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Balancing the Mortgage Servicing Process

John Vella serves as Chief Revenue Officer of Altisource. Previously, he served as COO of Equator, LLC. He began his financial services career with the FDIC and Freddie Mac and later served as Chief Sales Officer for H & R Block's mortgage company, CEO of Household International's Automotive Business, President and CEO of Bear Stearns EMC Mortgage Company, and as EVP for special servicing of GMAC/RESCAP. He holds a Bachelor of Science in English from Springfield College.

Vella discussed some of the financial challenges facing lenders, servicers, and their vendor partners as COVID-19 hits businesses.

How can servicers and their vendor partners best balance the needs to manage costs against the need to be nimble and responsive during the rapidly changing time?

Unfortunately in these times it's very challenging for everyone. From being out in the industry and talking to people, it's been amazing to see how people have been able to mobilize, and it all starts with communication.

As a leadership team and as a leader in this industry, we have to communicate a clear plan, and you have to have a solid BCP plan. A lot of the firms that we've talked to, including ourselves, have strong BCP plans in place, so unfortunately when things like this happen, we've learned from past experiences what we need to do. The key now is how do you mobilize a staff, especially a work-from-home staff, because you do lose productivity. You have to ensure your technology's in place, and you have to ensure that proper communication lines are open and constant and with consistent messaging.

In order to manage your costs in this environment, you have to make sure that your staff is properly trained and your staff is properly utilizing technology to make sure that they're communicating with borrowers.

Initially what you're going to see is there's going to be a lot of pent up borrower demand and uncertainty, so for a servicer, the inbound call volume is going to be tremendous. So, the biggest issue is going to be a call center right now, both on the origination and servicing side.

How should vendors and servicers be re-evaluating their established protocols to ensure they are still feasible in the face of challenges such as social distancing or when forced to work from home?

Again, in this environment, there's a lot of people that have been properly prepared based on experiences, be it with some of the hurricanes, some of the issues that happened, and the disaster work that was done before. This is a little bit unique because of the type of issue that we're facing today, so I think the teams, from a pandemic standpoint, have put together policies. We've seen people who've done a great job with the social distancing.

As far as making sure that they're in touch with the staff and sending down policy and protocol, we've seen constant communication. The best thing to do from a work-from-home perspective is to make sure that these staff members have the proper policies, procedures, and they have the ability to call in and ask questions, because there's a lot of uncertainty. It's tough to mobilize in a short period of time. So, there's uncertainty in the market, and there's uncertainty internally with your staff.

Are there any particular technological solutions that are proving invaluable in keeping businesses moving while also managing expenditures right now?

Internally, you're seeing the Webex technology, one I was talking about earlier with the call center, just being in the cloud, the ability to work your dialer, your IVR from the cloud so you could virtually have all of your call center up and running, taking inbound calls, routing the calls to the right place. That's critical in this environment.

Chat with borrowers, make sure you have constant chat internally, and externally, make sure you have proper security through your VPN. Those forms of technologies are critical in this time of need.

About Author: Seth Welborn

Seth Welborn is a Reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Harding University, he has covered numerous topics across the real estate and default servicing industries. Additionally, he has written B2B marketing copy for Dallas-based companies such as AT&T. An East Texas Native, he also works part-time as a photographer.

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