Editor's note: This story first appeared in the June 2018 edition of DS News, available now.
Nationstar Mortgage Holdings has notched yet another milestone in its evolutionary path, this time creating an all-new position for a longtime industry veteran. Tony Ebers, previously the company’s EVP of Originations, will now take over as Nationstar’s first Chief Operation Officer (COO) in its history. Assuming this role comes with a bevy of expectations, Nationstar has held the title as the largest non-bank servicer for the past three years and is the third largest servicer overall in the U.S.
“We provide customer-centric mortgage servicing solutions for over 3 million customers and earn fees on over 500 billion in loans,” said Jay Bray, Nationstar’s Chairman and CEO during the company’s Q1 2018 earnings call. “While servicing is the foundation of our business model, our origination segment replenishes our portfolio and allows us to gain new customers at attractive returns. We ended the year as the 16th largest originator with 19 billion in funded volume over the last 12 months.”
With so much at stake, what does installing a COO mean for the future of this mortgage industry cornerstone? Ebers sat down with DS News to answer just that, as well as discuss his goals and passions, and how he aims to change the Nationstar name yet again—for the better.
A PATH TO CHANGE
The announcement of Ebers’ promotion comes on the back of a series of major changes seen at Nationstar over the past few years, the most significant of which arguably being the rebranding effort of the company’s forward-facing origination and servicing operations to the new moniker “Mr. Cooper.”
The initiative was announced in February 2016, but the full change was not implemented until August of last year. Nationstar CEO and Chairman Jay Bray said the effort was just one small step toward Nationstar’s goal of providing “an incredible customer experience.”
“As the leading non-bank servicer, change has to start with us, and now our goal is to completely transform our company and the industry,” Bray told DS News in August. “Monumental change like that is no easy task, so we knew we needed to start from the inside out.”
But what exactly does that mean for the organization? And how will Ebers’ presence make a difference for the end-user? According to the COO himself, there are significant changes afoot.
Ebers, who came to Nationstar in 2015 from Black Knight’s ServiceLink, brings more than two decades of industry experience to his new role. And though he’s spent time with major players like OneWest Bank, IndyMac, and more, according to Ebers, the opportunity to affect change has never been bigger.
“I’ve always had a passion for technology and operations, particularly in the financial services space,” Ebers said. “It’s been in my DNA for as long as I can remember, and my 25-year career has spanned across the industry from originations to servicing to real estate transaction services. But I have never been more excited than I am now. Nationstar, with our Mr. Cooper and Xome brands, has a big opportunity to truly transform the home loan industry and the journey for homeowners.”
From creating a more holistic customer experience to better merging the strength of all brands under the Nationstar umbrella, Ebers has significant plans in the works.
“As one of the nation’s largest home loan servicers, we recognized that there is a huge opportunity to lead our industry and transform the homeownership experience for the better,” Ebers said. “We can’t operate in silos with a distinction between originations and servicing; our customers don’t see the mortgage process that way. So, we’re working to create a best-in-class, holistic customer experience, and I’m excited to lead that effort as COO.”
For his employees, that combined effort will mean more collaboration and a better handle on key success metrics.
“A big part of leadership is allocating resources—people, process, technology, and capital,” Ebers said. “So most days will involve collaborating with business leaders on how to improve the customer and team member experience while driving service excellence. My goal is to help our business unit leaders identify opportunities that will have the biggest impact while carefully designing success metrics to optimize results.”
Ebers also hopes to ensure employee satisfaction because, as he puts it, “happy team members lead to happy customers, and that’s good for business. We want to do everything we can to make Mr. Cooper a place our team members want to come to work.”
On the customer end, Mr. Cooper users can expect what Ebers calls a “more unified, holistic customer experience” with him at the helm.
“Our ultimate goal is to give our customers tools and technology that put the home, rather than the loan, at the center of their experience with us,” he said. “I believe we have the right people and assets in place to create customers for life.”
FULL STEAM AHEAD
But the changes for Nationstar didn’t stop there. Since the rebranding, the organization has continued to make headlines. In February, the company announced plans to merge with WMIH Corp.—the holding company that owned the now-defunct Washington Mutual Bank. Two months later, the company launched a new web and mobile-based loan tracker, as well as a design thinking initiative to develop more mobile-friendly mortgage solutions. Around the same time, Mr. Cooper also implemented a constant customer feedback loop to test and refine product strategies across the organization.
“Mr. Cooper is out to change the experience of homeownership for our customers, giving them the technology, tools, and information they need to better understand their home as an asset and a key part of their overall wealth,” Bray said.
In an industry too-often known for its slow-to-change ways, Nationstar is standing out with its evolving tech, innovative new approaches, and wave-making hires. And judging by the company’s 2018 first quarter financial results, it seems the efforts are working.
In Q1 2018, Nationstar reported a GAAP net income of $160 million compared to Q4 2017’s GAAP net income of $41 million. “The company had a strong start to the year. We experienced improved revenue in servicing from reduced amortization, achieved profitability in our newly launched production channels, and expanded our third-party clients at Xome,” Bray said.
TOOLS AND TECH MAKING A MARK
Though Ebers is aiming for long-term change—both at Nationstar and within the industry—customers can also expect a few immediate impacts for his hiring. The biggest? A new mobile app.
“In my first months as COO, I’ll be focusing on three main areas,” Ebers said. “The first will be launching an app that gives our customers the ability to optimize their overall individual balance sheet based on their financial goals.”
The tool, dubbed “Mr. Cooper with Home Intelligence,” was released in May. A cuttingedge app that merges artificial intelligence with consumer debt management, the tool will give homeowners insight into their property’s value, local market trends, and more, as well as personalize debt consolidation recommendations and easy access to Mr. Cooper team members. Bray said the tool is Nationstar’s attempt at reducing American consumer debt.
“The biggest challenge we want to help solve for is the consumer debt crisis,” Ebers said. “Consumer debt is at an all-time high, but there is good news for many Americans—home equity is also at a record high. At Mr. Cooper, we want to deliver innovative technology-driven solutions that enable intelligent homeownership with the ultimate goal of helping our customers better understand and take advantage of their home asset to optimize their personal balance sheets.”
According to Ebers, providing solutions to homeowners to help them reduce their overall debt is one of the company’s priorities.
“U.S. consumer debt continues to climb to new heights, and financial pressures are weighing heavy on millions of Americans,” Bray said in a press statement on the Home Intelligence app. “The new Mr. Cooper with Home Intelligence app is more than just a new mobile experience; it is a game changer for homeowners looking to get out of high-cost debt. In just a few minutes, the app provides homeowners with solutions to help them achieve their financial goals—from optimizing their debt, to realizing monthly savings opportunities, to paying off their home sooner.”
In addition to the new app, Ebers will also spearhead a full redesign of the company’s customer-facing processes, launch mobile self-service capabilities for customers and Mr. Cooper team members, and work to expand Xome’s third-party business lines.
If Bray’s assessment of Ebers is correct, these aren’t just long-shot ideas, but real initiatives customers will see put into action.
“Tony is a seasoned and trusted leader who consistently delivers results,” Bray said. “He is uniquely qualified to drive strategic prioritization and accountability within Nationstar, with a laser-focus on operational excellence. I have tremendous confidence in Tony’s ability to align Nationstar’s innovative home loan experience with industry-leading operational practices to drive and extend the next-generation of Nationstar’s market leadership.”
THE CONSUMER COMES FIRST
At the end of the day, every change, new tool, and new hire drives home one thing: Nationstar’s commitment to servicing the homeowner—not just the loan.
“Every day each one of our team members strives to reach the same goal—to keep the dream of homeownership alive for our more than three million customers,” Ebers said. “We all play a role and are responsible for delivering on three core values: to be challengers of convention, champions for our customers, and cheerleaders for our team.”
As COO of Nationstar, that’s just what Ebers plans to do.