St. Louis Loan Originator Bets On FinKube To Help Increase Home Finance Business

FinKube, a company that provides AI-powered Platform-as-a-Service solutions for a range of industries, announced that St. Louis-based LenderCity has successfully deployed ELSA, FinKube’s Electronic Loan Services Assistant. The mortgage industry’s first chatbot is already interacting with prospective borrowers on the LenderCity website.


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“Consumers want immediate answers to their home finance questions and ELSA is smart enough to provide the information they need and gather the information we need to prequalify the borrower,” said Gregg Harris, principal at LenderCity. “We know we need to respond very quickly to borrower requests for information, but we also want to capture as much information from them as we can, without taking up the loan officer’s time. FinKube’s ELSA is the answer.”


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ELSA is an intelligent assistant that uses AI and machine learning to enhance the origination process from origination to close. Her AI is powerful enough to gather borrower information, render decisions, automate time-consuming tasks and help lenders produce fully compliant mortgage loans in as few as 20 days, though she is well versed in any form of consumer lending.


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“American home buyers still want to visit with a live loan officer before signing on a new mortgage, but it’s not efficient to spend the loan officer’s time in conference with borrowers who do not qualify,” said Jorge Sauri, founder and CEO of FinKube. “At the same time, those borrowers who do qualify expect to have their questions answered immediately. They don’t want to wait for a call back. They want to feel like they are in control. Most chatbot technology cannot offer that, but ELSA does.”


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With ELSA, LenderCity is able to hyper personalize the home finance transaction at every stage. Studies have shown that this:

>>Reduces customer acquisition costs by 50-80%

>>Increases engagement and conversion by 500%

>>Reduces customer service costs by 50-80%

>>Increases loan retention by a factor of 6

As an A.I. powered virtual assistant, ELSA works 24/7/365 pre-qualifying leads, communicating with customers and synchronizing outreach across chat, text, voice, email, and mobile wallet. In addition, FinKube can deploy ELSA ten times faster than generic chatbots that can’t speak mortgage out of the box.

Veros Data Predicts A Market Dip This Year

A new forecast of nationwide residential real estate values predicts significant slowing in most markets through 2019. The fourth quarter 2018 VeroFORECAST is the latest 12-month forecast from Veros Real Estate Solutions (Veros), an award-winning industry leader in enterprise risk management, collateral valuation services and predictive analytics.


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The new report forecasts average appreciation of 3.9 percent in the survey’s 100 most populous markets, which is more than a half-percent drop from the 4.5 percent average of the top 100 markets in the previous quarterly report released last September.


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The drop is reflected throughout the latest report’s projections, which are based on data from 359 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). These MSAs include 13,870 zip codes and 1,004 counties for a total coverage of the residences of 82 percent of the U.S.population.


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“This amount of change from one quarter to the next is significant,”said Eric Fox, VP of Statistical and Economic Modeling at Veros and the report’s author. “While the market fundamentals remain solid and we still expect the overall housing market to remain healthy, there is a definite slowing down of most markets from last quarter’supdate.”


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“We do not see a crash,” Fox cautioned, “but simply a slowing down as the strength of the past few years is expected to dissipate somewhat in most markets.”

With the economy strong and unemployment continuing to drop, the report points to housing supply and interest rates as the key contributors to the softening.”Overall, interest rates appear to be softening the forecasts in many markets by one-to-two percent over what they would have been had the flat interest rate environment continued as it has for the past several years,” Fox said.”At the same time, housing supply is a key discriminator between our top and bottom forecast performing markets.”

Black Knight Makes Digital Closing Advances

Black Knight has enhanced the company’s Expedite Close digital closing solution has been enhanced with advanced intelligence and data recognition capabilities. Already able to support traditional wet-ink, digital or hybrid mortgage closings, the newly enhanced Expedite Close adds the ability to automatically determine the best way to close any given loan based upon a lender’s preferences and business rules, as well as jurisdiction-specific requirements.


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“Expedite Close was already a game-changer for eClosings by seamlessly supporting hybrid or fully digital processes while also making sure settlement agents, lenders, real estate agents, consumers and investors had what they needed without requiring changes to current practices or systems,” said Mike Brown, general manager of Black Knight’s Lending Solutions division. “But now it takes eClosing to a whole new level with advanced intelligence capabilities that automatically determine and execute on the best way to close a loan, based upon lender preferences and what a given jurisdiction allows. This newest iteration of Expedite Close is yet another innovative solution Black Knight is bringing to market as we continue to help transform the industry.”


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Whenever possible, Expedite Close supports fully digital closings – including eSign, eNotary and eClose components. For closings that are not fully digital, Expedite Close automatically identifies and executes whatever combination of wet-ink and digital closing works best for the lender and/or the property jurisdiction, saving significant cost and time. Expedite Close also enables lenders to adopt digital elements at their own pace, without requiring the purchase of additional technology when the lender – or the jurisdiction – is ready to embrace completely digital closings.


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This innovative closing solution also digitally audits the entire closing package at completion. Additionally, advanced document-recognition capabilities enable static PDFs of closing documents to become searchable, eSignable and data-centric, allowing Expedite Close to streamline the post-closing process. These innovative capabilities not only introduce greater speed and efficiency into the closing process, but also support consistency throughout the entire process. 


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 Expedite Close significantly enhances the consumer experience by providing a more streamlined closing with the ability to review all necessary documents before the actual closing and eSign-appropriate documents. Lenders and settlement agents not only benefit from improved borrower satisfaction, but also from reduced risk and enhanced efficiencies without having to significantly alter their current processes.

“Right now, mortgage closing requirements are inconsistent and inefficient across the country, and even from lender to lender, or agent to agent,” said Brown. “Expedite Close was designed to meet the challenges of today’s closings, while delivering maximum benefit to our clients and their customers, and making the process – and implementation – as simple as possible.”

Radian Acquires Five Bridges Advisors

Radian Group Inc. has acquired Five Bridges Advisors, LLC, a developer of proprietary software, data analytics and predictive models leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning and traditional econometric techniques.


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The acquisition is consistent with Radian’s growth and diversification strategy, as well as its focus on the core product offerings of its Title, Mortgage and Real Estate Services. Five Bridges is a thought leader in mortgage, consumer and real estate analytics and its cloud-based portal utilizes deep analytics to provide customers with valuation and risk management tools that span the entire loan lifecycle, from underwriting and origination to servicing, secondary market purchase, and securitization.


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Radian Chief Executive Officer Rick Thornberry commented, “We are delighted to welcome Five Bridges to the Radian family of companies, expanding our capabilities and providing our customers across the country with new levels of service and innovation across the residential mortgage and real estate spectrum. This acquisition is another example of how Radian is reengineering and revolutionizing existing industry business models to enhance the overall value proposition for our customers.”


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Five Bridges will operate under its current brand and provide the same level of quality products and services to its customers through its offices in Bethesda, Maryland. Co-founders Steve Gaenzler and Michael Youngblood, PhD, will both continue with the business. Mr. Gaenzler will continue to run the day-to-day operations and will report to Eric Ray, senior executive vice president, Technology and Transaction Services for Radian. In 2019, Five Bridges will transition to the new One Radian brand identity as an integral part of the company’s Title, Mortgage and Real Estate Services.


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Radian offers products and services that include mortgage insurance and a comprehensive suite of mortgage, risk, real estate, and title services. The company is powered by technology, informed by data and driven to deliver new and better ways to transact and manage risk. 

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Equity National Title, DCU Execute Their First Remotely-Notarized E-Closing

Equity National Title, a national settlement services provider, and Digital Federal Credit Union, better known as DCU, a non-profit financial cooperative serving members nationwide, have completed their first remote notary-enabled e-closing. 


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The closing took place in Virginia.  According to James K. O’Donnell, Esq., President of Equity National Title, the process began when DCU approached him in an effort to advance and accelerate its remote notary closing program. “DCU continuously seeks to use the best available technologies to improve the process for its members—and always has,” said O’Donnell. “Using our eWays technology, we were able to identify pending mortgage loans in the DCU pipeline that would benefit from remote technology and which could do so in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”  According to O’Donnell, the eWays technology is a first-of-its-kind “e-closing” hub for mortgage lenders designed to advise of the types of digital closings available at a zip code level.  The portal was designed to help clarify for mortgage lenders whether key authorities in each zip code accept none, all or some combination of the four existing types of closing:  fully digital; hybrid; remote notary or traditional.  The website can be seen at https://www.eclosingsbyequity.com/.


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“Although the technology is innovative and forward-thinking, our biggest success was that we were able to maintain the personal element of the closing experience,” said Harry Tsianatelis, Mortgage Operations Assistant Manager for DCU. “We take great pride in providing borrowers a first-rate experience from start-to-finish.”


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Tsianatelis observed that the transaction was a success for the member. “I spoke to the member the day after the closing, and I was happy to hear he felt comfortable in communicating with the closing agent. 


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We want to utilize technology to enhance our mortgage closing process without sacrificing any valuable components from the traditional experience. I think we were successful in that goal.”

While DCU and Equity National Title had previously collaborated in the use of eWays for a mortgage in Florida, this was the first instance in which a remote notary was used to complete the closing. “Remote notarization is yet another welcome and modernizing enhancement to the closing process which puts the borrower first,” noted O’Donnell. “We’re proud to say that the use of this technology positions DCU and Equity National Title in a very small and elite group of lenders and service providers able to provide the best and most straightforward process for members. This remotely notarized e-closing represents the first of what we fully expect to be many to come in 2019 and beyond.”

Big Secondary Market Acquisition

American Mortgage Consultants, Inc. (“AMC”) has acquired Meridian Asset Services, LLC (“Meridian”), joining two of the premier service providers in the residential secondary mortgage market. Here’s what this will mean for the mortgage industry:


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The transaction will unite Meridian’s leading collateral, curative and title QC capabilities with AMC’s third-party review services and technology to support rated private-label securitization transactions, due diligence and quality control.


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“This transaction further highlights AMC’s commitment to being the foremost one-stop-shop for mortgage due diligence, consulting, advisory services and technology,” said AMC CEO Michael Franco. “We are excited to significantly enhance our service offerings through Meridian, a firm known for their quality and expertise. We expect this transaction to streamline operations for existing AMC and Meridian clients by centralizing activities, increasing transparency, and reducing cycle time.”


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Meridian will operate as a subsidiary of AMC and retain its branding and senior management team. Meridian will continue to be overseen by Karen Riffe who is joining AMC as the President, Meridian Asset Services. Brian Hansen will also join AMC as the Director, Strategic Relationships & Initiatives. Through the acquisition, AMC will add approximately 250 full-time employees in the greater Tampa area.


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“AMC’s commitment to the secondary market space and focus on continued investment in Meridian’s capabilities and offerings will create unique and differentiated services,” said Riffe. “We are excited to join AMC and look forward to working with AMC’s existing management team.”

Keefe, Bruyette & Woods served as financial advisor to Meridian.

Lender Helps Those Impacted By The Shutdown

Not everyone is throwing a tantrum. Some are coming up with solutions. For example, Freedom Mortgage is offering help to its borrowers who are struggling to make their mortgage payments because of the federal government shutdown.


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The shutdown, which began December 18, affects government workers as well as government contractors and vendors. As one of the nation’s largest providers of Government insured loans, there is a significant number of Freedom Mortgage borrowers who have been affected.  


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“We’re committed to helping all of our customers who may be impacted by the shutdown,” said Stanley C. Middleman, Freedom’s founder and CEO. “If a borrower has stopped receiving a paycheck, we are prepared to do everything we can to help them through this and avoid defaulting on their mortgage. Our hope is to bring some relief to our customers and reduce the immediate burden and impact of the government shutdown on their lives.” 


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 Freedom Mortgage has created a team dedicated to fully evaluating every borrower’s situation and offering a range of assistance. These options may include repayment plans, special payment forbearance and temporary partial payments, in addition to late fee waivers and temporarily suspending the reporting of derogatory credit information.


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Banking Fintech Acquisition Comes Together

nbkc bank announced its investment in two Bay-area fintech companies. The announcement comes on the heels of the bank’s launch of Fountain City Fintech, an accelerator providing financial technology startups with an agile bank partner, compliance expertise and infrastructure for scale during its 75-day curriculum. 


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ProPair uses artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize the distribution and prioritization of mortgage leads to individual loan officers, rather than distribution based on seniority or guesswork. As the first customer of ProPair, nbkc piloted the software in the bank’s home loans division. “We have tremendous confidence and respect for ProPair’s founders and experienced first-hand how its smart pairing improves customer experience and loan officers’ success,” said Eric Garretson, CFO & Fintech Strategy Leader with nbkc. 


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“nbkc has a forward-thinking culture along with an uncommon ability to promote innovation and support aggressive product development goals. Having them as our first customer enabled us to develop and test our product before launching at scale” said Devon Johnson, Co-Founder and Chief Data Officer of ProPair. The investment further solidifies the joint partnership.


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Track, also based in San Francisco, uses machine learning to estimate and auto-remit quarterly taxes to the IRS for the self-employed. Track is one of six companies in nbkc’s fintech accelerator, Fountain City Fintech, and the two companies have a mutual focus on serving the needs of gig economy entrepreneurs and small business owners. 


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“Our goal at Track is to make the growing numbers of the self-employed more independent and focused on their core business, not the headaches of learning tax code. The investment by nbkc will help us in our next chapter of scaling our business so we can better serve the 50 million self-employed Americans seeking greater financial security,” said Trent Bigelow, Co-founder and CEO of Track.

Investments in fintech companies are part of nbkc’s strategic growth plan to bring innovative products and experiences to customers leveraging technology, often removing pain points or making interactions more efficient and customer-focused.

nbkc is a modern, FDIC-insured bank driven to make banking simple and transparent unlike any other bank. Leveraging technology, customer feedback and innovation, nbkc helps people and small businesses nationwide safely save, move and borrow money—whenever, wherever they are.

Co-founded in 2016 by a former mortgage industry executive and a seasoned data scientist, ProPair is a Silicon Valley innovator built on the principle that artificial intelligence is revolutionizing how lead assignments, actions and prioritizations are made. Designed with the everyday needs of sales organizations in mind, and optimized in conjunction with mortgage industry leaders, the ProPair platform replaces outdated manual processes with predictive, automated lead assignments to convert more prospects and reduce lead cost per funded loan for all loan officers.

Track Technologies, Inc., founded in 2015, is a San Francisco-based company that handles self-employed taxes for users on a daily basis, giving them a clear picture of what they have earned and what they owe by automatically keeping track of their income and expenses, withholding the proper amount when users get paid, and submitting their estimated quarterly tax payments to the Internal Revenue Service.

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SecurityNational Mortgage Implements A Fully Paperless Closing Process

SecurityNational Mortgage Corporation (SNMC), an independent national mortgage banker, has successfully rolled out DocMagic’s comprehensive Total eClose platform. Since rolling out Total eClose in September, SNMC has reduced borrower time at the closing table to as little as 15 minutes, and become one of the first national lenders to offer a true eClosing solution that involves no paper whatsoever.


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It has dramatically sped up the closing process, ensuring accuracy and loan quality, and delivering newfound efficiencies for borrowers, notaries and settlement providers. Total eClose enables SNMC’s customers to preview documents prior to closing, eSign all documents, and complete both remote and in-person eNotarizations. As a result, SNMC is now positioned to capture more market share, reduce operational costs, expedite closing times and elevate the borrower experience.


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“Our goal was to perfect a completely digital eClosing process, not to be just another lender offering a basic hybrid closing,” said Steve Johnson, president of SNMC. “Achieving our goal required a powerful end-to-end technology, a perfectly executed seamless implementation, and an intuitive interface that everyone—staff, settlement service providers and borrowers—could use immediately, without a steep learning curve. We got that and more with DocMagic. Plus, the DocMagic implementation team was with us all the way. We never had to worry about a thing.”  


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The two companies approached the project as partners to ensure swift adoption and a quick understanding of the new workflow-driven eClosing process for both SNMC’s staff and customers. DocMagic worked hand-in-hand with the lender, leveraging its vast eMortgage expertise to help sculpt a unique strategy and a successful go-to-market launch. Unlike other document and eClosing solution providers, DocMagic takes an ultra hands-on approach to implementations, from developing the project roadmap, to training all parties—such as staff, title agents and notaries—to synchronized testing of each facet of the Total eClose platform.

“Our implementation teams function like expert consultants—we work very closely with each client, guiding them literally every step of the way,” said Dominic Iannitti, president and CEO of DocMagic. “There is a huge number of moving pieces in an eClosing solution. As a single source solution, we have intricate knowledge of every one of them, so there are none of the issues that plague other providers—not only immediately after the implementation, but over the long haul as well. In contrast, lenders who choose incomplete or cobbled-together eClosing technologies may have to hit the restart button within 12 to 18 months and search for a comprehensive solution.” 

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Servicers Expect To See Growth And Increased Delinquencies In Their FHA Portfolios

Altisource has released its 2018 report, “The State of the Servicer Industry.” The report highlights results from the third annual Default Servicing Survey, a survey of over 200 mortgage default servicing professionals.  With the general decline in inventory over the past five years, servicers are expressing interest in working with larger service providers who offer end-to-end capabilities.


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According to the study, when evaluating a vendor to manage their default portfolio, a majority of servicing professionals surveyed consider end-to-end default disposition (93 percent) and REO asset management (93 percent) capabilities important.  Of the servicing professionals surveyed, 86 percent cited that their organization currently services FHA loans. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) expect their FHA loan portfolio to increase over the next 12 to 24 months and 77 percent expect the increase to be more than 25 percent.


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While FHA loan delinquency rates remain low, servicers need to be prepared to handle these delinquencies. Servicing professionals (73 percent) cited using a third-party vendor as part of their CWCOT program management. When asked what factors are important when choosing a CWCOT vendor, 91 percent of those surveyed said end-to-end capabilities/outside services (i.e. closing, valuation, title curative).  


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“Based on the survey results, recent economic indicators suggest that the housing market is approaching an inflection point,” said Patrick G. McClain, Senior Vice President of Hubzu Auction Services and Equator for Altisource.”While delinquency and foreclosure rates remain low, home price appreciation is slowing and interest rates are rising. With lower origination volumes and an expanding credit box, servicers expect to see growth and increased delinquencies in their FHA portfolios.

“Now is the time for servicers to review their internal capabilities and ensure they are partnered with the best vendors to effectively manage their FHA delinquent loans to avoid unnecessary cost, increased risk and to maximize returns.”

The report can be accessed online at http://go.altisource.com/State-of-Servicing.html

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