They “market” our company every day. In this industry, you are only as good as your reputation — word of mouth and referrals are the absolute strongest marketing tools you have. Bring value and differentiation to fulfill what your employees need, so in turn, they can fulfill what your clients need, so they’ll fulfill what the consumer or customer needs, and they’ll tell other customers.
Are there any mentors you would point to as influencing your management style? A mentor of mine would be would be Steve Haslam, the former president and COO of StreetLinks. He is currently the COO of Novation, our parent company. Steve really took me under his wing and mentored me without me knowing I was being mentored. Through a unique and unobtrusive way, he taught me the aspects of being a great person and through that, a great leader. He believed in me and he pushed me. He didn’t dictate. I owe a great deal of my personal success and certainly of StreetLinks’ success to Steve’s mentorship, guidance and caring. The other role model for me has been the one who identified right and wrong from the very beginning. Faith is the belief in the unseen. My belief in the Lord is the center point for me. Even though I fail every day in my efforts to mimic the kind of example He has set, He has always been there
for me to lay out a path for me and give me guidance. What changes do you see coming for the industry? I think you are going to see the need for more efficiency. I think politics will play a big role in what the industry looks like in the next few years. What happens to the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) will define the industry. I still think that we are on the precipice of having private money coming back into the mortgage market. Given the lessons that were learned previously, I think that will drive the need for quality and service, which bodes very well for StreetLinks. Any final thoughts? I am very blessed to be where I am personally and to be surrounded by the people who surround me at StreetLinks. We have a magic inside our organization. Our folks want to make a difference, and that’s what keeps my engine lit every day. David J. Coster is senior editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by phone at (919) 559-2171 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
What would you consider is your greatest accomplishment of your career? My greatest accomplishment is when I had this realization, this enlightenment of understanding that people are business. It would be very easy to get caught up in the success of StreetLinks, of going from no appraisals to 50,000 per month, from no clients to 500 clients, from zero employees to over 600 employees. But when I really think about it, the bottom line is that our success is tied to people. Whiz-bang technology or great marketing will never take the place of a group of people who care about a mission or a goal.
At this point in my life, I’ve learned that the same formula for success exists in all facets of life, whether its business or marriage or friendships … it’s caring.
MORTGAGE PROFESSIONAL MAGAZINE
Was the industry behind in its development of resources that allowed underwriters to focus on the appropriate areas of risk? We are really focused on providing the right tools to lenders to help them and enhance their ability to review collateral. This is the most subjective, yet important of any information within a loan file. Many underwriters today are using tools, such as a very generic rules engine, that are very linear, that provide no depth or logic in the analysis of the appraisal. The AVMs that they are using put massive amounts of data through regression models to drill down to a value on a property. An example … an AVM may use tens or hundreds of properties in a single evaluation, ranging in value from $50,000, $90,000, $100,000 all
What sort of industry-related issues keep you up at night? Nothing keeps me up at night. It would be very easy to get caught up in all the emotion of the roller-coaster that is the mortgage industry today, but I am grounded in my faith and it helps me get through those twists and turns. I truly believe that if we do all we can do, every day, on every file, the right way, we will succeed and will accomplish our mission and goals. That belief and the faith foundation of that belief allows me to sleep at night. The only thing that keeps me up right now is my four-week old baby! It’s certainly not the mortgage industry!
“We built PipeFire d/b/a StreetLinks on the foundation that still exist today, not knowing how revolutionary they were at the time.”
How important is technology to what you do? First and foremost, technology put us on the map … it was our enabler. If it wasn’t for the idea to create this proprietary technology to manage our business, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. We are a very technology-driven organization, but the way we state it is that we are technology-driven and human enhanced. The other area where technology is going to continue to drive us is with our new StreetLinks Automated Examination and Valuation Division. For years, we have looked to resell somebody else’s AVM or someone else’s rules engine. But when we started peeling back the layers to get a look at what was actually there, “astonished” is the only way to describe our reaction. We want to really enhance and drive an underwriter, an appraiser reviewer, maybe even an appraiser themselves to focus their expertise, via this technology, on the areas of risk where they should be focusing. Many underwriters spend 25, 35, even 45 minutes reviewing an appraisal, looking at the address, looking at the legal and looking at all these things. Meanwhile, most business owners want to pay an $80,000 underwriter to tell them, “Are the comps the best?” “Is the value there?” “Tell me about the construct?” But unfortunately, due to the volume in the industry, underwriters are trying to do that with a blindfold and one hand tied behind their back. There are just not products on the market today that focus on meeting that need.
the way up to well over $500,000 in their advanced regression analyses. They believe that they can reconcile all of the differences among all of these properties to say that your property is worth, say $167,000. When we really got in deep and started understanding what was happening, we called foul because underwriters are trying to compare appraisals to AVMs. If an appraisal ever provided comps in a $400,000 range of valuation to tell you a property was worth $167,000, the appraiser would be kicked off the lenders approved list so fast they couldn’t see straight. To us, that was astonishing and offensive. This new technology is infused by lenders and by appraisers with appraiser-based logic to drill down to value. Our goal is to provide products and services that assist the process and allow underwriters to focus on areas of risk in an appraisal. We want not only to show them, but also to provide directives, with the data to back them up. What should be done to mitigate the risks? Many products on the market today just say, “Well you have risk here and you have risk there.” But if you have 80 underwriters in an organization, each one of them is going to look at that situation differently and is going to make different decisions on a per file basis. As a business leader, you can’t stomach that. You need consistency, you need transparency and you need accuracy. I think we are going to revolutionize and redefine that industry for the first time in many, many years.