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Optimal Blue Transitions To New Ownership

Optimal Blue has been acquired by GTCR, a private equity firm. It was also announced that Founders and co-CEO’s, Larry Huff and Ivan Darius, will be transitioning leadership of Optimal Blue to Scott Happ, Founder and former CEO of Mortgagebot. Happ will join Optimal Blue as Chief Executive Officer at close. Sue Baker, a former Senior Vice President at Mortgagebot, will join Happ as Vice President of Product. The management team will stay in place.

GTCR will work with Happ, Baker and Optimal Blue’s management team to expand the Company’s strong network offerings and further invest in its technology. The transaction is expected to close in the next four weeks. Huff and Darius will remain involved with Optimal Blue as consultants and ensure a seamless transition to Happ.

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GTCR has committed up to $350 million of equity capital to the investment, to pursue growth initiatives at Optimal Blue, as well as complementary acquisitions to provide information and other digital services to the mortgage marketplace.

“I’ve had the great fortune to work with and serve the best customers, employees and partners one could imagine,” said Larry Huff, Co-Founder and Co-CEO. “I also would like to recognize the great partners we have at Serent Capital. Kevin Frick, Lance Fenton, and the others have been incredibly supportive partners and invaluable to the success at Optimal Blue. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I look forward to my continued involvement.”

“Adding industry veterans Scott and Sue and the GTCR resources will turbo-charge the performance of the incredibly talented team assembled at Optimal Blue,” added Ivan Darius, Co-Founder and Co-CEO.

About The Author

The Secondary Desk: A Paradigm Shift

*Navigating A Changing Market*
**By Ivan Darius**

***The mortgage industry is undergoing a vast and dramatic shift. It’s more than regulations or investor relations; we are looking at an actual shift in the paradigm of how the mortgage product is assembled. While process management still plays an important role, we are seeing a fundamental shift towards more active management and more intense verification of data.

****Most existing “Database-of-Record” systems are not designed for this paradigm; instead they are primarily used to capture the data. But it’s not good enough to just have static, end result, data. Particularly for compliance, mortgage bankers need to understand where the information came from, what the context was when it was collected, and how it might be needed in the future. Of course, if we can all agree that data quality is the key, the questions center around when and how the data is validated. Do a simple Google search on loan data quality and more than 20 million hits are returned, most of them from vendors promoting loan quality. And what is technology’s role?

****Reading some of the articles, it’s clear that most of what is written is based on the perception of how a mortgage is underwritten and processed. In reality, it’s more about the workflow, access to information in the form of data, open systems, seamless unification of platforms, and Software-as-a-Service, or cloud-based environments that promote greater agility to be able to assemble and validate information in an automated fashion. It’s also about drawing a line between the origination process and data quality. Origination focuses on gathering facts about the consumer and the collateral, processing the data, and efficiency. Data quality and validation is (should be) done in parallel. Working symbiotically with the LOS, constructing and validating the mortgage product and loan level information in a separate system or process, that can then be merged with information in the “Database-of-Record”, ensuring a validated loan file that has minimal repurchase and compliance risk.

****For lenders, it makes sense for that parallel system to be an adaptive product-eligibility, pricing and secondary marketing automation platform. In the last few years these systems have evolved from core pricing and eligibility engines, to a much more complex platform. In the early days of PPE’s, it was a loan officer product and search tool that included basic automation of the locking process. Today, the workflow has matured adding things like automated underwriting, mandatory delivery, hedging and loan committing, consumer point of sale, investor credit overlays, etc – all things that have significantly enhanced the origination and lender workflow functionality. This information is so fundamental to creating a mortgage that it needs to be accessible from the consumer to capital markets and any point in the workflow between. By continually validating the loan level data throughout these steps, a lender is ensured that the output is a higher quality and compliant loan. Investor credit overlays are a good example. All of the above allows lenders to manage risk from the standpoint of both origination and capital markets.

****As the mortgage process evolves, and compliance grows in scope and importance, it is imperative that the industry evaluates how the market is changing and adjusts accordingly. Today, alongside LOS and servicing systems, product, pricing and secondary marketing automation platforms are equally, if not more, relevant. In the proper implementation, these platforms work hand-in-hand, creating a workflow designed to support the industry’s move towards data verification and compliance.