Mortgage Media had the opportunity to sit down with Simon Moir of eOriginal to discuss a range of topics facing the mortgage industry including the constant innovations that go into ensuring processes are frictionless, secure, and trusted.
Tom Wilkins: This is Tom Wilkins with Mortgage Media, and I’m here in Austin at the MBA Annual Convention with Simon Moir who is chief product officer of eOriginal. Simon’s focus is on the expanding digital lending ecosystem, product roadmap strategy, solution delivery, and eOriginal’s positioning across industries including mortgage, auto finance, equipment leasing, banking, and marketplace lending. Prior to eOriginal, Simon has had extensive roles at Savannah, CoreLogic, and Dorado. Simon, we go way back professionally and personally and it’s great to have you here and catch up.
Simon Moir: Thanks very much for having me.
Wilkins: My first question is always why attend this conference? Why is the MBA important? Is it networking? Is it attending some of the sessions? What do you take away to bring back to the team?
Moir: This is where it all happens, right? This is one place where you have everyone throughout the mortgage ecosystem to talk about what is happening, and there’s been a huge amount of change in technology and in the business of mortgage and this event has been incredible to discuss that with everyone.
Wilkins: Tell us about your role at eOriginal as chief product officer. That isn’t what you’ve done during your whole tenure at eOriginal, is it?
Moir: No. So, I joined eOriginal three years ago. I came in as general manager for digital mortgage. eOriginal has been in the digital asset management space for 20 or so years. They originally started in mortgage and then shifted into other asset classes, such as auto, equipment leasing, personal loans, etc. Anything that you could securitize, collateralize, sell, trade on the secondary market, eOriginal was there if you wanted to do it digitally.
The founder had a real passion for mortgage and wanted to get back in, and the board decided it was time. And so, we reentered the mortgage market, the digital mortgage market, three years ago with me coming on board and it’s been a great ride. We’ve seen a huge amount of change. We’ve really timed it well, and we’ve got incredible clients and partners that we’re doing some great things in the industry with. I moved over and with the work that we had done on mortgage, we decided we wanted to bring some of that innovation back into the other side of the business. And so, I took on the role of chief product officer about three months ago.
Wilkins: Well, and so now you’re covering, in addition to mortgage, all the other things: student lending, auto finance, some of the other things that you mentioned. So, the scope of your responsibilities has really changed.
Moir: It has changed, but there are so many similarities between these different industries and asset classes. It’s all about creating that asset and making sure that the processes that go through are frictionless, secure, and trusted.
Wilkins: You’ve just announced the launch of a new product called Closing Center. What market insights drove the strategy for this product, and what value do you intend to bring to the market with this new launch?
Moir: People have been trying to do this for 20 years, and there’s been ups and downs in the market. Sometimes we’re too busy to look at change and innovation, and sometimes we don’t have the money to invest in innovation and technology. What we saw was a growing trend around digitalization. There are entire conferences now called digital mortgage. We really felt that the time was right. But when you think about how an asset, a promissory note, is created in the mortgage space, the lender is actually not the participant who is getting it signed. It’s always a settlement agent, an attorney, etc. And what we discovered through extensive conversations without our lender partners, but also our settlement partners, is making that process simple for that settlement community was critically important to adoption. If you are looking to change their process and make their work harder, then you’re never going to have that adoption that you desperately need.
Wilkins: One of the points that came up yesterday, almost across the board in the interviews that I had, was the topic of data privacy and security. So, tell me what you’re doing with eClosings and things like that. With eOriginal, a breach is huge, and you have to be able to assure your client base, correct, on the data privacy and security aspect.
Moir: No other file has more data in it than a mortgage file. It has everything about it and ensuring that we deliver a secure platform is incredibly important. I think one of the important things to consider is that people will fear sometimes that these systems can be hacked, but paper in no way is secure. If you think about these documents floating around between different participants, whether it’s a document before the signature or after the signature, moving through from settlement agent to a warehouse lender, etc., that paper is not secure.
Within a digital environment everything can be controlled centrally, through ensuring that you have great controls around your data center and security, but also access controls. I can ensure that only the right people are looking at those documents, and they’re only able to act on those documents in a certain way as well. So, we bring a lot of security to the operation.
Wilkins: A follow-up to that … and we’re talking about fully digital closings and everything. Do you really feel that there will ever be such a thing as a fully digital closing, and if so, what are your thoughts on that?
Moir: It’s a question we get asked all the time, and in fact, when I first came into the market looking to decide how we would bring out product to our customers, there was a craving from the industry for complete digital, end-to-end. And sometimes I don’t know if that was what was being requested, or if that was being promised as a Nirvana by technology providers. We had to sit there and look very carefully. As you go to more of a digital process around the mortgage, you have documents that are being paid by the lender, you have documents that are being paid for by the title company, you’ve got a note, you’ve got a security instrument, you’ve got recordings at the county level, and you’ve got notaries involved.
The more things that you try to package into that digital experience the more complexity you bring to the process. Now you’ve got seven different things that you have to hope fully align to be able to make it completely digital.
So, we sat back and we just looked at the value proposition for each step in the digital process – what you gave to the lender, the borrower, the warehouse lender, the investor, etc. And we were hyper focused on delivering what we could of highest value, but in the most simple way possible. We’ve certainly seen that happen. Fairway announced that they co-developed this platform with us. They’ve been incredible partners for it. They really focused on how they, as a retail lender in a purchase market, can get settlement folks using the system and delivering that value to the borrower, the lender, etc.
Wilkins: Speaking of recent announcements, we read about the announcement with Ginnie Mae, congratulations.
Moir: Thank you.
Wilkins: Accepting eNotes for MBS. What do you see as the major impacts of this announcement, both in the short term and the long term?
Moir: It was really nice to be selected by them, but I think more importantly, it’s important for the industry. Ginnie Mae has become incredibly important over the last few years, now representing about one third of the market. And when you combine that with what the GSEs are doing you now, it’s an incredible volume, where lenders, and everyone in the ecosystem, can now follow a defined process, a defined technology standard, to really allow this to scale. No one wants to be sort of half in. And, if you’re a lender you’re looking for how can I bring that common process technology to my complete operations. And that I think is what Ginnie Mae and this announcement are going to do.
Wilkins: What do you see as the next technology frontier for the digital mortgage space? You’ve been in this business, certainly when you were at Dorado, and you’ve seen a lot happen in the past 15 years or so. So, what do you think the next phase is?
Moir: A lot of people have focused on the digital closing. The digital mortgage was initially the borrower portals that were being developed after Quicken announced Rocket Mortgage, and that’s great. It gives an incredible experience. The engagement between the lender and the borrower is enhanced. The quality of data being exchanged is better. We’ve moved into the closing process being digitized, and now I think it really is around that asset management, right; trading, selling those assets digitally, and then getting the benefit from all of that because now I have data that I can truly analyze. I’ve got the security of these being digital as well. And I think that move into the secondary market is a big thing, We’ve seen that across other asset classes. We’ve just hit over 200 securitizations that have been digitally done on our platform outside of mortgage, but we certainly hope that the MBS market for mortgage will grow and utilize such technology.
Wilkins: If there was one piece of advice you’d give to our listeners when developing their digital mortgage adoption strategies, what would it be?
Moir: Is it okay if I give two?
Wilkins: Two would be fine.
Moir: Be thoughtful of what you are trying to achieve. Don’t necessarily follow the crowd. Every institution is a little different, and the benefit of digital for an independent mortgage banker is different from a bank. Really look at your organization, look at your customer base, look at your profile of products that you’re delivering, and be mindful about how you move forward. The other one is to commit. If you’re going to jump in don’t jump in just halfway and say, “I’m going to pick a technology vendor and all of a sudden everything will work well.” You really need to look at your processes within your organization and really say, “We are going to make this work.”
Don’t just follow the crowd or follow the latest marketing message from someone. Really look at how your organization operates. Independent mortgage bankers are different from banks, for example, have different benefits for going digital. Look at how you are operationalized. Are you distributed or centralized? Really consider how you’re unique and then go with a strategy that supports that uniqueness.
One example, is around remote closings. Remote closings are an incredible experience, but they’re not available everywhere. So, finding that balance between allowing something that is great, but also something that is amazingly scalable, is really important. And you can have a blended model. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re seeing our lenders who are supporting different models, from remote notary, to a hybrid, to an in-person, and that’s totally fine.
The other one is that you need to jump in. I think the time is right, but when you jump in you need to commit. So, it’s not just a commitment from an investment in a technology, it’s a commitment from changing how your organization does business. You treat it like a real project – define success criteria, and then that success will truly come about. Those would be my two.
Wilkins: One of the other things I mentioned, data privacy and security, came up a lot in my interviews from yesterday. One of the other was a potential downturn, not necessarily to the degree that we had in 2008, but several people said it’s not a matter of if, but when. So, what advice would you give to someone in the industry to help them navigate through a potential downturn?
Moir: When you have a downturn everyone’s looking for a reason as to why something might not be right. So, these promissory notes, these digital assets that we’re creating, that’s the most important thing. You want to be able to go to court, prove out that everything was done by the book, and that these are legally enforceable promissory notes. Our technology has been tested through these downturns, certainly on the auto side, and everything like that, and in mortgage too. We’ve gone to court and in every situation the lender has won, because they’ve shown that they care and have done it right. And that’s very easy to do when you have a digital footprint around what happened.
I remember an example that someone gave me when they signed an electronic contract for a vehicle. And they took a photo of the person holding up the keys, you know…
Wilkins: I know where you’re going with this.
Moir: And put it as part of the file,. And this was a digital transaction. Now you had this sort of record of it actually occurring. You couldn’t say, I wasn’t there. I think that’s an interesting play for that one.
Wilkins: It is. It is. Okay. Well, what I try to do with most of these discussions is end on something that’s totally unrelated, certainly to mortgage finance. And that is what does Simon do in his spare time? Is family important? I know it is. Sports, hobbies, travel? Give us a sense of what Simon Moir does.
Moir: So, two kids and a wife, a boy and a girl. Sports is really big for them and so it’s become big for me. I can’t claim I was ever a great sportsman but I’m a good watcher now. And then coming from D.C., right now with the world series, it’s been a roller coaster.
Wilkins: Yeah, no kidding.
Moir: But, it’s been awesome to see how the team has gone. So, really it’s just family time, family and friends. That’s really what I get up to.
Wilkins: Well, that’s the right answer. I mean, family is everything and that’s why you do as much as you do, and you’re on the road as much as you are, and everything else.
Moir: Yeah, I’ve been lucky.
Wilkins: Great. Thanks for meeting with me, and it’s always good to catch up with you.
Moir: Awesome. Thanks so much, Tom.
Content has been edited for length and grammar.