Market conditions call for innovation. Now is not the time to retrench or recoil, now is the time to step up and improve this business. So, at the fourth annual ENGAGE Event held last year we invited four of the most dynamic women leaders in mortgage lending to speak on this topic. The conversation was so spirited and thoughtful, that we gathered these women again to discuss what a true mortgage leader should be doing now in order to thrive. Here’s what (pictured left to right) Kelly Purcell, Executive Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing for eSignSystems; Lisa Binkley, Senior Vice President at Platinum Data Solutions; Lisa Springer, Managing Director, Chief Operating Officer at STRATMOR Group; and Molly Dowdy, the Executive Vice President of Marketing at Mercury Network; had to say:
Q: What does the industry need to do to develop the next generation of women mortgage leaders?
KELLY PURCELL: The bottom line is that we need to encourage young women to get involved in professional mentoring groups, associations in the industry to get them to gather with each other and other industry leaders so they have a voice at the table.
MOLLY DOWDY: I think the lack of women in management positions in the mortgage industry is a serious problem, but it will eventually correct itself regardless of what we do. The fact is, women control the majority of mortgage decisions in this country, and that rate will continue to rise. The companies strategically planning for success will pay attention to those trends and will put women in top positions to capitalize on more of that growing market. In this industry, I don’t think any metric is more compelling than bottom line revenue, and companies that recognize the importance of diversity will be far more profitable and competitive than those that don’t. Diverse companies that are squarely focused on their customers (more than half of which will be women, if they’re not already) will dominate the old fashioned companies that keep doing the same old things.
Of course, there are dozens of other compelling reasons to put women in leadership positions in our industry, but money talks. Firms in our industry that are interested in maximizing profits will undoubtedly hire women for key positions. Those that don’t will be passed by.
LISA BINKLEY: The mortgage industry has actually done a fairly good job of providing opportunity to women in middle management roles, quality assurance and underwriting. What they need to do is to provide more opportunity to women in and above the senior executive level. There are a number of women who have become very successful CEOs in this industry, but with the large players—like Citi, Chase, BoA, Wells, Equifax— the executive arena is still a white male-dominated field. The big players need to get women in leadership roles to drive the industry forward.
LISA SPRINGER: The actions we need to take to bring up the next generation of women mortgage leaders equally applies to how we bring up all generations of leaders, male and female. In fact, while gender inequality has long been a critical issue for female leaders who are now of a certain age, I believe it will be much less of an issue for future generations of women. And that’s good, because we have plenty of other cross-generational issues to deal with right now.
Our industry must first focus on the differences between the various generations that are now working together in our companies. I would argue that the differences between these generational groups form much wider gaps than the differences between male and female co-workers within any of these groups. Each generation thinks and works so differently that building effective teams is becoming increasingly difficult. For instance, Baby Boomers focus on working harder, Gen Xers work to live versus live to work, and Gen Yers work for a “cause.” These divergent work philosophies pose a significant threat to companies today. According to Caliperonline.com, women leaders “demonstrate an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem solving and decision making.” Lenders that recognize and leverage this quality in women leaders will improve their success as they strive to close these generational gaps.
Q: How would you define mortgage lending innovation these days?
LISA BINKLEY: Innovation for today would be a process for originating compliant, profitable loans in a cost-effective, efficient manner. Innovation means removing manual processes wherever possible, and implementing technology that differentiates between the processes where technology elevates compliance, quality and efficiency, and the exceptions that require human logic to resolve. A best-of-both-worlds innovation keeps humans as the decision-making entity but eliminates the box-checking, i-dotting and t-crossing from their process.
KELLY PURCELL: Innovation happens when you think creatively. When we look at the mortgage industry today, there is a lot of forward thinking, and out-of-the-box solutions coming out about how to improve the process. Most of this energy is all focused on the new Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure, but that will broaden after the August deadline. Out industry is innovating.
MOLLY DOWDY: For now, innovation needs to be focused on helping lenders and others understand and comply with all the new regulations. We’ve seen several instances lately of technology providers just continuing to trick out their own software offerings, without paying attention to what their customers really need. It sounds ridiculous to say out loud, but technology companies that serve the industry have to be in front of the latest requirements so their customers have at least the basics covered. Features on top of those that ensure a lender’s minimum compliance are icing on the cake, but can’t come first. It’s sort of like sending your kid to school on a snowy day with a really awesome new hat, but forgetting their coat.
LISA SPRINGER: Many would be tempted to answer this question by tying innovation directly to technology. I know I would have when I was working for mortgage technology vendors. Today, I believe that the innovation our industry most desperately needs isn’t about technology; it’s about the relationships we choose to value.
In the past, our “customers” were the next players in the chain that took the mortgage asset from origination through to the secondary market. Brokers served wholesale lenders, who served larger correspondent lenders or aggregators, who created securities for sale to other investors. The borrower wasn’t a customer so much as a work input. Today, our federal regulator would see that changed.
The consumer experience is where I expect to see future innovation in the mortgage space because failure here comes at very high cost. The government expects us to refocus our businesses on the consumer and is fining those who fail to do so. But beyond that, failure to meet the expectations of today’s consumers will result in a much greater negative impact than ever before due to their vast social networks. An unhappy consumer of 20 years ago may have only told a handful of people
Q: What key elements and/or technology do lenders need to implement to adapt to new regulatory change?
LISA BINKLEY: Appraisal quality technology. The collateral approval process must be standardized. Companies need to forcefully demonstrate that they are treating all appraisals in the same fashion, every single time, for every different consumer. Additionally, they need to leverage their own appraisal data for market and appraiser intelligence OUTSIDE of UCDP or the Agencies.
KELLY PURCELL: It’s all about going electronic or “e.” If you think about it, “e” will be key to compliance with TRID because there just is no other way. Lenders must use the same provider to produce the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure, so that the lender can compare that the data is the same. And that’s just one example of many that I can site where “e” is the answer.
LISA SPRINGER: I have two perspectives; one with a long-term view and one for 2015.
The long-term adaptation is a keen focus on measuring the customer experience. We need to develop methodologies, technologies and protocols to reliably measure our impact on the consumers we serve and then quickly repair mistakes while we capitalize on our successes. Some tools are available for this now and we expect to see more innovation here in the future.
In the short-term, for 2015, it’s all about the documents. The new integrated disclosures will go into effect in August and every lender should already be in testing mode, whether they are building their own docs, as some of the larger lenders are, or working with a 3rd party provider. This is a very big change for our industry and many are still not ready for it. Those that fail to have a tested solution in place will be in a very precarious position come August.
MOLLY DOWDY: The most important thing lenders need to do in my opinion, is make sure they have a very flexible technology infrastructure. With a solid foundation, they can plug in any technology solution they wish to use without overhauling their entire back end system. Trying new technology is critical to competitiveness, so a lender’s infrastructure has to be agile enough to allow them to choose the very best solutions available, and not just what works with an old legacy platform built in the 90s.
Q: What industry advances are needed over the next 12 months to ensure every lender’s future success?
MOLLY DOWDY: That’s a good question. I don’t think there are industry advances that can ensure every lender’s future success. But there are many advances that smart lenders can jump on to ensure their own success. A focus on the borrower’s overall experience is critical, and lenders with progressive views on this will gain market share over those that don’t change with the times.
LISA BINKLEY: Companies need to get beyond being “too busy to improve” and implement technology that promotes quality loan manufacturing. They must start promoting consistency and efficiency of process across the origination and funding of a loan. Lenders need to implement fool-proof disclosure processes and insert hard stops to ensure the disclosures and documents upon which the loan decision was made, are the same as the documents they will be delivering with the loan. Additionally, they must start using technology to approve their appraisals, and not rely on Collateral Underwriter—a technology that was designed to protect Fannie Mae, NOT lenders or AMCs—as their appraisal QC. Lenders, AMCs and appraisers all owe it to themselves to know more about the appraisal than Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac knows about the appraisal.
KELLY PURCELL: We need more and better education around key topics. For example, lenders need more education and understanding about the implications of non-compliance with TRID. Other concepts like eNotorization for one, need to be demystified. The possibilities for lenders to use these technologies and succeed are endless.
LISA SPRINGER: Ensuring every lender’s success is not a realistic objective. In any business, some fail each year. In our heavily regulated business, we’ve seen a great many failures and will surely see more. But if I had to choose a single area in which an advance could provide the most benefit to our industry, I would focus on corporate culture.
In many industries, executives often pay lip service to this concept, or they adopt a hands-off approach that usually sees their culture devolve into a “survival of the fittest” type of paradigm. Neither of these approaches will serve our industry well, not in an environment where lenders are held accountable for the actions of everyone within their organization as well as any 3rd party provider they choose to work with. We need to build strong corporate cultures that focus on rebuilding trust in our industry, ensure compliance with industry regulations, and adhere to each organization’s unique approach for success.
Lisa Binkley is Senior Vice President at Platinum Data Solutions. She is responsible for the mortgage services division including product development, project management, sales support and client consulting services. Lisa brings more than 25 years of mortgage industry experience to her position. Prior to joining Platinum, she was Senior Director, Product Design & Business Development with IMARC, Director, Product Solutions, Equifax and Executive Vice President with Rapid Reporting Verification Company.
Molly Dowdy is the Executive Vice President of Marketing at Mercury Network, the leading provider of technology and web solutions for lenders, AMCs, appraisers, agents, and inspectors. Molly has more than 15 years of experience in marketing to this industry, with specialized knowledge of marketing technology-based products and services. a la mode has twice received PROGRESS in Lending’s prestigious Innovations Award.
Kelly Purcell is Executive Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing for eSignSystems, a division of DocMagic. eSignSystems is a provider of e-signature and e-vaulting solutions. She was co-founder of eSignSystems and has over 25 years of mortgage and technology experience. Kelly is recognized as an evangelist and advocate of e-signature and e-vaulting technology driving e-mortgage adoption. She held prior positions at GE Capital and Transamerica Financial Services.
Lisa Springer is Managing Director, Chief Operating Officer at STRATMOR Group. Lisa s charged with ensuring that the integrity and “boutique” nature of the STRATMOR Group remains intact while, at the same time, creating improved services offerings, intellectual expertise in the form of salable white papers, case studies, survey results and peer group analyses and instilling best practices across all lines of STRATMOR Group’s business.