Monday, September 26, 2005

MXCompliance: First firms certified for MISMO

I think this is huge. MISMO itself is a great initiative and really makes the mortgage industry look good. So many companies working for so long on standards that are guaranteed to make the entire business work more smoothly. But compliance was always a problem. Not so much getting companies that wanted to comply, but getting them to actually do so before they said they were.

Enter MXCompliance. Think of it as a necessary evil, one more layer of bureaucracy without which no one would really know who had what until they spent the money to invest and test. And then, of course, it would be too late.

It's taken over a year to get the first companies certified. Appropriately enough, they are credit information firms. Credit was the first part of the mortgage business to get its MISMO standards worked out.

Congratulations to Bixby Consulting, Fair Isaac Corporation and Gallagher Financial Systems Inc.

What's not in the release: Some firms in this space have just redoubled their development efforts. It is no longer good enough to market what you intend to build. Now, lenders can turn to MXCompliance to find out whether a MISMO-Compliant offering is really what it claims to be.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Idea: Bring your white paper to life

It's a shame, really. What better opportunity to explain in detail your thought process to a prospect that desperately needs to learn about it than the white paper? And yet, after years of abuse by companies that cared more about their marketing message than their product or prospects, the tool has lost much of its appeal. This is particularly unfortunate for mortgage technology firms.

The complicated solutions offered by tech firms practically cry out for the detailed treatment that the white paper offers. But lenders, expecting them to be little more than brochures, rarely spend the time it takes to read them.

Here's an idea: Don't ask your prospects to read your white paper.

Use multimedia to read it to them. Adding audio, video and interactivity to your document will bring home your message in a powerful new way, for a lot less than you might think. If you want to find out more, e-mail me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mortgage Cadence: Adds VP of Marketing

Peter J. Carter has joined Denver-based Mortgage Cadence as its vice president of Marketing. He will be responsible for developing and establishing the overall strategy and tactics for Mortgage Cadence, including branding, advertising, corporate communications and product marketing.

This completes the executive team, according to CEO Mike Detwiler.

Carter joins from ILOG, Inc., a leading provider of business rule management technology. In his most recent position, he established and ran the company’s alliance marketing program, primarily targeting mortgage banking and financial services firms. He also played a major role in building a new industry-wide enterprise software category, BRMS (business rule management systems), through strategic marketing programs.

What's not in the release: While Mortgage Cadence is enterprise lending technology (think next generation loan origination system), one of the most significant benefits of the platform is the embedded business rules engine, which it calls ACE for Adaptive Configuration Engine. Since understanding ACE is key to fully leveraging Mortgage Cadence, it's a good idea having someone with BRM experience heading up the marketing department.

Friday, September 16, 2005

eAppraiseIT: Lenders outsourcing PMI release

According to real estate valuation firm eAppraiseIT, more lenders are outsourcing the task of helping borrowers cancel their private mortgage insurance (PMI). To date this year, eAppraiseIT, on behalf of servicers, has processed more than 10,000 requests from consumers to cancel their mortgage insurance.

The task involves fielding calls from borrowers, helping them understand the lender's policy and, checking their homes actual value and, if they are a candidate, helping them cancel their PMI.

According to senior vice president of valuation consulting Diane Valadez, “eAppraiseIT has been providing PMI release services to mortgage servicers on an outsourced basis since 2002, but we have noticed a 110 percent increase in usage this year.”

Why the increase? That's part of...

What's not in the release: "Rates are more stable now," Valadez said. "Loans are on the books longer. As the refinance rate continues to fall, more loans are more likely to release PMI."

Which is good for eAppraiseIT's business. But according to Valadez, that's also good for consumers. She says that only about 35% of the borrowers actually go ahead and pay for an appraisal once they fully understand the process and requirements. That saves them money when they wouldn't have qualified, she points out.

Meanwhile, outsourcing is saving mortgage servicers money, too. Companies have accepted the idea that new technologies make it easier to outsource effectively, but Valadez says eAppraiseIT goes beyond that by saving lenders up to 50% of what it would have cost them to do the work themselves and then doing it in half the time.

And another thing: PMI release may not be a task that many people outside of a PMI firm or a servicing specialist might think of as an outsourcing opportunity, but it's an excellent opportunity to increase customer satisfaction. Consumers have a lot of questions here. By routing these calls to a professional staff trained to deal with the problem, more customers will feel better served.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Idea: Be part of the show

We're taking our new company (so new that I'm not even sure I'm supposed to be talking about it yet), Texell Interactive Media, down to the MBA annual convention in Orlando. We're very excited because we'll be doing the live podcasting at the Mortgage Technology awards ceremony on Sunday night. But we'll also be doing podcasting and blogging from our booth on the trade show floor.

This is a great opportunity to get behind the mic and see how these things work. We're going to be interviewing executives at the show, as time permits. In fact, we're already scheduling interviews. If you plan to be at the show and your company has something worth talking about, give us a call and get on the schedule.

We're going to try to save some time just in case someone walks up to the booth and wants to get on the show, but if you really want to try it out -- and be featured on our website during the event -- you should call our offices soon. Or better yet, drop me an e-mail and let me know you'll be by and I'll set aside some time for you.

Monday, September 12, 2005

e-Lynx Ltd:Attracts a New Client

Cincinnati-based eLynx Ltd., a company that provides electronic delivery solutions for the financial industry, has signed on a new client. Paul Financial is a wholesale lending startup based in San Rafael, Calif. Well, it still calls itself a startup. The company has in the business a couple of years now.

Phil Huff, president and CEO for eLynx, said his firm's eLynxPRO solution would enable the lender to operate in a paperless environment. The term he actually uses is "soft paper solutions."

What's not in the release: We've seen a number of companies in this space tone down their language when it comes to paperless transactions. All-electronic and paperless processing, at least in some parts of the industry, seem to be giving way to terms that are a bit gentler, from a change management perspective.

I know Huff and I've seen his technology. It works. So it's not that vendors can't take lenders into a paperless environment. The question is do they want to be rescued? Expect to see vendors using language carefully in an effort to ease the transition for companies that know they need to move into the future, but that haven't quite been able to get their hands around it yet.

And another thing: One of the benefits (threats) of new SOA-based architectures, Web services and software as a service is the opportunity for someone who knows the busines to step in and assemble a best-of-breed collection of tools that will enable them to get into business very rapidly.

Paul Financial is a good case in point. Peter T. Paul is the former owner of Headlands Mortgage Co., a wholesale lending operation that eventually merged with GreenPoint Mortgage back in 1998. His new firm is currently using Gallagher Financial Systems' NetOxygen on the origination side and Fidelity's MSP servicing software on the back end. Now, he's enabling both systems with electronic docs through eLynx.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Meetings: MBA Annual Convention

In the past, I always carried a micro-cassette recorder to important business conferences. You never know when someone is going to say something you'll want to remember. This year, I'll be packing an MP3 player. For the same reason.

My new company, Texell Interactive Media, will be recording podcasts both on the tradeshow floor and at Source Media's Mortgage Technology magazine award ceremony. If you'd like to find out more about podcasting, drop us an e-mail. We'll be recording executives throughout the course of each day and then posting the resulting podcasts to our website. But we only have a limited number of slots available. If you've got something to say, give us a call at 800-979-9049 and we'll get you on the air.

Watch this space for information about our new website where you can learn more about podcasting, blogs and using video over the Internet to communicate in exciting new ways.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Idea: Talk to 20 really smart people this week.

The best part of my job as a journalist was getting to visit with people who were both passionate and knowledgeable about their work. I don't write all that much anymore, but from time to time, I still get to chat with some great folks.

That happened this week when, as part of a special series of podcasts we're creating for Source Media, I got the chance to visit with 20 finalists from Mortgage Technology magazines annual MT Awards contest. We won't know who will take away the seven prestigious awards until the big awards ceremony at the MBA Annual Convention in Orlando this October, but we do know that the competition is fierce.

Talking to these mortgage technology leaders inspired us. They made us proud to be part of an industry that rewards people for doing great things, that recognizes when they are doing something innovative that will benefit everyone in the business.

When you find yourself getting bogged down in the day-to-day work of doing the business, take time to call someone you think is really smart and just chat with them for a few minutes. It will make a difference in your day.

Watch Source Media's Daily Briefing for the MT Award pre-show podcasts. Coming soon!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Williams & Williams: Adds New COO

Williams & Williams, a company that specializes in REO disposition, has hired a former imagineer as its chief operating officer. Pam McKissick comes to the firm from the world of entertainment, having previously worked for TV Guide Networks and The Walt Disney Company.

As COO for Williams & Williams, she'll be responsible for interfacing with lenders. She's only been with the company for a few months, but she has already initiated the spin-off of the firm's Farm, Ranch & Premiere Properties division and built an extensive, in-house IT infrastructure.

McKissick was president and COO of TV Guide Networks, a 56 million household cable network, and vice president of Network Specials and director of Creative Services for Walt Disney World/Epcot Center. She has also been an executive producer in Hollywood.

What's not in the release: McKissick studied business at the Wharton Business School, but she has also studied biochemistry, theater and theology. Add that to her experience in the Magic Kingdom and I wouldn't be surprised if she could do magic, which is exactly what lenders may be looking for in the future.

Historically low interest rates, innovative loan products (like interest-only loans and Option ARMS) and an increased focus on emerging markets has put more people into homes than ever before. That's all good. But if there's a bubble or a downturn or a shift in the wind, lenders are going to want access to someone who can make REO disappear quickly.

Interesting rumor: We hear that Ms. McKissick was also previously a radio broadcaster. We haven't confirmed that yet, but as an emerging multimedia production company that focuses on podcasting, we can't wait to get her on a show.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Guardian Mortgage Docs: Expands a relationship

Principal Bank, a member of The Principal Financial Group has added a new home equity product to its menu and is again turning to Guardian Mortgage Documents to handle the paperwork. Getting the docs right for HELOCs was a pesky problem that took doc prep firms a while to work out. Guardian is not the only company doing a brisk business in this area, but it was one of the first to come out with a product that worked every time, which it calls NGIS (Next Generation Input System).

What's not in the release: GMD doesn't just do docs. The company also owns an outsourcing division. The systems it rolled out to the market were first developed and tested by its own internal teams on live deals. That's quality assurance testing.

DOCX: Getting a New Parent

Congratulations to Lorraine O'Reilly Brown and her team at DOCX for being acquired by Fidelity National Financial. If you haven't seen the company's weekly e-mail newsletter, go to the website and request it. It's a great example of staying in touch with a market by providing valuable information. It also does a great job of showcasing how the company keeps tabs on recording fees all over the country.

Fidelity talked about the company's lien release software in the acquisition announcement. Many lenders would have given their eye teeth for something like that back during the height of the refi boom. Fidelity EVP Ernest Smith also mentioned that the DOCX Feewise calculator was a great tool that would help the company's title operations calculate closing fees.

What's not in the release: knowing the closing costs in advance is huge right now. As lenders like Interfirst (ABN AMRO) and DiTech Funding push forward with single-fee-to-close loans, knowing in advance what it will actually cost the lender to finalize the transaction will be a major risk mitigation tool. I wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't one of the most attractive parts of this deal for Fidelity.

DOCX has a great handle on what it costs to record documents, adding that information to an automated system that can calculate accurate closing fees could give Fidelity a competitive advantage when it comes to selling a bundle of services to lenders.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Blog is Back

Please forgive me for being so self-involved over these past few months. I've been working on the genesis of a new company. My partners and I will be launching Texell Interactive Media later this month and we'll be telling everyone more about it at the Mortgage Bankers Association's annual convention in October.

But enough about me. Now, I want to talk about you.

In fact, that's what this blog is going to be all about. I'll be looking for interesting stories to share with the people who subscribe to this blog, so send me your news. We'll also talk with industry experts about trends and companies to watch. When I come upon a good idea that could benefit your business, whether you're a mortgage lender or one of the firms that serve them, I'll let you know about that, too.

If you'd rather chat with me than send me an e-mail, feel free to dial our new office number: 570-325-2818. Margaret Miller, Texell's vice president of production, may grab my line in my absence, but she's probably someone you should meet anyway.

Within the next few weeks, we'll be launching a new website that will include even more stories about the companies in this industry, though we won't be telling them all in the traditional way. Some stories are told just fine in black and white text. Others call for a more interesting treatment.

Thanks for reading this blog. I'll be working hard to make it worth your time.