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Amidst a period of vigorous growth, American Pacific Mortgage is leveraging technology to streamline the mortgage process for everyone involved
As a top 10 independent mortgage lender, American Pacific Mortgage (APM) is channeling the pioneer spirit of their home state of California, taking a bold expansion journey backed by fresh creative tech strategies. At a time when the average 30-year mortgage interest rate has more than doubled after a few years of dwelling in the bargain basement, staying hot on the trail of robust growth is truly intrepid.
In 2022, the full-service lender wrapped the year closing $13 billion in residential mortgages and is anticipating a 25% increase in originations this year as a result of a vigorous M&A strategy. APM works to deliver home ownership to all borrowers across all backgrounds, placing significant focus on affordable lending, working with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to promote that across the U.S.
Their internal culture has a family feel, even calling their headquarters “home office.” This is reflected in consistent employee surveys (sent to employees semi-annually) resulting in a net promoter score in the 80 range, known as world-class. They’re also an ESOP, and employee feedback is included in strategic planning initiatives designed to keep employee and customer satisfaction rising.
When Michele Buschman joined the company in 2014 to develop and lead their Information Services Team, the enterprise employed a total of 900 people in roughly 75 locations. At present, they employ roughly 3,800 people, boast over 275 primary locations, more than 1,500 originators, and 16 fulfillment centers across the country – and Buschman’s technology team has grown to keep pace with the organizational growth.
That’s a good thing because she is APM’s CIO, CTO, and CISO, and is responsible for overseeing the daily operations and strategy of all APM infrastructure, systems, software applications, data, development, technical support, security, and supports the organization at a nationwide level.
“We're extremely customer focused,” she said. “If we can solve the problems and challenges for our customers and deliver a great experience to get that consumer into a home, or get that originator what they need quickly, with little to no down time, that's what we want to do.” On the consumer side, the mortgage process is time-consuming, complex, and stressful, and on the business side, it’s pretty much the same thing.
“We want to create great experiences for the consumer, for our loan originators, our sales team, and all the employees that work with us. And we are here primarily to serve our originators, our branch managers, and our consumers,” she added.
When it comes to creating and supporting those experiences through technology, Buschman is an industry standout. With more than 30 years in the industry, she has a number of innovations to her credit, including helping to create the first internet product search and pricing engine technology that rippled through the sector, opening the door to major changes in the way all lenders perform transactions. The company was granted a patent for the technology.
Announcing her recognition by National Mortgage Professional as one of the Inspiring Women of 2021 in Mortgage Lending, the company noted that she “(a)lso led a group of developers in building private-label technology to implement and sell, as well as helped transform one of the first web APIs that successfully entered the market. These two tech tools have been key in an ever-changing technological landscape.”
Some of her many contributions to APM include; building a new security program built from the ground up, implementing a new vendor management process, building a new data warehouse/data lake in the cloud, migrating off-prem system to the cloud, building out a full IT organization structure, and integrating new IT groups/systems from company acquisitions.
APM is committed to making the mortgage process easier than ever for stakeholders on both sides of the transaction. For consumers, making the process as frictionless as possible from application through closing and beyond is at the core of their digital transformation, which has been underway for the past couple of years.
As for the business, one of the latest streamlining initiatives is the reimplementation and reimagination of their entire workflows on their loan origination platform, and pricing engine. “That’s our core systems where we originate our loans. These systems have a major impact on our customers’ experience, in that our originators are interacting with consumers on this platform. Our consumer customers access web based portals and/or a mobile application to submit their loan applications, provide digital verifications of their assets and income, provide us with required personal documents securely, and digitally sign loan documents.
Modernizing legacy systems and integrating them to deliver a full solution takes time and patience; Buschman is currently working with APM’s executive team, production team, operations team, and all their customers across the organization to put together a visual road map.
“I like to call it that Gold Star, where we want to be when we're finished, which we will really never will be finished,” she chuckled. “It’s will always be iterating, improving, and evolving. We’re getting to that point where we have a platform of everything that we need, to be able to deliver this vision to our customers. Buschman also consistently points out, that “everyone's my customer. It’s not just our originators and consumers, but the entire organization we are solving for.”
As the avalanche of innovations and new technology continues to smother financial institutions with the latest tools, the challenges of knitting those tools into existing systems becomes increasingly difficult. To counter, APM’s IT teams are evaluating the tools they’ve deployed with a goal to centralize them around a specific stack so each tool can be used as effectively as possible. They are integrating tools for their originators so they can better interact with their referral partners and customers.
They are also fine tuning the consumer experience, working to shave the number of steps and solutions they must use. One such adjustment they are working towards is industrywide, and that’s remote online notarization, or RON, so consumers don’t have to visit an escrow office to close a transaction. “But the problem that you have is it's a bifurcated experience for the consumer. They may have three different accounts to log into different systems and it's not seamless. Our goal is to deliver that seamless integrated experience for our consumer.”
Aside from their loan origination system and pricing engine, APM is looking at their point of sale that feeds into the loan origination system to create a more efficient solution. “We're going to do the same from a consumer portal perspective. We're going to see where we can get with what we have,” she noted. “We may even build out a custom version of those portals by leveraging APIs in the background so we can truly control the customer experience.”
APM recently implemented Candor Technology’s Loan Engineering System, which enables loan officers to collect information about a borrower up front, such as income, bank accounts, and assets. Credit approval decisions go directly to the loan officer, who no longer has to submit the loan for credit approval to a fulfillment department. Armed with the appropriate details, the process takes a couple of minutes, up to just a couple of hours. The system has added substantial speed to the underwriting process; instead of completing two and a half loans daily, underwriters now do six or eight loans a day.
She pointed out that the lending process has remained the same throughout her career. “You originate, process, underwrite, go back and forth. It's like nothing's really changed even with the technology. But we're getting to a point as an industry where we really can change that.” The key, she stressed, is not to focus on what processes have worked and applying technology that can deliver them, but to see what the technology can do and develop processes around it.
“We’re focused on building a future that will allow us to have a full digital experience to help reduce the cost to produce a loan. We want to give savings back to our customers, get them into homes quicker and easier with a good experience, while hopefully reducing the costs so more consumers can qualify and afford to buy a home!”
Essentially, all of these future forward efforts are driven by APM’s culture. Their core values of respect, transparency, and scrappiness are demonstrated in their approaches to community involvement and the way they care for their employees.
Their APM Cares program is unique, providing grants to the communities in which they work and live, as well as running a fund for their employees. “The employee fund is a grant that's not repayable to the organization for an employee or one of their immediate family members that might be going through some sort of financial hardship,” she said. “In our community-based plan, we serve the needs of our communities in the markets we live and work in throughout the United States. Anything around food, housing, clothing, those critical core needs that Americans need to survive.”
Buschman concluded, “Our leadership believes we can continue to grow our company while still maintaining our cultural values, keeping our family feel, and helping others. We are here to serve our communities to deliver homeownership to as many consumers as we can, so everyone has a place called ‘home.’”
At American Pacific Mortgage, we don’t see customers as numbers and paperwork. For us, doing business is about making human connections. We listen to the people we serve. We find the right mortgage solution for their specific needs. And we help them achieve their dreams of homeownership. You’ll see it in everything we do.
3000 Lava Ridge Court, Suite 200
Roseville, CA 95661
Phone Number: 916.960.1325
Homepage Link: https://www.apmortgage.com/