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For Tech in Mortgage, Constant Innovation is Key

Anthony Pham JMAC LendingYou have an interesting dual role. You’re JMAC Lending’s CFO and Director of innovation. What does your day look like when it comes to balancing those two sides?

As CFO my big focus is strategy and financial planning. I don't think of my life as day-to-day, it's more on a weekly basis. Every Monday we'll revisit our strategy, and the biggest thing for us is to make sure that we're meeting our goals as a company, our financial and strategic objectives.

On the technology side, we have a technology team of eight people, and we've grown it from three. I work a lot with our IT team to make sure that we're meeting our roadmap. Let's say we have 15 projects going at the same time, and so our challenge is that our business people and our technology people, there are gaps in how they plan and in how they deploy software, so my thing is to really fill that gap until I'm no longer needed.

You’ve talked about the challenges of that customer-facing side of things. How do you work to ensure that you're making the best choices as far as what software to use and how do you work to put all those pieces together? Because it seems like there are so many different possible apps and so many possible technologies that you could use.

You have to have a good vendor selection process, so we identify who the stakeholders are and we work to collect what their needs are. Their needs are typically tied to their current way of doing things and as we're purchasing new technology, we don't want that to continue, to keep doing the same thing. So the biggest focus for us these days is customer experience. Is the software easy to use from a customer-facing side, and then is it easy to use on an internal-facing side? That's becoming more and more important ...

We want to spend less time administrating technology. We want less worry about the technology and more worry about the business. So the right technology partners are going to have a good design philosophy, and then they're also going to have quick development cycles to be able to meet our demands or meet their client demands. I think historically, software has been very slow to release. Our Alloy Software releases on a quarterly cycle, and that's ... maybe that may have been pretty good back in the day. One year, two years ago. But I think with how technology is heading, it's important to find a partner that is innovating on a weekly basis and has that fixed cycle.

What are some of the technologies that you're seeing that you think have a real chance of being transformative for the industry, in 2018 and beyond?

I think there has been a lot of focus on customer-facing technology and I think a lot of people are missing out in terms of after you acquire the customer, how do you make sure that the rest of the process is efficient and effective? For the last 20 years, we've focused on manufacturing a product, being really good at that, but we never thought about the customer.

So as we're manufacturing, I think the customer is demanding more touch points. They're demanding more transparency. So for us, I think our biggest challenge or opportunity is making sure that the technology is solving this problem and that our people are embracing it to help the customer. On a tactical level, that's what our focus is, but I think on a strategic level, machine learning has a big play.

Being in wholesale, one of our weaknesses is we get a hundred-page submission from our broker and we have to index it, we have to review it, we have to validate it. So if a system could index it ... that's relatively elementary for systems today, but if they could take the data out of it and interpret it and use that data to kind of pre-underwrite the loan, it would make the manufacturing process more efficient. So you're just trying to get more data and being able to use that data as a person would. That's a big area where there is opportunity.

I think really understanding our customers and segmenting them into greater level of detail [is important]. Like our broker business, we could segment them into products and into size, but one of the big things is, we're implementing marketing automation. And marketing automation allows you to understand your customer from a marketing standpoint. So you'll send out your newsletters, right? They'll click on it and you have that data point, and then you also have what they're doing on your website, and then you also have how they interact with you as customers. So by having all those data points, it allows you to be more tailored and specific to your customers. Hopefully, [this lets you] predict what they're thinking more effectively.

One of our big initiatives is really incorporating OCR into our workflow. We have about 10 people in our company and their job is to index files. Indexing files is a big component of the processor’s job. … That's a big thing about robotics and OCR is, you're taking the monotony out of people's lives so that they're enabled to do more things. I think being in Santa Ana and Orange County, we have high bias towards ensuring that we integrate more robotics, more automation into our process.

About Author: David Wharton

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