solutions (RMS) servicing company recently acquired by parent company Liberty Reverse Mortgage. However, despite maintenance efforts elsewhere, Longbridge believes it has a competitive edge as it offers borrowers a range of options to manage their accounts, Burke explains.
“Add to that our team of service professionals and we are confident in our ability to continue to provide the same level of exceptional service that our clients have come to expect from Longbridge, even after the loan is closed,” he says.
With regard to other features that may appear in the future, Burke says Longbridge will look to focus on new ways to expand its technology in the coming months.
“Technology is at the heart of all of our new features, and we are actively working with our supplier partner to continue developing new service features,” he says.