Success Story: Mike Mulwani, First International Bank & Trust

Mike Mulwani is the SVP/Director of Mortgage at First International Bank & Trust (FIBT), which started as a single branch in Arnegard, North Dakota, and evolved into a bank with 28 locations in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Arizona.

FIBT offers a suite of expanded services, including private banking to insurance services. Every day, the organization thinks about how to make their bank better and communities stronger. FIBT was recognized for these efforts on a national stage in 2018 where The Institute for Extraordinary Banking™ named FIBT its top bank at the Best Banks in America™ Super Conference. FIBT believes in giving back to communities. Across their footprint, FIBT donates millions of dollars to community and non-profit organizations, and their employees volunteered nearly 4,000 hours.

Our interview with Mike Mulwani provides helpful insight for any mortgage professional seeking to find value from an enterprise-grade loan origination solution.

How did you first hear about Floify?

Through a lot of industry contacts. When we decided to invest in a point-of-sale system, I really only knew of one system out there. I spoke to a lot of folks in the industry. I've been in the industry for 32 years and got some feedback on several of the point-of-sale systems, including Floify. I was then able to meet Floify's director of sales at the digital mortgage conference in Las Vegas a couple years ago. Floify also came highly recommended from one of your users and I really liked what I saw with respect to Floify. So we made the determination last year that Floify was the point-of-sale system we wanted to work with.

How would you describe the changes Floify has made for FIBT?

It's just been better, more frictionless customer experience. I feel our loan officers, as we continue to evolve with Floify are able to get out of the LOS, which I think is the industry cry is, get the LOs out of the LOS. We feel that they're leveraging the tool very well and ensuring that, again, we have a good customer experience. We're not running into a lot of roadblocks here and the customer can get clear to close a lot quicker than in prior iterations of whatever we had from a technology standpoint.

So, before you transitioned to Floify, what was the most frustrating or challenging aspect of the loan process, maybe with a different solution or if you had another method of originating. What was something that we were able to overcome, help you overcome in that?

So, I'll try not to digress or go into a tangent here. But as a community bank, I thought we had a very good process for a community bank, but if we were really going to grow, we were really going to keep up with changing customer mindset. We just did not have the infrastructure to get to those levels. So, what Floify did for us, is give us the blueprint to say if we empower our salespeople with a point of sale system, we can not only get to the customer first and leverage our bank reputation, but we can also go down the path of growth and bringing on opportunities to the organization that would normally be reserved for potentially a mortgage independents who have bought into the technology or banks like ourselves that have also bought into the technology.

So, Floify gave us that roadmap to grow, and I'm proud to say we've made a recent acquisition. We came through 2020 with not adding any new operational staff. We exceeded the industry from a revenue standpoint and we would give some of that credit to the fact that we were able to adopt the technology like Floify and grow.

What about Floify makes FIBT lenders more productive?

The Floify system gets us away from a segmented process to a much better flow for the loan application. The intuitive needs list is great because we do have a great starting point. There's no delay. If that customer decides to work any evening on putting their loan together, they instantly know what is needed. Our loan officers can get to work the next day and say, "Okay, let me take an inventory of that loan and get it through to Encompass." And basically, again, not have the segmented process we had, which seemed like there were a lot more starts and stops. With Floify it flows. Loans go through the natural progression. We are able to confidently build SLAs in our system as we try to improve on those SLAs for getting that customer cleared to close quicker and with less friction.

What is the average time savings that your lenders have experienced since using Floify?

Well, 2020 was quite an interesting year. We rolled out Floify right in the midst of the heat of the markets. But one thing I felt where we picked up an efficiency, and we can't really quantify it, but our lock extensions through the first eight months of 2020 equal that of one month, our biggest month, in 2019 means in aggregate, we were able to deliver during a very, very difficult time and lenders were saying 90 day closings, and then having to pay for that hedge or that potential 30 day opening.

We were able to still deliver on our refinances within 60 days and meet our purchase timelines. And again, without adding that step. So, I think the SLA for last year, the fact that we were able to not delay closings, spoke for itself, we're really looking forward to seeing where we have a full year under our belt with Floify how much really that savings is versus the firestorm that we implemented it in last year, which probably saved us and really helped us leverage last year’s market.

How much time would you say you save each week on average by not asking your borrowers for documentation?

Part of what we did without adding staff was creating a Disclosure Desk. We could now get that file out of the loan officer's hands within the first day or so, without disclosures going out, not necessarily being 100% accurate and then getting a file eight days later that may or may not be complete. We felt that having a Disclosure Desk and meeting that 72 hour threshold and getting that loan started and getting it out of the hands of the MLO could get the MLO to go out and get more loans and our team to have a roadmap coming in of the state of that loan. So, Floify really, really helped us out with that. That in itself allows us to meet those 60-day milestones on refinance locks when lenders were out 90 days, 100 days. There was no relenting. We need to close loans in 30 days, we need to close loans in 25 days. There's no going back to your real estate professionals or partners and saying, "Yeah, it's really busy. We're not going to be able to accommodate that."

Has FIBT seen an increase in profitability since transitioning over to Floify?

So, we recognize the revenue of, basically, almost one and a half times that of the industry average last year. Floify was a contributor to that. I think Floify allowed us not only to start having real concrete SLAs and not just aspirational SLAs, but also part of our bringing on Floify is our ability to implement a workflow that made sense. That now we could say yes, if we implement this workflow with next-gen technology versus a legacy technology, we can actually meet these milestones. So, there was a lot of little ancillary wins for us with implementing Floify. It was not a linear, "Hey, we need to have a better online application." We didn't look at it that way. We said, "We need to enhance and improve our processes if we truly want to have the growth that we feel we would be really excited about.

FYI, what we're projecting, from close of 2018, the close of 2021. If we're correct, our volume will have increased two and a half times. But what we feel is one of those pieces that allows us to think that way, that says, “Yes, we were a great community bank.” We can service folks coming in off the street. Now we can go out and make a compelling case on why wouldn't you join a community bank and do all those other things that true mortgage professionals want to be around and want to be a part of.

Since transitioning to Floify and reducing direct contact with borrowers, has their level of satisfaction changed?

Our customer service scores were always very high and we were concerned that if we became more technology driven that our customers would say, "Well, you’re becoming too corporate." We want to do business the way consumers want to do business. And a large segment of our customers and those who are not our customers today, but would want to go through a mortgage process with us, have really seen the speed and the ease of the poor. But even some of our customers that are accustomed to coming into the branch will still start their journey online with Floify and then finish off with a salesperson. But now that sales person has more time to work with those customers and continue to service them in a way of what a traditional community bank would service customers that are coming in, walking in and wanting to sit down and get to know their neighbor, for lack of a better analogy.

You mentioned that your favorite feature is Disclosure Desk. What makes this feature so valuable? And are there any other features that you find value in that we provide?

We didn't have a Disclosure Desk before, and I know it's become something that everybody in the industry had, but our goal was not to just stand up a Disclosure Desk and say, "Okay, we're doing disclosures." We wanted to get the loan out of the loan officer's hands quicker. And we felt Floify gave them a tool to basically say, "You're going to customize and use your portal. You're going to get the needs list. You're going to be able to check the status with the customer and you're going to spend less time with the perfunctory work that loan officers do not like to do." And we pay them to bring in loans. We don't pay them to sit there and put in loans, for instance.

The other thing is we went away from was a round robin with our processors and started to build teams around our loan officers. And then, we said, “If we have a loan officer doing a lot of loans, we need to give them a junior loan officer, somebody who can help with that origination process.”

With that, we saw potential in one of our home markets, like Fargo, which is a good market for us. So instead of hiring another loan officer, we thought, “Why don't we go and hire a young junior, train them, and then help them develop a business and increase market share that way.” I can't replicate my top loan officer and find another one, but I can sure give them support and maybe get a 20, 30, 40 percent lift. This allowed us to start thinking that way versus the thought of how we hire more loan officers. It was, how do we take the ones that we have that are committed and help them expand their business?

Why do you think technology is so important to the mortgage industry?

Coming from a community bank lens, we always say technology should be an aid, not a crutch. And I think if you leverage technology correctly, you can have a wide swath of customers you're pulling from, but our industry is evolving. The way that I got a mortgage 30 years ago, and I've been in the industry 32, is vastly different than the way that we get a mortgage today. Even moving out here, applying for my mortgage, I did everything online. I wanted to have to do it at my pace. I want it to understand it. And I wanted to take that interaction with the loan officer, even though I understood mortgage down to the bare minimum, to only deal with issues that needed to be addressed. As we look at my generation and their adoption of technology, we see a growing segment of my generation, even starting to get their loans online and doing the shopping online.

The generations after us are, are more online driven. The journey for buying a home starts online. It doesn't start with the realtor anymore, like it did 30 years ago. Somebody that's relocating to one of our markets may not know who we are, but if we're able to have a robust technology and be able to give somebody a great digital experience, then when they get that geo targeted ad and they go through the process, we're able to convert those into customers and we can leverage all things being equal as a community bank. We can leverage community bank, strong roots, 110 years, and still compete with the independence because our value proposition is same technology, same process. We've just been doing it for 110 years. We're going to be around for 110 more years. So, we try to take that value proposition and where we're going with it is trying to leverage that value proposition.

What advice would you give to fellow lenders who may be on the fence about adopting a point of sale technology like Floify?

We have loan officers that are at A-plus, that are using Floify and are tell us their life has been transformative. We have others that are a little slower to adopt all the way, but are seeing the benefit and are slow to adopt because they haven't put in the requisite work to really customize it though our high adopters are helping our not-so-high adopters. My thing is, just going all in, utilize it. It's another tool in your arsenal. The fact that we have 100% adoption and everything starts in Floify, the portal's built, the customer experience is just vastly improved and it was pretty doing good before, but now we can pull to a wider swath of people. You just got to go with it. It'll expand your business opportunities and it will take a lot of the manual fat fingering away from you and allow you to focus on what you do best, which is originating.

Mike Mulwani, SVP/Director of Mortgage
First International Bank & Trust
Phone: (800) 359-8092
Website: fibt.com