Monday, March 28, 2005

Podcast: Mark Dangelo

Mark Dangelo is the author of the new book Innovative Relevance. It's a guidebook for corporate change written by a technology executive with a great deal of experience. Want to know why most technology initiatives fail? Mark can tell you. And he does it with flair in his new book.

You can find out more at Amazon.com or on his website.

I recently spoke with Mark for my Business & Technology Podcast.

Click here to listen. (10.41 Mb; 22:12 minutes)

Questions answered in this podcast:
00:47 What is Innovative Relevance (IR)?
02:00 Why is IR necessary in today's environment?
02:52 What are the minimum requirements for implementing IR?
04:41 What are the major benefits that can be achieved?
06:33 What kinds of firms can benefit from this framework?
09:15 What prompted you to write this book?
11:21 What about firms already in the midst of an alignment? Can if benefit them?
12:54 What about the benefits for individual executives?
14:29 Will it help firms interested in implementing a global strategy?
16:32 If a firm already has an advisor, won't this be a duplication of effort?
18:03 How fast can a reader be ready to implement IR?
19:37 Where could the mortgage industry use this tool?
21:26 Where can our listeners get your new book?

Interested in being on Rick Grant's Business & Technology Podcast? E-mail us for more information.

Tech in Orlando

As you read this, mortgage technology executives all over the country are boarding planes for Florida. I will be joining them for four days of techno-therapy, wherein we talk about nothing but technology and the golden promise the future holds. I'm very excited.

I'll be posting from the show, both in this form and with audio and may also have some digital photos to share with you.

If you will be attending the event, I hope to see you there. Please feel free to stop me and say hello.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Scheduling MBA Tech

The news announcements have now started to load my inbox as various technology vendors vie for position as they use the Mortgage Bankers Association's Technology in Mortgage Banking conference to connect with prospects. While the rumors I'm hearing indicate that some players are starting to feel that the event's bang:buck ratio is getting a little low, there will still be plenty of folks there talking about new technologies and what they might mean to the mortgage industry.

I'll be there to promote my new business, but also to touch base with some very smart people I've reported on over the years. I'll also be speaking on a panel called "Mortgage Technology and the Trade Press." Scott Kersnar, Tony Garritano and Neil Morse will also be on the panel. Michael Murray of MBANewslink will moderate. Janet Hewitt was scheduled to appear, but she will be on deadline and word is she won't make it, which is disappointing. For companies that are confused about why they are not getting more ink or for firms interested in finding out more about why journalists choose to write the stories they do, this could be a very informative session. I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Buying broker business

During a refinance boom, a broker may have to wait for days to get a loan program question answered by a wholesale lender. But now that the phones aren't ringing, brokers have become much more popular again. It's not like they have all that much to whine about; they do exactly the same thing to real estate agents. In the mortgage business, your calls get taken if it pays the person you're calling to take it. Like many other businesses, it comes down to money.

And yet, every time the cycle turns, you'll see mortgage brokers carrying boxes of donuts back into real estate offices and wholesale lenders trying to play nice with mortgage brokers.

In the news recently, for example, we have San Francisco-based Wholesale Lending Online rolling out a new "Broker of the Month" incentive program. The company works with about 200 brokers in 25 states. The broker judged the best each month will get his or her picture on the company website and a refund of the company's lender fees for that period. That's a nice thing for a broker that has already agreed to work with the company. But is it enough to get new brokers to pick up the phone when WLO's AEs call on them? I'm not sure.

As the business gets more competitive, everyone in the chain is going to have to start thinking about more than just saving their partners money. That's going to become a given. The winners will be thinking about how to make their customers more money.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The rise of the small competitor

I remember seeing my first Macintosh, nearly 25 years ago. I was told it would transform the publishing industry, giving everyone the power to create their own publications. As a writer and would be editor, I was intrigued. But it quickly became apparent that putting words and graphics on paper was the smallest part of being a publisher. In the end, while the technology did allow more product to flood the market, most of it couldn't compete with the established material.

Not too many years ago, we saw the same thing happen with audio/video software on PCs. Did it make everyone a film or radio star? No. Although some of our urban centers are starting to get pretty noisy with all the sampling and rapping going on.

Generally speaking, technology alone is not enough to overturn existing markets and change the balance of power shared among entrenched competitors. It is just one element of an overall competitive strategy.

But what about when the business in question is a technology developer?

Web services and Service Oriented Architecture have definitely made it easier for smaller players to build impressive platforms. Just two cases in point include Qvault and Vuecentric.

Qvault came on the scene to provide Web status messaging that Calyx had yet to build into its Point loan origination system. It has since branched outward and will soon be announcing new functionality for another part of the market, according to managing partner Rob Cecil.

Jorge Sauri, CEO of Vuecentric is set to announce special pricing for his company's MortgageDashboard product today. He's hoping that by letting companies with up to 10 loan officers try out the Web-based loan origination and processing system for $99 a month, they'll be hooked. He may be right. The MortgageDashboard solution is easy to use and robust, with a built-in product and pricing engine and the BundleOne electronic partner networking tool. Individual loan officers can sign up to use the system for $249 a year (part of their take on a single deal).

If you're a publisher or a record producer, you probably shouldn't worry too much about the new versions of Quark Xpress or Pro Tools. Hollywood sure doesn't seem worried about the functionality built into Final Cut Pro. But if you're a big mortgage technology provider with a lot of overhead and an aging infrastructure, you better check the wall for writing.

Getting to paperless

Over the past few years, as mortgage technologists worked feverishly to create a path from paper to fully electronic mortgage closing packages, some in the industry have been sitting back and asking why? Consumers don't seem to be in any rush to sign for a home loan the way they buy lumber at Home Depot. No one is suggesting that loans will cost borrowers less if they sign them electronically. The GSEs don't seem willing to pay lenders more for electronic loans. Isn't this just technology for its own sake?

It comes down to money. About $250 per loan, according to the MBA and its MISMO group. That's pretty close to what the guys at the eMortgage Alliance (primarily DocuTech and Encomia) have been saying for over a year, but they also include savings for other players in the business.

The MBA will be hosting its annual Technology in Mortgage Banking conference in Orlando at the end of the month. I'm looking forward to visiting with executives there to find out if this carrot is enough to get more lenders moving in this direction. I anticipate that lenders have always suspected that going electronic would save them money, but were waiting until the technology was proven and affordable and until their investors had all signed off on it.

But technology released over the past couple of weeks may make it easier for lenders to get their feet wet without waiting. Today, DocuTech announced its new DT WebXpress, a service that provides initial disclosure documents via its secure servers. DocuTech can distribute SMART docs, which were designed to accept electronic signatures, but the specifics of the solution were not part of the company's initial release.

A few weeks ago, Carson, Calif.-based Document Systems released its new eDisclosure system, specifically designed to get the 72-hour disclosures signed by borrowers online and within the government-mandated time frame. In the event the docs are not viewed and signed, the system alerts the lender so that the paper disclosures can be sent out before the deadline.

Online lenders have been doing this kind of thing for some time, but for traditional, paper-based lenders, these tools could be a step in the right direction. According to DSI's CEO, Don Iannitti, the savings in time, printing and postage are significant if even a portion of the up front disclosures are signed online.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Compliance in the LOS

I've been writing a lot lately about compliance at the point-of-sale. If you subscribe to Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corporation newsletter, which I recommend, you'll find my cover story in the current issue. It's nice to see technology catch up to a good idea.

Anyone who has ever been in charge of quality control for a wholesale lending operation will tell you that it makes a whole lot more sense to make certain that the loan is fully compliant before the application is ever uploaded into the processing system than it does to try and catch it after resources have already been expended on the deal. Before technology made it possible to look over the loan officer's shoulder as the 1003 was being completed, it just wasn't feasible to QC the loans as they were being originated. Lenders had to wait, often until the loans were funded, and then look back at a portion of them (usually 10 or 15 percent) to check for compliance.

Today, companies like AppIntelligence, PCi, ComplianceEase, QuestSoft, Document Systems and others can ensure that the loan is compliant either at the point-of-sale or before the document is ever printed.

This may be on my mind today because I saw PCi's announcement today about its integration with the ELS loan origination system.

But in a year or so, even this is likely to be outdated technology if Fannie Mae has its way. If you've heard about the GSE's eQC program, you know what I'm talking about. If that flies, compliance firms may have a harder time explaining why they are a necessary part of the transaction.