MBA 2020 Tech All-Star Julie Felts: Driving Force Behind Amrock’s eClosing Domination
Like many homebuyers, Julie Felts and her husband did not have a positive experience at the closing table. With mounds of paperwork and a seller in tears sitting just across from them, the close was nightmarishly long, inconvenient, stressful and emotionally draining.
“I just remember thinking there should be a better way to do this; we shouldn’t have to be in the same place at the same time,” she says.
Four years later, Julie and her Amrock technology teammates have made good on that idea, and then some.
Now a Solution Architect with Amrock, Detroit, Felts and her team have been instrumental in bringing Amrock to the forefront of the eClosing movement, making it possible for people in remote locations to use technology instead of proximity to close loans.
It’s why she’s been named a 2020 MBA Tech All Star.
“Julie has been with Amrock for over six years, which is notable because in that time our eClosing strategy went from idea to implementation,” says Amrock President and CEO Brian Hughes. “Julie’s drive to bring our eClosing service to fruition in order to benefit the client has propelled her to where she is today – leading the charge on eClosing.”
3 Types of eClosings
There are three ways to complete a mortgage electronically: a Remote Online Notarization or RON signing, which uses an audio/video connection via the Internet; an In-Person Hybrid eClosing; and an In-Person Electronic Notarization, where the notary signing agents are at the same location as the consumer.
In addition to eliminating the need for hand-signing documents, eClosings can prevent errors in the process. This digital method removes the possibility of the client or signing agent overlooking a portion of the document requiring a signature. Such mistakes can lead to delays in the closing process. With a fully digital closing, the documents cannot be submitted until all areas requiring signatures are completed.
Amrock offers a form of eClose in all 50 states and completes more eClosings than any other settlement agent.
Paving the Way
Felts attended Michigan Tech and developed software in the automotive sector before moving to Amrock in 2013. She started as a Business Analyst, then became a Product Owner, before transitioning into her current as Amrock’s go-to expert overseeing all things eClosing.
Felts works with Amrock executives and the company’s technology team to understand their processes and challenges. She is tasked with matching those expectations to solutions being built by her teams. Felts is also a notary and certified signing agent, which helps her understand the complexities of the closing process from start to finish, she says.
In December, Felts became the first Michigan notary to complete a RON eClosing.
“The closing went well,” Felts said. “The client had a great experience. Our lender and signing agent absolutely loved it, and became big advocates for it. But there were a lot of people scrambling around in the background to make it happen. We had to step back and figure out how we could optimize our processes so eClosing could become the way we do business instead of an exception to the norm.”
The team kept testing new ideas and improving its processes.
By 2018, Amrock had completed more than 14,000 eClosings with eNote, including 4,100 in December 2018 alone. By April 2019, eClose was live in all 50 states. Amrock digitally closed more than 120,000 loans in 2019, accounting for 96% of all eNotes that were signed and registered in MERS that year.
“Julie was integral to achieving all of these incredible milestones,” Hughes said. “Her dedication to creating the best possible client experience extends to the way she works with other teams and business areas, consistently proving herself to be an excellent communicator who is skilled at improving processes and workflows. Her enthusiasm and persistence are not only inspiring – her passion drives real results. It’s a big part of why we’re the current leader in eClosing volume.”
Pushing the Envelope
That’s no small feat. In fact, Felts worked with a variety of different business areas on the planning, execution and implementation to ensure Amrock would be able to successfully scale.
“We do this, in part, by taking a different approach than some of our competitors,” she says. “We have systems in place to determine which types of eClosings a consumer is eligible for, so they will often have a few different digital close options. The clients like it, the lenders love it, and we are now eClosing thousands of loans a month. This is at the heart of what Amrock does; making the real estate experience faster and easier for everyone.”
Since rollout, Amrock has been refining its eClose processes and integrating with multiple eClose platform providers and transitioning from hybrid to fully digital closings in as many cases as possible. Additionally, Felts said, the team is working towards supporting eClose with other loan types, including government loans in the future.
Yes Before No
Felts credits her company’s “ISMs” culture for helping build the camaraderie needed to push forward in solving and scaling eClose.
The corporate-culture guide is given to every team member in the Rock Family of Companies. The principles emphasize independent thinking and action, moving quickly, and innovation.
“‘Yes before no’ is a big one for me,” Felts said. “Prior to coming to Amrock I just had a job. I didn’t see the level of excitement in working together to build new solutions. Here we are one team, one family trying to focus on the big picture.”
Felts was honored recently with a “Rock Honors Award” for Best Business Vision in a Technology Role. The award is bestowed upon Amrock team members who are trusted advisors to the business, able to identify new opportunities and highlight where technology can streamline their processes. “Our company culture plays a big role in why we’ve been able to push eClosing to the industry’s forefront,” she says. “We truly believe it’s a better future for the entire industry.”
Felts is recognized as an eClosing expert not just within the Rock Family of Companies, but by the mortgage industry at large.
She has worked closely with Amrock’s legal team, stayed close to the RON regulatory process, and represented Amrock in support of RON at the National Association of Secretaries of State Conference. She is an active member of two MISMO industry workgroups, the MISMO eMortgage Community of Practice and the MISMO Remote Online Notarization Development Workgroup.
In 2018, the North Carolina Secretary of State invited Felts to represent Amrock in the North Carolina Electronic Mortgage Advisory Committee. This committee comprises industry stakeholders who are committed to providing a clear roadmap on how to make electronic mortgage closing easily available to consumers.
Felts reacted to her 2020 MBA Tech All-Star award with both gratitude and surprise. “I did a quick online search and found that most prior winners were corporate level executives, many of whom owned companies. The fact MBA considered what we’re doing here to be as important as some of their contributions is amazing,” she says.
Her colleagues agree. “Julie’s passion for industry change has been incredibly impactful for our business,” Hughes said. “Her perseverance and ability to clear roadblocks has led her to accomplish these milestones, paving the way for our success. We couldn’t be prouder of Julie and all that the entire digital mortgage team has accomplished.”