Data & Document Collection

An Alternative to Email for Document Collection and Loan Applications

Using unencrypted email to collect client files opens your business to many risks. FileInvite is a secure alternative to email for document collection.


As a mortgage lender, you're likely working with multiple clients at any one time. To process and close their mortgages, you need a host of documents. The busier the season, the more documents you're juggling and trying to manage in your email inbox.

You're also dealing with compliance regulations on how quickly and securely you provide key documents to borrowers. Data security is both a major compliance concern and a growing concern with clients who read of data breaches daily. In addition, stricter enforcement has increased the cost of originating mortgage loans.

At the same time, borrowers expect a fast-closing process. This growing pressure often contradicts the need to securely manage documents. And traditional mortgage lenders are also competing more and more with online lenders that promise a quicker and easier closing process.

Today email remains the default channel – as much as 92% of the time – for exchanging client financial documents. Nevertheless, email introduces risks and inefficiencies most users don’t understand. To understand why email – despite its convenience and familiarity – is a poor channel of communication for financial institutions, it helps to know the history and evolution of email as a technology.

The Evolution of Email

The evolution of email spans four stages of technological development.

1. CTSS

It all began with the demonstration of a Compatible Time-Sharing System in November 1961. It was one of the first inter-user messaging systems. People logged into one central system via a remote terminal where they could store and share files. But sort of like an internet forum, it was a public directory where anyone logged into the system could view whatever was saved there.

2. MAIL

Developed by Noel Morris and Tom Van Vleck, private electronic messaging was born when the MAIL command was written for CTSS. With the MAILBOX expansion, users could now message each other directly over an interconnected, dial-up network.

3. Email (user@server)

The first email as we know it today was sent by Ray Tomlinson in 1971. Using the at-sign (@) between user names and machines, i.e. servers, he created a completely new way of sending messages between computers. Although the two computers he used were right next to each other, they were using ARPANET. And so, the first email was sent. If you're wondering, it said: "QWERTYUIOP" (apparently keyboards haven't evolved much either!).

4. MIME Protocol

Until 1992, emails were effectively nothing more than digital letters. We could send words to each other but not "packages." That was until Nathaniel Borenstein and Ned Freed developed the Multipurpose Internet Email Extensions (MIME) protocol. On March 11, 1992, Borenstein sent the first-ever email attachment to his colleagues. And we still use this exact same protocol to send attachments today.

Can You Securely Email Sensitive Documents?

For years, borrowers have relied on email to speed up signing and returning closing documents. Borrowers send lenders a lot of personal, sensitive information via email. Lenders have a responsibility to clients to keep that information as organized and secure as possible.

Risks associated with using email to exchange client information include:

  • An email with attached financial information meant for one borrower could get accidentally sent to another.
  • A lender may accidentally delete an email, then must ask the borrower to resend the information. 
  • Borrowers or lenders lose emails in their inboxes and do not respond in a timely manner.
  • Emails containing sensitive information are not being encrypted.
  • Borrowers accidentally send their information to the wrong email address.

Email may still be the fastest way to correspond with clients, but it introduces security risks institutions should not tolerate when better options are available. 

Why Email Is an Outmoded Technology for Exchanging Sensitive Information

We've all sent sensitive information via email. We might be nervous about doing it, but there's often no other way to achieve the goal we want, like completing a personal loan application. So, we cross our fingers and hit send. Here are three reasons why lenders should avoid using email in document collection.

1. It's Slow and Tedious

Although sending an email means it will arrive in the recipient's inbox almost instantly, they can sit there for hours and even days before you get a reply. Some email applications include read receipts, but there's no reliable way to be sure your email has been seen. Or even that you sent it to the right place! We also tend to be more formal with emails, sending unnecessarily long-winded messages when a line or two will do just as well. In the fast-paced world of today, we want and need real-time communication just to keep up.

So, companies tend to prefer instant messaging (IM) applications like Slack and Google Hangouts for on-the-go communication around the clock.

2. It Lacks Structure

Email seems to be a necessity for business communication. However, if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of the dreaded “Reply to All” in a chain of CC and BCC emails, then you’ll know that it is not ideal. It's particularly not designed for projects where multiple teams are working on multiple sub-projects at the same time. And if there is any misunderstanding in an email, it can lead to a back-and-forth of clarification emails with everyone wondering who exactly is replying to what.

The nice thing with IM apps designed specifically for business is that they allow for in-line messaging or “threads” within a chat, so the chat window stays free of clutter. You can also tag a specific person in the chat and even pin important messages so they’re always easy to find. Applications like Trello and Bootcamp are designed specifically for project management and collaboration between multiple teams.

3. It Is Not Secure

SSL encryption for emails was developed by Netscape in 1995. This meant that if an email was intercepted between sender and receiver, it wouldn’t make any logical sense to whoever compromised your security. Four years later, popular email clients began to switch to TLS because it offered a more reliable security profile. But even if you obey every cyber security rule ever created, emails aren’t very secure by their very nature. And attachments aren’t protected by default.

IM applications like Slack and Microsoft Teams encrypt data while in transit and at rest, meaning any information you send stays secure. With applications like Wire, Telegram, and Signal that have built-in end-to-end encryption (E2EE), your data is even more secure.

Ultimately, email security is only as strong as its weakest link. And considering that 91% of cyber attacks start as phishing attacks according to Verizon's Data Breach Investigations Report and one in four companies have suffered an email breach according to Hornet Security – that's not very secure at all!

What's the Alternative to Email?

FileInvite is a secure client document portal platform. With FileInvite, every file is automatically encrypted in cloud storage and in transit. FileInvite is many times more secure than sending via normal unencrypted email.

With FileInvite, you can:

  • Ensure that emails with sensitive financial information are encrypted and secure.
  • Remove much of the human error that occurs when manually collecting, storing, and transmitting documents.
  • Ensure that you request all the necessary documents the first time, which reduces instances of having to request additional documents you forgot to ask for.
  • Instantly see the status and progress of your document collection efforts. No more sifting through your inbox to see if a document arrived and no more asking a client for a document they already sent you. You can also keep all key parties in the loop throughout the process.
  • Sync the collection platform with a secure cloud storage platform.

Ensuring borrower data is private and secure can be a daunting task for mortgage lenders. However, it can be made easier by relying on advanced technology designed specifically for the transfer, storage, and security of these documents.

Sign up for a free trial to experience FileInvite today.

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