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Powering Today’s Lenders: Shining The Light On A Tech-Savvy Lender

*Shining The Light On A Tech-Savvy Lender*
**By Daniel Liggett**

***We are continuing our series focusing on lenders who describe the impact that technology has had on their lending operation. The ‘Lender Spotlight’ shines this month on Country Bank for Savings, a $1.5 billion lender located in Ware, Massachusetts. Told in their own words, each narrator shares the unique and common challenges they faced and how they ultimately found their solutions by employing the right technology. So, let’s get started:

****Denise Hawk, Director of Retail Lending for Country Bank outlines how the bank’s desires shaped and directed their technology search and how their technology choice continues to impact her lending operation. She shares:

****“Basic necessity drove Country Bank to begin a search for a new LOS. Factors for the search included the lack of functionality of our existing system and a desire to have more control over the lending process. We also wanted to increase the efficiencies of the LOS so that we could do more with less and do it more effectively.

****“Our search process led us to the PowerLender LOS, developed by ASC and marketed and supported by Specialized Data Systems of East Haven, CT. We liked that fact that PowerLender was flexible and user-definable. We could see that the ability to refine the system to our needs would provide us with a great deal of control over our operations as well as making us more efficient. An additional thing that drew us to PowerLender was its ability to process mortgage and consumer loans from the same lending platform.

****“We used SDS for implementation help with our mortgage setup. Their extensive experience in configuring LOS systems, especially with lenders of our size, was evident. We used a product called SharePoint which outlined the project and helped us know what was expected of all of the participants, and we had weekly meetings which kept us on track.

****“Our mortgage operation went live first, and then we implemented our consumer setup in PowerLender ourselves. Although it took us a bit longer to implement consumer without the help of SDS, we were able to go live on consumer using our internal resources. Being able to process consumer loans from the same system as our mortgage has saved us lots of time and extra expense of having two systems.

****“We are now working on our MERS integration as well as a two-way integration with our core banking system. This interface will let us send specified borrower data from a loan file within PowerLender directly to our core. This interface lets us send specified borrower data from a loan file within PowerLender directly to our core banking system and also lets us extract borrower data as well. When an existing or former borrower requests a loan or other service from us, we can submit a query (loan record number, last name, SSN, etc.) in order to retrieve the information and have it automatically populate a new loan record in PowerLender. There is no need for us to re-key any data and it only takes a second.

****“Some additional efficiencies that we were able to implement into our lending operation using PowerLender include an internal emailing system that operators use to automatically alert the lending staff as to the status of the loan as it moves through the various stages of the pipeline. We also created a single screen containing all of our linked websites so that operators can quickly identify and access third party provider information. We like the reporting capabilities in PowerLender that has allowed us to customize our reports and store the reports electronically as we move towards establishing a paperless lending operation

****“All in all, we are reaping the benefits of PowerLender as a customizable loan platform that has allowed us to become more efficient and has given us a great deal of control over our lending operation.”

Daniel Liggett serves as Director of Client Services for Associated Software Consultants’ PowerLender Loan Origination & Processing System. He has more than 20 years experience in mortgage lending and loan automation systems. Danny oversees the configuration, training, support and project management efforts for loan origination and secondary marketing at ASC and serves as a development and marketing advisor.

Powering Today’s Lenders: Employ The Right Technology

*Employ The Right Technology*
**By Daniel Liggett**

***New England Bank, a $700 million lender located in Enfield Connecticut, is the latest organization to assume the ‘Lender Spotlight’ in our continuing series that focuses upon lending technology and its impact on their operation. Told in their own words, each narrator shares the unique and common challenges they faced and how they ultimately found their solutions by employing the right technology. Here’s their story:

****Diane Miller, Loan Originations Manager for New England Bank outlines how the bank’s desires shaped and directed their technology search. She says:

****“When New England Bank became determined to replace our existing LOS, we not only went looking for a system that could deliver the efficiencies that our present system lacked, but we had other requirements as well.

****“One of the things we wanted was to find a system that would help in our desire to move toward a paperless lending operation. Another was to find a more efficient way to track loans in the pipeline. We were using a rather cumbersome method which involved passing emails back and forth between the various lending groups, i.e., processing, underwriting, etc. in order to track loans.

****“There were many places within our operation where we could improve efficiencies. We wanted to concentrate on making our lending operation better and so we could provide better service to our customers. The wheels started turning for us as soon as we were introduced to RemoteLender.

****“RemoteLender is a hosted LOS that provided us with a two-fold advantage. One is that it is hosted and resides on off-site servers. Our low monthly fee provides us with on-demand LOS service and includes hardware and software upgrades, security, backups and maintenance. This represents a large savings in comparison to securing these IT resources internally. The second advantage that we like is the remote aspect of RemoteLender, as it allows access from virtually anywhere and our personnel need only a PC and an Internet connection to work from any location.

****“For example, RemoteLender’s detailed security settings allow us to provide access to our offsite compliance and QA people to review loans. They no longer have to travel onsite and they can review loan records on the screen without compromising security or having to print paper documents for review. This saves us all time and money.

****“The work queues available in RemoteLender are much more efficient than our old manual system since it allows Customer files to be transferred to another department without sending the “physical” file. The benefit is no “paper files” are lost in transit and no “paper files” have to be locked up at night. In addition, the queue stacks up the work in “date order” so users know their priorities.

****“Our processors are gaining efficiencies using a ‘dual monitor’ approach in conjunction with RemoteLender’s Document Center feature which allows us to attach all related documents, notes and reports directly to the loan record. Operators can now view everything at once; the loan record on one screen and the attachments on the other.

****“I enjoy finding ways to make our process more efficient. RemoteLender allows us to find new ways of doing things all the time. We also appreciate the fact that the vendor, Specialized Data Systems is a valued business partner and was instrumental in getting us configured in a very timely manner and continues to be a trusted resource going forward.

****“The strides we’ve made in our bid for paperless lending have moved beyond our walls and into other aspects of the bank. We are leading the way.”

Daniel Liggett serves as Director of Client Services for Associated Software Consultants’ PowerLender Loan Origination & Processing System. He has more than 20 years experience in mortgage lending and loan automation systems. Danny oversees the configuration, training, support and project management efforts for loan origination and secondary marketing at ASC and serves as a development and marketing advisor.

Powering Today’s Lenders: Level The Playing Field

*Level The Playing Field*
**By Daniel Liggett**

***The latest ‘Lender Spotlight’ shines on Torrington Savings Bank, whose innovative use of technology has allowed them to level the playing field against larger lenders. This is the third installment of the series where we have asked lenders to tell their stories about their technology choices in their own words. Here’s what Torrington had to say:

****Torrington Savings Bank is a $700 million community bank headquartered in northwest Connecticut. In 2007, they set out to become a self-described leader in mortgage technology. They wanted to be able to achieve a level of technology previously available only to larger lenders. The impetus for this plan began with the search for a loan origination system to replace the aged and functionally challenged existing LOS.

****Jeff Geddes of Torrington said, “We made a list of important items that the new LOS should provide in order for us to meet our goals. These included having an increased level of functionality, providing us with a fair amount of flexibility and possessing user-friendly attributes that would help spur productivity. A short list but a tall order for sure.

****“When we first looked at RemoteLender, a hosted solution using rules-based technology, we saw that it possessed many benefits that could help us achieve our goals. We were particularly impressed with its workflow enhancements, integrations with third-party providers and its ability to be easily changed and edited using business rules.

****“Another thing was the cost savings that a hosted system like RemoteLender would provide a bank like ours with limited IT resources. We saw that we could have a top-notch online system that would rival that of larger lenders at a fraction of the cost. All of the IT responsibilities such as hardware and software upgrades and backups as well as maintenance are handled by the vendor, who, through economies of scale, provide better services than we can for the money.

****“After a thorough evaluation of the LOS, including the people developing and implementing it for us, we chose RemoteLender and have been live on the product for two years now.

****“RemoteLender has delivered on all of its promises and we are learning new things and capabilities of this product all the time. From the little things like tab control or mouse control options when navigating screens to the feature that permits us to enter multiple bank deposits for a single borrower in a single entry rather than one at a time, or even multiple borrowers on a single loan record. Storing information in tables helps speed up processing as does the ability to run amortization tables and functions right from the loan record.

****“We also like the ability to attach items to a loan record, this helps us move toward a goal of paperless lending. Today’s borrower has tons of paper files. RemoteLender allows us to attach items such as email, appraisals, or whatever we want to scan directly to the loan record. And the integrations with third-party providers allow us to order credit without having to leave the system. We make a click or two and get result already attached to the loan file which is a huge time-saver.

****“The refinability of RemoteLender has provided us a great advantage over the competition as we can quickly make desired or necessary changes in a short period of time. For example, we traditionally followed the standard 1003 format and were able to have our screens and workflow stages mirror this. Our operators had an advantage of familiarity rather than the frustration of starting over. And the staging for printing saves paper. We can print an entire ‘stage’ of documents or a single one. This increases productivity while saving us dollars.

****“RemoteLender’s multi-level security options allow us to assign access rights by whatever method we desire. We can assign by duties such as processor, underwriter, etc, or even view-only access depending on the individual or group.

****“RemoteLender not only helped us exceed our goals, it also helped us win the Innovative Lender of the Year Award where we beat out a bank that was exponentially larger than us.

****“We were rookies in the technology game, but we kept our sights on the goal, performed due diligence and partnered with vendors who were experienced and knowledgeable in their disciplines.”

Daniel Liggett serves as Director of Client Services for Associated Software Consultants’ PowerLender Loan Origination & Processing System. He has more than 20 years experience in mortgage lending and loan automation systems. Danny oversees the configuration, training, support and project management efforts for loan origination and secondary marketing at ASC and serves as a development and marketing advisor.

Powering Today’s Lenders: Tracking The Real Needs Of Lenders

*Tracking The Real Needs Of Lenders*
**By Daniel Liggett**

***This week, our ‘Lender Spotlight’ is on the Savings Institute Bank & Trust Company (SIBT) of Willimantic, CT. This is the second installment in our series where we share stories from actual lenders about how they selected and implemented technology initiatives. When the $950 million SIBT began their search for new loan origination technology, they set out to create a list of the capabilities that were essential in meeting their future lending requirements. One was to have the LOS and the accompanying data reside on servers within the bank’s existing internal IT infrastructure. The second was to process both mortgage and consumer loans from a single system. The remaining requirements on the list were derived from experiences with past systems. These included flexibility, customization, and vendor integrity.

****SIBT’s year-long search culminated in the selection of PowerLender, a business-rules-based LOS, with Specialized Data Systems (SDS) of East Haven, CT. providing the implementation and configuration services. SDS and SIBT designed an implementation plan and refined PowerLender to meet the bank’s specific way of doing business.

****We understood our workflow requirements. We have a mix including Conventional, FHA, 203K, Connecticut Housing products, EquityBuilder products and Rural Development products. Our operation is like many banks in the region and SDS had a firm grasp of our business and helped us implement it into PowerLender in a rapid fashion. It didn’t take long for us to discover that with PowerLender, anything we needed we could do.

****The project began in January and we went live with PowerLender in June. PowerLender helped streamline our workflow by providing third-party integrations with Desktop Underwriter, mortgage insurance providers and credit bureaus. The ability to attach documentation to a loan record reduced the resources we devoted to compiling and tracking these items.

****Our point-of-sale operations include both face-to-face and online using LoanQuoter by DataVision. Our plan is to take advantage of PowerLender’s web services which allow seamless, automatic transfer of loan data between the consumer-facing portal and the LOS. Thus data entered by the consumer goes directly into PowerLender and loan-status updates are available on the web.

****Aside from the large number of technical and business requirements that PowerLender was able to handle, it’s still a user-friendly system. I manage 16 people who touch PowerLender on a daily basis, including originators, processors, underwriters, closers and post closers. They are all involved in the process, and their input is extremely important.

****We achieved our lending technology requirements of an in-house system that could handle multiple lending products including consumer, and deliver integrations to streamline the point-of-sale.

****Technology that provides flexibility, adaptability and ease of use is a key to a long-lasting LOS. Having a vendor who understands our business as well as theirs is just as important to achieving success. And when you achieve a comfort level among all stakeholders, it allows for rapid acceptability and real achievement.

****The next ‘Lender Spotlight’ shines on an innovative lender who used technology to compete on a higher level.

Daniel Liggett serves as Director of Client Services for Associated Software Consultants’ PowerLender Loan Origination & Processing System. He has more than 20 years experience in mortgage lending and loan automation systems. Danny oversees the configuration, training, support and project management efforts for loan origination and secondary marketing at ASC and serves as a development and marketing advisor.

Powering Today’s Lenders: Let’s Put The Spotlight On The Lender

*Let’s Put The Spotlight On The Lender*
**By Daniel Liggett**

***This is the first article in our ‘Lender Spotlight’ series where we share stories from actual lenders about how they select and implement technology initiatives. Each story is told by the decision-makers themselves and describes in detail, the thought process behind their choices. This week’s ‘Lender Spotlight’ focuses on Florence Savings Bank in Ware, Massachusetts.

****Too often during searches for new lending technology, the majority of the focus is placed on the functionality and capability of the product, and the importance of vendor quality is either undervalued or overlooked.

****This can be highly detrimental to a lending organization in search of enterprise-wide technology because the quality of whom you deal with can be the determining factor in the degree of success that is achieved with the technology.

****Florence Saving Bank, a $1.1 billion lender in Central Massachusetts performed quite a bit of due diligence before deciding on an LOS. We, like many others, were bogged down with regulation changes and could no longer tolerate the maintenance, inefficiencies and limitations of their antiquated LOS of ten years. We wanted a flexible, online solution that could handle both mortgage and consumer lending. Vendor quality was of concern after experiencing a decline in support over the lifetime of their LOS.

****Jeff Smith, Vice President at Florence Savings, and his team prepared a detailed list of functionality that they required. They looked at nearly a dozen LOSs, choosing three or four to review in depth. None of them handled all of our requirements, nor did any differentiate themselves from the other.

****We then began hearing success stories from lenders using an LOS, available from an area reseller, that wasn’t even on Florence Saving’s initial list of candidate systems. We grew more interested as the varying lenders we encountered described the RemoteLender LOS provided by Specialized Data Systems. The more we listened, the more we were intrigued that this single LOS was able to meet the varying needs of the different lending operations and I was especially surprised when each lender repeatedly cited SDS’s high level of service as a determining factor in their success.

****Armed with this feedback, we then performed an in-depth technical review of RemoteLender and also scrutinized SDS to determine their viability, experience and capability as a vendor. It was important to Florence that SDS could handle the implementation and customization of the LOS, as well as all phases of ongoing maintenance, including monitoring compliance issues.

****After passing the most exhaustive review of any technology in its history, we chose RemoteLender. SDS went to work assessing the banks’ requirement, developing a phased implementation project plan and refining RemoteLender to fit our lending model.

****We received great support from SDS during the rollout phase. We had weekly scheduled conference calls to keep us on task and set forth milestones to monitor our progress. With SDS being essentially a ‘local’ vendor, they are here for us to provide the support and business services that we need to achieve our goals.

****SDS handles all of the custom reporting and integrations, and since RemoteLender is deployed online, SDS continues to maintain all hosting functions (through a third-party) including all IT, security, backup and connectivity tasks.

****Our RemoteLender is not like any other banks’ system, it does what we want it to do the way we want it. We are fortunate to have SDS as our vendor because we plan to keep RemoteLender for 10-15 years.

****The key to a long-lasting LOS is performing the due diligence on the vendor as well as on the functionality. The quality of the vendor and the level of service they provide are essential to getting the most from your technology and achieving your lending goals in the most cost-effective manner.

****Next week’s ‘Lender Spotlight’ focuses on an Eastern Connecticut lender who chose PowerLender deployed in-house.

Daniel Liggett serves as Director of Client Services for Associated Software Consultants’ PowerLender Loan Origination & Processing System. He has more than 20 years experience in mortgage lending and loan automation systems. Danny oversees the configuration, training, support and project management efforts for loan origination and secondary marketing at ASC and serves as a development and marketing advisor.

Powering Today’s Lenders: Ask The Bank That Owns One

*Ask the Bank That Owns One*
**By Daniel Liggett**

***The title of this article is a twist on a classic advertising slogan for a legendary automobile brand. The manufacturer implored the reader to ask the person who owns one and why they bought it knowing full well the satisfied owners’ words would be more convincing than any they could possibly dream up.

****This transparent approach is extremely powerful, but the manufacturer better have the utmost confidence in their product. If the owner doesn’t like what they bought, they’re surely going to say so when asked. This is more true today than ever, with the increased use and adoption of social media.

****At a recent technology symposium held in New England, lenders had the rare opportunity to hear from a group of decision-makers on why they chose their loan origination system and the reasons behind their decisions.

****The panel of lenders differed in asset size, loan volume, lending models, deployment and workflow requirements, but they were similar in certain aspects as well. They set the table by discussing the reasons that motivated them to perform their technology search. Most were prompted by upcoming regulatory changes and the lack of confidence in their present system or in their vendor to handle these changes. Fear is a great motivator, but most of the lenders had a detailed plan long before compliance deadlines became realities. The lenders’ plans all included a wish-list of capabilities they both required and desired and all echoed that it had to be an integral part of their banks’ overall growth program. It was here that their needs began to differ and requirements became unique to their operations.

****One adopter said that he wanted an internet-based solution in order to relieve his thin IT staff from the burdens of maintenance and upgrades while providing access to loan officers in the field. A second lender said flexibility, customization and ease-of-use topped her list. A third lender desired to mirror their present workflow and then improve upon it. One said a key component was the LOS’s ability to grow with their organization, and not just accommodate more bodies, but have true scalability. Another lender wanted one system to handle both mortgage and consumer lending on the same platform.

****Each individual then described their lending operation in detail; the nuances that they embraced and those that they wanted to change. What became evident was how the differences in each operation clearly outnumbered the similarities, meaning each one had a distinctly different way of lending and thus a unique set of requirements. They described how the chosen LOS allowed them to achieve their goals and the effort that was involved. They described future plans and outlined their growth expectations. They also included candid details about their implementation experience, including both the successes and pitfalls and described what they learned along the way.

****In an effort to share this valuable knowledge and insight directly from the individuals making these decisions, I will be adding a “Lender Spotlight” section to this column.  Come back next week to see how and why technology decisions are being made directly from the decision makers.

Daniel Liggett serves as Director of Client Services for Associated Software Consultants’ PowerLender Loan Origination & Processing System. He has more than 20 years experience in mortgage lending and loan automation systems. Danny oversees the configuration, training, support and project management efforts for loan origination and secondary marketing at ASC and serves as a development and marketing advisor.

Powering Today’s Lenders: Are You Missing Out?

*Are You Happy With Your LOS?*
**By Daniel Liggett**

***Is your LOS doing everything it should for you? An LOS should address the entire loan origination process…and then some!

****Lenders today are tasked with doing more with less.  More rules and regulations, changing investor guidelines, tighter underwriting standards, and the constant pressure to bring in more business, all while having less staff to accomplish stated goals.  It’s clear that the requirements of lenders have significantly expanded  in terms of the scope of tasks that need to be performed to be competitive and successful. These now include both lending and non-traditional tasks that are required.

****First, it goes without saying that your LOS should be able to handle mortgage loans of all kinds from all of the traditional channels. But it should also be able to handle consumer lending products such as personal loans, auto loans, equity and lines of credit, and construction lending products as well. It should use the same database and take advantage of the same security, data validation and related tools to maximize efficiency and eliminate the need for your staff to learn multiple system and infrastructures.

****Your LOS should also handle doc prep, secure messaging and doc delivery as well as the traditional tasks. Most importantly, your system must have in-depth integrations with business partners to help perform these tasks. Integrations allow you to offer clients faster service, decrease manual requirements and increase the quality of the information flowing in and out of your LOS. Simply put, the right LOS integration makes your operation better, stronger, and faster!

****Lastly, your LOS must perform non-traditional tasks such as assisting with marketing and customer retention. Your LOS should help you attract new customers with fast and easy point-of-sale features, instant approval messages and instant loan status updates. It should also serve as a repository of data on current customers so that you can quickly and easily reach out to them with offers on other products, or re-finance opportunities, before your competition does.  Today your technology solution must reach beyond the traditional definition of an LOS and include:

****>> Consumer facing web portal for quick, secure applications w/ real time status updates to the borrower

****>> Dynamic point-of-sale functionality

****>> Secure document delivery

****>> Secure messaging

****>> Processing

****>> Underwriting

****>> Closing

****>> Document Preparation

****>> Custom documents & letters

****>> Mortgage processing

****>> Consumer processing

****>> HELOC processing

****>> Construction Loan Processing

****>> Integration with banks business partners

****>> Ability to quickly and compliantly respond to rule changes

****To effectively respond to the challenging lending environment that lenders are faced with today, lenders need to turn to technology to answer the call.

Daniel Liggett serves as Director of Client Services for Associated Software Consultants’ PowerLender Loan Origination & Processing System. He has more than 20 years experience in mortgage lending and loan automation systems. Danny oversees the configuration, training, support and project management efforts for loan origination and secondary marketing at ASC and serves as a development and marketing advisor.

Powering Today’s Lenders: Loan Quality, Your LOS Could Be The Difference

*Loan Quality: Your LOS Could Be The Difference*
**By Daniel Liggett**

***In today’s market, quality and compliance are major concerns for lenders. They need to comply with a flood of new regulations, avoid potential fines and minimize buyback risk while ensuring loan quality. Lenders understand that investors will not purchase loans that do not meet their strict quality requirements. Lenders are facing these challenges with fewer staff and in an extremely competitive marketplace.

****Loan officers are struggling with the speed and frequency at which these rules and regulations are changing and diligently looking for guidance on how to implement effective solutions that address these concerns. They are looking for automation that addresses investor loan quality requirements and the flood of new rules and regulations.

****Want better loans? Then start with your LOS. The typical system of record for the majority of your loan data is your LOS. To assure investors that your loans are of high quality and saleable, lenders must look for ways to improve the loan process within their LOS. Lenders need to accept that bad data = bad loans = buybacks = loss of profit. Inefficiencies within your lending process cause errors, and increase costs.

****To stay competitive in today’s market, lenders can no longer afford to deal with inefficient and outdated LOS technology. The stakes are simply too high. Regulatory penalties and costly buybacks will significantly cut into profits and overall sustainability of the lending organization.

****A powerful LOS, especially one that delivers automated data validation, can improve loan quality. These systems can provide data edit checks and hard stops within the system to prevent bad data from being introduced into the loan process. Advanced business rules can address and enforce regulatory changes and new investor guidelines, while streamlining the lending process to improve loan quality.

****In addition, tight integration of the LOS with other key third party service providers is critical in improving data and loan quality. Two-way auto data integration avoids rekeying of information, eliminates omission errors and reduces the time and cost of data entry mistakes. Lenders simply cannot accept simple interfaces that do not address or eliminate these challenges.

****If you want to improve loan quality, avoid costly fines and minimize buyback risk then one of the first places you need to look is your LOS. Advanced LOS offerings that utilize the latest technology solutions and also constantly monitor regulatory changes can deliver the type of solution that you need.

****Loan quality can no longer be wishful thinking if you hope to prosper in the lending environment of the future.

Daniel Liggett serves as Director of Client Services for Associated Software Consultants’ PowerLender Loan Origination & Processing System. He has more than 20 years experience in mortgage lending and loan automation systems. Danny oversees the configuration, training, support and project management efforts for loan origination and secondary marketing at ASC and serves as a development and marketing advisor.