Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Martopia: Hammond is a huge win

Martopia, a strategic marketing and creative firm that owns a significant stake in Texell, recently hired former Dynatek communications executive Michael Hammond. This is a huge win for that company.

I've worked with Hammond for a number of years now and found him to be a highly skilled communications professional. He and his team have done a great job promoting Dynatek's software. MORvision has been a very solid LOS for a long time now and it's Titanium release is really good. But even the best technology will sit on the shelf and gather dust if it isn't properly promoted. Hammond was instrumental in doing that job for Dynatek and now Martopia hopes he can take their message to companies he's been working with to develop Dynatek Plug-ins for MORvision.

Dynatek works with companies all over the space and has done a fantastic job of building partnerships that basically fulfilled the promise of SOA-based architectures long before they were the buzzword they are today.

Texell handles a lot of the multimedia work required to help Martopia's clients get their stories told. If you braved the hurricane and attended last year's MBA Annual to see Dynatek launch Titanium, you know that Hammond understands the power of multimedia.

We congratulate our partner on scoring a top pro to join their team and look forward to working with Michael in the days ahead.

Y-Waite: Going beyond the technology

Duane Waite of Y-Waite Solutions is not your typical software developer. It's not just that he resembles an NFL linebacker and it certainly doesn't have to do with his development skills, which are excellent, based on the quality of the application he showed me. Rather, it's his approach to technology as a tool to help title agencies succeed.

I worked for a title company back in the day, but I'm the first to admit that I don't know much about what it takes for these companies to get ahead in their business. But I know it takes solid technology that allows them to track and process orders, interface seamlessly with mortgage lenders and borrowers and never make a mistake that will lead to a title insurance claim. But Waite says it takes more than that, and he says he's built it into his Magellan bundled services system.

"Just investing in a new order management platform isn’t enough to ensure success as a bundled services provider,” said Waite, president and CTO of Y-Waite. “If you don’t know your workflow and process, you may be wasting your time and money with an ‘off the shelf’ technology."

So before Y-Waite installs a new system, the Pittsburgh-based settlement services software developer conducts an expert review and analysis of clients’ current workflow, highlighting processes and areas where would-be bundled services providers can improve turn-around time on orders and services.

Waite says the Magellan Bundled Services system is the next generation of order management technology, designed especially for title operations of all sizes seeking to provide packaged services. Waite touts the system as one which is easily customized to fit the business plan of the client. In fact, he recommends customizing the platform.

"This new service reaffirms what some technology developers may not want you to know—technology is only a tool to enhance your business. It’s not an instant solution," he says. "Our analysis service can help business owners get a better understanding of how technology can help them—and where it won’t be able to."

Waite is probably right in that most tech developers don't like to focus on what their technology can't do, but we've been hearing about a number of companies over the past couple of years that have been working to increase the consulting side of their business. Fidelity with its Aqua project is one case in point. In some of these cases, technology firms faced with lower sales in a down market will try to bump up revenues by charging for consulting. Waite may be implementing such a strategy. But I doubt it. I've met him. Title companies interested in delving deeper into bundled services should probably visit with him.

MortgageIT: Bulking up wholesale team

New York-based MortgageIT, Inc.’s Wholesale Lending Division has added a new regional manager to its team. Jim Ford of Marietta, Ga., a 20-year mortgage banking veteran, is the company's new southeast regional manager.

Ford, who will be based in the division’s Atlanta, Ga., office, will be responsible for increasing the company’s market share and earnings in the region.

Ford joins MortgageIT from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Atlanta, Ga., where he served as mortgage wholesale branch manager. In that position, he was responsible for the production and operations of the company’s brokers in three states. Prior to that, Ford was employed as first vice president and area operations manager for Long Beach Mortgage (a division of Washington Mutual) and as a regional vice president for seven years for Countrywide Financial Corporation, both based in Atlanta.

The company also hired Bill Waguespack of Atlanta, Ga., as southeast regional operations manager. Bill was an assistant vice president/divisional production analyst for Countrywide Wholesale Lending for six years. He was instrumental in supporting Countrywide’s growth in its then 20-state Eastern Division. Prior to that, Bill was a senior financial analyst for Primerica, a Citigroup division.

Smaller but aggressive firms are finding this a good time to pick up seasoned professionals as the larger banks trim back on their workforces in the face of dropping mortgage loan volumes. At the same time, executives inside larger mortgage lenders are faced with settling in for the long, cold winter after the refi-boom or moving to smaller more aggressive companies that will reward them for building out their wholesale networks. Falling volumes may mean leaner times ahead, but they won't necessarily be less exciting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

LendingLogix: Out preaching BPM

Dave Williamson, a mortgage industry consultant formerly with The Performance Group, and Scott Baller have founded LendingLogix, a new company its founders say will offer more choice to mortgage bankers for management consulting resources.

The Dallas-based management consulting company was founded in December and will provide strategic and tactical services to mortgage banking companies including business process management, technology evaluation and implementation, planning for eMortgages, and business scorecards. LendingLogix is a sister company to AppLogix, a custom software development and IT resource company, that Baller has operated for eight years.

I spoke to Williamson earlier this week for Martopia's Executive Podcasts MP3 Radio Show and he was excited about helping lenders separate their business processes from the technologies they have employed to automate them.

“In 2006, business process management will be the most important management issue for mortgage bankers. Current initiatives such as implementing a new LOS or a service-based architecture, pursuing strategic outsourcing, or moving into a new business channel will require management to understand that process proficiency is the foundation for today’s and tomorrow’s strategic plans. Even the most thoughtful strategy needs consistent process execution over some period of time to deliver the expected results. It’s that simple,” said Williamson.

Monday, February 13, 2006

ABN AMRO: Wholesale to the rescue

With refinance activity surely dying, lenders across the country are turning to full-court wholesale lending presses in order to shore up volume. By building out larger networks of happy third-party originators, these institutions hopes to keep their volumes from falling through the floor. That strategy seems to be working, at least for ABN AMRO.

The mortgage lender recently released its 2005 earnings, reporting total mortgage loan origination for all of its divisions at $53.4 billion, up from $50.5 billion in 2004. What's so impressive is that $40.2 billion of that total, fully 75% of it, came from the company's InterFirst wholesale lending channel.

If you know Garth Graham, or if you've heard him speak, you know that the company has been working for years now on technology that makes it easy for brokers to originate mortgages with a guaranteed closing cost that can be calculated at the point-of-sale. HUD has been going back and forth about whether it would include such a package in any RESPA update, but most recently experts are saying that the agency will drop it in favor of a new Good Faith Estimate policy.

That may make lenders happy as they won't have to perform the tricky calculations involved in figured out a cost to close and then having to take on the risk of guaranteeing it. But if this is the kind of technology that is attracting brokers to ABN AMRO, you can expect other lenders to be looking into it, even if HUD doesn't tell them they have to do so.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

MISMO: New governing board elected

The Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization, Inc. (MISMO), a not-for-profit subsidiary of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), has elected its new Governance Committee. This is the group that's working to develops data transfer protocols that span the $11 trillion residential and commercial real estate finance industry and these are the people that are driving it. If you're working in mortgage technology--or you expect to be leveraging it effectively in the future--these are the people you should know.

The following people were re-elected to positions on MISMO's Governance Committee for the 2006-2007 term:

Dave Bodi, Co-Chief Operating Officer - Midland Loan Services, Inc./PNC Real Estate Finance, member - MBA BODTECH, and newly re-elected Chair - MISMO Commercial Steering Committee (Category: Commercial Primary Market Participant)

Joanne Denver, Managing Director - Babson Capital Management LLC (Category: Commercial Secondary Market Investor)

Paul Wills, Director of New Business Development - Equifax Information Services, LLC (Category: Credit Reporting)

David Barkley, Director of eCommerce Relations - Freddie Mac and Chair - MISMO Governance Committee (Category: Government-Sponsored Enterprise)

Adam Hall, Vice President - Indymac Bank and newly re-elected Vice Chair - MISMO Governance Committee (Category: Lender)

Todd Luhtanen, President - Dynatek Inc. (Category: Origination Technology)

Lisa Bolelli, Vice President/Senior Technology Officer - First American Real Estate Information Services, Inc and newly re-elected Vice Chair - MISMO Governance Committee (Category: Service Provider)

Craig Foote, Enterprise Information Architect - Fidelity Information Services, a Division of Fidelity National Financial (Category: Servicing Technology)

Tim Anderson, Executive Vice President - Dexma, Inc. (Category: Technology Vendor)

And newly elected to the MISMO Governance Committee is Chip Register, Chief Information Officer - NetBank, Inc. (Category: Lender).

The Governance Committee consists of 20 MISMO subscriber organizations that serve two-year terms, with half the seats up for election each year.