Hassan Rashid: Innovation as Soup-to-Nut Platforms

Mortgage Media recently sat down with Hassan Rashid from Tavant to discuss a wide range of issues including Tavant’s quest to automate mortgage processes, the importance of data security, and how innovation drives the company.

Tom Wilkins: This is Tom Wilkins from Mortgage Media, and I’m at the MBA Annual Conference here in Austin, Texas. I’m with an old friend, Hassan Rashid, who is Chief Revenue Officer for Tavant, a position he’s held for the past three and a half years. Prior to that, he was EVP of Global Sales and Marketing. Earlier in his career, Hassan had executive roles at Dorado, where I worked closely with him, as well as Move.com and Freddie Mac. Hassan is recognized as a thought leader in our industry and frequently speaks at industry events. Hassan, welcome. It’s great to see you and catch up with you.

Hassan Rashid: Thanks for the opportunity. It’s always a pleasure to be with a friend.

Wilkins: Absolutely. I always start off with the first question of, why are you here? Why is it important to be at the MBA Annual Conference?

Rashid: For those of us that have been in the industry for a long time, it’s interesting that last year I was meeting with some of my colleagues, some of the lenders, and we came up with a 30-Year Club. Some of us have been coming to the MBA Annual for 30 years. So, I’m part of that club. It’s always a great opportunity to network, share experiences, learn what’s going on in this ever-changing industry. A lot’s going on in the technology front. Everyone’s expectations are changing. So,I think it’s a great opportunity to come and listen, learn, share, and meet with my network of old friends.

Wilkins: Do you attend many sessions that provide information that’s good for you to take back to the team?

Rashid: I do. I try to attend as many sessions as possible, not maybe as many as I would like to, because I get stuck in a suite most of the time. We come here with a large team because we invest in these forums. We’re very active with the MBA. Even if I can’t attend some sessions, we make sure that we have representation from the team in the sessions. And of course, we take it back. We put a lot of importance to understanding the business.

We’re a 3,000-person company and we have almost 2,000 people that focus on the mortgage business. We have a program with the MBA. We do it together along with Wells Fargo, where we actually go and we encourage our people to go to the MBA programs. They also come out to Bangalore, where we have a large part of our engineering staff, and then they do it there. So, we have a lot of our people that are certified by the MBA.

Wilkins: With the CMB certification?

Rashid: Yeah. Most of our leaders in this business are Accredited Mortgage Professional (AMP) certified. And a number of them are working toward the Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB).

Wilkins: Wow, that’s awesome.

Rashid: We take this very seriously.

Wilkins: Tell me a little bit of a background about Tavant – what your core business is. You’d mentioned you had 3,000 people and 2,000 are involved in mortgage. Where the headquarters is, where the different operations are.

Rashid: We’re a technology company. We’ve been in business for about 20 years now. The founders came out of Amazon. So, we’re very much an Amazon-centric culture company. What that means is that we are a very flat organization. It is an employee-owned company. We paid off all of our investors about seven years ago and we call that our Independence Day.

Most of us on the executive team at Tavant have been through the journey of bringing companies public, so we understand what it takes to build and run a company. We’re now employee-owned and we’re a profitable business. Whatever profits we make, we pump right back into the company. 

In our company, we serve four different primary industries. The financial services industry is the largest part of the business. Then there is a side of the business where we support the manufacturing business. This third area is retail. Again, having come from an Amazon background, we understand retail fairly well. Then the fourth area is media, ad, tech and media. 

We’re a diverse company, but it’s very important that we work in those sectors because that’s where technology innovation happens. Then we bring a lot of those technology innovations into the lending industry. Because the lending industry usually is sort of a little bit behind. Right? That’s what we do. So, it’s not that we have sort of the latest thinking around technology, how you leverage technology to drive innovation in certain industries. To us it’s very important that it also comes out from outside of just the lending industry.

Wilkins: Well, that’s interesting and something I didn’t know about Tavant. But as a technology company you must be focused on data privacy and security to a certain degree or at least be able to counsel your customer base on that. That’s a subject that’s been coming up a lot in my interviews. Bob Broeksmit, in fact, in his opening remarks yesterday at the general session, mentioned three times about ransomware and being prepared for data breaches. 

Rashid: Very important, right? That’s one of the things that keeps me awake at night. It’s very serious. We’ve been helping our customers innovate. But at heart, we believe that having that sort of Amazon backbone, right where we sit in Silicon Valley, that if we don’t innovate, we die. Okay, so innovation is core to what we do, and our customers expect that from us. Our customers clearly expect two things: one is business innovation, and then technology innovation. 

So, security is core. Over the last few years we’ve launched a number of products in the lending industry called the VELOX platform. As part of that, one of the things we launched is an industry hub, network called FinConnect. And that basically connects all sorts of data that’s required to digitally manufacture a mortgage and other consumer lending products like student lending and other products. 

Today that is doing about half a million transactions a month. We have two of the largest lenders adopting it because they see clear value not to do point-to-point integrations to be able to go to one place that provides the kind of fidelity and security that’s required to handle a lot of the PI (personal information) issues, and regulatory issues around data. 

We take that very seriously with regards to all the data that travels on top of our network. So, we have third parties that come in and audit us constantly. We have testing on a continuous basis. We catch a lot of very interesting types of…

Wilkins: Breaches or attempts?

Rashid: Attempts. Attempts from all over the world. Our CSO (Chief Security Officer) is very active on that, but it’s very interesting. Yeah, it’s continuous. Trust me, it is a continuous process. And the intrusion people are getting smarter. It’s a cat and mouse game. Yeah, so this is very, very serious to us. We invest heavily in making sure that we provide the kind of security that’s required on our platform.

Wilkins: Where do you think the mortgage banking industry is headed over the next couple of years? Yesterday some people commented that it’s not a matter of if, but when we hit another downturn based on interest levels and things like that. I don’t think that anything’s going to hit us quite as hard as 2008, but what do you think about that and what advice would you give?

Rashid: I’ve been in this industry almost 30 years now and I’ve looked at it from many different points of view, whether it’d be investor or lender, or consumer. It’s a cyclical industry. We all know there are peaks and valleys. It’s going to happen. It’s to be expected. 

We see that lenders invest in technology to help ease some of the peaks and valleys. And this is where we hit at the heart of the issues, right? Where you got a paper-intensive industry with a reliance on manual work. So, leveraging technology is crucial. I think the industry will, and it’s adopting the technology. The adoption is happening.

It’s only going to pick up. We see it. We do this with our lenders all day, because again, we’re a products and a services company. Remember that we’re not just a product company. We work with a lot of lenders that have custom systems. We help them digitize their custom systems as well as the commercial systems they may be leveraging, or products that we layer on top of it. I think technology is going to be key to help address some of the peaks and valleys. But I really believe that, I, personally, am invested in American home ownership. It’s a very, very important cause enabling Americans to get into a home. And I make a big distinction between a house and a home, right? When you get a loan, you have a house. It takes a lot to make it a home.

Wilkins: That’s a great distinction.

Rashid: So, in my mind, home ownership is huge, and we are excited at Tavant, that today, we enable one out of four home ownerships in this country. That is very exciting to me. And I see that expanding. 

If you look at today, the cost is very high – $10,200. The manufacturer log is just totally unacceptable. So, cost is high. We have to address the whole process and that’s what we do. We built a platform. We have expertise that we address from the time you start looking for a home to when you get a loan, which is then you have a house. And then what it takes to make a house a home. That is really what our focus is.

Wilkins: That’s a great mission statement.

Rashid: Yeah.

Wilkins: Yeah, so the VELOX platform can integrate with Ellie Mae for example, or…

Rashid: Yup, all commercial and custom applications out there – origination systems. If you look at a lot of the top large lenders, a lot of them have custom information systems or custom application systems. And again, remember, we look at it from lead capture all the way through to making a loan. And then also we have a whole practice around capital markets and then we focus on the synchronization or investor execution side of it.

It’s a full soup-to-nuts focus because we believe that the consumer piece is very important, absolutely critical, but we believe that is just like table stakes. And to really provide a good consumer experience, you must digitize your mid-office and your back-office. 

Wilkins: Not piecemeal.

Rashid: Most of our customers get it. Our focus is lot more comprehensive and across all channels, whether it’d be retail, wholesale, correspondent, and all the way through to servicing an investor. You need to provide that consistent experience and then digitize the entire process. That’s really our focus; what we bring to the table.

Wilkins: I always wrap it up in these interviews with the last question that has nothing to do with mortgage banking or what your profession is. Tell us a bit about yourself on a personal side, family, hobbies. I know you like Porsches.

Rashid: It might be a cliché, but I really enjoy doing what I do. I love working with people, you know me very well, on that. You know, I love my kids and I’ve just become a grandfather and one of my older sons has a five-month-old baby. 

Wilkins: Congratulations. That’s so awesome.

Rashid: Yeah, I love spending time with her and that’s pretty much it. I love building the company that we’re building, working with our customers, our partners, customers and partners in the industry. And also, really trying to make a difference. When I used to work for Freddie Mac, I was part of the team that actually helped build and roll out Loan Prospector. Today that is still in use. I can point to something and say, “Hey, here’s something that I was involved in and today is still helping people get into homes.”

Wilkins: That’s got to be redeeming, and very satisfying to know after all these years.

Rashid: Right? So, the same mission here. What are we doing to truly make a difference in helping Americans achieve their number one dream? The number one dream is home ownership. So, this really gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Content has been edited for length and grammar.