Automation & technology

A culture of automation: Realizing your automation potential


From the series:
Culture of automation

What are the driving forces behind an organization’s decision to start their automation journey? The desire to deliver better borrower experiences, streamline operations, and solve business pain points are a few, but if you’re looking to hear a firsthand account of automation adoption, you’re in the right place.

In this new episode, ICE Mortgage Technology’s Aaron Dormio, Senior Product Marketing Manager, is speaking with ICE Mortgage Technology customers Will Riner, Senior Vice President of Information Technology and Coty Baker, Senior Data Analyst at First Community Mortgage.

Listen in now as they discuss how First Community Mortgage built a successful culture of automation that led them to effectively solve crucial pain points, drive front and back-end efficiencies, and achieve business growth.

Welcome to our open house. Instead of examining hardwood floors, closet space, and kitchen layouts, we're taking you on a tour of what's happening across today's mortgage industry. During each episode, we'll hear from industry leaders and subject matter experts to give us an inside look into a hot topic, cutting edge technology, or new trend that can help accelerate your digital journey. Thank you for joining us. Come on in.

Hello and welcome to another episode of Ice Mortgage Technology Open House Podcast. My name is Aaron Dormio, Senior Product Marketing Manager here at Ice Mortgage Technology, and I'm excited for another episode in our Culture of Automation miniseries. In this 6th episode, realizing your automation potential, I'm joined by Will Reiner, Senior Vice President of Information Technology at First Community Mortgage, as well as Cody Baker, Senior Data Analyst at First Community Mortgage as a customer of Ice Mortgage Technology.

First Community Mortgage has done some incredible things to achieve automation across their business. They seen impressive growth implementing automation from both the operational side and borrower experience. They're a really wonderful case study of a customer building a culture of automation and leveraging that to effectively Dr. front and back end efficiencies and growth. So without further ado, sit back, grab your coffee and enjoy the conversation.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today. Why don't you guys tell me how your experience was, that experience so far and what maybe some things that you saw. I know this episode isn't about experience, but I want to get your feedback on some of the things that you've seen, maybe some sessions you've been to specifically as it pertains to some of the automation solutions and the conversation around culture of automation. There's definitely a lot of buzz around AIQ. Most of the automations that we've seen presented here either were versions of a IQ or someone else trying to do it like a IQ.

So obviously they want to to make that process a little bit more seamless and easy for your underwriters, your processors, you know, your operations people, so they're not having to spend time with redundant tasks, those kind of things. So it was really obviously a big focus on kind of eliminating redundant tasks. That's really what I saw out of this conference.

Awesome. And how about you, Cody, what have you seen so far on automation? Well, I attended the How to build an Automation culture. That panel was absolutely wonderful. That was Stephanie and Margie. And yeah, it was great. Pretty eye opening for us. And we've been doing our automation journey for about two years now. But we're a small team. It kind of opened my eyes to a lot of the stuff like the change management trying to just drive this adoption that we're really striving for. So hopefully we can pick up the speed a little bit on our automations by implementing some of the stuff they were talking about. I mean, it's something as you.

You guys know the industry is a little behind on everyone is is feeling that we need to in many ways. We're a bit antiquated in our processes. We're a bit antiquated in our adoption of new innovations. It's everyone knows that we need to deliver better experiences. I'd love for you guys to give it a bit of your background personally and what you're doing with First Community Mortgage will kind of open up and give us your background a little bit. I've been with First Community Mortgage as either a contractor, as an employee.

Since 2009 when I started, we had 16-18 people. Now we're 43435 changes daily. It's one of those things where we really started small and just have really grown the business taking it to the next level. And I've seen all parts of that. To me, I'm always kind of said that I was a Jack of all trades. I worked up to actually start a contract company at one point that specialized in different industries.

Healthcare IT, you know obviously mortgages and financial stuff. So I've just wanted to deliver more efficient solutions to people and really that's why First Community just always felt like they embrace that to be one of the the best lenders out there and something that I think we've we're definitely on our way to achieve that's outstanding.

How about you, Cody? Well, I'm the young one at FCM in IT. So this was my first job out of college. I've been with FCM for five years, not just celebrating my five years started off his help desk, you know, and just kind of will took me under his wing, so moved up to just data on this. Now I'm a senior data analyst. So done everything from our analytics, building out our analytics suite and now you know moving into automation and RPA just trying to.

Drive more efficient processes at FCM, that's that's fantastic. It sounds like you're the guy that really understands what is that flow of automation and how have you implemented those solutions in those technologies. Let's talk about that journey of what led your business on that path to automation. What were some of the pain points that you felt needed to be initially solved? In the mortgage industry, we tend to have a lot of hills and a lot of valleys and that means it's either really good or could be really bad.

It all depends on rates, housing market, you know so many factors outside of our control. One of the struggles that we had is you know during really great times we had to throw a lot of Labor at the situation to be able to keep up. It was important for us to not do that to our employees because obviously when you have bad times, unfortunately that led to having to cut some of the staff and we want to get to a point where it doesn't matter the volume we want to be able to maintain using technology.

So we don't have people necessarily doing redundant tasks. We can eliminate those and just have the people do the tests that they need to be doing. It can add to their job functions, they can excel their careers even, and they're not button pushers.

We can put in systems at push button. So really that's where we saw this going because we really wanted to give that service to our employees because that's very important to us. That is such an important thing to know and that's something I've been hearing other people talk about during sessions is hey, we're not taking people's jobs nor do we want to have people maintain these jobs. That is really it's it's they're all redundant sort of that actions, right.

We want to elevate people into positions to where the technology is doing the more low skill things. We want to elevate people into roles where they're working in more high level things. They're being more strategic, right? You're not, you mentioned a IQ. Let's move away from stare and compare and let's now identify the exceptions that come through the process. That's correct. As you embarked on this journey, what did you identify is this needs to be.

Automated first, I wanted to partner with those that embrace technology. First of all, because you don't want to start your first venture in this with someone that's probably not forward thinking on the technology piece. They need to see the vision and understand it. So we partnered initially with post closing and Servicing because they had a lot of redundant tasks to start with. And the second thing is they wanted to get rid of those redundant tasks.

They were big embracers of that and it just made that partnership meld Better Together and I know Cody worked with them a lot as well so I'll let him answer a little bit to that. We identified the our servicing and post closing departments as our most forward thinking managers at this time. So really I went to him, I was like all right, what sucks? What do you guys hate doing? What's mundane? What do you wish you just never had to touch again?

They came back with pretty simple automations, you know it. So it was a very easy to throw together a proof concept, get it into production form and kind of show them the value of not having to do this anymore. And now now say an automation breaks or something or it doesn't run, you know, now they're begging for it. They get out of doing that job. So, you know, allowed all of them to.

Absolutely go and elevate their skill sets, not worry about being a button pusher or anything like that. To throw in I guess the RPA, you know, buzz phrase, you know, we're we're augmenting their jobs. We're not automating, we're automating the processes. How did you guys build that trust with your people in trusting the new automation solutions? How did you build that trust to where the automation was starting to show considerable results? So for US1 it helps.

To already have trust built with those managers think it's important to have build that trust especially in IT across all departments and I thought that was very crucial to this. And honestly at the end of the day show us the money we can show them what we can do. Then they really adapted to it. They they saw the savings they saw the labor could be out reallocated to other areas. They were not having to backfill or or our staff like they were and it just I think.

They started thinking, well, I don't wanna hire fire people necessarily. Why don't I see if I can automate some of this and we can do this And they got to thinking outside the box quite a bit and that's really how we.

We accomplished that. I'm curious and also how did you document as you leveraged the existing trust within your organization and you implemented these new solutions, you identified areas in which you can implement better processes, right to help enable the automation solutions, automated solutions.

How did you document that to where everyone knew what their role was and they knew what was now being automated? A lot of the managers would just work with this hand in hand, understand the process, and then they would develop how to do their job, you know, standard operating procedure. And that's what they have today. This is how you get data back into the system. You don't enter it in by hand, you you take this file template and you put it in this folder and it just goes away. Yeah.

It's it's such a it's such a startling thing to look at it first right like well I no longer have to do all this manually in to people like you and I who understand the technology nearly as well as you do. Cody, having seen this happen from a change management perspective in working with our change management professionals as I'm sure you have as well, it's sort of like yeah I mean it's just trust in the process. We know that you've done this this way for so long and you've had this built regimen of hey I know how to do this I don't need.

To show me how to do my job, trust in the process and trust in that this is going to augment your role. No one's going to be replacing you. We made that very clear in the very beginning because we we were afraid that that would be a concern that's we're automating so we can, you know, cut down on staff was never our intent. That was never something we wanted to do. We just wanted to control, as I said, the peaks and the valleys. You know, one of the the more important lessons that we get out of this whole thing.

Is we talk about this whole word of trust. You have to make it a two way St. I think often in it what we see is you you set up a process for someone and then you just kind of forget about it. You can't really do that. You have to maintain it. You have to maintain the relationship. They there's not one version that is that reinforcement right. Yeah there's not one version. It's the final version. You have to release one version then the next version and then the next version because managers.

I T they're always going to be thinking of ideas on how to improve the product, make it better, more efficient. And that's important to have that two way St. to be able to have those transparent conversations.

Not only began the implementation, you've been as you said, you've been improving upon the implementation, you've been modifying processes to help further enhance the solutions as they've been rolled out internally and then how that impacts the customer, the borrower experience, right. Can you talk about how your business evolves to adopt additional automation and how that has impacted your workflows and the the borrower experience? So on the bar experience, really a lot of our sales.

Around our servicing portfolio that's where we saw this most advantageous. So what we would do is obviously we service loans and we want to maintain those relationships with our bars. So it gave us opportunity to partner with different companies that when bars had change of circumstances we could use Velocify as our in between platform. So bar maybe we're looking at a listing or looking at mortgages.

You know, we can see those analytics pieces and they could create leads to for philosophy. So we could partner with clients that we used to maybe maybe the loan officer had left for whatever reason and they just felt lost or they couldn't remember who their mortgage company was. Well, now we can contact them, be proactive about that and talk to them. Maybe it maybe it makes sense, maybe we can save them some money, maybe, maybe we could you know help them get grow into a bigger house, maybe their families expanding.

You know but it's a you know maintaining those relationships and we use philosophize the in between because we could take that lead and we could take that and send it to encompass and create a loan out of it. We had a marketing platform we could send that data to to to keep them you know engaged with us. So they never forget our name and we never forget their partnership because I think it's also a twoway St. with our bars. We need to maintain that relationship for the for the life of the bar as well because.

We don't want them going anywhere else and we feel like if we did a good service to them the first time, we should continue to do that each and every time. So they have ultimate trust with us. Yeah. And I'm interested in how how you guys automated that and maybe you can maybe you can speak to that Cody, how you guys really automated that process of with philosophy and I believe you have a connection in with philosophy. That's correct. So we used API technology that's both for the marketing system for capturing.

Situations and listing alerts, that's all through an API. So it flows directly into philosophy. There are no manual imports. It will actually auto assign those to the team we have designated that's retention is what we really call that. For servicing we have a buzzword we use called the Pro team. How did they come up with that? They just it was actually the guys that were were the loan officers in it they.

They wanted something that they're big sports fans, so they wanted something to, you know, kind of go after. And is there a university team that. No, we only have pro teams. Only have pro teams. Yeah, we only have. Yeah, we only have pro teams. Titans, you know, it allowed them to not have to spend the time with all this manual stuff. It would pull in details about the loan that, you know, this is something we've already, you know, worked on. We have servicing.

For we have a lot of details. So when you're making the conversation to the bar you already have, you're not asking them a bunch of questions that they probably don't want to answer again. It's like I see, you know, when you did this alone, then you know and then you had all of this and you know what's changed and it just makes the whole experience easier. It just gathers all that data that's in eight or nine different places sometimes, but puts it in one place. So we use philosophize as that central location so they could manage their leads there.

And then you can take it to lots of different places. Like I said, create the loan and encompass so they're not going in there and typing in a loan. We want to make it easier for not only the bar but the loan officers so they can spend more time with the bar. And did you guys leverage custom Encompass APIs to make that happen or how did you make that happen? So there's integrations already built with an Encompass to Velocity file obviously since they are partnered together.

The other ones are custom API's that were developed between the vendor and us. Actually I will give Velocifi a lot of credit. They actually knew a lot of the vendors to work with and made some great recommendations to us. We were actually even able to leverage the folks that don't do not want to be contacted. You know there is a certain audience of that.

So we make sure we exclude those kind of folks because some people just don't like the solicitation. So that's important. So yeah, it was all built on API technology, nothing really out-of-the-box, but some stuff that was conceptualized with other clients. And I think everyone's solution is going to be a little unique, but we were very proud of what we were able to pull off. Took us about a year, but for various pieces of it, yeah, so your business model.

We're leveraging automation and correct me if I'm wrong, but it's a very, it's a very hybrid approach of retail and consumer direct. Yeah, a lot of the, the pro team, they came from more of a consumer direct market. It just doesn't really make sense for our business model to be complete consumer direct. So I really look at it as a hybrid. They're really there to help out the servicing group and you know we want to retain the business, retain the bar relationship. So sometimes those can slip away as companies grow.

And loan officers move on, but but we want to leverage that relationship. That's the key part. It's all about the relationship and giving the bar the experience that they deserve and need. Before I go into an in question about how you were perhaps leveraging automation within Encompass from an operational perspective, I'd like to maybe hear about what's been the reception from customers on how you've been automating what you're doing within Velocify and what you're doing within those custom API's that you've built.

What's been the reception from customers and what that improved experiences looked like? Well, I'm obviously not in sales, but I think one of the things that I keep hearing is I think customers are very relieved because I know in certain situations we called them and they were like I just couldn't remember who I did my mortgage with. Thank goodness you guys called me back. I really enjoyed my last experience. So that's that was that was that's really I think where it's key you know it's busy life I mean.

There's, you know, I can tell you the first mortgage I ever got, I cannot tell you the name of the company, but every mortgage that I've gotten through First Community, I mean obviously I work there, I'm going to remember them. But we do things to make sure that we maintain that relationship and I think that's refreshing to borrowers. I don't think they always see that if it didn't go well, they would, they would know who was done through.

Yeah. And I'm sure they are some of that, but I but I've heard such good positive feedback. I just thought it was refreshing that that you know folks are reaching out and and trying to help them out. I mean ultimately you know it's it's not all about the business, it's about you know we we want folks to grow their families and move up to larger houses if they need more space or you know as they can get older maybe they want to downsize to.

Simplify their life or maybe it's a vacation home. You know, people have lots of changes in circumstances, but it's really important. I want to maintain a client for life. Being you know a community lender, that's really your value proposition providing that experience. Otherwise they're going to go to the other lender that can provide that great experience. Then they have that client for life. That's right. Tell me about what you're doing with an encompass to continue that fantastic borrower experienced, you know to shorten cycle times in.

Improve the the operational site internally. So then that results into a good viral experience. We obviously want to make it a little easier on our underwriters. We are obviously partnering with a IQ. One of the big things is taking the data that comes in from the documents and being able to create comparison sheets when it's different. So that's one of the the new things we're working on that we haven't completely rolled out yet, but that's going to what that'll allow you to do is as a operations person.

You don't have to dig through an entire document, You can just see what's different and why it's different because they could be situations. It needs to be different. I see also in the future as looking at the income calculation and analysis stuff. That's going to be huge for our underwriters. We want to make their job so they can get through more files and make it as seamless and easy as possible.

That's right. Maybe someday you can get back to the maybe four to five loans a day as opposed to the industry average of 1.2 right now. That's correct. I think the way the market has expanded, obviously the rules that have to be it followed and those things have led to that. So we gotta use technology.

To drive that down, yeah, we did a loan delivery has been our biggest bang for our buck so far with automation. It's, you know it's created those managers and that we call them our RPA champions now you know that. So what we've done is loan delivery to the agency investors. Right now we use the get loan API to export the ***** 3.2 automatically and then deliver it to Fannie's site before someone was.

Going into the commitment number, right clicking on the loans export file and then saving it manually logging into Fannie Mae and uploading it. So now I think it's like.

10 seconds to do 100 loans, it's very quick. They don't have to touch it. We're using UI Automation to actually go in and deliver the loans right now. That was that was our biggest automation, most well received. And then we're also doing with our Coissue, just exporting loans using you know, UI Automation again and Encompass bundling loans to send to our subservices a lot. All, pretty much all of our automations have been used with the Encompass UI and it's.

We've been working seamlessly. We know exporting loans, you know, it takes a while. So now that person doesn't have to export 50 loans. It takes sometimes 40 minutes depending on the bundle. To give you a comparison, the person that was exporting the loans, it was a fulltime job for them and we did not replace the position. We let them do something else that was beneficial to that department. That's fantastic. And how long has it been since you stood this capability? It's been about a year.

Since it's been in production bundling loans to send to our subservice or was our actual very first automation that we built. So that was our big proof of concept that kind of opened the door for these managers to come out and say okay, well can we automate this. So now I have like a request sheet of can we do T H DA, can we, can we automate this, can we automate you know starting with our post closing and servicing team, they have really embraced that automation culture and we can see it being able to expand into the other departments.

That's fantastic. And I mean as you guys know, that's the biggest hurdle is getting people post clothes, right, building that trust because that's where the saleability of the loan comes in, the technology is, is really, I mean for us as you know, a IQ helps improve the saleability, right, the quality of the loan.

But if the people in the team don't trust it to do its job, you're not going to see those results. It's not going to pay dividends for you. So gentlemen, it's been incredible to talk to you. You guys are doing some wonderful things for your customers, for your borrowers, and we're honored to have you as a customer at ICE Mortgage Technology. So thank you. Thank you very much for being here. And we appreciate you guys for the partnership as well. Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you. And thanks again for joining another episode of the ICE Mortgage Technology Open House Podcast. Be sure to be on the lookout for future content. We look forward to having you.

Thanks again and be safe out there.


Information contained in this audio was obtained in part from publicly sources and not independently verified. Neither ICE Mortgage Technology nor its affiliates, make any representations or warranties, express or implied as to the accuracy or completeness of the information and do not sponsor, approve or endorse any of the content herein. All of which is presented solely for informational and educational purposes. Nothing herein constitutes an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy any security or a recommendation of any security or trading practice. Some portions of the preceding conversation may have been edited for the purpose of length or clarity.

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