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Five Star Conference Labs Highlight Innovations in the Servicing Sector

The final day of the 2021 Five Star Conference two additional educations Labs, the Servicing Tech Lab, and the Foreclosure Lab. Both Labs come at a time when servicers anticipate an influx of volume as forbearance exits are on the rise.

Teams had to pivot at the onset of the pandemic and with that move, technology became vital to necessitate automating workforces from home. Five Star’s Servicing Tech Lab, co-hosted by National General Lender Services and Sagent, brought together leaders in mortgage servicing technology to discuss key takeaways, areas of innovation, and how to meet the needs of today's and tomorrow's borrowers.

Lab Director Alex McGillis, Senior Director, Product Development | The Answer for Quicken Loans took the stage first and discussed the role tech has played in the market and the advancements that are leading the charge in the servicing sector.

“Innovation is making the simple things better,” said McGillis.

Next to the stage was David Sheeler, President of Residential Servicing, EVP of Correspondent Lending for Freedom Mortgage who delivered his keynote presentation, “Headwinds and Opportunities: State of the Industry,” as he discussed the next steps the industry must take as the nation regains a sense of normalcy and the housing market provides opportunities for further growth.

“Without data, all we have is just opinions,” said Sheeler. “Even with all the loss mitigation tools available today, there will be some who do not come out of forbearance.”

The first panel of the day, “Necessity Is the Mother of Invention: Advances in Technological Innovation,” discussed the lessons learned in the aftermath of the global pandemic, and what technological solutions worked, and which solutions failed to meet their expectations.

Ravi Singh moderates the "Necessity Is the Mother of Invention: Advances in Technological Innovation" panel featuring Yvette Gilmore, James Vinci, and Nick Caruso

Panel moderator Ravi Singh, Chief Product & Technology Officer with Auction.com, welcomed panelists Yvette Gilmore, SVP, Servicing Product Strategy with ServiceLink; James Vinci, CTO with Selene Finance; and Nick Caruso, SVP, Control Tower with ServiceMac took the stage, and shared their experiences over the past year.

“Video is imperative,” said Gilmore of meeting her new ServiceLink team over the past year. “You need to see your co-workers on video to form that relationship. You need to make a connection with that person on the other end. One of the most delightful things to come out of the pandemic is the strengthening of our teams. We as an industry have risen to the challenge.”

With the ability to meet anytime or anywhere, some servicers have expressed being bogged down with meeting after meeting, thus stunting productivity.

“If you live in a ‘meeting nightmare,’ you cannot accomplish anything,” said Caruso. “You need to meet in the middle and find common ground.”

Despite the rise in tech options, “we are still a people-person industry,” said Vinci.

This panel was followed by a discussion titled “The Next Generation: Bridging the Gap to Digital Mortgage Processes.” From streamlining processes to improving outreach options, predicting consumers at risk of default, and decreasing turn times, more functions are making the digital leap to accommodate today's tech-savvy consumer demands.

Moderated by Zach Gulick, VP of Business Services for Aspen Grove Solutions, panelists included David Doyle, EVP Sales & Business Development with Sagent and Joe Vaughan, SVP with Rushmore Loan Management Services, and a returning David Sheeler.

“The digital mortgage journey has to begin with conversation,” said Gulick as he launched the dialogue.

When the question of adapting to change arose, Sheeler replied, “Inaction is an ‘action.’ If you don’t do something, you have already decided to do nothing.”

Vaughan noted, “A smart servicer says ‘where there is opportunity, there is a competitive advantage.’”

As artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning evolves, more servicers are adopting this technology to meet the demands of their customers, but it cannot always be a 100% automated process noted the panelists.

“The end-to-end process cannot be 100% automated, as a human touch is always required somewhere along the process,” said Doyle.

Co-hosted by Altisource and Global Strategic, the Foreclosure Lab prepped attendees for how the industry should prepare for the unpredictable months ahead. Led by Lab Director Travis Britsch, General Manager, Marketplace with Hubzu, the “Housing Crisis 2.0? Preparing for Challenges to Come” panel kicked things off.

The Housing Crisis 2.0? Preparing for Challenges to Come panel featured David Zielesch, John Dunnery, and Ben Gottheim

How do industry leaders maintain quality of service in a sector that has been put on pause—which has lost workers, but faces an increased workflow and the after-effects of a prolonged forbearance period? The Housing Crisis 2.0 panel brought together default servicing's most respected subject-matter experts to review best practices before the pandemic and the meaning and impact of pandemic-related overlays. Moderated by Caren Castle, Senior Mortgage Servicing Attorney for The Wolf Firm, A Law Corporation, the panel featured a cross-section of servicing professionals, including John Dunnery, VP of Government Loan Servicing for Community Loan Servicing LLC; Ben Gottheim, Director of Mortgage Servicing Policy Single-Family for Freddie Mac; Amy Neumann, FVP, Director of Late-Stage Delinquency, Foreclosure, and Bankruptcy Operations for Flagstar Bank; and David Zielesch, Director of Nationwide Foreclosure Operations for Altisource.

Staying on top of the complex network of federal, state, and local regulations can be challenging even under the best circumstances. The Foreclosure Lab’s “Rules and Regulations: A State-by-State Update” featured industry experts discussing real, recent examples. Moderated by Stephen Hladik, Chair, Legal League 100 and Partner with Hladik, Onorato & Federman LLP, panelists included Jane Bond, Managing Partner, FL Litigation with McCalla Raymer Leibert Pierce LLC; George Lane, Chief Legal Officer with Auction.com; Elizabeth Squires, Director of Account Management with Safeguard Properties; and Marissa Yaker, Managing Attorney with Padgett Law Group.

Closing out the Lab was the “Nobody Home: Property Management for an Industry on Pause” session. With many vacant properties sitting empty for the past 18 months, this session discussed the top concerns for those tasked with maintaining them and held responsible for their upkeep. Schneiderman and Sherman’s Neil Sherman led a panel featuring Cyprexx’s Adam Palmer, Director of Property Preservation Operations; MCS SVP Tracy Hagar; Safeguard’s AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance Steve Meyer; and Flagstar’s AVP, Manager-Investor Claims Property Preservation, Micole Booker. The idea of a property being abandoned for 18 months is something that keeps those in the industry awake at night, several of the panelists said.

And foreclosures will affect mortgage pros beyond the default space, they said. Sherman pointed out, foreclosure starts will not necessarily translate to foreclosure finishes and ultimately will affect the originations side of the industry.

“Starts will prompt something, though,” he said. “They could prompt the filing of a refinance, or the initiation of a short sale and/or traditional sale. There’s enough equity that those that have been off the market during the moratorium now, because of circumstances, will join the market. Our perspective is that we will see a significant amount of that.”

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.

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