MBA NewsLink 2023 Tech All-Star: Gabe Minton of Mortgage Connect
Gabe Minton sees today’s mortgage market as a glass half-full. “When there’s a slow down like this it gives us the opportunity to innovate because other areas will naturally grow,” he says. He envisions a future where qualified homebuyers will be able to go online for a mortgage as easily as they order pizza from DoorDash or paper towels from Amazon today.
As Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Mortgage Connect, LP, a PIttsburgh, Pa.-based IT company that supports lenders, servicers and institutional investors, Minton is engaged on the frontline of transforming the mortgage industry into a seamless digital experience for lenders and their customers. He’s also a recipient of an MBA NewsLink 2023 Tech All-Star award.
Minton provides both leadership and the technical vision for developing Mortgage Connect’s “next-gen” digital platforms to facilitate a seamless experience between the consumer and lender and to maximize operational efficiencies. And they seem to be everywhere at once. “We’re in the default space. We have a docs division on the servicing side of the house. We’re in the secondary and capital markets areas. And we’re in originations,” he explains. Being diversified is helpful at times like this, when some aspects of the business will be slow thanks to rising interest rates (like refinances), while others are picking up and deserving of more time and investment.
Prior to Mortgage Connect, Minton was the Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Guild Mortgage. He also has served as the senior vice president and chief information officer at PHH Mortgage and has held senior management, strategy and technology positions with Black Knight’s ServiceLink, Motivity Solutions, Accenture Mortgage Cadence and the Mortgage Bankers Association.
But his most well-known claim to fame in the industry may have been his time spent with MBA getting MISMO (Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization)off the ground. Under his guidance, MISMO developed a common language for exchanging information for the mortgage finance industry that’s in widespread use today.
What you may not know about Minton is that he enjoys skiing, scuba diving, has visited all 48 contiguous states and is a private pilot with an instrument rating. “That’s a pretty big accomplishment,” he notes, “and I still fly from time to time.”
A Penchant for Standards
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, the 30-year industry veteran began his career as a network engineer for the U.S. Navy responsible for network engineering and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC III) procurement recommendations at NAVFACENGCOM, the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command.
Two years later, in 1994, he left the Navy to join Industrial Machinery Manufacturing (ITT) as a software engineer. He worked in the Naval Research Lab in Washington, DC, where he was responsible for network engineering, software engineering, and clean room engineering across a variety of projects. “It was the 1990s, and we were very focused on deep learning,” he says. Deep learning is a type of machine learning based on artificial neural networks in which multiple layers of processing are used to extract progressively higher level features from data.
In 1997, he moved to a small startup, Ultraprise.com, as its Chief Technology Officer, where he moved into strategic business development and standards development. Under his guidance, Ultraprise partnered with a lender for a project that built an origination/servicing system, the first of at least six loan origination systems he would manage or build over his career.
Then, Ultraprise built its secondary market trading platform. “That’s when we realized there was no standardization of mortgage data in the buying and selling of home loans on the secondary market,” he says. “So we set about trying to create an XML standard … We wanted to build that open standard free of charge and give the technology away to mortgage industry participants to encourage its widespread adoption and use.”
He then learned of an effort already at MBA to create character-delimited standards for mortgage-data exchange called X12, which was also looking at XML. After MISMO was announced by the MBA in 1999 at their annual convention, Minton approached the MBA’s chief economist at the time, Doug Duncan, now Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at Fannie Mae, and urged him to invest more on staffing the standards effort. In response, Duncan offered him a job as VP Industry Technology and EVP for MISMO.
In 2001, he joined MBA to run MISMO and really get it off the ground. Under his leadership MISMO developed a common language for exchanging information for the mortgage finance industry that allows mortgage industry participants – mortgage lenders, investors in real estate and mortgages, servicers, industry vendors, borrowers and other parties – to exchange information more securely, efficiently and economically. MISMO also working with the GSE’s and industry participants created the industry’s current SMARTDoc eMortgage standards and guidelines.
Today, MISMO has more than 175 member organizations doing business in the residential and commercial mortgage industries. Use of MISMO standards has been found to lower per loan costs, improve margins, reduce errors and speed up the loan process by reducing manual, paper-based processes while creating cost savings for the consumer, according to MBA, and they are required by most regulators, housing agencies and the GSEs.
Minton stayed with MBA for six years before moving to a series of strategic and technology leadership roles with lenders and vendors. He remains active with MBA, attending and presenting at conferences and serving on the MISMO senior advisory committee and the participating in the MBA ResTech Forum.
Wearing Many Hats
At Mortgage Connect, Minton still dabbles with the MISMO-like concept of developing open voluntary consensus-based standards for title and appraisal to reduce the persistent back-and-forth that slows the mortgage process. According to Minton, treating both the title and appraisal aspects of a file as two separate business lines clogs a process that could be reorganized to deliver the necessary information to intended parties in a minimal number of transactions if a lender is using the same provider for both services.
“We’re trying to unify the title transaction by bringing title data, tax data and closing data together into one payload,” he explains. “So instead of having a lot of back and forth between the lender to check, for example, on the status of all taxes paid on the property, we’re trying to look at clever ways of taking the tax data and including it in the title response, we can consolidate the back and forth.”
Mortgage Connect’s “Uniform Title Transaction” is being tested by lenders enthused about the potential to cut turn times. The intent is to volunteer the results of this exercise and lessons learned to the larger MISMO community.
Minton’s also an advocate for greater acceptance of electronic signature and notarizations and is steadfast in his belief that the mortgage process needs to take serious steps toward digitizing its signatory processes. It’s a move, he points out, that many other industries have embraced, and mortgage’s inability to catch up is “something that must change.”
Finally, he’s a vocal supporter of remote online notarization and has been working relentlessly with a team at Mortgage Connect on the development of Simply Sign for a hybrid e-sign, which he calls “a major step in the right direction for the industry.”
“The mortgage industry is just generally slow to adopt new technology like remote notarization, but we are trying to push the idea along.”
Mortgage Connect is seeing an uptick in so-called hybrid notarizations, he reports, and have implemented solutions for hybrid signings for at least two of the top 10 lenders. These lenders put documents borrowers need to sign into a single ePackage to be delivered electronically. Borrowers can review their loan docs at their leisure and sign remotely. Then, to close the loan, the notary shows up online with just a few final documents for them to sign and have eNotarized (or traditional notarized if that is requested).
“For lenders not ready for fully remote notarization or smart docs, it’s a step in the right direction that makes signing. They want to put their toe in the water, and get this electronic process going, but they’re going to take it slow.”
Of course, he’s well aware of the security concerns lenders have and works to alleviate anxiety with transactional security, secure point-to-point communication, and supporting multiple levels of security for a notarized transaction. “Basically, you need to be able to authenticate everyone involved,” he says. “We do out-of-wallet questions as part of the remote notarization process, which means the person signing has to take their ID out of their wallet and hold it up to the camera and it becomes part of the record.”
Videos of the transaction and electronically signed documents are securely stored with tamper-evident seals to securely transmit back to the lender. “So I would say security permeates everything that we do, in the technology and finance space.”
Progressive Thinking in Action
In his current role, Minton stays involved in a lot of different project areas to make Mortgage Connect the “premier product” to the residential mortgage industry and set development directions for projects that impact how the industry can move toward a more digital future. “Companies come to Mortgage Connect with problems to solve. I have an engineering background but also a creative side for understanding what they’re trying to do,” he says.
“I’m also practical and down-to-earth when it comes to developing the necessary process components for customers to support audits, change logs, and permissions security.”
Mortgage Connect’s customers come in all sizes, he says, and include 17 of the top 20 lenders. But they all have one thing in common, he says. “They are progressive, out-of-the-box thinkers charting new paths and using technology in new ways.”
“We consider ourselves to be a progressive company too, and I remain an adamant believer in the power of technology to not only alter the status quo, but to turn it on its head.”
“Smart tech can forever change the way business is done, building efficiencies previously thought to be impossible, uncovering space and time – and profit – inside a flow of operations where there once was none.”
If that sounds like pie-in-the-sky, just consider where Amazon or Doordash were just a few years ago and how ubiquitous they are to daily life now. “There’s no reason our industry can’t get to that level of simplicity and provide an Amazon-like customer experience,” he says.
“At Mortgage Connect, we’re working very hard on multiple fronts and with lenders of all sizes to make that happen.”