Erik Gruber holds a video camera resting on his right shoulder, shooting some outdoors footage, with a bridge in the background to his right. Above him, birds are flying in a partly cloudy sky.
Erik Gruber at work near Philadelphia.
Erik Gruber holds a video camera resting on his right shoulder, shooting some outdoors footage, with a bridge in the background to his right. Above him, birds are flying in a partly cloudy sky.
Erik Gruber at work near Philadelphia.
March 14, 2019

Reaching homebuyers in the age of digital

Erik Gruber spends most of his life in cyberspace, whether editing video or ordering pizza. When it came to buying a house, it was only natural for him to use an online mortgage application.

Editor’s note: A version of this story also appeared in the 2018 Wells Fargo Annual Report.

Whether he’s managing digital video at an NFL stadium or daily shoots for a cable reality show, Erik Gruber’s work revolves around taps, clicks, and digital connections. Frequently on the go, he also uses online and mobile channels to do everything from ordering pizza to paying bills.

So when it came to buying a home, the 29-year-old video editor and freelance camera operator jumped at the chance to fill out an online mortgage application for the financing he needed.

“Whenever I have the option to do something online, that usually works best for me,” said Gruber, a Wells Fargo customer who lives in suburban Philadelphia. “It’s the nature of my job. I work odd hours and have an odd, very busy schedule. It’s just more convenient for me to do things when I really have time, and that’s what drew me to the online mortgage application.”

As he walks on a sidewalk near some homes in the background, Erik Gruber carries a large gear bag over his right shoulder and carries a video camera in his left hand.
Gruber outside his new home in Philadelphia.

Gruber is not alone. Wells Fargo has attracted hundreds of thousands of customers to the digital mortgage feature since the tool debuted in late 2017. In fact, in December 2018, 30 percent of all retail mortgage applications were done through the online mortgage application.

The online application is especially convenient for tech-savvy millennial professionals who, like Gruber, are part of the gig economy — self-employed contractors who often contract with multiple companies, have many income sources, and who have lots of paperwork to manage.

“I think millennials want their information fast,” said Derek Tesinsky, a Wells Fargo home mortgage consultant who worked with Gruber on his loan. “They want an interface that tells them what they need and what needs to be done. They don’t always want to spend time talking on the phone to submit an application. They would rather do the online mortgage application on their smartphone and be done with it.”

After submitting the initial application online, Gruber received an electronic preapproval letter from Wells Fargo in a matter of hours, which helped him focus his homebuying efforts on a estimated price range. He later needed to send additional documents to Wells Fargo, a process that was streamlined through yourLoan TrackerSM, an online tool that allowed him to upload them directly to the company. He closed on his house last spring.

Hybrid service, online and in real life

The online tools paved the way for what otherwise may have been a lengthy loan approval process that may have taken much longer for Gruber, said Jenna Roseland, a mortgage processor for Wells Fargo. Instead, he received full credit approval for a specific loan amount in only a few weeks.

“Whenever I have the option to do something online, that usually works best for me.” — Erik Gruber

“We had to make a number of changes and keep him updated pretty frequently,” she said. “He traveled a lot for his work, but he always responded quickly, mostly by email. He’s very tech savvy and doing virtual communication was far better for him. That really helped speed along the process to approval.”

Wells Fargo’s online mortgage application has gained traction in the marketplace because it combines the simplicity and convenience of technology with in-person assistance from a professional home mortgage consultant, said Michael DeVito, head of Wells Fargo Home Lending.

“We see a broad range of customers readily embracing the digital mortgage application.” DeVito said. “We are attracting customers of all ages as they increasingly use their smartphones and mobile devices for daily activities. Digital tools like the online mortgage application help Wells Fargo  deliver simplicity and convenience for customers.”

Wells Fargo’s digital mortgage tool received plaudits in the 2018 S&P Global Market Intelligence Report, which gave the company’s overall mortgage origination process an “Above Average” rating. S&P cited Wells Fargo’s use of data and technology, such as the online mortgage application, “to transform, focus, and enhance the customer experience.”

In a 2017 blog post, industry executive Simon Moir said it is crucial for home lenders, both banks and nonbanks, to stay at the top of their game, technologically, because millennials expect it.

“We live in an age where technology consistently makes the once impossible, possible — like the way the wheel revolutionized the way goods were transported, or telephones changed our connectivity,” he said. “Thanks to technology, digital mortgages are enabling remarkable transformation in the way homes are purchased.”

Gruber, the Wells Fargo customer, said the digital mortgage experience reinforced his loyalty to the bank.

“Since I already do all my other banking with Wells Fargo, they know me and I know them,” he said. “It made sense to do my mortgage with them, too. And the digital mortgage application worked great. I got through it fairly easily; I never felt rushed or anxious. It all boiled down to convenience for me.”

Online mortgage application – By the Numbers (2018)

  • 140,000 — total applications submitted online
  • 25,000+ — total mortgages approved and funded
  • 18 percent faster approval-to-funding times

Read other featured stories in our Annual Report special section.