Jonas Moe, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Market Strategy at Ellie Mae and Erica Bigley, Vice President of Corporate Communications and Branding, who is also on the Crisis and Disaster Response Team, spoke with Eric Souza from Mortgage Media to discuss some of the current events happening in the world, including the cancellation of the Ellie Mae Experience 2020, moving forward in uncertain times, and more.
Here are some of Ellie Mae executives’ comments from that discussion. Listen to the full conversation at the bottom of this post.
Canceling the Ellie Mae Experience 2020
Jonas Moe: We’ve been planning for the last year. We started to monitor the progress of the coronavirus in January and were being mindful of where we sat in the industry and the importance of keeping our commitments to our lenders and vendors. We were kind of in a process mode of evaluating, leading up to the cancellation of Experience, which was a very difficult process for us.
At the end of the day, we made the difficult decision to pull back and cancel the physical Experience. But we very quickly moved into the mode of, “What can we do to take all of the rich content that we’ve curated over a long period of time and turn it into something meaningful for our clients?” And we’re working hard right now on a virtual experience that will launch probably the first week of May.
Shifting to Virtual Experiences
Moe: We’re going to take the best part of what we put together for Experience2020 from a content perspective and execute those sessions in a virtual environment. We’re going to have a completely open Experience that is completely free from a registration process, and allows our clients to consume that data over a duration of time. The content will be live in some cases, prerecorded in other cases. We’re going to try to put a high production value on the content that is syndicated.
We’re also going to try to replicate a lot of the interactions, but do it in a virtual manner. Obviously we don’t get the ability to meet people face-to-face, but we’re going to try to leverage the technology that we have to create a virtual experience that allows our lenders to walk away understanding where we’re going from a road-map perspective and a strategy perspective, but also feel like they have the ability to interact with their peers, and the partners that allow them to succeed in this very turbulent environment.
Moe: We already have a pretty rich webinar program. We’re used to syndicating data and content in a way that’s consumable across many different channels. We will not likely consider a virtual Experience going forward. This is really meant to satisfy a need in the market as we see it.
Moe: There’s two things that we see in the market right now that have changed, based on the high volumes and obviously the coronavirus, and that is the desire to virtualize the closing process, and a little bit of a resistance on the appraisal process. These are both things that have historically required a face-to-face interaction, and so as an industry we’re pivoting in the moment. Ellie Mae has a number of partners that are … part of the fabric of how we do business. That are capable of rendering a virtual e-closing experience. We’re going to talk about that in our virtual Experience. We’re also going to put together content that allows people to understand how they access those tools and functionality so that they do have a borrower that is not willing to meet in person, that they can execute the transaction and still move that borrower into a closing process where they can move into their house without having to put anyone in a situation where they feel they’re compromised.
Moe: Half of our workforce is already mobile. We had adopted technology like Zoom and Slack to make sure that our workforce was connected. Whether you were in a physical environment or whether you were out in the field, we had already kind of moved in that direction, so it wasn’t a huge leap for us to send everyone home.
I talked to our head of engineering yesterday and he said that he’d actually seen a spike in productivity, as his engineers moved into a home environment. The team’s done really well to adapt. As we look to service our customers, we’ve tried to be mindful of where they’re at with the high volumes, and make sure that we introduce technologies and limit the amount of change that we bring to them over the next 60 days.
The Next 6 to 8 weeks
Erica Bigley: We’ve done a good job preparing, given that no one has all of the answers and there are no crystal balls as to what’s ahead. We do have a Crisis Communications and Disaster Preparedness Team. We routinely do tabletop scenarios where we bring some of our executives and some of our critical employees together and work through different situations. We ran one a few months ago on a flu pandemic that helped us to see some of the potential pitfalls, and we were actually able to go in and course correct in some of those areas based on just practice.
So, we did have a plan together. It was last week when we decided to make our domestic employees all remote, so all U.S.-based employees are remote through mid-April. We have a toolkit that’s available to our employees to help them … how do they access the VPN remotely? How do they hold virtual meetings and conference calls? How do they bring their teams together and what’s the best practice for the frequency of doing that? How do they access key documents or key members of the team that they might need access to? We’re using our intranet to provide our employees with those resources so that they can stay engaged, stay connected, so they have all of the technology tools that they need to be productive and do their job.
Moe: We don’t know where the future is going because we’ve never really been in this type of world pandemic. We don’t want to put anyone in a situation where they’re at risk, and we want to make sure that we’re able to do our part to make sure that the housing economy and the part that we play in that, from a technology vendor, stays robust. At the end of the day, people need to feel safe, secure … and that involves their house and the security that house provides.
Bigley: We’re just looking forward to moving through this. And we’re hopeful that everyone out there in the industry – our lenders, their customers, our partners, the media – everyone is safe and healthy. And we look forward to getting back to normal very soon.
Content has been edited for length and grammar.
Listen to the full interview.