PERSON OF THE WEEK: Keith Guenther is CEO of USRES and RES.NET, offering real estate owned (REO) disposition, default valuations services and technology to the mortgage banking industry. MortgageOrb recently interviewed Guenther to learn more about how the vendor selection process has changed for mortgage lenders and servicers in recent years and what vendors need to do to stay adaptable and agile in an increasingly compliance-driven industry.
Q: How has the vendor selection process changed for banks and servicers?
Guenther: The vendor selection process is more formal than ever. Gone are the days of making ‘sweetheart’ deals with customers based on previous partnerships or mutual trust. Today, the vendor vetting and selection process is systematic and designed to remove subjective variables from the equation.
Now, companies want to see a track record, meaning longevity is important. It is also more important than in years past for vendors to demonstrate strong financials, solid processes and procedures, and proof of quick response times. Although these factors might create more work on the front end for vendors, in the end, we feel this heightened level of due diligence gives companies an added level of confidence in their selection and generates stronger, more lasting partnerships.
Q: As a company with significant longevity in the industry, how has USRES evolved over the years?
Guenther: Our longevity has been made possible by our ability to evolve. Adjusting our business model and services in accordance with the industry’s progression has been key to sustaining a strong business.
Primarily, we evolved from a company strictly servicing the default space – REO outsourcing and valuation – to one that has a strong, national footprint in the appraisal management company space. Today, it’s rare to find a company in our space that started when Polaroid pictures of properties were sent in the mail and that has evolved to facilitate every step of a real estate process and all interactions online.
We have a tagline – ‘Honor the Past, Embrace the Future’ – and we truly follow it. We haven’t just evolved; we’ve refined our business. The difference is that we strategically position our services and technology platform in such a way that we can easily keep up with current trends and the challenges that our customers face. We take all we have learned over the years and combine it with our time-tested philosophy to arrive at new initiatives. We are more than just a provider of services and technology; we are a resource and a partner to our customers – and therein lies the ticket to our longevity.
Q: How have vendors successfully modified their processes to mold to their clients’ compliance requirements?
Guenther: The vendors we’ve seen succeed – in terms of adapting to the requirements of their lender clients – all seemingly had a light bulb go off at some point that told them, ‘This rule is likely going to change at some point’ or, ‘This rule is likely going to be followed by another.’ This became an important realization to make because it allowed organizations to really focus on being adaptable and agile. Any company that has a single-minded focus on meeting the current requirement will end up chasing its own tail and constantly reacting to the landscape. Instead, those vendors that have taken a more proactive approach can create an environment where adapting and adjusting is natural and virtually effortless.
Q: What are the industry’s top needs right now as we look ahead to 2016? What are the most significant challenges lenders and servicers face? What gaps are they working to fill?
Guenther: Increased transparency requirements obligate banks and servicers to share virtually all transactional data – from values to narratives – on every file. This creates a major need for mortgage bankers to consolidate data storage – as well as for the individuals servicing their accounts.
In the short sale process, a lender can have a single point of contact (SPOC) steer the ship. At USRES, we have a similar approach. We want to be the SPOC for our customers for service and for transactional data management. If a lender or servicer is navigating choppy waters, it will be a lot simpler to have one multipurpose vessel to help it navigate the journey as opposed to jumping on different boats.
Although the entrepreneurial spirit we see in the mortgage industry can be a great thing, mortgage companies are increasingly asking themselves, ‘How many vendors can I really manage? How many can I really entrust with my bottom-line needs?’ With this, we will see more companies focus on consolidating in 2016 as a strategy for gaining transparency, simplifying their business processes and reducing costs wherever possible.