TD Bank mortgage model puts emphasis on advice

Mortgage

TD Bank is seeking to put advice front-and-center in its mortgage lending customer service model.

A top-10 U.S. bank in terms of deposits and assets with branches in 13 states along the East Coast, Cherry Hill, N.J.-headquartered TD is tasking its mortgage loan officers not only with providing potential customers with information about loan options but also to explain how a loan would fit into their broader financial situation and the bank’s wide array of other services.

Rick Bechtel, head of U.S. residential lending, said TD is training the bank’s 220 mortgage loan officers to be able to address customers’ very specific and personal questions, in the search for the most suitable loan product.

Like other mortgage lenders, it sees time-saving and customer-empowering technology as a significant part of the equation. In the 14 months it took to develop mortgage application software launched earlier this year, its mortgage team worked closely with fintech Roostify’s engineers to make the interface clear to navigate, using commonly understood terms and question phrasing.

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“That’s convenience for customers. They don’t think the bank filling out a form for them is convenient,” Bechtel said.

However, old-fashioned banking is how TD wants to distinguish itself.

“We’ve found that a significant number of our customers are still visiting our branches to speak with a mortgage banker,” Bechtel said.

A recent TD survey of 1,800 homeowners found that respondents interested in information about a mortgage were more likely to turn to a real person, whether their Realtor, banker or friends and family, than search for it online. Consumers can “Google all the basics,” Bechtel said. “So they arrive in our orbit far more educated than ever before.”

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That means they want highly personalized and expert advice that pertains to their specific situations.

“They want answers for legal and title issues, more holistic advice about how a mortgage will fit into the rest of their financial life; Basically, ‘Here’s my story, how does this mortgage work for me?'” Bechtel said.

For example, TD is among banks that have developed flexible mortgage products aimed at often high-income but cash-strapped medical professionals. Its program launched earlier this year exposes those customers to options for managing student and other debt or retirement investing.

Bechtel said TD’s mortgage bankers provide no legal advice, but the bank trains them to be aware of issues so they can provide insight and know when to introduce clients to experts on subjects specific to their profession.

“The role of a mortgage loan officer is shifting to become more professional and more of an expert than ever before,” Bechtel said.

TD’s wealth business is a strong source of referrals, and mortgage loan officers in that area are trained to understanding complex tax returns and other relevant information. In fact, it was TD’s commercial banking team focusing on medical-practice sales and medical-equipment financing that reinforced the need for and helped design the product for medical professionals.

TD regularly ranks among the best places to work, Bechtel said, in part because of the institutionalized training and development it provides employees to bolster their expertise and credentials, and their upward trajectory within the organization. Besides internal resources and access to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s education platform, TD’s mortgage bankers receive training from third-party specialists.

Training on the medical-profession product, for example, is given to a small subset of loan officers, about 10%, who need to understand physicians’ income trajectories, student loan repayment schedules and other critical factors. Ongoing education keeps them apprised of the latest trends, challenges and opportunities in the market.

The bank has armed another loan-officer group with a single-close, construction-loan product that includes a 30-year fixed term and streamlines the process for borrowers during the construction of their home, Bechtel said.

Designing products and training loan officers to meet clients’ very specific needs “makes TD Bank an ideal employer for mortgage loan officers who have honed their knowledge in a specific area,” Bechtel said, “and are looking for an institution that can support them with a deep product set, an extensive network and a community-centric brand.”

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