MBA NewsLink 2021 Tech All-Star David Orsini: Success Comes Organically
When David Orsini graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), he had exactly 16 hours to savor the feeling. Then off he went to work for Top of Mind—and he hasn’t left.
“I literally graduated on Sunday and started work on Monday,” Orsini said. “Mortgage is the only industry I’ve ever worked in.”
Recruited from Georgia Tech as Top of Mind’s first developer/systems architect in 2004, Orsini’s tenure hails to the company’s earliest days. For the past 17 years, Orsini has overseen development of the company’s groundbreaking technology, Surefire CRM and mortgage marketing engine — often while juggling other operational responsibilities.
“During the early years I was wearing multiple hats,” Orsini said. “At the same time I was developing the first version of our system, I was stuffing envelopes and licking stamps. I was hiring and managing our other developers. I oversaw technical account management. I listened to mortgage lenders to understand their needs.”
Thanks in good part to Orsini, Atlanta-based Top of Mind’s Surefire CRM has established itself as the gold standard for mortgage lenders nationwide. According to STRATMOR Group, 74% of lenders use a third-party lead management or CRM tool. STRATMOR Group identified Surefire as the mortgage industry’s #1 CRM for two years running, during which Surefire’s overall market share grew to 18.4%. Surefire CRM is now used by nearly 20,000 loan originators and lenders across 1,500 companies.
Top of Mind’s success comes well-earned—and organically. “The origin story is that [co-founder] Mark Green moved to Atlanta and had a bad experience buying a condo; and the broker who he worked with couldn’t remember him when he wanted to upgrade,” Orsini said. “We saw this as a business opportunity. I have a software background; Mark came from a sales background and [co-founder Sherwood Lawrence] came from Microsoft. We attempted to solve this problem with technology.”
Orsini noted in 2004, there was no standard for how a mortgage marketing platform should perform — because there was no such technology. “When we were thinking about the original problem—loan officers were not keeping in touch with their customer database—and we decided to do something about it,” he said.
Which raises a common question for the mortgage industry over the past three decades: why did it take so long for the industry to adopt technology, even when nearly everyone knew it would streamline processes and improve the customer relationship?
“If you go back in time, the people we dealt with most in the early 2000s were broker-heavy,” Orsini said. “When you have a lot of mom-and-pop shops, it’s hard to move in that direction. And on the flip side were the mammoth banks, who were also slow to adopt. And the fragmentation of the industry played a part.”
As Chief Product Officer, Orsini led development of Surefire CRM— and in doing so, defined what a mortgage CRM and marketing automation platform should be, cementing innumerable innovative “firsts,” including becoming the first CRM to integrate with LOS and the first to automate marketing compliance.
Surefire CRM was the first CRM built specifically for the mortgage industry. The uniqueness of Surefire CRM derives from Orisni’s prerogative to understand and solve mortgage lenders’ real-world sales and marketing challenges. In 2012, Surefire became the first CRM to integrate with mortgage loan origination systems, enabling automation of in-process communication between loan officers and borrowers. Surefire was also the first CRM to automate essential mortgage compliance capabilities such as approvals management for changes to print and digital assets; state-by-state licensing disclosures; review of rates displayed to leads and prospects; and full audit support.
Timing helped, too. During the 2008 financial crisis, several Top of Mind competitors shuttered for good. Others “turtled up,” to use Orsini’s phrase —they put innovation on the backburner, using dollars previously earmarked for R&D just to stay in business. Orsini did things differently. Like Top of Mind’s other founding partners, he believed it was important not just to weather the crisis, but also to emerge stronger.
“We spent those two to three years listening closely to mortgage lenders’ needs and invested every dollar we could into continued innovation,” Orsini said. “There were months when I didn’t draw a paycheck, and neither did the other partners.” By listening attentively to lenders’ evolving needs, Top of Mind has kept its foot on the innovation accelerator. As one customer described it, “Logging into the platform today is a totally different experience than logging into the platform a year ago.” Another adds, “Surefire offers so much and is constantly growing…Top of Mind listens to its clients and takes into consideration what we have to say.”
Orsini has since spearheaded development of many industry-first marketing capabilities designed to meet the compliance, content and use-case needs of mortgage lenders. Notably, Orsini brought to market the “Client for Life” Workflow, which automates a carefully curated mix of interactive emails, direct mail marketing, personalized voicemail recordings and dynamic text messaging to a borrower for five years after closing; Power Calls, a feature that lets users automate client and prospect telephone follow-up; and Power Messaging, a feature that keeps everyone on the same page with in-process updates delivered via text.
The most popular of Orsini’s innovations are Surefire’s dynamic videos, which engage borrowers with video content uniquely personalized for them as they achieve mortgage process milestones. Much of Surefire CRM’s interactive content is built using Adobe Animate and breaks new ground with how it retrieves property data in real-time to generate unique video content dynamically for each user.
And the industry has taken notice—not only with market share, but also recognition. In 2020 alone, Surefire CRM earned 21 awards for innovation in content marketing in multiple internationally renowned marketing awards programs, including the AVA Digital Awards, Hermes Creative Awards, Telly Awards and Business Intelligence Group’s Sales and Marketing Technology Awards.
But Top of Mind prefers a better metric—its customer feedback. In 2019 Top of Mind reviewed user behavior and productivity data for a sample group comprising the company’s top 25% clients based on revenue generation. The company found deployment of automated campaigns was highly correlated with improved loan officer performance. On average, loan officers leveraging Surefire CRM’s automated lead, prospect and nurture campaigns saw more than twice the number of closed loans (212.5%) and nearly double the revenue production (191.7%) compared with peers who did not engage prospects with the automated campaigns.
Specifically, V.I.P. Mortgage, an early adopter of Top of Mind’s Power Messaging, used the feature to great advantage with a special focus on refi prospects. In 2020, V.I.P. loan originators closed an average of 56% more loans per month compared to LOs at similarly sized peers who hadn’t yet adopted Power Messaging. V.I.P.’s Power Messaging campaigns generated 332 deals over the course of one quarter, of which 38.6% converted to closed loans with an average loan amount of $303,000. Surefire CRM helped increase average monthly loan production at V.I.P. Mortgage by 38% from 2018 to 2019, and the company exceeded that growth in 2020.
Like the rest of the industry, Top of Mind has had to adapt and pivot in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID has certainly changed the landscape,” Orsini said. “This industry has always been a face-to-face, handshake business with members and others in the industry. We love the networking opportunities. Streamlining and integration has been a huge priority for us over the past several years; we’ve had to adapt to help our clients and their customers during this period.”
“It is truly an honor to win this award and have my name mentioned in the same breath as some of the industry’s most influential people, including both past and current winners of this award. 2021 has started out as a very exciting year with new challenges for us to help our customers overcome.”