May 8, 2019

Q&A: Powering Consumer Lending with Blend CEO Nima Ghamsari

By Rohit Mahna, SVP and GM, Financial Services at Salesforce

 

Our partner ecosystem is paramount to the success of Salesforce. In the financial services industry, partners are extending the reach of Salesforce Financial Services Cloud as they provide their customers with enhanced digital solutions for a wide array of needs. We are particularly excited about Blend, an ISV partner, as their digital lending app available on Salesforce AppExchange transforms the home and consumer lending experience. Strengthening our partnership even further, Salesforce Ventures, our corporate investment arm, also recently closed an investment in Blend.

We caught up with Nima Ghamsari, CEO and Co-Founder of Blend, to chat about how the company is leveraging Salesforce to power its vision of one-tap access to financial services.

Give us a short overview of Blend’s role in the lending industry.

At our core, Blend’s role is to make it easier for financial institutions to work with their customers and provide them with the best possible experience. We do this through our software platform that powers the digital loan experiences of nearly 150 leading lending and financial services organizations.

The platform currently extends across mortgage and home equity loans and deposit account openings, driving a streamlined experience for the consumer throughout their interaction with the lender and creating efficiency for lenders as they evaluate and process loans. Organizations we partner with include Wells Fargo, US Bank, SunTrust, BMO Harris Bank, Movement Mortgage, Lennar, and many other independent mortgage lenders, credit unions, and banks small and large.

You announced a new AppExchange app last year, and Salesforce Ventures recently invested in your company. How has your relationship with Salesforce enabled Blend to grow?

Salesforce and Blend are both committed to creating a better consumer loan experience for lenders and borrowers. Salesforce is the system of record for relationships between lenders and their customers, while Blend is a digital lending platform for streamlining loan originations from application to close. The combination of these two systems simplifies processes for lenders internally, resulting in time savings and better customer experiences. The expansion of our integration and the strategic investment are the next evolution in our journey toward a simpler and easier process.

How has the digital lending industry changed in the last five to ten years?

After the 2008 financial crisis, the government put many new regulations in place designed to protect consumers from predatory lending practices. Because of this, in the years following 2008, banks and lenders were incredibly focused on compliance to adhere to these regulations.

About three years ago, we noticed a huge change in behavior — banks and lenders were becoming more open to discussing technology. Simultaneously, consumer behavior was shifting as digital retail experiences evolved.

Today, Amazon and Google-like experiences set the tone for how consumers want to interact, and financial institutions need to rise up to meet consumers where they are. It’s the combination of these forces that has created more desire among banks and lenders to seek out the best technology partners.

What are some of the biggest issues that you and your customers are facing?

Our customers are concerned with rising production costs — data from the Mortgage Bankers Association continues to show rising costs to originate a mortgage, and the same is true for other loan types as well.

A lot of this additional cost is still related to staying compliant with regulations post-2008, along with rising sales and marketing costs in an increasingly competitive environment. This further drives the need for lenders to have great technology in place to take costs out of the process.

In addition, more and more companies are getting into lending in one way or another, meaning our customers have to be cognizant of competition from emerging fintech companies and challenger banks.

What are the biggest opportunities for companies in the industry in the next five years?

We are in the early stages of a “war for the consumer.” With competition in our customers’ space from challengers new and old, consumers have more options than ever when selecting their go-to financial services provider. Getting to know these consumers and offering them the right products at the right moment will be key to winning. Lenders already have the data to accomplish this — the crux will lie in putting that data to good use to provide customers with the simplest, most efficient ways to reach their goals.

We are working toward a future where consumers can apply for and get approved for loans in just one tap. Part of this will be getting to a point where consumers are ‘always approved’ and have more control over their financial data. As they are in the market for a new financial product, they’ll know right then and there what they qualify for.

I understand Blend works closely with BMO Harris Bank. Can you give an overview of how they are leveraging Blend?

Before Blend, BMO Harris’ home loan teams relied on bankers themselves originating loans. Today, online mortgage and home equity application volume at the bank has risen 275% over the same period last year, and over 80% of the bank’s mortgage and home equity applications are now submitted using Blend. The technology has given BMO Harris’ bankers more time for the premium customer service.

As consumers increasingly manage finances outside of traditional banking hours, banks like BMO Harris are using technology to ensure continued customer convenience. Companies like Salesforce and Blend help them continue to deliver the level of service for which they’re known — anytime, anywhere. Today, 57% of the bank’s digital mortgage applications are submitted outside working hours — a clear indication that BMO Harris’s strategy for serving consumers on their terms is working.

Furthermore, banks manage valuable customer data. By combining digital lending workflows through Salesforce and Blend, BMO Harris bankers have increased clarity about how to help customers achieve financial goals.

Blend customers have also noticed that using both systems makes outbound campaigns more effective by pre-filling data and preventing customers from falling out of the pipeline.

 

 

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