MBA NewsLink Tech All-Star 2021: A Passion for Safe Closes—Ike Suri, Chairman & CEO, FundingShield
By Laura Lang
You might say Ike Suri is feeling the love these days.
He received an unusual number of nominations (six) for the MBA NewsLink 2021 Tech All-Star Awards—including backing from industry heavyweights such as Eric Lapin of Old Republic Title; Jerry Halbrook of Volly and former President of Black Knight Origination Technology; Faith Schwartz of Housing Finance Strategies and Terry Theologides, General Counsel with Fannie Mae, among others.
However, Suri was not selected because he got a lot of nominations. The quality of his vision in the past four years has transformed how many of us work. Plus, it’s hard to ignore the head of a company that has reviewed more than $1 trillion (that’s trillion with a “t”) in closing value.
Suri is Chairman & CEO of FundingShield, LLC, a loan-level fraud prevention and risk management company that provides MISMO-certified technology to help lenders manage the mortgage funding process and avoid wire fraud schemes. He is also Chairman and CEO of Pelican Point Investment Group LLC, a boutique private equity and merchant bank in Newport Beach, Calif.
As a “serial entrepreneur” he has been starting, buying and investing in companies that use technology to optimize workflow and service delivery while reducing risk and operational errors for decades.
“I am greatly humbled for the MBA Tech All-Star honor,” Suri told us, while thanking the industry leaders and FundingShield board members who backed his nomination.
Strength in Diversity
Suri was born and raised in India (he speaks five languages: English, Hindi, Punjabi, Russian and Urdu). He moved to the U.S. to study finance and marketing at Rutgers University. Pursuing an opportunity in technology opened doors for delivering networking and data platforms to optimize trading floors at Global Top 10 Wall Street firms. While still in his early 20s, he moved from New York City to Silicon Valley, where he was part of a management buyout of a tech firm, which led to a decade full of acquisitions, investments and integrations.
“It was the beginning of a journey that I continue to enjoy, full of exciting challenges where I have been able to roll up my sleeves and engage at all levels of leading and building businesses,” he said. “It’s stimulating to work with colleagues and partners focused on delivering unique client-centric solutions in markets where there is a need for innovation.”
For 30 years, he focused his efforts in financial services, media, technology and human capital, realizing they shared a common challenge — data. In other words, they were having to rely on static, unverified data that was vulnerable to theft or tampering during transmission. He leveraged his past experience from various industries and applications where technology played a critical role to overcome these challenges where the mortgage industry was ripe for such solutions.
“We decided to focus on the most painful part of the journey — the mortgage closing — which is key because there are multiple parties (stakeholders to the closing) working on behalf of a lender to service the homebuyer,” Suri said. “These multiple parties all have stakeholder equity in the success and security of the closing. These disparate parties could be around the world from each other but must come together quickly to collaborate and deliver services in a heavily regulated industry.”
Should something go wrong, such as a wire transfer going to a scammer, the burden of risk and loss is held by the mortgage originator. “We wanted to be an agent of change for lenders by providing them with a unique service, a technology solution that prevents fraudulent hackers and employees from wiring funds to an alternative account while making sure all compliance boxes are checked,” Suri said. “This meant active and ongoing processes using live data that vet, verify and validate at the transaction level.”
Suri contributed his personal capital to fund and test the business strategy. FundingShield launched its fintech services in 2018 with the support, interest, and collaboration of major investment firms and banks. Since then, its fintech services (such as Guardian and WAVs) have become an integral part of the mortgage closing process by providing banks, warehouse lenders, and others the protection to fund closing agent accounts safely, securely and seamlessly.
The success of the company’s approach is evident in the numbers: FundingShield’s clients are reporting ROIs over 250% per year (driving cost savings of up to $3.5 million per client annually).
Just as telling, not one client has suffered any wire fraud-related losses under Suri’s leadership.
Loss Coverage of Up to $5 Million
FundingShield provides a customized cloud-based tool to major banks and financial institutions, settlement providers and independent mortgage banks. From the client side, the platforms are plug’n’play, scalable, inexpensive and provide insurance-backed coverage against loss from fraud (up to $5 million per transaction in the residential market).
The products use a proprietary database, automation, machine learning and automated intelligence to become part of the workflow to manage risk and drive compliance. The platforms can be implemented in multiple ways, such as via application programming interfaces (APIs), secure Web-based platforms and LOS integrations (such as with ICE Mortgage Technology’s Encompass).
Each product is completely sustainable from a business operations perspective. PropTech data and tech tools owned and created by FundingShield are deployed to allow for user-centric fintech solutions. This scalable technology allows lenders of all sizes with varied IT budgets to plug ‘n play under a pay-as-you-go model.
“The majority of independent or smaller lenders in the country don’t have multi-million-dollar IT budgets, and they already spend a lot on their compliance, risk, and operating resources. By leveraging our automation, especially via APIs, they immediately see a return of up to 400% on their annual spend,” Suri said. “We are not only providing a tool to eliminate wire and title fraud, we’ve given them a new way to operate more efficiently.”
How? Suri said the mortgage and real estate market has more than 80,000 entities and permitted roles that can provide closing and settlement services. These closing agents must be verified, vetted and validated for risk management purposes. Using just-in-time security measures to validate or vet stakeholders in real-time sets the standard for compliance risk models surrounding closing agent compliance. This allows customers to enter new markets through FundingShield’s ecosystem, and interface with new title and closing agents, while ensuring they are only working with licensed, approved and valid closing agents.
“Data can be breached and altered, so it’s important to verify on a live basis ahead of the closing using JIT methodologies to prevent a home buyer from losing his life savings or a bank or title company from losing closing funds equating to trillions of dollars each year,” Suri said. “This is a new approach leveraging fintech we have brought to the market.”
Set Up for Success
The company is unique in other ways too. Thanks to lessons learned from running and investing in past businesses, Suri decided FundingShield would have no debt and be built as a responsible business partner that manages both its top and bottom line. “That’s important in an industry that’s pretty volatile,” he said. “We think we have a unique proposition to be profit partners for clients.”
Banks, warehouse lenders and investment firms have written FundingShield into their guidelines and credit department requirements. FundingShield is also a valuable tech partner and fintech pioneer. Thus far, FundingShield is the first and only MISMO-certified platform to reduce wire transaction mismatches, phishing attempts and incorrect/altered wire instructions (for two years running).
Suri serves on the MBA Risk Committee, MBA Fraud Committee, California Mortgage Bankers Association 2021 Mortgage Innovators Conference Committee, and is a member of the Forbes Council. He is active in giving back to organizations that include Autism Speaks, AIF, TiE- The Indus Entrepreneurs and the Orange County Food Bank. He’s also a HousingWire Tech Trendsetter for 2020, HousingWire Vanguard Winner 2020; and FundingShield is a three-time Tech 100 winner for Mortgage Tech and Real Estate Tech (2019, 2020, 2021).
He’s even moving to help homeowners avoid wire fraud. “We’ve put together a solution so consumers can use our tools to send their money into escrow accounts,” Suri said. “When a customer transmits money using Consumer-WAVS, they are protected from phishing, hacking, cyber-risks and fraud.”
Consumer-WAVS is being integrated by some of the nation’s largest lenders, which plan to announce its availability for their customers soon. “This B2B2C effort is a great outcome sparked by the collaboration we’ve enjoyed working with MBA and MISMO members, in particular, one of the largest bank lenders in the country,” Suri said.
It’s also helping to fuel the company’s organic growth — revenue grew a whopping 800% in 2020, and Suri’s sights are already set on acquisitions that will further cement the company’s ability to drive value-added fintech solutions.
But somehow, he also keeps it fun. “Ike makes finding success, pushing to innovate and solving problems fun as he wants us all to enjoy the ride. He is here to deliver and solve problems in a cohesive and collaborative culture…and has fun doing it every day,” said Adam Chaudhary, president of Funding Shield. “The best part is that he enjoys the people he works with, empowers them and enjoys seeing their success as we deliver for our clients.”
Passion, Passion Passion
The word “passion” was mentioned more than a dozen times by Suri’s supporters and, indeed, it would seem Suri’s passion for excellence at FundingShield is equally matched by his passions for spending time with his family, making Hollywood feature films and giving back to those less fortunate.
His wife of 20+ years, Jaclyn, is a film industry veteran, and together they’ve invested in and produced several Hollywood feature-length movies, including a reboot of Cabin Fever; Exposed; Ripped; Intruder; The Midnight Man; and The Con is On. Upcoming projects include The November Man2 and Digital Raptor. They also donate money for research on Crohn’s Disease and colitis, a chronic digestive disease characterized by inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. (Jaclyn has been suffering from both for 14 years.)
They enjoy travelling as schedules permit with their 19-year-old twin sons and giving back to the poor by providing meals in Delhi slums, and also supporting blind students in his hometown. “COVID has complicated the logistics of volunteering but we (as both a family and company) try to give back as much as we can,” Suri said.