Debuting Web-Based Settlement Agent Tech

Ernst Publishing Company, a provider of technology and closing cost data for the real estate and home finance industries for the past 27 years, announced today that the company will present its Settlement Agent Gateway technology at the American Land Title Association’s Business Strategies Conference. The event takes place March 16-18, 2016 at the JW Marriott Indianapolis, located at 10 South West Street in Indianapolis.

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Ernst will hold an interactive session on Thursday, March 17th from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm. The Ernst team will be offering Settlement Agents a hands on demonstration of their web-based Settlement Agent Gateway and signing agents up for the program at the show. The system was created to help save smaller title and settlement services agents from being pushed out of the business due to fears on the part of lenders that they would be incapable of complying with the CFPB’s TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule. Ernst will be offering a discount to any Agent signing up to be part of the program while at the ALTA Conference.

Ernst’s Settlement Agent Gateway allows settlement agents to enter their settlement service fees into a password-protected program that enables them to manage fees for required services by geography, fee and loan type. Once their fees are entered into the program, agents certify that the fees are accurate with a single click. Agents can access the system at any time to manage fee changes. Ernst then provides access to these fees in their lender custom title solutions. When a lender is ready to create a new loan quote, Loan Estimate or Closing Disclosure, their settlement agent partner’s certified fees will automatically be loaded into the disclosures. This provides accurate, consistent settlement fees to all parties from the very start of the transaction.

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Ernst’s new technology has been instrumental in allowing smaller title and settlement agents to remain in business at the same time it has preserved the competitive advantage of lenders who have spent years building out their local business referral networks.

Ernst programs process an average of 150 million real estate transactions every year, industry-wide. Since the company was founded 27 years ago, Ernst has processed over 1 billion transactions. We estimate that our technology is in use for 90% of the nation’s new loan originations and refinance transactions. For more information about the company’s Settlement Agent Gateway, contact the company.

New Web-Based TRID Solution Emerges

Ernst Publishing Company has rolled out a new collaborative fee management system that allows settlement agents to work with lenders to negotiate fees and then manage these fees in a web-based tool through which they can certify that the fees are accurate and then make them available to lenders who need to provide Loan Estimates required under the new TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rules.

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The technology responds to a trend that is seeing lenders drop their contracts with smaller settlement services companies due to concerns that they won’t have certified accurate fees available at the time the lender must issue the Loan Estimate. This will be disastrous for smaller industry firms.

“This software allows smaller settlement agents to protect their businesses,” said Jan Clark, vice president of sales and marketing for Ernst Publishing. “A single mistake will be enough to delay the closing and lenders have already realized that they can’t afford it. By managing their own fees and providing a certification to lenders that these fees are accurate, all settlement services providers can now protect their valuable lender relationships by helping their partners remain compliant.”

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The web-based program is simple to use and uses MISMO data standards to allow the settlement agent to enter pre-negotiated fees that include fields for the required services by geography, and then certify that the fees are accurate with a single click. Agents can access the system at any time. Ernst then loads this fee information into a lender’s custom fee engine and when the company is ready to create a new TRID Loan Estimate, the certified accurate fees for their settlement agent partners will automatically be loaded into the disclosures and are compatible with nearly every LOS and closing system in the marketplace.

Ernst programs process an average of 150 million real estate transactions every year, industry-wide. Since the company was founded 26 years ago, Ernst has processed over 1 billion transactions. We estimate that our technology is in use for 90% of the nation’s new loan originations and refinance transactions.

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Servicing Innovation Lives On

Innovation on the servicing side of the business continues to flourish. For example, Quandis launched Quandis Loan Servicing (QLS), an end-to-end default management platform that automates and compliantly manages the default process from start to finish. QLS is offered as an all-in-one system and also as modules so various components can be leveraged by servicers based on individual needs.

QLS is a completely browser-based solution that is delivered on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis for servicers of all types and sizes. Core components of QLS include: 1) A suite of robust default servicing modules. 2) Custom configurable workflows, document management, and business rules all packaged within a business user change management system. 3) Key vendor data services are available such as title, bankruptcy, and SCRA services.

“The default servicing systems that are currently available in the mortgage industry are antiquated and fall short of what servicers truly need to operate efficiently, nimbly and compliantly in today’s fast-moving, challenging, regulatory intensive business environment,” said Scott Stoddard, CEO of Quandis. “In order to effectively handle the complexities and many nuances in a very fluid marketplace, servicers need extremely configurable, flexible, agile technology. QLS’ contemporary and highly configurable design decidedly trumps anything on the market.”

The QLS end-to-end default management platform has a service-oriented architecture (SOA) design that consists of modular applications and piecemeal services to choose from, which can easily be turned on or off. This allows organizations to utilize Quandis to automate select parts of their default processes, and use additional vendors and/or in-house technologies for other areas.

At the core of QLS is Quandis Business Objects (QBO), which provides non-technical business people with a user friendly web browser interface that puts them completely in charge of workflow, business rules, document and contact management, and configurations without needing the assistance of IT. As a result, business analysts are able to create and control workflows themselves, drive internal processes and solution development, quickly respond and adapt to market conditions, implement new compliance and state-based rules, and much more.

“One of the biggest advantages that QLS offers is the ability for business analysts to easily create, deploy and manage configurations and business rules,” said Eric Patrick, CTO at Quandis. “QLS was completely built with the business user in mind to empower them with an intuitive web browser interface that allows them to manage and make adjustments to critical areas within the lifecycle of defaults, and have real-time visibility and loan pipeline status.”

Stoddard continued: “In 1995, I founded one of the mortgage industry’s most dominant default management technology platforms, which has since been bought and sold multiple times and is still in use today by leading servicers and their foreclosure attorney networks. As the servicing space became more complicated and compliance intensive, we observed an increasing need for more contemporary, advanced technology than what is currently available. These challenges spawned the development of QLS.”

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A New Web-Based Default Tool Emerges

*A New Web-Based Default Tool Emerges*
**By Tony Garritano**

TonyG***The Internet is not new, yet mortgage servicing has been slow to embrace Web-based tools. Why? Because the major servicing platforms are mainframe applications. That all changes today. I learned that ISGN has launched Tempo, a Web-based default management platform. Tempo offers dynamic, real-time work queues and reportable communication to ensure that internal and external parties quickly and efficiently fulfill all required steps to complete a loan.

****Tempo seamlessly integrates with any servicing application, attorney network, or other third-party system, ensuring all parties are aware of each step’s progress. In addition, the Web-based platform features a customizable workflow engine, allowing institutions to change or add tasks at anytime throughout the process. Tempo reduces risk and error with less human interaction and ensures full compliance of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines. Additionally, institutions are able to save costs by scaling quickly to critical timelines with real time work assignments, as well as save time with researchable loan history and systemic process workflow, reducing the need for a large, dedicated staff.

****The release of Tempo is timely given market challenges to attain profitability. According to Paul Imura, chief marketing officer at ISGN, “In order to offset the higher cost structure in servicing, technology solutions are a key lever to improving precision, reducing cost and enabling lenders to strategically focus on their business.”

****“Web-based integration and workflow are the key technology underpinnings of default management systems that can improve delinquent loan processing speed, accuracy, compliance and cost reduction,” said CEB TowerGroup senior research director Craig Focardi. “Service-oriented architecture enables real-time integration with multiple internal subsystems, vendor management and external customer communications and reporting.”

****“In today’s dynamic and ever-changing regulatory environment, ensuring complete accuracy within the mortgage servicing market is paramount,” added Ankush Dham, director of technology products and services for ISGN. “With Tempo, we’re not only keeping servicers compliant, but enabling significant cost savings. For a servicer, that could translate into nearly $800,000 in cost savings a year.”

The Road To Winning The LOS Wars

*The Road To Winning The LOS War*
**New Lender Clients Matter**

***The winners of the LOS war are those that are actually capturing new clients. For example, LOS LendingQB announced that 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has selected its Web-based end-to-end loan origination system (LOS). The platform is being configured to streamline 3Rivers’ unique workflow and internal processes in all areas of its mortgage lending business, eliminating unnecessary manual touch points, improving communications, reducing cost per loan and ultimately enhancing member service levels.

****“We were previously using one of the better-known origination systems in the industry but found that we needed a more advanced, scalable platform that could help us grow and make originating, underwriting, closing and servicing loans for our members a seamless process that required less staff intervention,” explained Jeff Meyer, president and CEO of 3Rivers. “The level of automation we can achieve with LendingQB’s solution empowers our team to quickly and smoothly work with numerous applications, instantly underwrite those loans using their proprietary automated underwriting system (AUS) and keep our members constantly updated on their loan status. As we expand, our continued success in lending is all about maintaining the highest standards in member service; we expect LendingQB’s technology to be instrumental in accomplishing this.”

****LendingQB’s end-to-end LOS platform resides entirely in the Cloud and is delivered on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis to 3Rivers. As a result, the implementation is speedy, system maintenance costs become virtually nonexistent and software updates are instant and not disruptive to operations. The transparency of the platform’s ability to seamlessly configure and connect workflows delivers newfound visibility for 3Rivers’ team members and ease of communication between critical lending functions/areas. In addition, LendingQB will transform 3Rivers into a completely paperless organization with centralized reporting and key performance indicators (KPIs) for management’s oversight. Upfront disclosures, constant real-time compliance audits and closing documents are all included in LendingQB’s pay per closed loan pricing model.

****“As credit unions continue to capture market share in residential lending, they began to outgrow older LOSs that worked well for originating fewer loans, but with the recent spike in volume, an instant need was created for them to implement a sophisticated enterprise-class system that can grow and flex with their lending business,” said Binh Dang, president of LendingQB.

Tracking The LOS Wars

*Tracking The LOS Wars*
**By Tony Garritano**

***Competition among loan origination system providers is fierce. Recent acquisitions are prompting some lenders to wonder if their LOS will be maintained and new regulation has other lenders looking for a better option. Mainstay LOS companies will surely survive, but there may also be an opportunity for newer companies with a better approach and more advanced technology to claim a niche for their company. For example, LendingQB, a newer Web-based LOS, has had a banner second quarter, signing twelve new clients, which are either already in production or in the midst of implementation. New clients include mortgage bankers, community banks and credit unions. Here’s their story:

****Customers that are in production with LendingQB have been able to immediately eliminate the need for multiple systems, cut technology costs by up to 50 percent and reduce the cost to originate loans by as much 30 percent, according to the company. LendingQB emphasizes a seamless workflow that eliminates non-value added activities through automation. Examples of this include automated underwriting, business rule automation and lights-out integrations to select third-party vendors. LendingQB touts that its goal is to unifiy all mortgage lending activities on a single database of record, enabling higher level functions such as rapid generation of management reports and internal communication. The entire platform is Web-based and accessed through a common Web browser, making it highly scalable and extremely efficient to deploy.

****“We’re seeing a rapid growth in our pipeline since we introduced LendingQB late last year,” said Binh Dang, president of LendingQB. “There’s a real movement among mortgage lenders to switch their LOS platforms. Dissatisfaction with service and the uncertainty of the longevity of their vendors are part of the reason. But there’s also a real desire for technology advancement; lenders are treating their business in a more sophisticated manner, especially in regards to quality control and business analytics. They want a level of technology sophistication that matches their desire to grow efficiently as the mortgage industry recovers. We’re glad that these new clients recognize the value we bring to their business.”

****LendingQB’s platform is comprised of LO, TPO, and consumer direct point-of-sale Web portals for all lending channels, the PriceMyLoan pricing engine and automated underwriting system (AUS); loan processing; electronic documents, closing; secondary marketing; and interim servicing. All functions are incorporated into a seamless workflow. Also, LendingQB LOS incorporates business intelligence (BI) and data analytics functionality along with detailed reporting that helps lenders locate and translate their data into actionable information, enabling them to make informed business decisions that establishes a competitive advantage and leads to greater profitability.

****We’ll keep you updated on LendingQB and all the other LOS offerings as we are informed about how they’re doing.

Understanding The News: Who Says That Technology Doesn’t Pay Off?

*Who Says That Technology Doesn’t Pay Off?*
**Website Gets Major Kudos**

***Arguably the biggest problem that the mortgage industry faces is the foreclosure crisis. There has to be a better, faster, easier way to workout troubled loans and foreclose on loans that can’t be worked out. That’s where technology can play a role and it has. The National Mortgage Settlement (Settlement) announced last week and filed in federal district court by the Department of Justice, the 49 state attorneys general, and the five largest mortgage servicers, mentions Hope LoanPort (HLP) as a model for a neutral, national Web-based portal to facilitate compliance with the Settlement. HLP is a non-profit 501(c)(3) based in Washington, D.C. Here’s the scoop on why this matters:

****The landmark Settlement requires, among other new servicing standards, that the five mortgage servicers develop a portal that allows homeowners to submit and check the status of their foreclosure-alternative applications. The Settlement also mandates that other stakeholders, specifically, housing counselors who are working with homeowners, shall have access to a similar portal to be used to submit applications and to communicate with mortgage servicers. HLP was mentioned as a model portal in each of the separate consent orders filed in district court.

****Since its creation in 2009, HLP has been the prototype for a collaborative, multi-party, Web-based transactional platform focused on foreclosure prevention. Its mission is to provide transparent, efficient and traceable access to foreclosure-alternative options while ensuring homeowner information is securely and confidentially shared among key stakeholders such as housing counselors, mortgage servicers and homeowners. This efficiency helps everyone make informed, meaningful, and timely decisions that ultimately better serve homeowners at risk of, or in, financial distress.

****HLP has successfully worked with the housing counseling community and the mortgage servicing industry to agree upon a standard set of data and document requirements that allow consumers to apply for foreclosure alternatives. HLP has relationships with 14 mortgage servicers, including the five mortgage servicers who agreed to the Settlement. These servicers manage over 80% of the mortgages serviced in the United States. HLP is also working with over 700 HUD-Approved/National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) certified Housing Counseling Agencies with over 3,800 individual housing counselors in 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

****Camillo Melchiorre, President and CEO of HLP stated, “Hope LoanPort is proud to be mentioned in the National Mortgage Settlement and looks forward to working with the mortgage servicing industry, as well as the regulatory and housing counseling communities to better address the needs of homeowners.”

****You see, technology can make a big difference.

Rethinking Originations: Changing Dynamics

*Changing Dynamics*
**By Mark Phlieger**

***As the market has shifted, so has the face of the average lender. What’s changing? We’re seeing the rise of the community bank or credit union owned mortgage banker. Depositories are king. These institutions are buying independent lenders and starting robust mortgage departments.

****What happens after the sale of that independent lender closes? They need technology. There’s a lot of interest in loan origination systems today. The deals are coming in left, right and center. We are seeing a surge of companies looking for a Web-based LOS. In the cases of these community banks and credit unions picking up independent bankers and coming into mortgage, they’re looking to the Web as well. Here’s why:

****They want to be up and running quick. They are looking at low barriers to entry. They want rapid implementation. They want to avoid a large capital expenditure. They are steering clear of all the old school technology. They want a turnkey solution that the provider will run.

****All of this leads to cloud computing and placing the entire mortgage office on the cloud. What’s great about this new market dynamic? The depositories now own the mortgage companies and these depositories don’t have legacy technology. They aren’t stuck doing things the same old way because they’re used to doing things that way. They want to innovate. They want to be efficient and nimble.

****This is very different as compared to how things used to be. We used to see lenders look to upgrade from client server technology to Web-based technology. We saw evolutionary change. However, we’re seeing those guys get acquired by a community bank or credit union and then bring in a whole new system. Now we’re seeing revolutionary change and an opportunity to leapfrog these new lending institutions into this century with the latest technology.

****Another important factor to note in this changing dynamic is when you talk Software as a Service and cloud, you as the vendor can drop code into the LOS quickly to meet changing regulatory requirements, which keeps the lender compliant. We at Avista had an LQI solution in place in late September because of the agility that Web technology affords. That’s just on of the huge benefits of moving toward the Web. I think it’s also important to differentiate between Web-based and Web-enabled technology as we have this discussion. If it’s truly Web-based you could do the demo with the vendor from your computer’s web browser and if you can’t it’s because the technology is just Web-enabled and requires client downloads or client installed software to run. This Web-based model better supports the lender in this new world. Core technology has moved to become on-demand vs. installed technology. Don’t be fooled, join the new mortgage lending dynamic.

Magazine Cover Story

*Trend Setting

**Executive Interview**

***Mark Phlieger was among the first to evangelize on behalf of Web-based computing when he launched Avista Solutions. Now his thinking has gone mainstream. The trendsetting company celebrates its 10th anniversary. Avista celebrated other milestones and added a record 37 new customers in 2010, comprising 20 community banks, totaling $12 billion in assets, 10 credit unions and seven independent mortgage bankers. On March 25, 2011 there were 63,000 active B2B user accounts across Avista’s customer base.

****Other milestones include Avista relocating its corporate headquarters to Charleston, South Carolina in July 2010, a city that Phlieger said offers much support for the technology industry and cultivates high quality talent. Since signing on its first customer in 2001, Avista Solutions has: processed more than 100,000 loan applications in one month, reached a 28-day implementation time record. Mark Phlieger talked to us about what happens next now that the Web has gone mainstream.

****Q: As we see more institutions with depositories like community banks and credit unions enter the mortgage space, are you noticing that the bulk of your new clients are these types of institutions?

****MARK PHLIEGER: Yes, absolutely. We signed five banks this month. The market has shifted to depositories doing lending. What we’re seeing is mortgage bankers combining with these depositories. Also, it’s important to remember that banks are heavily audited, so when we talk about the differences between a bank and a mortgage banker, the banks are heavily accustomed to regulation. That is not an insult to the mortgage banker, it’s just that the banks are more used to being under regulatory scrutiny.

In terms of the sales cycle, they are longer these days. How long? Credit unions have the longest cycle, banks are in the middle and the mortgage banker is the shortest. We love dealing with community banks and credit unions.

****Q: Recently the MBA revised down its origination volume projection for next year. Originations are expected to be at their lowest point in 15 years. How do lenders and vendors survive this market?

****MARK PHLIEGER: Less volume means that we have to sign more customers. We are signing four or five a month, but hope to move that up to seven or eight as volume falls. Right now our largest customer is only 4% of our revenue. Our goal is to have a lot of customers in the small and mistier market.

There’s a general attitude that there is rapid change going on that we have to deal with. Banks know that they have to generate fee income to make up for other revenue that they’re losing, which is driving them into the mortgage market. They also don’t want to invest in legacy technology where they have to invest in a heavy IT staff, servers, Citrix, etc. They want to plug and play. They want to go out and find their people and just turn on the technology. We’ve grown a lot in this down market because of our cloud-based model. They also like the all-in-one solution. They don’t want to deal with 10 different solutions.

****Q: Avista celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. How has the mortgage industry changed in 10 years?

****MARK PHLIEGER: I had more hair and I weighed a lot less when we started Avista. Honestly, it used to be more go-go. It was all about volume, but now it’s about quality and compliance. It’s changed a good bit. There is a lot of opportunity for vendors that are interested in innovation and offering a top-quality tool. You want leading-edge technology so you are where the client wants to go. These days we talk about mobile and cloud-based solutions. Your technology has to solve the problems of your client. For technology like that, I think there will always be opportunity.

****Q: Avista was among the first, if not the first, company to come out with a completely Web-based solution. Now it seems like the market is where you were 10 years ago. How does that feel?

****MARK PHLIEGER: It’s nice to see. We were cloud-based before cloud-based was cool. We’ve been Web-based on Day One. Over the years it has gotten easier with Google and Amazon setting the bar for cloud-based products. We don’t have to evangelize as much. On the downside, there is more competition, but that’s ok because mortgage bankers are going to pick the product that best fits their needs. They want anytime, anywhere access. Just like we made the transition to everything Web, the next transition is to everything mobile. The reality is that I read and consume all my information on my iPad. That’s where we’re going next.

****Q: What does it mean to be cloud based?

****MARK PHLIEGER: Simply put, it’s about delivery as a service instead of selling a product. Think about it this way, you don’t care where the power plant is as long as you plug in your iPhone and it gets charged. We handle infrastructure, platform, etc. Once you sign with us we take you through implementation and set everything up for the client instead of giving them a box and saying: Here you go. It’s a different model. We charge based on the closed loan instead of by the license. When the model is more like a lease instead of a license, there is an incentive for everyone to work together to make the business a success. You have to care.

****Q: There has been a lot of consolidation in the LOS space and that is likely to continue. Most recently we saw Ellie Mae acquire DataTrac. What do you think about LOS consolidation?

****MARK PHLIEGER: This was predicted and it will continue. The players that ran a desktop or client-server model will get consumed. This acquisition validates the cloud model. Speaking of Ellie Mae, you see in their quarterly reports that most of their revenue is coming from cloud-based products.

I believe there is a lot of opportunity to be independent and have a leading-edge platform. Avista is end-to-end and we’ve built everything. So we can compete well with any other LOS. You need a solid infrastructure to support banks and credit unions. You can also be more nimble when you’re independent.

****Q: Avista also made headlines with its FHA Connection link earlier this year. How is that going?

****MARK PHLIEGER: We’ve always had clients that were heavy in FHA. We wanted to build a piece so that lenders doing FHA didn’t have to leave the platform. We’re committed to FHA and customers told us that this was important. FHA share remains substantial so we need to do everything we can to make it easier for our clients to originate an FHA loan. We’ve had a great response. We also enjoy working with FHA. FHA is very professional.

****Q: Continuing to talk about integrations, last year you did integrations with Kroll, Wolters Kluwer and Fannie Mae’s EarlyCheck. What is your integration strategy?

****MARK PHLIEGER: It’s based on what is required from a regulatory or delivery point of view. We also look to where we can get efficiency for customers. Lastly, it’s based on customer feedback. They tell us what companies they like to do business with. We put all that on the roadmap and partner with those companies. We will be live with UCDP within a month. It’s important to make sure that customers have what they need. Integrations are also almost done with Genworth and LogicEase from ComplianceEase. You touched on Wolters Kluwer. We were the first end-to-end product to offer their Expere product. You’ll see more closing doc integrations.

****Q: You talked about signing a record number of new clients last year. How is this year shaping up?

****MARK PHLIEGER: It’s solid. We will best last year in terms of the total overall number of customers signed up and the total value of the contracts signed this year is larger as compared to last year. It is competitive, but we’re seeing opportunity. It’s important to understand what banks and credit unions have to do from a compliance standpoint. It’s intense because they will make sure the vendor complies, but that’s ok for us. We do well up against due diligence scrutiny.

****Q: So, what does the next-generation LOS look like to you?

****MARK PHLIEGER: It’s about more access. People may be coming in from desktops, laptops, tablets, etc. In my opinion, the system also needs to be end-to-end and all-in-one. There is a focus on data quality. You need a common database and consistent process flow. It also has to be quick. The services also have to be baked in like credit, flood, compliance, fraud checks. Everything has to be based on Web services and MISMO XML to get that efficiency. We are a big MISMO supporter. It has been huge for us to reuse code to connect to more services. It’s about technology and customer service coming together. You also need 24/7 access, redundant data centers and thinking through the whole mortgage model.

****Q: How would you define the state of innovation in the mortgage space today?

****MARK PHLIEGER: I like change, but across the industry I’m not sure that’s the case. If the vendor wants to be relevant you have to innovate to solve real business problems. You also need to have an A team to go in and consult with customers. In a transactional model you want to help your clients adopt the technology. You have to go into every client shop to make sure that they are using every feature. You can’t rest on your laurels. In a cloud model we’re not shipping disks so we can roll out new features instantaneously, but we have to educate our clients about all that’s possible. In this market, that’s a big deal.


****Mark Phlieger thinks:

****1. You will continue to see expansion in vendors providing a cloud-based, all-in-one model.

****2. Mobile applications will continue to explode. People want information anywhere, anytime.

****3. Compliance and data quality will continue to be a focus, as it should, in mortgage lending going forward.

****ABOUT MAK PHLIEGER: Mark Phlieger is president and CEO of Avista Solutions, the Charleston, South Carolina- based creator of all-channel, Web-based loan origination systems. Co-founding the company in 2001, Mark has led Avista since its inception and has an impressive record of achievement in pioneering and development in the mortgage technology space. Mark was a team member on the Fannie Mae project that developed the groundbreaking technologies of Desktop Underwriter and Desktop Originator and later became responsible for their implementation and adoption as the industry standard among Fannie Mae lenders.