We’re not necessarily looking to break technology news, but we are looking to put it all into greater context for you. Right now we’re hearing:

Business Leaders Have Mixed Feelings About 2013

*Business Leaders Have Mixed Feelings About 2013*
**New Survey Revealed**

***We are hearing a lot about the fiscal cliff these days. But we all need to be asking: What do business leaders feel about 2013 regardless? Finance professionals remain cautious in their economic outlook, believing the U.S. economy will grow at the modest pace of 1.7 percent in the coming year, creating an additional 1.3 million jobs, according to a survey released today by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP). Here’s what else this crucial survey found:

****The AFP Business Outlook Survey, which has tracked business predictions of CFOs, corporate treasurers and other financial executives for the last nine years, found that nearly half of survey respondents (46 percent) anticipate improved business conditions in 2013, with much of this growth occurring in the second half of the year. However, they temper their prediction with a caveat: Growth is in jeopardy if U.S. budget issues cannot be resolved quickly.

****Respondents indicated that Congress and the White House must act immediately to resolve long-term budget deficits, with over 60 percent believing the solution must be a combination of spending cuts and increased tax revenues.

****The threat of a fiscal cliff is already affecting some organizations’ decisions on hiring and capital investments.  Any agreement that defers decisions on fiscal issues would not be acceptable to corporate financial executives. Almost two-thirds of organizations say Washington’s inability to reach consensus on a number of issues of economic importance makes them at least somewhat more hesitant to make investments for growth.

****“Many companies are poised on the brink of growth,” said Jim Kaitz, AFP’s president and CEO, “but political theater is having a crippling effect on corporate spending and hiring, even corporate decision-making.”

****In order to improve business conditions and stimulate hiring and investment, respondents believe Washington must agree on a long-term plan to reduce the federal budget deficit. While a majority believes this should be done with a blended approach, 35 percent believe the deficit should be reduced primarily or exclusively with spending cuts, while only 4 percent of respondents emphasized tax revenue increases as the solution to reducing the deficit.

****Other actions that could trigger increased corporate growth include reforming corporate taxes and addressing the regulatory burden on corporations, survey respondents said.

****A plurality of companies expects to expand payrolls next year, both within and outside the U.S.  Forty-two percent of organizations will expand employment in the U.S. during 2013. Among companies that have employees outside the U.S., 41 percent plan to expand further internationally.

We have to remember that financial professionals are responsible for ensuring that their companies have enough cash on hand to fund operations and evaluating when and how to invest their companies’ assets, so they are uniquely qualified to observe business conditions and make assumptions about how those conditions may change over the short and immediate term.

From Nov. 26 through Dec. 7, the AFP surveyed U.S. financial professionals about current and expected business conditions, the ninth year it has done so. The survey generated over 1,300 responses from corporate practitioners holding a variety of positions, including CFO, vice president of finance, treasurer and assistant treasurer, employed across a wide range of industries, including financial services. The typical respondent is employed by an organization with annual revenues of $1.5 billion.

Finally A Way To Make Loan Modifications Work

*Finally A Way To Make Loan Mods Work*
**An Answer Arises**

***We all know the situation. The foreclosure crisis is still with us and isn’t going away anytime soon. The answer to solving this issue lies in deploying the right loan modification for the right borrower. The industry has completed more than 5.82 million permanent loan modifications since 2007, but more can be done. The mod process is too slow and too many mods are going back into default. Now, CoreLogic has stepped in with its answer to this problem. Here it is:

****CoreLogic is using the electronic document management and signing capability built upon eSignSystems technology to present a better modification process. AuthoSign is a custom deployment of eSignSystems’ SmartSAFE electronic signing and management software that has been integrated directly into IntelliMods, a complete loan modification decisioning solution from CoreLogic. CoreLogic is a leader in providing comprehensive data, analytics and services to financial services and real estate professionals.

****CoreLogic provides tremendous time and cost savings through its automated and customizable loan modification decisioning and delivery solution. IntelliMods from CoreLogic can upload a single loan or an entire loan portfolio within minutes to qualify loan modifications, output documents, and send them to the borrower. This presents significant cost savings for the mortgage banking industry, which has completed more than 5.82 million permanent loan modifications since 2007 as reported by HOPE NOW.

****The AuthoSign integration with IntelliMods shortens the loan modification process by several days, and even weeks, for significant time and cost savings over traditional paper-based loan modification decisioning systems. Additionally, AuthoSign tracks and creates action alerts for each individual participating in the mortgage process and hosts the entire signing ceremony online. Every transaction is logged for retrieval by IntelliMods, ensuring comprehensive tracking of every user and signer’s activity within AuthoSign. Additionally, management of the entire process is even easier with the detailed tracking, compliance and alerts. This simplifies and speeds up the loan modification process, and keeps all stakeholders informed on the status of the loan modification decisioning and signings.

****“CoreLogic is committed to increasing quality and reducing cost and turnaround time for our clients,” said Sapan Bafna, Senior Director at CoreLogic. “By including the eSignSystems’ technology as part of CoreLogic IntelliMods, we can offer our customers an easy to use and secure electronic SigningRoom. Plus, AuthoSign tracks electronic documents throughout their lifecycle, and creates an enforceable, legally-binding electronic record.”

****Maintaining an electronically signed record is essential to the integrity of a legally binding transaction. With AuthoSign, all records are verified and authenticated from eDelivery through eSignature and eRetention. This ensures that the access or signing credential (i.e., digital certificate, username or password) is verified and that the records remain free from tampering. Additionally, AuthoSign continuously updates the status of the loan modification’s execution for real-time reporting.

****AuthoSign also supports signer access to electronically signed documents as required by the ESIGN act. To meet the ESIGN act’s legal and compliance requirements, users may access and print certified copies, while the actual archived, eSigned document is left untouched. Authorized individuals can manage, search, transfer and share electronic files, signed or unsigned, via the Web. All records are available to all interested parties in a secure and compliant environment.

****“With the Treasury Department requiring a Single Point of Contact for all loan modifications, AuthoSign provides IntelliMods with a secure and compliant tool to manage, track and execute every aspect of the loan modification process, with audit trails from the beginning to the end of the transaction,” said Kelly Purcell, EVP of eSignSystems. “CoreLogic even broke new ground as the first integrator to utilize a powerful new PDF text tagging feature of the SigningRoom, which expands their customers’ ability to effectively identify and sign within PDF documents.”

****By integrating eSignSystems SmartSAFE technology into the IntelliMods loan modification decisioning solution, CoreLogic is providing better security and privacy for all parties involved in the transaction. In addition, traditional document transportation and storage costs are reduced dramatically, and the cycle time of loan modification is reduced by days or even weeks.

They Are At It Again

*They Are At It Again*
**Poli Gives Back**

***Last week we told you about one of our Lender Advisory Board members giving back to their local community. This week they are at it again. The Poli Mortgage Group recently donated $3,530 to AmeriCare to aid in the relief effort of Superstorm Sandy. This powerful storm slammed the east coast on October 29, leaving millions without electricity, their belongings and in some cases, their homes. The funds from Poli Mortgage Group are earmarked for the support of anyone suffering in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

****Sandy blasted through the Northeast on October 29, 2012 devastating many areas of New York, New Jersey and left some damage in New England. Many were left without homes and, worse, many were without insurance leaving them unable to rebound quickly.

****Poli Mortgage Group chose to donate to AmeriCare with the understanding that 90% of their funds support their programs rather than administrative costs. AmeriCare delivers medicine and medical supplies to people in crisis around the world and is on the scene helping in the areas of the United States hardest hit.

****“Our response builds on the experience of 30 years of providing swift, efficient and effective aid to people in times of catastrophe, and then helping survivors rebuild their lives,” www.americares.org reads. “Your gift to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund will help to ensure we have the resources required to respond effectively to Superstorm Sandy with the medicines, medical supplies, and other humanitarian aid that people in crisis need,” AmeriCare writes.

****“Poli Mortgage group feels strongly about helping whenever and wherever we can, no matter the reason,” CEO Chip Poli said. “Although Hurricane Sandy was not devastating in our own backyard, it affected so many families and people that in many ways it affected us all.”

****“We believe in helping those in need to realize the dream of home ownership,” Poli said. “We also believe in helping those in the greatest need, due to circumstances beyond their control, to rebuild and reclaim their lives. If everyone donated just a small amount to the relief effort, people could get back on their feet much sooner.”

4506-T E-Signing Adoption Heats Up

*4506-T E-Signing Adoption Heats Up*
**Acceptance Continues**

***Here at PROGRESS in Lending we believe that the Internal Revenue Service’s recent announcement of the acceptance of electronic signatures on the 4506T beginning January 7th, 2013 is a monumental achievement as the mortgage industry continues to strive to become a completely paperless industry. We’ve told you about how Equifax, eSignSystems and eLynx are ready to go and can support IRS compliant e-signed 4506-Ts today. A consequence of these three companies being ready is that in many cases this means that their partners are ready by virtue of their association with these vendors. For example, Document Express, Inc., a document preparation and compliance services for the mortgage industry that partners with eLynx is also prepared to enable its lender clients to e-sign the 4506-T. So, here’s what all this means for the mortgage industry:

****“Until now, errors on the form and the process of getting the 4506T signed added several days to the disclosure process,” said Andy Crisenbery, Senior Vice President of Business Operations at eLynx.  “Using eSignature technology, both the data quality issues and the time delays are eliminated.”

****“Now that lenders will be able to capture the information on the 4506T electronically, this will streamline the lender’s procedures and accelerate the processing time along with reducing costs, increasing accuracy and providing a complete audit trail,” said Lori Johnson, President of Document Express.

****Document Express and eLynx forged a partnership in 2011 to offer electronic delivery, signature, and print-and-mail fulfillment services using the eLynx Expediteplatform for DX Initial Disclosure packages.  Document Express services are fully integrated with the eLynx platform. The extension of services allows Document Express customers to prepare loan documents and then deliver those documents electronically to borrowers and closing agents, including electronic consent and signatures, without a break in their loan-processing workflow. To ensure compliance, documents that cannot be delivered electronically are automatically sent to recipients using one of eLynx’s two secure print-and-mail centers.

****eLynx’s eSignature service satisfies all requirements from the IRS from initial authentication and consent, all the way through to maintaining a tamper proof seal and audit trail of the transaction.  eLynx can provide an electronically signed 4506T with all supporting data to any IVES participant.

****“Our partnership with Document Express enables lenders to generate all the documents in a disclosure package, deliver them to the consumer, and get them electronically signed in a matter of minutes, not days,” Crisenbery said.  “Income verification through the 4506T can begin as soon as the documents are electronically signed by the borrower, ensuring that consumers get feedback on loan decisions quickly.”

The Fraud Problem Widens

*The Fraud Problem Widens*
**Government Data**

***Yesterday PROGRESS in Lending Association shared data from risk mitigation vendor Interthinx indicating that fraud in Florida is on the rise. Today, we have more shocking numbers. As we all know, the recent economic downfall led to foreclosed homes and dismal mortgage situations for homeowners across the country. According to the FBI’s most recent Mortgage Fraud Report, more than $10 billion in loans originated with fraudulent application data in 2010.

****The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), with funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, has recently produced new radio public service announcements (PSAs) to warn individuals about mortgage fraud and how to avoid falling victim.

****The PSAs encourage listeners to consult NCPC’s website for resources including free legitimate housing counselors who can help protect citizens from con artists trying to steal their homes.

****The new PSAs are available on NCPC’s website, along with additional resources on mortgage fraud, such as podcasts and webinars, for prospective home buyers, current home owners and victims of mortgage fraud. Also on the website is information regarding NCPC’s upcoming Mortgage Fraud Virtual Conference, which will take place spring 2013. The conference is designed to teach about mortgage fraud, preventative measures for avoiding it and what resources are available to its victims. Additionally, the conference will provide information for service providers and fraud counselors to teach them how to most effectively help those who come to them for help.

****In upcoming months, NCPC will continue to add to its resource portfolio with a new public education toolkit and online videos about mortgage fraud awareness and prevention, both of which will be hosted on the website.

National Fraud Levels Decline, But Not In Florida

*National Fraud Level Declines, But Not In Florida*
**Interthinx Releases Report**

***Interthinx has released its quarterly Mortgage Fraud Risk Report covering data collected in the third quarter of 2012. According to the most recent analysis, overall risk nationwide has decreased by nearly 8 percent to the lowest value observed in the past two years. However, significantly increased levels of fraud risk in Florida pushed it past Nevada and into the top spot for overall fraud risk.

****Florida also appears on three of the four type-specific top 10 riskiest lists this quarter. Of particular concern is the finding that in Florida, investment purchases have more than three times the level of employment/income fraud risk than purchases for primary residences.

****Other notable findings include:

****>> Florida and Nevada are the two riskiest states with Interthinx Mortgage Fraud Risk Index values of 206 and 205, respectively. Currently, Florida has 17 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) classified as “very high risk.”

****>> Arizona is the third riskiest state for mortgage fraud, with a risk index value of 191.

****>> California, which is the fifth riskiest state in the country, has six of the top 10 riskiest metros, including Merced — the riskiest metro in the nation. California also has one of the 10 riskiest MSAs for identity fraud, three of the 10 riskiest MSAs for occupancy fraud, five of the 10 riskiest MSAs for property valuation fraud, and eight of the 10 riskiest MSAs for employment/income fraud.

****>> Iowa City, Iowa, leads the nation in identity fraud risk with an identity fraud risk index of 325, a 118.4 percent increase from the second quarter of 2012.

****>> Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Florida, appears on all of the type-specific top 10 riskiest lists except employment/income.

****“The report shows that even when overall fraud risk is decreasing nationwide, there are still areas of concern, as we see with this quarter’s findings in Florida,” stated Mike Zwerner, senior vice president of Interthinx. “The report’s actionable intelligence helps lenders pinpoint where additional due diligence may be needed, improves loan quality, reduces repurchase risk, and ultimately helps the economy recover.”

****The Mortgage Fraud Risk Report is an Interthinx information product created by an internal team of fraud experts. This is the fourteenth time Interthinx has released its quarterly report. The report provides deeper insight into current fraud trends through the analysis of more than 12 million loan applications amassed from the industry’s use of the Interthinx FraudGUARD loan-level fraud detection tool.

Updated Data Scoring Application Emerges

*Updated Data Scoring Application Emerges*
**Checking Accuracy**

***Loan quality is the name of the game these days. To this end, Plug&Score, a business division of Scorto Corporation, has released an updated version of the Plug&Score credit scoring and risk management solutions. The Plug&Score solutions family consists of scorecard development software Plug&Score Modeler, credit scoring system Plug&Score, and loan origination system Plug&Score Loan Origination.

****“We’ve been most thorough at analyzing feedback from Plug&Score users,” says Dmitry Krivonosov, Technical Developments Director at Plug&Score’s R&D Centre. “Our vision was to go beyond increasing performance speed and adding to scorecard modeling capabilities. We have designed the whole set of new features to provide a simple, robust and efficient way of dealing with data insights.”

****Lenders, especially microfinance organizations, are facing the strong need for a reliable risk evaluation tool. Plug&Score solutions allow financial organizations to improve credit portfolio quality and deliver swift and confident service to their customers. The updated versions of Plug&Score are already rolled out to the current 250+ users. The updates have been delivered at no cost.

****Plug&Score solutions integrate scoring models into decisioning and risk management processes. Scorecard development software Plug&Score Modeler, credit scoring system Plug&Score and loan origination system Plug&Score Loan Origination allow users to make informed credit decisions and optimize their risk exposure.

****More features of the updated version of Plug&Score solutions include:

****>> A new mode is added to the workflow: Raw Data Processing;

****>> Data anomalies (missing values, wrong type values, numeric outliers) are detected automatically;

****>> Numeric columns with few values (e.g. 1, 2, 3) are automatically transformed to categorical ones;

****>> Results of raw data processing are displayed: anomaly values, detected columns, distributions, data statistics;

****>> Data analysis options can be defined by user;

****>> The user can merge several categories to a single one;

****>> The user can delete certain categories (all rows that contain the deleted category will be excluded);

****>> The user can rename categories and columns;

****>> The user can change the type of a column manually (e.g., transform numeric column to categorical one); and

****>> The dataset can be abridged to a lower amount of rows while keeping data distribution same as in the original dataset.

Charity Is Important

*Charity Is Important*
**Lender Gives Back**

***It’s the season of giving back. We all have to do our part. That means getting actively involved in local charities. For example, Churchill Mortgage, a conventional, FHA, VA and USDA residential mortgage lender that operates across 26 states, has helped provide more than $500,000 in donations to dozens of charities and organizations this year to benefit children and local communities of its branch locations.

****Maintaining its commitment to the community, Churchill Mortgage has donated or helped raise funds as well as dedicated time for various organizations throughout the year, ranging from local school systems and youth organizations to health research groups including the Alzheimer’s Association, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the American Heart Association. The lender also supports organizations such as the Nashville Zoo, AMVETS (American Veterans), 147 Million Orphans Foundation and several youth athletic leagues and children’s hospitals.

****In addition, the lender will fund a food pantry through Second Harvest Food Bank again this year on Dec. 14, 2012. Employees will participate by giving away food to Second Harvest customers for the holidays. Second Harvest’s mission is to feed the hungry and work to solve hunger issues in the local community.

****“At Churchill Mortgage, we embrace the core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility,” said Mike Hardwick, president, Churchill Mortgage. “By donating both time and money to dozens of organizations, we’re able to positively affect thousands of lives in need and uphold these important values. We look forward to the holiday season – a time of giving – and encourage other local organizations and individuals to give back to their communities.”

Hurricane Sandy Will Have A Lasting Impact

*Hurricane Sandy Will Have A Lasting Impact*
**Market Slowdown**

***Hurricane Sandy may slow the recovery of the U.S. housing market, predicts Barry Habib, chief market strategist at Residential Finance Corp. (RFC), a nationwide mortgage lender. “The housing market is still fragile, and Sandy is likely to have weakened it. Home buyers and homeowners should be aware of how this storm will affect them, not just in damage and flooding to properties, but in unexpected after-shocks, too,” Habib says.

****Habib identifies key outcomes that homeowners, as well as those looking to buy or sell a home, should be prepared to face in addition to property damage:

Fewer Homes Listed for Sale

****Expect to see a decrease in the number of homes being listed for sale in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast in the months ahead. So if you’re looking for a home, you’ll witness a smaller selection. If you’re selling your home, this could be good news for you.

****Sale Contracts Being Put on Hold

****Many home sales as well as contracts that are in progress will be put on hold until homes can be inspected or re-inspected for damages caused by the hurricane. If you’re selling your home, don’t be surprised if a buyer interested in your property wants a second inspection of your home. And if your home is under contract, be aware that properties in areas impacted by the hurricane may require another appraisal by the mortgage lender. Estimates at property damage range from $60 billion to as much as $90 billion to date on homes in seven states.

****Fewer People Looking to Buy Homes

****Individuals are less likely to be looking for a home when they are spending time rebuilding. Plus, potential homebuyers may also think twice about owning a home if they live in an area where the hurricane has inflicted a good deal of property damage. If you’re in the market for a new home, this may mean less competition for homes. And for those with a home on the market, there may be less traffic from potential buyers, at least in the near term.

****Further Delays in Foreclosures

****The number of foreclosed homes has already been a factor in slowing the real estate market recovery. Damage to properties in key states such as New York and New Jersey will slow the pace of foreclosure sales, further weighing on home prices.

****Lower Home Prices

****Delayed property sales, more reluctant homebuyers, and an increased number of foreclosures will likely mean lower home prices, especially in the areas hit hardest by the hurricane. Depending on whether you’re looking to buy or sell your home, this could either be good news or bad news.

****The Potential Upside: Lower Interest Rates

****The impact of the storm may keep interest rates low for an extended period of time, Habib notes. That’s a piece of positive news for people in the market for a new home.

****The Bottom Line

****“Hurricane Sandy has inflicted much damage to homes and businesses along the East Coast. It would be difficult to overstate the devastation of this storm,” Habib says. “To some, the storm could bear some bad news extending well beyond property damage. For potential homebuyers, lower home prices and continued low interest rates may offer a small silver lining to an otherwise distressing situation. Ultimately, buyers who were on the fence may find that the cost of purchasing a home has become even more attractive,” Habib says. “That means good news for both homebuyers and home sellers.”

Lender Exposes Their LOS To The Borrower

*Lender Exposes Their LOS To The Borrower*
**New Approaches**

***PROGRESS in Lending is always looking at new ways that lenders are improving the mortgage process. To this end, Mortgage Network, Inc., an independent mortgage lender and a member of the newly formed PROGRESS in Lending Association Lender Panel, has launched an enhanced option, Perfect Connection, that allows customers to start the loan process inside their proprietary Loan Operating System, accelerating their loan approval process. Here’s how it works:

****Perfect Connection offers a guaranteed, secure option for borrowers to begin their loan processes in a timely and efficient manner. This efficiency will result in less steps and touches, resulting in greater data integrity and better communication.

****“We are very excited to offer this convenience to our customers,” said Brian Koss, Executive Vice President for Mortgage Network, Inc.  “We have taken our technology a step further than most by customizing it and building it out internally to ensure a Perfect Connection between the customer, our origination system and operations platform. This real-time integration eliminates uploads and updates so that we don’t depend on others to move quickly and adapt. We are confident that our platform is fully built to support our growth plans for many years and homebuyers to come. ”

****Customers can get started by visiting www.mortgagenetwork.com.

****Mortgage Network, Inc. is a private mortgage banking company founded in 1988 by Robert McInnes and Albert Paré III who have co-managed the company since its inception. Mortgage Network is one of the largest independent mortgage companies headquartered in New England. The company has established over forty lending offices providing retail mortgage services.