This is the final installment of a three-part series.
Q: When selecting a new LOS platform, what steps should lenders take to perform adequate due diligence before engaging with an LOS vendor?
Kelly: After the crash, many lenders bought just enough technology to "get by," as they didn't know if they would be in business for the long haul. But in today's market, smart lenders are looking five-plus years out. An LOS implementation is a big deal and can be very disruptive to operations - if the wrong vendor is selected. Different LOS platforms are suited for different types of lenders and their specific workflows.
In general, I recommend that lenders do not just let one or two functional areas make the buying decision. Involve all areas. How will the new LOS affect production? Underwriting? Processors? Secondary marketing? Servicing? IT and support? How does it function within each business channel from retail to wholesale, correspondent, consumer direct? What is the bottom line return on investment from the chief financial officer's perspective?
Involving all functional areas is key to making the right decision - the first time. You should approach buying and LOS using a committee-level decision-making process. Look for a long-term LOS partner, not a vendor with which you'll potentially become "just another number."
We all know the usual request for information/request for proposal-type questions to ask. But other "above and beyond" questions to ask include:
- Look at how long the vendor has been in business. Longevity is a good sign. How long has its core application been in use? Is it contemporary or elderly? Too old of an application could mean that there are issues with antiquated code bases. On the other hand, too young means the application probably isn't mature and may not be fully proven.
- Is the vendor a continual innovator? How many new solutions has it recently launched? What is on its product development and enhancement road map? This will give you an idea as to what's to come if you were to engage. Many are just working to stay abreast of new compliance rules, which stifles innovation.
- Does the LOS use multiple code bases that have been married together by way of acquisitions? How many integrations does the LOS have? If it partnered with too many other vendors, it probably isn't a very good interface. And it can make your LOS provider resource challenged to successfully support it.
- How scalable is the software and how flexible? The application needs to be proven to handle an increase in volume given lender growth. And, it needs to have the flexibility and configurability to morph to a lender's unique business model and workflow. What are is customer sizes and profiles like - and how does scalability and flexibility apply?
- A good, mature, robust LOS should address all business channels. Make sure the system does this and does it well. You don't want to be a wholesale and/or retail lender, as an example, and later decide to perhaps launch a correspondent or consumer direct channel, only to find that the system wasn't built for it.
- It's also important to look at the length of tenure and experience of the vendor's developers, architects and support staff. Are they loaded with technical experience and do they possess a deep understanding of the mortgage process, having worked at multiple organizations? It counts.
- What is its customer support like? What are its average response and resolution time frames?
- What's their average implementation time frame, specifically for a company similar to your size?
- Corporate structure and management is important. Ask for the vendor's organizational chart and management team experience. Does it have well-established functional areas? It's indicative of how well it operates internally. Some vendors are run by just a few owners that don't take input from other senior executives, and thus do not employ any. This should send up a red flag.
- Are there any lawsuits pending? If so, why? What is the nature of the litigation?
It goes without saying, but don't just let a vendor give you a canned sales-centric solution demo. Watch its team run a loan through the system from start to finish. Put yourself in the driver's seat.
Q: What do you see on the horizon in the next 12 to 18 months in the LOS space?
Kelly: That's an easy one. First, we'll clearly have more compliance rules and regulations to implement. Not just for LOS vendors, but all mortgage technology providers. Second, we're going to start to see some consolidation. Profits are pinched for lenders - and consequently they will also be for vendors. Those providers that aren't well-capitalized will look at selling options. There is money sitting on the sidelines awaiting bargain-buying opportunities.