Behind Fannie Mae's Technology Push: An Interview with Stephen Pawlowski
By Laura Haverty | February 18, 2016
Stephen Pawlowski started his 25-year career at Fannie Mae working at the cash commitment window, what is today’s whole loan conduit. It was a job that required a knack for numbers, a sense of timing and the ability to assess the competitive landscape.
Fast forward to 2008 when the company was placed under conservatorship and Fannie Mae’s leadership recognized the need to start with a clean slate and build new platforms and technologies with the future in mind. Pawlowski was asked to co-lead those “strategic initiatives” at the enterprise level.
“We recognized the need to build out an infrastructure that would allow us to better serve the needs of our customers,” says Pawlowski. The multi-year effort required organizational changes to bring together people from the business and technology teams to support the broad vision and drive these large projects, he notes.
The efforts have led to an integrated set of technologies and products Fannie Mae’s customers can use throughout the loan lifecycle – from improved origination and underwriting of Fannie Mae loans with Desktop Underwriter® and the ability to quality-control appraisals with Collateral Underwriter® that are submitted through the Uniform Collateral Data Portal® (UCDP®) to new products like the HomeReady™ mortgage.
“But it’s not a technology-first perspective – our development efforts are all about meeting the business needs of our customers and being their partner of choice,” he says.
Now Senior Vice President for Business Solutions, Pawlowski is making another career move – back to the Capital Markets division to lead its strategic initiatives to provide more “competitive execution for our customers.”
Earlier this month, Pawlowski took a few minutes with Housing Industry Forum to share his views on the impact of Fannie Mae’s technology offerings and initiatives.
Housing Industry Forum: In recent years, Fannie Mae has introduced and enhanced EarlyCheck™, Desktop Underwriter, Collateral Underwriter, Loan Delivery and Pricing & Execution-Whole Loan™ among other tools. What’s behind this push?
SP: We offer a comprehensive suite of automated technology. We built out this suite intentionally so lenders can leverage our technology across the loan life cycle to help increase certainty and minimize risk. They can quickly qualify eligible borrowers to help grow their business and decrease the time and resources spent on the loan process.
In essence, our solutions help them drive a higher quality of loans by identifying and correcting loan eligibility issues early in the loan manufacturing process – before that loan is delivered to Fannie Mae.
HIF: New tools and enhancements seem to be rolling out regularly. What changes did Fannie Mae make to become more nimble?
SP: Our entire approach to the solutions we offer changed several years ago when we reorganized our internal teams and revamped our systems architecture to approach market challenges with more agility. One of the goals was to be more simple and nimble in serving the needs of our customers.
We defined a series of strategic initiatives that would drive market innovation and became tightly focused on understanding the end-to-end business needs of our customers. The goal was to provide customers with technology that makes it easier to do business with us.
The HomeReady mortgage (now fully integrated into Desktop Underwriter) is a great example of how our more dynamic structure lets us quickly meet the needs of the market with a product lenders need now to qualify borrowers.
HIF: What do you mean by “end-to-end” business needs?
SP: I am talking about products that integrate to make it easier to manufacture and sell that loan to Fannie Mae. Products they can’t get anywhere else.
About four years ago we released EarlyCheck so lenders could access Fannie Mae’s delivery edits during any point in their business process to identify and correct potential eligibility or data issues prior to delivery.
Last January we rolled out Collateral Underwriter more broadly so lenders delivering loans through UCDP can see risk scores, flags and detailed messaging highlighting aspects of appraisals that may warrant further attention. Collateral Underwriter allows lenders to leverage their resources more effectively.
We just rolled out the new version of Loan Delivery so lenders can not only import the loan and pull data, but also format the data to facilitate error-free delivery, transfer loans between commitments and track the status of loan deliveries. They also can generate reports and pull loan data for use in other areas of their organization.
So we’re looking at the big picture and how we can continuously improve our technology to help our customers. Pricing & Execution-Whole Loan is a great example of how we revamped or transformed a previous application so it’s easier to use. Many lenders have told us how much they appreciate the product and being able to use our technology end-to-end.
HIF: Does Fannie Mae consider itself to be a technology company?
SP: We’re not a technology company per se. I would say that we are service-oriented and we want to be sure that throughout the loan manufacturing process lenders understand that their loan will be eligible for delivery to Fannie Mae.
To do that, we recognize that we have to put applications and technology into the marketplace that make it as simple as possible to quickly identify whether or not a borrower is eligible for a Fannie Mae product and that there aren’t any deficiencies or risk within that transaction. So when they go to sell the loan, they have certainty that the loan will stay sold to us.
We’re not a Google or Amazon. But we recognize the fact that we have to leverage technology to make it easier to do business with us, and help drive a more simple process that has more certainty around it.
HIF: What’s been the reaction from customers? How does their feedback fuel current and future product development?
SP: A good recent example of how we work with customer feedback came with the build out of Loan Delivery. We knew it was important to gather customer needs upfront in an iterative way, and from all of the constituents within a lender’s shop. We wanted to understand their pain points for each person involved in the process.
We held roundtable discussions to understand how lenders needed to interact with the application and we also had lenders come into Fannie Mae to test the systems and see demos.
Those interactions helped us understand what features would make it easier for them to do their jobs. The goal was to deliver something out of the gate that customers feel is intuitive, is easy to use and drives certainty within their loan delivery process.
HIF: Is that the kind of agility that we can expect from Fannie Mae moving forward?
SP: Yes, I think so. One of the goals we’ve set for ourselves is to be more dynamic. Simpler to do business with. As we start to deliver different capabilities in the marketplace, we do it through that lens.
We’re looking for other ways to help lenders evaluate transactional risk prior to delivery, streamline the need for redundant data entry and help reduce the need for manual underwriting and reviews.
While we’re not a technology company, we are trying to serve our customers the best way we can.
Our goal is simplicity and certainty and ease of doing business.
Laura Haverty is editor in chief of Housing Industry Forum. She can be reached at editor_HIF@fanniemae.com.