Saturday, April 09, 2016

Jorge Sauri Launches New Tech Firm

I first met Jorge Sauri when I was reporting on technology for National Mortgage News in New York. At the time, he had just left Arc Systems, in the wake of the subprime lending crisis (Arc developed what has been called the first automated underwriting engine for subprime mortgage loans) and had started MortgageDashboard, one of the first web-based LOSs. At the time, the web was viewed as a scary place to house sensitive consumer financial information. Even so, the product did well enough to be purchased by Benchmark Mortgage in Plano, Texas, a firm that still uses the tool.

Recently, Jorge reached out to me to tell me about a new offering he was putting together. The news broke last week on Progress in Lending.

Shortly afterward, Jorge send this e-mail out to his contacts:

   We are delighted to officially announce the launch of our company and newly designed website! Take a look around and let us know what you think.
We have taken significant time during this process to think through not only how we do business, but perhaps more importantly, WHY we do what we do, and HOW our AI Driven Digital First Mortgage Experience is different from anything else on the market (when it comes to transforming lender’s point of sale into digital first customer engagement).
   We will be constantly updating our content with helpful information, articles, blogs, company announcements and client successes in the blog section.
   For any questions, suggestions, feedback or comments, please E-mail us.

I have always liked the way Jorge thinks. He's an experienced industry technologist that knows what lenders need in order to do their jobs and what they should be thinking about using in the future. We're very interested in how Jorge's new company fares, in part because RGA PR is in final negotiations to support the company's communication efforts. More news on that soon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mortgage Cadence Rebrands

The folks at Mortgage Cadence, which is part of Accenture, has completed a rebrand.

The company's new website can be viewed at Be sure to clear your browser cache if you are a frequent visitor to the site.

"We are proud to announce the launch of our all-new brand," the company said in an e-mail. "Our new tagline, Lending Confidence, is our commitment to provide clients with the ability to close more loans, worry less, and feel confident that they are set up for success."

The company has rolled out new e-mail addresses to go with the rebranding and new website. Just swap with for any Mortgage Cadence contact you normally e-mail.

It's not yet clear if this is a signal that Accenture may choose to spin off the tech firm or if the company is just making sure the brand doesn't get submerged into the other offerings its parent company offers.

Last month, the company moved its more than 600 lender clients to the "Accenture Mortgage Cadence Cloud." The company said the move would allow its clients to better manage loan processing cycle times, increase system reliability and leverage product upgrades.

UPDATE: I caught up with Trevor Gauthier, President, and Sarah Volling, Marketing Lead for Mortgage Cadence at the MBA Technology in Mortgage Banking show in Los Angeles last week. Trevor told me that the rebrand was just a glimpse into this story and Mortgage Cadence was, in effect, spinning off into an actual software development firm -- which is what Mortgage Cadence was before the consulting firm bought it. He promised me a more in depth interview in the near future, which I'll share with you when it happens.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Find out what it's worth

The collateral valuation business is one of the most interesting aspects of the U.S. home finance industry, at least to me. Part of that is probably because I have a number of friends who work in this space and who I value highly, both personally and as good sources of industry information. But I think it's also because this is one part of the business where there are no facts, just opinions.

I'm sure I just send a lot of coffee through the noses of some very serious industry professionals out there who will surely tell us that the estimates of value they assign to a property and place over their signature on a valuation report are based on many iron clad facts. While I'm sure that's true, they are also based on comps and market trends, both of which are fluid and subject to the whim of the mob.

When it comes to the valuation we put on a piece of property, it's all about our best guess. That can be a scary place to work, but I've found that the people who have built their careers in this space are very comfortable with putting those values down on paper. If you ask someone like Elizabeth Green or Joan Trice about how much faith we should put in these opinions, I think I know what they would say. They've both spent the bulk of their careers working with and around professional appraisers and they know how seriously these professionals take their craft.

But if things don't change, we may see this important business taken out of the hands of professional estimators of value and given over to computer models.

I know a lot of people who work on such software and not a single one I have ever spoken to will admit that the goal is to replace an appraiser. I only suggest it because the typical professional appraiser is a member of AARP and probably looking at retirement as a short-term probability. The way this industry is set up, the only people who can afford to bring in and train the next generation of appraisers are those who are ready to get out of the business, and a lot of those guys are tired now and not eager to take on the task.

For some readers of this notebook, I'm sure that a world in which computers assigned property values without the aid of a professional appraiser is way too "2001: A Space Odessy". Of course, those folks would probably not be familiar with firms like Platinum Data, Veros or Magellan or Fannie Mae.

None of those companies are working to replace appraisers either, to my knowledge, but they are all expert at pulling together the data and analytics that make real estate valuation make sense. 

Hopefully, the industry will find a way to attract, recruit, train and excite the next generation of real estate appraisers. In the meantime, I expect we can look forward to more appraiser-assisted valuation tools and, very likely, an increase in the use of alternative valuation tools. Though perhaps not all of them will be tech based.

If you have an opinion about this business and the short-term changes you think we can expect here, I hope you'll comment or at least point me to something you find interesting by placing a link in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Ernst Brings in Industry Veteran to Lead New Business Development for Lending Market

Ernst Publishing Company, Albany, New York, the leading provider of technology and closing cost data for the real estate and home finance industries for the past 26 years, announced today that industry veteran Mike Fletcher has joined the company as Director of Strategic Accounts focusing on the lending market. In his new position, Fletcher will be focused specifically on solutions for large lenders including the addition of new partners and strategic alliances.

"I am very pleased that Mike has joined Ernst and will fill this important position," said Gregory E. Teal, president and chief executive officer of Ernst Publishing. "This is a critical time for mortgage lenders. They need solutions they can count on, delivered by people they can trust. That describes the company we've built and the solutions we provide. I'm very glad to have Mike with us to share this information with the lenders that need us now."

Fletcher has more than 30 years of experience, including positions in operations and sales for lending, technology and mortgage process outsourcing. In all of his roles, he has focused on bringing value to his clients by taking complex problems and delivering simple solutions in a timely manner.

"Everyone is busy, so attention to detail is important, but you can't lose sight of the big picture that businesses are delivering a service," Fletcher said. "Today's environment demands accurate data and new tools to manage it with greater transparency. At Ernst Publishing, we are on the cutting edge of that opportunity; and, the need for greater transparency is not likely to go away anytime soon. I'm very glad to be part of this company."

To contact Mike Fletcher, dial 800-345-3822 ext 304.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

MortgageFlex Adds a New CIO to the Team

MortgageFlex Systems, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida, an company that has been providing loan origination technology since before I started writing about this business (the firm was founded in 1980) and now also offers servicing tech, has hired Steve Shore to serve as Chief Information Officer. Shore brings back to the company a broad range of information technology experience including web development, infrastructure, system administration, software development, vendor and project management. He was employed by the firm over a decade ago.

“We are glad to have Steve back, his diverse work experience at companies like Citi and Black Knight is our gain,” said Lester Dominick, president, MortgageFlex Systems. “Steve’s infrastructure project management experience is crucial to his new role as our CIO and our move to provide more cloud services to our customers.”

Shore will now be responsible for several immediate initiatives including upgrading internal systems to the latest Microsoft Cloud Services and continuing the migration of MortgageFlex's lending software to the Microsoft Azure Cloud. He has company-wide as well overall responsibility for the Technical Services department.

Being a returning employee, he has unique insight into the organization that is invaluable and generates immediate results. “When I first joined MortgageFlex 15 years ago, MortgageFlex was on the cutting edge of technology by being a BETA adopter of the .NET framework and ASP.NET,” Shore said. “Today, MortgageFlex remains at the forefront of technology by leveraging Azure, AWS and other technologies. This is an exciting and unique opportunity for me while bringing my 20+ years of IT experience in the financial sector to MortgageFlex.”

What goes on here?

Think of this as a dusty old book taken down from a shelf long ignored. When I started this blog, the concept of writing short pieces and sticking them out on the Internet, without the benefit of a publication brand to promote them and make them visible, was very new. It's old school now, eroded away by even shorter forms of communication, darts of data that have the power to break through the noise and get some attention in a world that has become so filled with crowd sounds that it's almost impossible to follow a conversation, of any length.

In such a world, what could possibly be the value of pulling down this dusty book? The answer to that lies at the very end of the beast, in the long tail.

My roots, for better or worse, go back to writing about financial services technology. I'm one of the few, weird ones who loves both complicated worlds. There are still stories here to be told, perhaps more and more interesting ones than ever. The few that have any interest in these things, those out on the long tail of the search spectrum, may be interested in those stories. And so, I plan to tell some more of them here.

I'm thinking of it as a rebirth of an old column, a revisiting of a favored topic. Exactly the kind of thing one might expect to find in an old forgotten book, if the pages were somehow magically still being added. If you're one who shares that sentiment, welcome to my notebook.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

A nice hit for Zillow

The Wall Street Journal warned readers today that a poor earnings release out of Zillow could spell bad news for the company's stock. The Journal made a big deal out of pointing out that firms like Zillow -- a company that leads in its niche -- are not likely to wow shareholders if they don't actively participate in the real estate transaction. With home sales off, the concern was that revenue for the company would also suffer.

Not necessarily a wild conclusion. We saw the same thing happen to CoreLogic's revenue recently. CoreLogic is another firm with its fortunes tied to the health of the real estate market.

Investors need not have worried. Zillow best analysts estimates for the quarter by a wide margin. If not a home run, it certainly qualifies as a solid hit. Nothing like the potential strike out the Journal warned about. You can read the story here on HousingWire.

Congratulations to the team at Zillow.

Disclosure: I am retained by Mortech, a business owned by Zillow, but I do not assist the Zillow team with PR or marketing. I do, occasionally, write consumer-facing blog posts for the company.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Is the Podcast making a comeback?

Back in 2005, I remember becoming very excited by the concept of the radio program coming to the internet. I'd spent a fair amount of time during my mostly misspent youth in the radio business (prior to finding how poor I was destined to remain should I choose to make that my career) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The idea of being able to produce audio programs that actually served business marketers and, by extension, making enough money to buy food and gas was very attractive to me. I set out to master the new tools of audio production.

Gone were the days of reel-to-reel tape, editing blocks and razor blades. By 2005, everything was electronic, which took some getting used to. Soon, we were producing a regular show and even podcasting with the winners of SourceMedia's Mortgage Technology magazine awards. By 2006, my team and I had won an award for business podcasting from the Society for New Communications Research, which has since grown into a think tank.

But getting CMOs in our industry to look twice at the technology was difficult. We thought technology vendors would love the opportunity to have quality time via the prospect's earbuds on cross country flights. That didn't happen. It turns out that time was better spent working or taking a break from working. Prospects weren't willing to give up precious private time for someone's sales pitch. In 2006, we sold off the podcast production company to another public relations firm and agreed not to compete in the space for three years.

We stayed busy with other things, dabbling in video and social media and other new ways of sharing stories with various target publics. But recently, I'm reading more about podcasting from some of the online marketing gurus I follow.
  • The guys at copyblogger have relaunched their blog. You can subscribe on iTunes or sign up to take a class they're offering on podcast production.
  • John Dumas over at ConversionXL makes a strong case for the business podcast, complete with charts and graphs. Most interesting point to me is that almost a quarter of those who say they listen to podcasts are doing so in their cars. This number will increase as more auto makers include BlueTooth and other technologies to make linking Smartphones to car stereos easier.
  • Nicolette Beard over at the Online Marketing Blog talks about the pros and cons of podcasting. Unless you can't find someone internally who cares about what you're selling, the cons go away with the right technology partner, IMHO.

I think the time is right to start looking deeper into podcasting again. We've been quietly producing our ChangeMaker podcast for a while now and it has been well received. I'm interested in seeing what else we can do with this medium. Have an idea, comment below or call us anytime at 570-497-5850.