Innovating The Origination Process

Black Knight Financial Services, Inc. is a leading provider of integrated technology, data and analytics solutions that facilitate and automate many of the business processes across the mortgage lifecycle. The company is committed to being a premier business partner that lenders and servicers rely on to achieve their strategic goals, realize greater success and better serve their customers by delivering best-in-class technology, services and insight with a relentless commitment to excellence, innovation, integrity and leadership. To this end, Richard (“Rich”) Gagliano is President of the Origination Technologies Division for Black Knight, talked to us about how he sees the future of mortgage origination and what Black Knight is doing to innovate. Here’s what he said:

Q: What are a few of the most impactful changes you are seeing in the mortgage lending industry?

RICH GAGLIANO: The impact of regulatory change continues to plague the mortgage industry with higher operating costs. While the pace of regulatory change has slowed, mortgage lenders have not seen their costs decline accordingly. To put this in perspective, the average cost to originate a loan today is nearly double what it was in 2007. Still, we believe that in time technology and process innovation will help to normalize costs.

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Digital technology has and will continue to have a significant impact on the mortgage industry. From an operational perspective, it enables innovation that can result in greater efficiency, as well as expanded product offerings. It can also help deliver the “have it your way” experience that customers expect by enabling them to interact with their lender and receive updates on the mortgage loan process from any internet-connected device. This continuity of experience has become a standard expectation from consumers, and digital technology is helping lenders meet and exceed those expectations.

Q: What is Black Knight doing to help lenders address these changes?

RICH GAGLIANO: On the regulatory front, Black Knight has been at the forefront in terms of working in close partnership with our clients to ensure that we adapt and innovate to meet their changing needs as new regulatory measures unfold. As a result, we have a highly collaborative and productive working relationship with our mortgage clients, and are in lock-step with them to address regulatory changes when they arise.

We also deploy robotics technology within our core loan origination system to deliver advanced automation in support of more streamlined origination operations. This innovative approach enables mortgage originators to improve operating efficiencies and drive down costs.

Taking advantage of the capabilities of digital technology, Black Knight is delivering a front-end (consumer-facing) loan application that lenders can deploy so their borrowers can enjoy a user-friendly, branded experience. Data that is entered into the application is collected and tied back to our loan origination system for efficiency and speed.

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Q: In what ways are these innovations helping the lending industry evolve?

RICH GAGLIANO: Innovation is greatly helping to expedite the gathering and validation of borrower information through fintech companies for key factors such as income and assets. This accelerates the speed and fluidity of the origination process by giving lenders increased validation certainty to support decisioning.

In turn, this gives consumers the ability to self-fulfill the mortgage origination application online, without the need to track down supporting documents and other onerous tasks that can contribute to an unpleasant mortgage origination experience.

The result is not only a more satisfying customer experience, but also a lower abandonment rate, decreased costs to originate a mortgage loan, and the opportunity to approve and close more loans overall. This offers a critical advantage to mortgage originators of all sizes.

Q: Black Knight is perceived as a technology provider for larger banks; what is the company doing to support mid-market lenders?

RICH GAGLIANO: Today, Black Knight offers a pre-configured origination solution called Empower Now! that is sized specifically for the mid-market lender. Empower Now! delivers all the functionality a mid-market lender needs, including automation capabilities and a process orchestration engine that helps support a lender’s future growth. It enables lenders to operate more efficiently and deliver a more responsive customer experience.

The system can be deployed within 4-6 months – more quickly than our robust Empower enterprise system. Additionally, Empower Now! scales to support future growth, so mid-market lenders don’t have to settle for less robust options because of their size.

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Q: How has your previous experience in the mortgage industry prepared you as President of Black Knight’s Origination Technologies division?

RICH GAGLIANO: My industry background has included both mortgage origination operations, as well as technology strategy and development. I have run mortgage origination businesses, including executive management, sales, and operations. This has given me a good understanding of the challenges associated with the origination business, including cost and margin management. I’ve also spent many years working as an underwriter, as well as in corporate finance and secondary marketing. I also have experience in business engineering, helping to identify opportunities for operations to be more efficient across people, technology, and processes. Finally, I have a great deal of experience in regulatory and compliance, and have been working closely with our mortgage clients on their readiness initiatives and risk mitigation programs.

Insider Profile

Richard (“Rich”) Gagliano is President of the Origination Technologies Division for Black Knight, a leading provider of integrated technology, data and analytics solutions that facilitate and automate many of the business processes across the mortgage lifecycle. As the division’s leader, Rich is primarily responsible for the direction of LoanSphere Empower, Black Knight’s loan origination system for retail, wholesale and consumer-direct channels; LoanSphere LendingSpace, Black Knight’s loan origination system for correspondent lending; Black Knight’s LoanSphere SalesEdge lead management solution; and LoanSphere Quality Insight, a quality control workflow solution that supports greater loan transparency and data integrity. With more than 25 years of experience in the financial services industry, Rich offers a wide range of lending-product knowledge and insight. He supports Black Knight’s efforts to provide advanced, high-performance technology and data solutions to help clients succeed in the evolving mortgage industry.

Listen To Forbes

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to read the centennial issue of Forbes magazine, you missed a collection of thoughts from 100 of the greatest living business minds. I thought I would select some excerpts from the visionaries and early adopters.

Steve Case, Co-founder, AOL & Revolution: The story of American business over the last 100 years is a story of different sectors rising and falling (and often rising again in unanticipated ways) in different regions of the country. When Detroit was an automobile powerhouse and Pittsburgh was the steel city, Silicon Valley was just fruit orchards. As the industrial revolution peaked and the technology revolution accelerated, the role of these places changed. As we enter the internet’s third wave, where entrepreneurs will leverage technology to disrupt major real-world sectors—like health care, education, financial services—startups will increasingly move to cities where industry expertise exists. The opportunity to grow companies that spur job creation and economic growth holds great promise for what I call these “Rise of the Rest” cities. This will lead to a more dispersed innovating economy, where jobs and wealth are created across the country, not just on the coasts.

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Michael Milken: Philanthropist: I came of age and went into business right in the middle of these past 100 years. Two issues of Forbes, the 50th and the 60th, had a particularity significant influence on me. Both issues really made me think about how financial structures changed over time and how leading companies changed. A century ago, the automobile was radically changing transportation and mobility. Ford Motor was the 21st largest company. By the time it went public in 1956 with what was then the largest stock sale in history, it was one of the most valuable companies in the U.S. Today its total market value is less than the annual price variations of Amazon, Facebook, Apple, or Google. In 1917, most of a car’s cost was based on raw materials, the country’s largest company by far was U.S. Steel. Today the American steel industry directly employs fewer than 140,000 workers. Today’s growing challenge: create meaningful lives for the world’s population. We’ve accomplished the greatest achievement of mankind, the extension of life. Since 1900, average life expectancy worldwide has grown from 31 to over 70. Economists estimate that about half of economic growth is tied to the public health and medical research advances that underlie increased longevity.

Bill Gates, Co-founder, Microsoft: In early 1975, when I was in college, my friend Paul Allen showed me an issue of Popular Electronics, featuring the Altair 8800 computer, the first commercially successful personal computer. We both had the same thought: “The revolution is going to happen without us!” We were sure that software was going to change the world, and we worried that if we didn’t join the digital revolution soon, it would pass us by. That conversation marked the end of my college career and the beginning of Microsoft.

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We’ve just began to tap artificial intelligence’s ability to help people be more productive and creative. The pace of innovation is accelerating—and that opens up more ideas for exploration. Big advances in clean energy will make it more affordable and available, which will fight poverty and help us avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The next 100 years will create more opportunities and we need people to keep believing in the power of innovation and to take a risk on a few revolutionary ideas.

Masayoshi Son, Founder, Softbank: When I was 19 years old I saw a photo of a microprocessor in a science magazine. It was just a tiny chip that could fit on a fingertip but represented an entire computer. ‘Oh my God,’ I said to myself, “this is going to change mankind’s life.” This is the biggest invention that man ever created. Those microprocessors were compacted into PCs, then linked together to create the internet and later smartphones. Now they are extending our knowledge and intelligence via artificial intelligence.

Tim-Berners-Lee, Inventor: I published my proposal for the World Wide Web in 1989. From the outset, I imagined it as an open, universal space, where anyone, anywhere could take their ideas and bring them to life without having to ask for permission or pay royalties. I hardwired these factors into the Web’s design and made a conscious decision not to try to copyright or patent it. In 1993, CERN, my employers at the time, agreed to make the code available to anyone royalty-free, forever. But now, as the Web matures, this openness is under attack. For the economic, social and political benefit of all, the Web must be recognized as a public good and locked open through appropriate corporate and government action—including the preservation of net neutrality.

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Marc Benioff, Founder, Salesforce: We are living in the fourth industrial revolution, with advancements in robotics, genetics, stem cells, autonomous vehicles and especially artificial intelligence. All will dramatically change life itself. We need to have a beginner’s mind to think about what is happening. That idea of a beginner’s mind is the core to innovation.

Michael Dell, Founder, Dell Technologies: The Computer Age is just beginning. Most companies today have about a thousand times more data than they actually use to make better decisions. When you overlay the latest in computer science—AI, machine learning, deep learning, unsupervised learning—you will create an explosion of opportunity and a real emergency. Over the next few years, as the cost of making something intelligent approaches zero, companies will succeed and fail based on their ability to translate data, including historical data, into insights and actions and products and services in real time. We like to think of ourselves as a company with big ears: We listen, we learn, we understand—and we create things.

Jeff Bezos, Founder, Amazon: We’re in the midst of a gigantic transition, where customers have incredible power because of transparency and word of mouth. It used to be that if you made a customer happy, they would tell five friends. Now with the megaphone of the internet, whether online customer reviews or social media, they can tell 5,000 friends. In the old days, an inferior product could prevail in the marketplace with superior marketing. Today customers can tell whether a product and service is good because there’s so much transparency. They can compare it to others very easily, and then they can tell all their friends—the customers will do part of the heavy lifting, marketing-wise. Rather than inferior products shouting louder, we have sort of a product meritocracy. It’s very good for customers, it’s very good for the companies that embrace it—and it’s very good for society.

So what can we take away from these various reflections? We don’t have to be the visionaries who start a revolution, but if we want to succeed in an ever-evolving social and economic landscape, we need to be positioned for adaptation. Organizations that make the best use of data will recognize the signs of change first. And the organizations that design their product offering to fit the customer—rather than hoping that customers will change their behavior to fit the products—will have the competitive advantage regardless of the industry in question.

About The Author

Preparing For The Digital Mortgage Revolution

Are you engaged in the digital mortgage revolution? If not, are you prepared to jump in? Just as Google replaced encyclopedias and credit cards replaced cash, technology is transforming all facets of the mortgage industry. From shopping rates online, to finding a lender, to getting approved, the mortgage application process is moving from loan officers’ desks to computer screens, tablets, and smartphones. As the mortgage application process is evolving online, so has the competitive marketplace. The traditional methods that led to loan origination success in the past are less effective today. Lenders are struggling to attract new borrowers, let alone satisfy today’s borrowers’ digital needs.

New competition has emerged from the digital revolution and is quickly capturing market share and revenue from traditional lenders. Some lenders haven’t gone digital yet because they don’t know how to deliver on the digital experience. Others dipped their toes in the digital water but focused only on the user experience and have failed to deliver on a truly digital lending process.

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Even more challenges accompanied the mortgage industry’s move to digital. While regulations and costs increased, loan originations decreased. According to Black Knight, overall mortgage originations dropped by 34% in Q1 2017. The addition of constantly changing rules and regulations, heightened scrutiny, and the risk of costly penalties and fines for non-compliance added overhead for lenders has ultimately increased the cost to originate loans.

Despite these challenges, no one can dispute the value and necessity for lenders to embrace digital mortgages. Lenders that can deliver on the digital lending experience by automating the entire lending process will be able to streamline the application process, decrease origination costs, increase loan officer productivity, and improve the borrower experience. As borrowers interact with the front end of the application process the digital mortgage platform has the ability to verify that information through integrations with mission critical third-party vendors. This key function, one of many digital mortgage perks, allows loan officers to spend less time verifying information, less overhead for mortgage originators, and a simpler and quicker process for the borrower.

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The traditional transaction timeline in the mortgage industry is highly inefficient compared to other industries. The average time for loan approval is 18 days and 50 days to complete the full process. The cost for mortgage companies to pay employees to complete repetitive tasks is about $8,000 and these inefficiencies have been passed onto borrowers. With no desire to transcend their services, the mortgage application process is an unattractive chore and no longer fits in the lifestyle of the technologically adept consumer. Lenders need the most dynamic lending tools to truly deliver on the digital mortgage experience.

What options do lenders have in enhancing their lending platform to deliver on the digital promise?

With online lending, the industry is making a digital transformation by taking the borrower into a world of digitized processing at all stages of the loan lifecycle. More and more borrowers are consistently looking for the digital mortgage experience. With innovation and digitization, borrowers look to complete the 1003 application, digitally in less than 10 minutes with greater speed and accuracy.

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This type of Innovation doesn’t only improve the consumer experience, it also has major bottom-line benefits to Mortgage companies. The digital experience increases the amount of money flowing into mortgage companies.

Today’s digital experience must provide borrowers with a compliant, aesthetically appealing, and user-friendly web solution that includes key program integrations. With the right solution borrowers immediately gain access to a network of Mortgage and Real Estate professionals that can offer a swift online purchasing process. The key aspects that make this experience possible are:

>>Integrations with mortgage critical third-party programs and well documented application program interface (API), which allows for a variety of software components to interact effortlessly. This enviably simplifies and accelerates the borrower process and user experience.

>>A digital graphical prequalification application and 1003 application that streamlines mortgage processes including both the point of sale stage and loan origination.

>>A content management system that accomplishes compliance from the corporate level down. The system is controlled from one centralized location to eliminate reputational risk and any violations of compliance standards.

>>Lead generation and referral partner relationship building tools with the ability to provide affinity websites for mortgage partners such as accountants, charitable organizations, large employer, realtor sites, and more. These websites have mortgage sponsored banner ads and/or applications in place.

>>State-of-the-art technology that considerably reduces the application abandonment rate by catering to the borrowers needs and overall experience.

>>A customer portal, which allows the loan officers to keep all parties, associated with the loan process up to date with the status of the application. Parties included on this are the borrower, title company, co-borrower, and realtor.

>>A tailorable online lending platform that allows lender the ability to easily configure the platform to their specific lending process.

The mortgage industry’s strict compliance standards pose unique challenges that other industries lack when converting to digital. Therefore working with a provider that has deep mortgage experience can be the difference between success and failure. Mortgage origination entails handling borrowers’ sensitive information. In addition to compliance, cyber security measures are vital. This includes applying a secure sockets layer to website domains, obtaining a SOC 2 audit, and partnering with cloud providers and third-party vendors that share your same security standards.

Industry leaders realize that in order to achieve digital mortgage success, it is crucial to automate the mortgage process while delivering a dynamic online lending experience. By implementing today’s most advanced digital platform, lenders will experience increasing market share, protect their corporate brand, meet strict compliance requirements and expand their digital footprint to attract more borrowers.

Over 75,000 individuals in the mortgage industry are benefiting from this type of innovative technology solution. These solutions deliver user-friendly, compliant, security, and efficiency to enhance the digital mortgage experience for borrowers, lenders and real estate agents.

At WebMax, mortgage is in our DNA. With 30-plus years of experience, we leverage our lending know-how to calibrate lenders transition to digital. WebMax’s digital experience expedites the borrowing process, helps maintain compliance, delivers dynamic online lending tools, and provides a highly innovative borrower experience.

About The Author

Coming Together

For those of you that regularly read this column or know me personally, you know that I like to talk about industry trends. I love to talk about the e-mortgage, now dubbed the digital mortgage. But this month I want to do something a little different. I want to talk about how the industry gives back in the face of tragedy. We’ve seen a lot of devastation this hurricane season and our industry has tried to help those impacted.

David H. Stevens, CMB, President and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), in discussing Hurricane Hsrvey said, “I want to offer my condolences and sympathy to the millions of people affected by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.

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“The entire mortgage industry is working around the clock to identify homeowners in the affected areas who are in need of assistance or who have questions about their property, payment status, or loans.  We are encouraging any homeowner who is unsure of their situation to immediately contact their lender or servicer as well as their hazard or homeowners insurance provider.”

And the industry has responded. For example, loanDepot, announced its plans to help families impacted by flooding and damage from hurricanes Harvey and Irma by introducing a FHA-203(h) product for those who need to rebuild or repair a destroyed or damaged home as well as for those needing to buy a replacement home.

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This FHA-203(h) Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims product is specifically designed to help those within Presidentially-declared major disaster areas (PDMDA) in urgent need of home repairs, a full rebuild, or to purchase a new home. The 203(h) product guidelines may allow loanDepot to disregard any late payments that were the result of the destroyed or damaged property in specific PDMDA areas. Additionally, it provides more flexibility on documentation of employment, assets and liabilities in cases where records were destroyed by the disaster.

“Due to the scope and severity of the disasters, we felt it necessary and important to help families get back into homes as quickly as possible,” said Anthony Hsieh, loanDepot CEO and Chairman. “When I visited Texas and Florida and saw the devastation with my own eyes, I immediately knew that we needed to act quickly to support families in need. Not only have we donated to the American Red Cross and supported local diaper banks, but we’re using our expertise to help homeowners navigate the system so repairing, rebuilding or purchasing of homes can happen quickly to ensure a more rapid recovery allowing homeowners to rest easier.”

For those needing repairs, the FHA-203(h) product can cover repairs such as:

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>>Repair/replacement of roofs, flooring, gutters

>>Repair/replacement of existing plumbing and electrical systems

>>Painting (both interior and exterior)

>>Purchase and installation of major appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, washer/dryers, dishwashers and microwaves.

>>Accessibility improvements for persons with disabilities

>>Basement waterproofing

>>Window/door replacement and exterior wall re-siding

>>Other repairs to make the home safe and livable

For those renters or owners who need to purchase a new home, FHA-203(h) allows for a zero-dollar down payment if their current home was damaged or destroyed. Existing homeowners will need to document sufficient insurance coverage to pay off the existing mortgage of their damaged/destroyed home.

Eligibility may require a credit score threshold as well as the demonstration of on-time credit obligation payments for the 12 months prior to the disaster. 203(h) loans need to be initiated within a year of the disaster and to qualify, previous homes both owned or rented must have been located in a PDMDA and either destroyed or damaged to such an extent that reconstruction or replacement is necessary.

In addition, HLP and IndiSoft announced that the HLP portal is now accepting homeowner requests for assistance from Hurricane Harvey victims. HLP’s technology partner, IndiSoft, has built a new case type in its communications platform to enable these families to access other government assistance programs to help keep their homes.

Homeowners affected by the devastating hurricane may be able to suspend their mortgage payments for up to 12 months, or take advantage of others relief offers from their mortgage servicer. Homeowners or their U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved nonprofit counseling agency will only need to provide HLP with a limited amount of information to submit a request to suspend their mortgage payment or other assistance from their mortgage company.

“HLP is ready to assist homeowners, counseling agencies, servicers and investors utilize all government assistance programs available to help homeowners save their homes during this national crisis,” said Mark Cole, HLP’s CEO. “We are thankful that IndiSoft has developed a fast, secure way for a homeowner to guarantee their requests for assistance will be received by their servicer. Our platform creates a permanent record of all documents submitted, which eliminates any possible dispute.”

Homeowners can register online, fill in some basic information and upload the required documents. Counseling agencies can create new cases for assisting homeowners using the existing counselor portal. In most cases, a simple letter about how a home has been damaged by Hurricane Harvey is all that is needed to start the process. This information is then electronically submitted to servicers for review and processing.

“With Texas not being your typical state for flooding, many of the homes are without flood insurance coverage. The last thing homeowners affected by Hurricane Harvey need to think about is how they can contact their mortgage servicer and access much needed services being offered by federal and local government agencies,” said Sanjeev Dahiwadkar, CEO of IndiSoft. “We hope by extending assistance to homeowners through this portal and with the help of HUD-approved counseling agencies families will receive the help they need in a timely manner.”

Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and HUD have announced various efforts to help homeowners. For example, Freddie Mac has authorized mortgage companies to suspend payments for up to 12 months for homeowners with mortgages owned by Freddie Mac who live in a major disaster area where federal individual assistance programs have been extended. They are also authorized to waive assessment of penalties or late fees again borrowers with disaster-damaged homes.

Fannie Mae announced that it will implement a 90-day foreclosure sale suspension and a 90-day eviction suspension for borrowers with properties located within FEMA-declared disaster areas that are eligible for FEMA Individual Assistance. HUD will offer mortgage and foreclosure relief as well as other assistance to some families, including to the 200,000 FHA-insured homeowners, living in the affected areas.

So, going forward, I hope the industry continues to pull together to come up with creative ways to help people in need.

About The Author

The Importance Of A Smart Services Strategy

Historically, the prime objective of every U.S. mortgage originations operations manager has been to create and maintain a productive operation. Keep the pipeline full, close business, lower the incremental price per loan, remain compliant. The recent “digital explosion” driven both by compliance and consumer demand for a more tangible, technology-driven experience has significantly altered that conversation. It is not enough to be cheaper, quicker, or even necessarily more efficient. To remain competitive and deliver productivity and growth that is sustainable, the modern mortgage operation must provide an elegant, transparent, ever-reliable experience, especially for borrowers, while remaining secure and compliant. To achieve this, lenders must rely on more outside services and service providers than ever before, and engage with them in a way that is, in a word, “smarter.”

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Smart means many things to many people, but for the purposes of services it means you must have a secure, efficient and scalable way to collect, order, receive, examine, present, deliver and archive the data and documentation you need within the system of record, no matter the source, format of the content, type of transaction, or investor requirements. The interface and experience of your services hub needs to work hand in hand in an automated way with the user and your core processing software, and be able to consider and qualify that content in real time within the context of your entire mortgage ecosystem. In short, it pretty much needs to walk on water.   Simple, right?

Fortunately, with the right infrastructure, the right delivery partnerships, and perhaps most importantly the right mindset, it becomes much easier. Here are a couple of areas for focus:

1.) You and your Platform Partners must create a development and support infrastructure that embraces and supports new services and outside innovation.  

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Let’s all admit it: innovation is often really, really hard to manage. We are often saddled with fifteen-year-old architecture that requires a lot of attention and TLC just to keep up with the demands of our current capabilities. Our development teams became engineers to design and build things. But the hard truth is that we have tough day jobs. The road to operational excellence begins with accepting that it is better to do a few things very well and cultivate a culture that is great at partnering with others, such as:

Get your LOS provider and other key partners deeply involved in your roadmap with regular benchmarking efforts.   Your provider sees ten new companies for every one that you do and deals with hundreds of your peers who are solving problems like yours. You can gain key insights into market innovation and better align development roadmaps and priorities to support one another. More importantly, you can ensure the services you need are integrated with the functionality you require to drive your business.

>>Know your investor program requirements and develop strong standards – both business and technical – for others to follow.   Clearly, your partners need a strong base understanding of MISMO, UCD, UCDP, Day1 Certainty and other regulatory requirements, but often it is the lender’s discovery process for the way they interact with critical components of its own loan programs and workflow navigation that encumbers projects and causes them to lose momentum. The easier you make it for others to address your unique needs, the higher your probability of success. Maintain strong SOPs, build a “B-Guide” alongside your “I-Guide” and make knowledgeable and informed personnel available during the vendor dating process.

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>>Change management is especially important in optimizing services strategies. Your development team must be disciplined and engage in strong configuration quality control and employ implementation practices that engage both technical and operational aspects of your business. Work closely with your LOS and third-party service providers and ensure your practices are scalable, well architected, and thoroughly tested, and once implemented, be meticulous in requiring your production teams to adopt new practices. Dual tracking breeds inefficiency.

>>Get active with innovators in your local markets. All over the country, cities have recognized the value of supporting and keeping talent close to home and have given birth to some amazing incubators like the one I worked with, EvoNexus out of San Diego. The pace of innovation is relentless and accelerating. However, the financial services industry remains a bit of an enigma and can be difficult to fully understand. Get involved early and help educate the FinTech market on how better to do business with you and your peers. Offer internships, where practical. My company, Mortgage Cadence, is piloting an emerging talent program that will provide mentorship to startups and near to recent graduates so they can hit the ground running.

2.) You must create an effective vehicle to select the services and providers that offer the most lift for your business

>>Know, size and prioritize the business problems your business needs to solve. For all the importance of innovation, one of the worst enemies of productivity is novelty. It seems obvious, but all of us are distracted by shiny new objects. It is no easy task to stay on track and keep to your business imperatives, especially when pressure comes from your Board or even executive management. Systematic, agnostic diagnosis and prescription and organizational governance is essential.  Build and use reliable assumptions and use them evenly across the decision-making process. Here again, engaging in disciplined roadmap reviews with your technology partners can pay enormous dividends.

>>Know your approval team and process. Get a very strong cross-functional, action-oriented team and give them specific roles, responsibilities, marching orders, and timelines. This is an extension of the concepts espoused above, but it is not necessarily the same team. Having (and following) defined practices isn’t just practical, it is often critical for keeping the focus from wandering too far off the task at hand. The time to pull this team together is before, not after, innovators come knocking.

>>Exercise control in partner selection, particularly if you have larger regional or national operations. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. Having too many partners to manage adds overhead without creating anything unique to your organization. Use your internal vetting experts to look beyond the technology and stringently review how they will support all the other facets of your client relationships, such as trouble resolution, documentation, reporting, and marketing.

3.) You and your Platform Partners must engage in smart, scalable integrations

Finally, the rubber meets the road in delivery. How the services are served up for consumption is as, if not more, important than that they are available for consumption. It is extremely important to ensure your partner understands and is actively expanding its ability to deliver on a next-generation philosophy. Topics for discussion should include:

Integrations should be available via API’s supported by simple, effective and well-documented Integration Toolkits to help drive innovation and reduce time to market.

>>Your service integrations should work within an ecosystem powered by a sophisticated rules engine with multiple layers of automation for ordering and accepting return results. It should also have the ability to accurately infer actionable data and documentation as close as possible to real time within the master workflow and capture that information in the system of record.

>>Wherever possible, the service integrations should offer secure bi-directional communications flow for things like underwriting and closing collaboration and compliance. This functionality should also help optimize opportunity across your portfolio and bolster client relationship management.

Partner service integrations should offer a “look and feel” user experience as close to the core LOS system as possible. Excessive pop-ups can create a “disjointed” feel and impact productivity. You should choose partners that offer functionality through standardized interfaces that can be baked into the underlying LOS technology infrastructure.

>>Integrations should be secure, and should reflect both the macro and micro realities of risk management. That means the base integration should be secure, along with the ability to isolate and protect unique parties to a transaction. Be sure your providers offer transparency into their processes and adhere to defined practices.

>>Integrations should be portable and modular and engage in protocols that conform to forward-reaching industry and investor standards (UCD, UCDP, HMDA, TRID, MISMO 3.4, D1C, etc) and be able to isolate and support future innovation as partners and vendors innovate.

>>Finally, engage in deeply interwoven practices with your LOS and service partners, and ensure they do the same with you.  Does this seem like a repeated point? It is. It’s that simple, and that important. Insist upon a transparent, test-driven development mentality and regularly share access to testing and staging environments. And be sure to celebrate achievement and successes together.

The modern mortgage operation needs to be as much NATO as it is Sole Survivor. A strong services and integrations partner plan and a smart services delivery engine may not eliminate every challenge, but it can make the difference between surviving and thriving on the road ahead.

About The Author

Value Your Data

We have heard industry veterans like Roger Gudobba and others say, “It’s all about the data.” The phrase has become so overused that it almost means nothing anymore. However, lenders and vendors alike should listen to this sound advice. Roger was talking about how data can improve the mortgage lending process, and that’s true, but I’m here to say to you that data can improve your marketing process, as well.

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In a White Paper entitled “Put Data First: Why Data Quality in CRM and Marketing Automation are Top Priority” written by RingLead, the author states that whatever your situation may be, you will quickly realize that it all comes back to data, because data is the real value in your CRM and marketing automation platform.

We don’t mean to trivialize the importance of workflows, automated processes and drip nurturing campaigns that these systems offer. These features are one of the primary reasons that organizations invest so much time and money into their implementation and ongoing administration and improvement, but many are rendered utterly useless when they come into contact with dirty data.

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Dirty data has a way of silently infiltrating your organization, creating frustration, inefficiency, and loss of confidence (eg. dismal user adoption) in the systems themselves. It can affect each department and group of stakeholders in a very different way, but unless there is a “State of Our Data” address, the problem is not brought to the forefront of the organization’s collective psyche.

One of the key requirements of a customer and prospect database is to easily segment the records, allowing your organization to interact with one set of contacts differently from others. This can be easy if you have a strict set of values for each field and the input is controlled at the insertion point.

A common requirement is segmentation by job title, but there are simply too many variations on an individual’s job title to try to account for each with a picklist value, so the standard method of insertion is via a regular text field. This creates a pretty big problem for segmentation.

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According to a 2013 Experian QAS survey, 94 percent of businesses believe there is some level of inaccuracy within their CRM systems. When you think about the time, money and focus that is put into CRM, an allowance for inaccurate and useless data is mind boggling.

Think about the time that your organization is wasting sifting through inaccurate or worse, completely useless, data. Inaccurate data leads to:

>>Wasted sales efforts on useless bits of information stored in CRM, leading to discontent and potential abandonment of the CRM system (ie. decreased user adoption)

>>Longer wait times for support while reps are forced to piece together information while on the phone with a customer, leading to decreased customer satisfaction

At Sirius Summit 2013, Jim Ninivaggi, Service Director of Sales Enablement Strategies at Sirius Decisions cited a study that found roughly 30% of an enterprise salesperson’s time is spent doing research on the Internet. If you think about that in the context of an 8 am – 6 pm workday, that means that 35 days per year are spent doing research.

In Data Driven: Profiting from Your Most Important Business Asset, Thomas C. Redman sums up the advantages of data completeness as “A moat around our business [that] gives us a unique competitive advantage.” Nowhere is this more evident than the aspect of data completeness.

Duplicate records in CRM and marketing automation platforms are a familiar aspect of bad data. The errors and frustration that duplicates cause can be felt across most departments at almost every level.

Reports are skewed, the wrong messages are being sent, and quarrels are created over one record that somehow made it into the system twice and was distributed to two different sales reps.

How are duplicate records created? Today’s CRM and marketing automation platforms come equipped with very basic duplicate identification, which is, in almost every case, based on a scan for an exact-match email address.

Many modern, technology-enabled organizations are using more than one software platform to manage their customer and prospect data. It is crucial to keep your data in sync across your email, ERP systems, CRM, marketing automation platform, and more. If your data quality plan is limited to one platform, you’re only solving part of the problem.

It’s important to remember that dirty data can be a big problem, but can be easily solved. Analyze the problem and try to hone in on the areas that are causing the most pain. Then get in touch with a team that has experience in resolving these types of issues.

For example, NexLevel Advisors is focused on companies that are looking to take their business to the next level. NexLevel Advisors assists you in elevating your results. Creating new opportunities, executable strategies, and delivering results creates an environment that promotes continual growth and business value for your company.

We add value through strategic advice specific to your company. Our team has years of experience and have been in your situation and position. These individuals possess in-depth knowledge of your complex product and service offerings, the nuances of your market segment, and the challenges of your product roadmap and lifecycle. We deliver customized differentiation in the marketplace for your organization while producing measurable results.

What this means for your business is that you get customized programs from accomplished executives who offer proven results-oriented solutions specifically created to take your organization to the next level, quicker and more strategically than you could on your own.

NexLevel’s experience has covered multiple industries including: Financial Services, Healthcare, Legal Services and Insurance in delivering marketplace results, with extensive expertise in complex technology oriented products and services. Our customized solutions help you to sell more, more frequently, to more people by clearly establishing your specific value propositions. This is where real world experience, strategy and execution deliver measurable results for your organization.

For over 20 years the advisors of NexLevel have been leading and creating market leaders in business, delivering success after success in taking companies to the next level in revenues and profitability. This vast expertise comes from real world experience in running companies, building organizations and holding the following positions of leadership: CEO, CMO, VP Business Strategy, and Director of Sales & Marketing. Our experience makes the difference in your business.

If your CRM reporting seems “off”, if your marketing campaigns are less than impressive, if your sales team is underperforming, then this is your system flashing the Check Engine light. More often than not, dirty data is the root cause.

About The Author

Increasing Efficiencies In The Valuation Process

We all know that lenders have different ways of managing their businesses and, of course, different technologies to support their models. The method in which lenders process their appraisals is one area of the business that can also be handled using quite a few different types of technology, with some being more sophisticated and complete than others.

Touching on some of the appraisal-oriented technologies that are commercially available, you have appraisal ordering systems, analytics and scoring software, forms software, accounting software, QC software, vendor management applications, UCDP and EAD delivery technology, AVM ordering, BPO ordering, valuation management platforms and other third party applications. Now, some lenders use multiple vendors to automate the process while others use a comprehensive valuation management platform from a single vendor.

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In this article, I’ll be discussing the benefits of using a single-source vendor to automate the valuation process from start to finish in order to maximize efficiencies. I am a proponent of using fewer venders rather than more in order to centralize and optimize the entire process, allowing organizations to realize the greatest number of efficiencies. This is because involving too many vendors can create gaps in the workflow, cause communication issues, heighten compliance risks, inhibit transparency, force manual intervention, and more perils. Bottom line: too many vendors results in inefficiencies.

The overall valuation process has so many moving parts and details to stay on top of that it can be a daunting undertaking for lenders to effectively and efficiently manage. And all of these complex and intricate tasks require significant time and resources to handle. On top of that, lenders have to adhere to changing rules and regulations.

While utilization of a valuation management platform is the best method to automate the process, not all of these platforms are of the same level. There is key, must-have functionality that is needed to fully automate the process from soup-to-nuts, which many lack.

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One of the most important aspects of a valuation management platform is that it be completely workflow-driven. Most of them do not have a 100% workflow-driven architecture, so you’ll still have lots of areas that require manual intervention from your employees. In order to be completely workflow-driven, the platform must accompany a “workflow engine.” The engine applies customizable business rules which essentially plays the role of conductor, orchestrating and using auto-triggers and routing functionality to manage time sensitive events and actions at the appropriate time and stage within the process. The engine is at the core of automating the workflow, removing manual touch points, eliminating data errors, reducing costs and managing compliance. Not all valuation management platforms have a workflow engine. Without the engine, complete automation cannot be achieved.

A workflow-driven platform is also key to ensuring that appraisals are of high quality. The ability to custom-configure business rules allows you to set triggers to automatically review appraisals and analyze them in real-time throughout different stages of your workflow for completeness, accuracy, data integrity, consistency and compliance.

Effectively managing your vendors is another important aspect of a workflow-driven valuation management platform. The communication of assignments, reminders, setting tasks and providing real-time status can all be automated. Setting up reminders throughout the workflow is extremely helpful and confirms that appraisers are notified in a timely fashion as to what to do and when. This saves lots of time and ensures that nothing is missed.

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Another important part of managing vendors (whether individual appraisers or AMCs) is scoring. Things like appraiser licensing, appraisal quality, turn times, communication levels, and much more can all be automatically analyzed and scored using a valuation management platform that includes vendor management tools. Without the right technology, however, this can be time consuming, laborious and costly to do.

And then there is the accounting aspect. You should be able to automatically process credit cards and other forms of payment. Tracking AMCs appraiser payments and allowing for automatic export into the lending accounting system is paramount. Also, loan officers and borrowers should be to self-service while interfacing at the point-of-sale with the ability pay for appraisals, which is also critical to establishing an efficient process from the very start of the mortgage transaction. Lenders work with multiple appraisal vendors and getting them paid on time is important to maintaining good relationships.

Compliance is yet another area lenders need to be ultra-concerned about. There will always be changing rules and regulations that you must stay on top of or run the risk of fines and even the potential for buy-backs. A valuation management platform automates compliance so you don’t have to worry about keeping up with existing and new rules. It takes risk out of the equation, reduces instances of fraud and lowers operating costs associated with the appraisal process. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) Valuations Rule is but one example of a regulation that can be adhered to via automation. Per the rule, the borrower must be notified that they have the right to the appraisal report within three days of loan application, and then delivering it to them within three days of closing.

Reporting is another huge area to establish much needed transparency, vendor oversight and to understand where there are efficiencies and where there is room for improvement. Customizable reports that business people can easily create and run in real-time. This enables you to manage the specifics of your unique process in the now, not just evaluate the past. I cannot stress enough how important it is that reporting transpires in real-time. Being able to report in real-time gives you up-to-the-minute information that empowers you with insight to make the best decisions for your specific way of doing business. If reporting is light and isn’t in real-time, you cannot make adjustments as needed and on-the-fly. Lastly, in-depth reporting can demonstrate compliance in the event of an audit.

When it comes to integrations, a valuation management platform needs the ability to seamlessly integrate with the UCDP, EAD, CU, data analytics solutions, collateral review systems, LOSs and other relevant third party applications. Lenders shouldn’t have to leave their core system of record — the LOS. From within their LOS, users should be able to easily order and manage appraisals, check order status in real-time and receive the completed appraisal file back into the LOS. What’s more, the platform should have the ability to integrate with different AMC technology platforms, effectively allowing lenders that use multiples AMCs to easily distribute orders among them. Having direct access to multiple AMCs via one platform simplifies business continuity, controls costs, reduces turn times, and promotes compliance. The ability to do “champion/challenger” competition to improve turn-times based on any geographical area is essential.

There are many different choices lenders have to manage their valuation process. I recommend not relying on and cobbling together a multitude of different technology vendors that handle bits and pieces of the overall process. Instead, implement an enterprise-level valuation management platform that centralizes and automates the entire process. But make sure the system is a truly configurable, workflow-driven enterprise-level system. It’s crucial. Before selecting a vendor, evaluate the merits of everything covered in this article and you’ll be automated, efficient and more profitable.

About The Author

Commercial Evaluations

The appraisal industry is rapidly changing, and these changes usher in challenges as well as solutions. A declining appraiser pool can sometimes lead to appraisal delays and contribute to industry frustration. A more lengthy appraisal process can also create a disconnect between the borrower and the lender. This concern is significant in the commercial lending space as well as the residential.

To counter this dynamic, viable substitutes to traditional appraisals continue to emerge within the marketplace for qualifying situations. These substitutes are most often referred to as Evaluations. Evaluations are typically administered by real estate brokers and agents and follow practices set forth by the FDIC’s Interagency Guideline (IAG). They are most suitable for small loan balances as well as due diligence, portfolio monitoring, loan modifications, default services and extensions of credit. Lenders may also use evaluations for origination purposes when valuing a commercial property under a $250,000 loan threshold.

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So, what are the key differences?

The evaluation process is governed by the Interagency Guidelines and offers an abbreviated set of standards to accommodate qualifying transactions, while the traditional appraisal process is governed by USPAP which outlines a comprehensive set of standards by which to operate. Prices for evaluations are often less than the price of appraisals. Commercial evaluations generally cost under $1,000, while commercial appraisals can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 for similar properties. The time required to complete an evaluation is also reduced. Evaluations are generally completed in ten business days or less, while commercial appraisals generally require three to four weeks.

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The commercial evaluation form contains several approaches to value which includes land values, a comparable analysis (three comparable listings; three comparable rentals; three comparable sales); line item adjustments; local market trends, including vacancy rates and the subject’s neighborhood; income approach; subject property transaction history; capitalization rate; operating expenses; current subject photos; and commentary. Field agents perform interior site inspections as requested. The reports address current zoning, site utility, construction quality, assessment information and highest and best use.

Because the standards are not as extensive for evaluations, it is critical for lenders to understand the processes their vendors use including the use of technology, data resources and manual review.

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Lenders that understand the differences in the products offered by the market and the appropriate application of each can, in many cases, lower costs and expedite the production of credible values.

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Home Flipping Plateaus

ATTOM Data Solutions released its Q2 2017 U.S. Home Flipping Report, which shows that 53,638 single family homes and condos were flipped nationwide in the second quarter of 2017, a home flipping rate of 5.6 percent of all home sales during the quarter. The home flipping rate of 5.6 percent in Q2 2017 was down from 6.9 percent in the previous quarter but unchanged from a year ago.

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For the report, a home flip is defined as a property that is sold in an arms-length sale for the second time within a 12-month period based on publicly recorded sales deed data collected by ATTOM Data Solutions in more than 950 counties accounting for more than 80 percent of the U.S. population.

The report also shows an average gross flipping profit of $67,516 for homes flipped in the second quarter, representing a 48.4 percent return on investment (ROI) for flippers — down from 49.0 percent in the previous quarter and down from 49.6 percent in Q2 2016 to the lowest level since Q3 2015. After peaking at 51.1 percent in Q3 2016, average gross flipping ROI nationwide has decreased for three consecutive quarters.

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“Home flippers are employing a number of strategies to give them an edge in the increasingly competitive environment where flipping yields are being compressed,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “Many flippers are gravitating toward lower-priced areas where discounted purchases are more readily available — often due to foreclosure or some other type of distress. Many of those lower-priced areas also have strong rental markets, giving flippers a consistent pipeline of demand from buy-and-hold investors looking for turnkey rentals.

“In markets where distressed discounts have largely dried up, flippers are showing more willingness to leverage financing when acquiring properties, often purchasing closer to full market value and then relying more heavily on price appreciation to fuel their flipping profits,” Blomquist added.

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More than 35 percent of homes flipped in Q2 2017 were purchased by the flipper with financing, up from 33.2 percent in the previous quarter and up from 32.3 percent a year ago to the highest level since Q3 2008 — a nearly nine-year high.

The estimated total dollar volume of financing for homes flipped in the second quarter was $4.4 billion, up from $3.9 billion in the previous quarter and up from $3.4 billion a year ago to the highest level since Q3 2007 — a nearly 10-year high.

Essential Tips For Attaining Entrepreneurial Success

Most entrepreneurs in America would agree that working your way to success is challenging. It’s common for businesses to open and close, with half of them not making it to the five-year mark. It’s also something that entrepreneurs often have to pave their own trail for, according to one successful serial entrepreneur, rather than looking for a standard blueprint for success.

You don’t have to follow someone else’s model or steps to achieve your goals, success has different meanings for different people. It’s worth taking the time to define what success means for you. It could even be achieving an ideal balance between work and family, traveling, or being surrounded by people that you enjoy working with. Determine what success means for you, then figure out what it will take you to get there.”

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No stranger to business and overcoming hurdles, I am a serial entrepreneur, with over 20 years of strategic and financial experience. I co-founded several businesses, served on several boards as an advisor, spoken at events to inspire entrepreneurs, young women, and nonprofit leaders, as well as focus on the social enterprise sector thru the Coin Up app. In fact I, recently accepted the “2017 Start Up Tech of the Year” Pinnacle Award from Athena San Diego, a prestigious women’s organization supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She also holds a master’s in business administration degree from MIT/Sloan School of Business that focuses on finance and entrepreneurship.

I’ve achieved my own success because I was able to think and execute “outside the box” when it came to innovative ideas. I didn’t follow what others may consider a typical path to success. Instead, I considered what brought me happiness and what it would take to define me as being happy. I then set out to pave my own way in order to meet those goals. In addition to determining your own definition of success, here are my tips for paving your own way toward your entrepreneurial success:

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Be Real. Don’t change who you are to make someone else happy. We all have met people or been surrounded by people we want to get validation from. Sometimes, this takes you out of your own zone to believe that you need to act quicker and say the right thing in order to be “right” or earn someone’s validation. There is never enough of that validation and you will continue to have an empty space that is never content because that validation is not authentic for you. By staying in your own zone and using your own compass, you will attract the right people at the right time to build up you and your company. That kind of validation is not always easy to achieve, but it is definitely more rewarding.

Take Time and Build Knowledge. When you are contemplating starting your own business have patience. You don’t have to make any sudden decisions and there is not really a limit on time on when you must start. Take the time to research, talk to experts about every angle of your idea, and build a business plan for yourself. When you accumulate knowledge, you gain strength and comfort in your ideas and your abilities. Be an expert at whatever you decide to do!

Know Before You Go. Be prepared for meetings with advisors, clients, and peers. Do your homework on who you are meeting with, why you are meeting them, what you need out of the meetings. Going in prepared makes you look professional, responsible, and authentic, and will get you a second meeting or another connection if you need it.

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Learn Your Audience. When speaking, know who you are presenting to because your conversation must be directed for your audience. It could be clients, strategic partners, team members, or general networking. This is not only important when you are presenting formally, but even in your everyday business conversations. Being succinct and informative to your audience will take you a long way toward looking and being successful.

Surround yourself with the right people. Get incredible team members who fill your lack of knowledge. You don’t need to know all the answers, just surround yourself with those who do. It takes a team to build a business with experts in every area. You have to work together with this team to create a comprehensive business model at every angle.

In my case I created Coin Up, an innovative mobile app that provides a platform for donors to give effortlessly and securely to their favorite charitable cause. Once downloaded and registered, the app will round up purchases made on your credit card or debit card and directly send funds to your chosen charity each month. The app is free to download and has been designed to simplify giving by using incremental spare change to create major social impact. Coin Up’s mission is to create a society that engages in charitable giving through the convenience of everyday transactions.

So, take a chance, don’t undersell yourself, be prepared, get excited, and get smart. There is more than one way to become successful and if you take the time to know what that means for you and map out how you will get there, the happiness factor and self-validation are truly priceless! Entrepreneurship is an incredible journey of the business, the people you meet, and your own self.

About The Author