Jim Freeman of Fiserv: Mortgage Magic in Thinking Big

Jim Freeman is Senior Director of Software Development at Fiserv Inc., Brookfield, Wis., a leading global provider of financial services technology solutions. He has been a member of Fiserv since 2019 and brings with him 25 years of software engineering, cloud solutioning, product development, and DevOps management. He is responsible for leading engineering strategy, driving technological innovation and modernization the mortgage’s portfolio and closing the loop between market demand and product engineering. Prior to Fiserv, he held executive leadership positions at Rackspace, where he led the cloud engineering organization responsible for the end-to-end, multi-cloud technology solutions.

Jim Freeman

Back in 1987, Dr. David J. Schwartz wrote a book that was read by an entire generation of entrepreneurs and executives, called “The Magic of Thinking Big.” You may be familiar with this title and wondered what difference it could possibly make to set your sights on something bigger than you ever thought you could achieve.

“Set your goals high…then exceed them!” was a message that worked because it changed our perspective on what was possible, even if the magic in the title was typically oversold. It forced us to dream a little, ask ourselves “what if” questions and strive for goals that seemed beyond our reach..

Today’s world is more cynical than the go-getter 1980s. It’s harder to convince people that a future they can’t yet see is worth more than the business that’s already in their pipelines. So, companies are focused on working to stay a step ahead of their competitors when they could be blazing their own trails to success.

The truth is, there is magic in thinking big, especially for the mortgage industry and especially now. In fact, viewing the industry with a new perspective can only benefit lenders in this changing market.

Experts are predicting massive change in the industry and thinking small is unlikely to be a path to success.

The value of a new perspective

A new perspective is one of the most powerful decision-making tools an executive can have in his or her briefcase. Of course, it’s not easy to come by, especially when volumes are high and the day-to-day business pressures keep us focusing on what needs to get done today.

The challenge that is coming has to do with the shift from refinance business to purchase money mortgage business. We are busy today, but when 75% of the deals in our pipelines are more complex purchase money deals, we are likely to see workloads increase dramatically.

Now is the time for lenders to think big about the technology and more sophisticated tools they can use to power their businesses into the future.

The business requirements and competitive pressures lenders are subject to today are an order of magnitude more challenging than what the industry faced back in 1987. The coming shift away from refinances will just magnify this.

But what if lenders thought about this problem in a new way? What if they thought big? Instead of asking, “How can we continue to grow in 2022 despite a major shift in our business mix?”, what if they asked a different question:

“How can we originate 3X purchase money business in 2022?”

This is the kind of “what-if” question leading lenders are asking their executives to consider now.

The magic in thinking big about mortgage

When the lender considers a goal this large, it forces them to rethink everything about their existing operation. It’s very unlikely that any lender could triple their originations with their existing people, processes and technology mix. But what changes would make the most sense?

Process springs to mind first. Purchase business requires much more prospecting and lead nurturing on the front end. What new partners, staff members or technology would allow the company to focus more power on prospects before they make an application for a new loan?

Regardless of where the new prospects come from, they will enter the lender’s process through its origination technology. These powerful CRM and Point of Sale tools would be most powerful if tightly integrated to the lender’s LOS, so deals can move effortlessly into production as soon as the application is received.

Ideally, all of the technology employed in the lender’s process would be part of a single system, but in cases where tools come from third-party partners with data delivered via API, it will be important that the lender’s core system be hosted in the cloud. This will make it far easier to log performance and perform security audits.

Data security will be a key consideration as growth demands that the lender multiplies the number of individuals interacting with its systems. Cybersecurity is a huge topic that can’t be covered here, but it demands more than a point solution ─ another reason the lender’s technology must be in the cloud. In short, the cloud is no longer a security concern and is considered more secure than most OnPrem solutions.

Finally, this kind of growth will require the lender to be fiercely focused on the prospective borrower and their real estate sales advisors. While much is known about their current demands, their needs are constantly changing, which will require leading lenders to continue to innovate.

Having a core platform in the cloud frees the lender’s IT team and technology partners to innovate fearlessly, allowing the lender to stay current with customer needs and ahead of competitors. With cloud-based tools that allow developers to easily spin up testing servers, create duplicate databases to test new functionality and produce as many backups as necessary, developers don’t have to worry about breaking what’s working as they strive to create what will work better.

Fortunately, powerful, cloud-based loan origination technology platforms are available today to lenders of any size. They make it possible for lenders to devise a what-if scenario that will allow them to continue to grow even when the market gets more competitive.

Now, how many lenders will actually triple their purchase money business in 2022? Perhaps not that many. But how many will see any kind of growth next year without thinking big?

Lenders that succeed in 2022 will begin thinking now about the changes they need to make in their processes, staffing and tech stack to deal with the changing market. Those that succeed beyond expectations will be the ones who think big.

(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policy of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Mike Sorohan, editor, at msorohan@mba.org; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at mtucker@mba.org.)