A Conversation with Nima Ghamsari of Blend
Nima Ghamsari is CEO and co-founder of Blend, a Silicon Valley technology company empowering lenders to originate efficient, data-driven mortgages while improving the borrower experience. Prior to Blend, he was an early employee with Palantir Technologies, where he co-founded its commercial group, whose mission was to solve major data challenges for the financial sector. After the 2008 financial crisis, he worked directly with major banks and agencies to develop and implement software enabling underwater borrowers to avoid foreclosures while saving billions of dollars of debt. He is a graduate of Stanford University where he majored in Computer Science.
MBA NEWSLINK: Blend has a reputation for taking calculated risks in the marketplace. What is your philosophy behind that?
NIMA GHAMSARI: One of our company values is “decisions over outcomes”–we understand that quickly scaling a company sometimes requires making big decisions with incomplete information, but what’s most important is making intelligent decisions, even if they don’t necessarily yield the best outcome in the short-term.
When we think about Blend’s future we’re thinking 5, 10, 50 years down the road, and we need our decisions to support that long-term outlook as well. We focus on improving our decision-making quality instead of focusing on immediate outcomes. Speed is also a critical factor in decision quality, the more reversible a decision is, the lower the consequences of that decision, and therefore, the faster it should be made.
NEWSLINK: You’ve been involved in nearly every aspect of the mortgage business. What part of the mortgage process do you see room for improvement and innovation?
GHAMSARI: Our goal since starting Blend has always been about reimagining the home buying journey, rather than incrementally improving segments of it. There is still an abundance of room to connect and streamline the entire process, from research and discovery, to home inspections and appraisals. This year, we’re looking at filling the gap between the consumer and the loan officer along with closing technologies.
NEWSLINK: What will the mortgage process look like in two years? How about 10 years?
GHAMSARI: We’ve made tremendous strides with our lender partners, but there’s still work to be done. We want to empower consumers to be in control of their financial information and to give them real buying power and an understanding of their financial situations when they’re ready to apply for a mortgage. In eliminating some of the manual processes, lenders have more time to focus on having important conversations with customers, guiding them through their financial decisions, and empowering their financial literacy.
When we talk about this transformation, it’s important to acknowledge that first and foremost, it’s not something any of us can do alone–we need to tackle this challenge as an industry. In our journey to building a future where consumers get can loans in one tap, this year Blend released the first-of-its-kind One-tap Pre-approval for Mortgage, allowing for a significantly simpler and shorter mortgage experience, and we see no reason why the entire process can’t continue to be optimized using this technology. A key part of this is understanding the complexity and making it as simple as possible.
NEWSLINK: How are consumer expectations shaping technology strategies for financial institutions?
GHAMSARI: Consumers have increasingly high expectations for experiences to be digital and intuitive – getting a mortgage should be as easy as making a purchase on Amazon Prime–and we’re working to make this happen. Eventually, we hope all consumer lending transactions–and not just mortgages–will be one-tap. This will give consumers instant access to verified buying power, putting more control in their hands, and streamlining the lending process.
NEWSLINK: In your role as CEO, you’re constantly engaging with executives at banks, nonbanks and credit unions across the country–what are their top concerns and priorities right now?
GHAMSARI: I’m on the road constantly interacting with our customers–in almost every city across the country–and they know that digital transformation is important as they compete in a changing market. Cutting costs is a big lever as well–our customers know that by lowering their cost to produce, which can greatly be solved by technology, they can build a more sustainable business with lower cost products for their customers.
Today consumers have more options than ever for where they go for their financial services and are starting to feel fatigued. In today’s highly competitive market, lenders are learning that they can stand out by creating a seamless user experience for customers. The leaders of these financial institutions are looking for ways to best serve their community, while implementing updated and innovative strategies.
NEWSLINK: We’ve seen a number of housing markets cool in recent weeks at the same time that interest rates have hit near-record lows–what impact will this have on the housing market through the end of the year?
GHAMSARI: We’ve seen how tax reforms, the construction labor market, and regulatory costs are all impacting the housing market, particularly for homebuilders. And despite lower interest rates, we are still facing a lack of affordable houses for sale across the country. However, we continue to see that homeownership is a goal across generations – one recent survey found that 64% of millennials still believe the American Dream is still achievable. As more millennials come of age and get married, regardless of political and market barriers, we believe that many will enter the housing market.
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