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Benefits of a Cloud-Based Office

February 8th, 2012 | Posted by Paul McQuade in Cloud Mortgage Technology

Cloud Based Mortgage OfficeThis article describes some practical benefits of a fully cloud-based office to the C-Level mortgage executive. Originally appeared in the February issue of Tomorrow's Mortgage Executive, written by Martin Williams, CEO Acris Technology-Mortgage VCO

In last month's article titled 'Life in the Cloud,' I told the story of how my company, Millennia Mortgage, evolved into a fully cloud-based, paperless mortgage banking operation over a period of several years. Our employees, contractors and vendors all worked together seamlessly to process more loans in less time and expense than we ever before thought possible. We were working 'in the cloud' before ever hearing the term.

'The cloud' and all it's many iterations and descriptions can be easily misunderstood. The confusion that continues to revolve around the cloud is keeping many mortgage companies from reaping maximum benefit from the refinement of cloud-based technology that is now available with minimal capital outlay and a nominal monthly cost per user.

This article describes some practical benefits of a fully cloud-based mortgage office to the C-Level mortgage executive. After reading this article you will better understand why I am such an evangelist for the cloud.

Leverage the Cloud to Grow Your Business Cost-Effectively
I used to always say 'growth eats capital for breakfast,' and every CEO wants to know what, and when, the return on investment is going to be. Deciding to ramp up aggressively to meet demand can be risky. Recruiting and hiring qualified staff, training, agent licensing, marketing, new office space, workstation build-outs, software investment, hardware, and planning, takes time and money. The conventional approach is entirely front-loaded: lay out the capital first, then hope and pray for rates to hold while you realize a return on investment.

In a cloud environment, your capital exposure is reduced so growth strategies can be looked at more on a variable cost basis, making your organization nimble and flexible, opening new doors of opportunity. Let's look at a few examples of how this plays out in the real world.

Manage Virtual Call Centers in the Cloud
Starting and growing a call center takes planning and time as you know. It can cost up to $7-8,000 in hidden sunk costs to properly outfit a retail call center employee. There are workstation, hardware, software, and network infrastructure expenses, plus long-term lease liabilities to contend with. In this tricky environment it's getting harder to commit to that level of investment.

With a cloud-based call center, virtualization and remote login effectively eliminate many of the costs and delays of expansion. Eliminate long-term liability for office space and equipment. Eliminate sunk costs for hardware and software licensing yet build out a call center practically overnight. Staff with virtual sales, ops and support staff, train them online, and stitch them all together with a single multi-function, collaborative cloud-based LOS, that tracks, controls, facilitates and rewards. Should market rates rise rendering the model cost prohibitive, scale back, cut and regroup without incurring long-term expense or loss of capital.

Use the Cloud to Expand Your Branch Network While Keeping Complete Control Over Your Team.
Let's say you've focused your efforts on purchase money business with outside loan agents. Since purchase loans are most effectively sourced at a regional level, it's critical to equip your sales agents with effective tools at the point of sale. They need reliable product picking and pricing, quickly and easily from anywhere, on any device, at any time. They need support staff that's accessible and responsive, and a reliable, collaborative means of communicating with them, in addition to borrowers and third parties. They need to produce accurate quotes, comparisons and disclosures quickly and easily and be empowered with information and tools, yet not be chained to a desk.

Traditionally, to accommodate a high sales support structure, processing and even underwriting were pushed down to the branch level. Such a decentralized model has many inherent costs including larger branch office space, local network build outs, local IT, hiring and training challenges, and staff utilization inefficiencies. Branches lacking the social and technology ties to corporate develop their own sub-culture, may run afoul of corporate policies and procedures and often present a substantial compliance risk.
In the cloud, it's easy to consolidate and run one system company-wide, eliminating runaway costs, incompatibilities and IT management headaches. It's the perfect solution for an increasingly virtual mortgage workforce. All employees experience the same look and feel on the network, whether at the branch, home or at corporate. Company culture is now influenced, maintained and controlled globally and centrally. IT services are now served up on demand, replacing expensive on-site IT staff.

With the right cloud-based loan origination system in place, you can manage the entire loan life cycle, empowering each department with all the tools they need to perform their jobs and reporting comprehensive metrics in real time, in a consistent format across the enterprise. The system can be complemented with a collaborative communication mechanism, an easy to use document management system, and task queuing logic that drives efficiencies by enabling departmental load balancing of staffing.

The Cloud Was Built for Scalability…Up or Down
One constant we can depend on is that the mortgage business will always be in a state of flux. Rates are down right now. But they will go up! If your business is largely refinance right now, like 80% of the mortgage industry, your business model will most likely change dramatically some time in the future.

In a traditional brick and mortar business model, it's almost impossible to scale up or down quickly and cost-effectively. While no company can afford to miss out on a refinance boom, they can neither afford to be strung-out if rates bump up 200 or even 100bps. An entire business model can be rendered broken, and a pipeline useless, practically overnight.

In the cloud, you can turn fixed costs into variable costs. Scale your organization up or down quickly, and correlate costs with production. Under a software subscription arrangement, you can tie network and software costs to employee (or loan production under certain negotiated terms). Employee count typically has a direct correlation to production. In the cloud, you are as nimble as you choose to be. Adding or subtracting agents and support staff is easier.

Managing Regulation With the Cloud
The mortgage industry has received more than its fair share of regulation lately, and surely there is more to come. Mortgage companies can benefit from tighter controls and better management of their data. A decentralized data structure sourced on a multitude of platforms, daisy-chained together, increases data integrity and compliance risks. The case for easily and cost-effectively getting all your systems 'on the same page' has never been more critical than now.

The regulatory stakes are much higher today, and the consequences much more severe, so much that mortgage companies are preoccupied with compliance. A case in point for recent regulations is the introduction of the Call Report, a quarterly reporting not just on funded loan production, but on all origination, submitted quarterly in data format. It's this information that regulating entities are using to hold mortgage companies accountable. All of the sudden, origination data regardless of outcome is terribly important and must accurately reflect physical file representation. Corporations need to rein in branch staff and agent behavior now more than ever before. The cloud, empowered by the right LOS enables everyone in your organization to get on the same page, playing by the same rules.

Obstacles to Cloud Adoption
So if the benefits are so great, what's keeping lenders from adopting the cloud? While the primary purpose of this article is not to focus on the obstacles, I thought it would help to quickly address a few of the bigger objections I encounter.

Lenders think cloud solutions are expensive and difficult to implement
The reality for our company was that the cloud actually reduced our expenses across the board. I recognize that every business is different. To some degree it depends on the age and condition of existing equipment, condition of legacy IT infrastructure, in-house IT expertise, existing software, etc. While the variables are numerous, most of the guiding principles behind migration to the cloud are consistent, across just about all businesses. When performing your analysis, make sure you consider all your 'hidden' expenses. Once we had our cloud in place, we experienced reduced costs in our utility bills, software upgrades, setup and provisioning of new employees, internal and external IT expense, server equipment purchase, installation and maintenance, supplies, etc.

Lenders fear putting data in the cloud will compromise security
There's no doubt this is one of the biggest fears of moving to the cloud. But the reality is the data center environment in the cloud is more secure, more reliable and better suited for disaster recovery and security issues than any IT room located on the premises of the average or even of most large lenders today.

An optimal security solution is one where the best security technologies can be continuously deployed, and to vigilantly protect networks and transmissions, using the best digital security specialists. Few in-house IT departments can afford the level of security that is deployed in the cloud. In a cloud environment, every element of the network is better protected by layers of security measures such as redundant servers and frequently updated firewalls that also ensure high availability.

Add to these measures the controlled access by authorized, and trained personnel using managed permissions for trusted groups, and the chance for human error and security breaches goes down greatly. Access can be granted or revoked immediately. Even the programming team has limited access outside of their area of responsibility.

Also, within a cloud structure, new companies in mergers and rollups can be assimilated into the parent almost as easily as a new user, without IT workarounds and patches that create potential security leaks

Lenders fear change…letting go of legacy systems 'that work' in spite of inefficiencies
While security concerns are valid, and it's quite easy to overcome the expense argument, this one issue will probably keep more lenders from adopting the cloud than any other reason.

First, there is a valid consideration that needs to be made regarding your corporate culture. Would you characterize your organization as progressive or innovative and open to change? One of the biggest misunderstandings when performing any migration is how to manage change. If properly planned and carefully communicated, the process can be smooth and relatively uneventful. But without a certain level of change leadership, the process can be painful and even devastating to the productivity and morale of an organization. If your people are prepped properly for the change, it can be accomplished in significantly less time and hassle than one that is not.

When we first went paperless, I had staff that were kicking and screaming. Then it started to die down. The chatter faded and things got really quiet. About a month later, I started to get these emails - we had created raving fans. Time and time again, they came up to me, saying, 'I'll never go back to paper.'

The Path to the Cloud
So just how does a mortgage lender migrate to the cloud? This is a question that can't be fully answered here, but I believe one of the most important elements of a successful migration is to have experienced professionals lead you through the minefield that have successfully navigated the process within a lending environment. An experienced vendor that has experienced all the issues first hand will save you countless hours of pain, and thousands of dollars in misfires, lost time and productivity. Here's the migration process in a nutshell:

  • Start with an assessment of your existing operations, systems and software
  • Carefully choose the right cloud vendor based on capabilities and experience
  • Create a detailed implementation roadmap both for migration to the cloud, and migration to paperless processing (paperless enables a cloud environment)
  • Present the vision and goals to management and staff
  • Get mid-management buy-in
  • Migrate in stages, starting with virtualizing the desktop
  • Stay the course – It's worth it!

No doubt the cloud is here to stay and it's changing the way business gets done in every sector. I can tell you from personal experience that the cloud is more beneficial to the mortgage industry than most other business processes I know of, primarily because a mortgage office thrives in a paperless, virtual, collaborative environment. While many other business models may do just fine with Google Docs, a CRM and a good email server, the mortgage industry is unique in its need for collaborative and automated loan processing, CRM and document management systems that communicate seamlessly with each other, your employees, contractors, telecommuters, vendors, and third party services, regardless of their physical location. It has to be secure, dependable, available on demand, and cost effective. The cloud is perfectly suited for this type of environment. Because of the questions that must be answered before making the leap to the cloud, we've developed a product called VCO Airlift, a 17-point evaluation system that walks you through the process of converting your business to a fully cloud-based infrastructure. Learn more at

Martin Williams is CEO of Laguna Hills, California-based Acris Technology, the company behind Mortgage VCO, a full suite of cloud-based software applications and business support resources for the mortgage industry including loan origination and processing software, paperless electronic document management, electronic signatures, integrated telephony, virtual desktops with Microsoft Office® and Outlook®, software customization and development services, IT, telephony and Citrix® virtual office consulting. Follow our blog at

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Life in the Cloud

January 26th, 2012 | Posted by Paul McQuade in Cloud Mortgage Technology, News & Press

Cloud Based Mortgage BusinessThis article originally appeared in the January issue of Tomorrow’s Mortgage Executive, written by Martin Williams, CEO Acris Technology-Mortgage VCO

Many people in the mortgage industry today are hearing and reading about cloud technology without having a clear understanding of what it is and what it means for their business. All they know is that ‘the cloud is where they need to be.

Those of us with some experience on this topic understand that the only thing new about cloud computing is the term itself. The Internet, in fact, is itself a ‘cloud’. So is the local power company. And yet, cloud computing does describe a very real thing happening – albeit slowly – in today’s mortgage industry. We have the potential now for anyone in any organization to be able to access all the tools and data they need, at any time, from anywhere, on nearly any device, without the concerns of owning, updating, maintaining and supporting expensive software applications. This is, in essence, what happens when you move your business into the cloud. I know, because I’ve seen it firsthand.

A Corporate Culture Built on Technology Development
When I started my own mortgage company back in 1995, Millennia Mortgage, I knew technology would play a major role. The predominant business model at the time was staffed independent loan agents in a regional office, sourcing business on their own. Our focus was on cash-out financing via 1st and 2nd TD loans. These types of loans were highly valued by the customer, easy to explain, and could be processed with relative ease. By deploying a marketing campaign consisting largely of direct mail and radio ads, we recommissioned our sales agents under a call center structure, fielding incoming phone calls from across the country, qualifying borrowers over the phone, and processing by mail and fax. We had effectively adopted the model of ‘loans-by-phone’ across state lines.

We first looked toward employing customer management and origination tools. Of course, there were plenty of mortgage software offerings and loan origination software systems to choose from, but none of them focused on the contact management or customer relationship management (mortgage CRM software) component of the sale. At the time, even generic stand-alone CRM tools were in short supply in the industry. There was ACT!, which many of our competitors were using, but we knew its limitations first hand, especially when it came to integration with loan origination software.

That’s when we began taking steps to develop our own loan origination software, which later would become our VCO Lend product. Initially, however, it began as a mortgage contact management application. Millennia was soon doing a large amount of volume with an average application pull-through ratio above 20 percent, and we needed a system that could manage all those contacts. Equipped with a college education in computer science, I started programming. I actually created our contact management software myself in Microsoft Access, as well as creating many of its design elements. (After a year and a half of this, however, I started hiring contractors – they were simply better than I!)

While we were developing our contact management solution, we began encountering another problem with the loan origination software we were using at the time. After we ran a borrower’s credit, there was no way to integrate the results into the loan origination software – someone actually had to type in all those credit card balances. By 1997 we had had enough, so we built a software module that allowed our staff to order credit and have the results integrated with our loan origination software. Streamlining this single task measurably improved our workflow, and helped define a company culture of innovation. Throughout our history, we embraced technology as a means to refine workflows, increase turn-times, create transparency, enhance customer relations, manage costs and ultimately yield a much better bottom-line.

Our next step was developing marketing campaign management and lead distribution tools. Pretty soon we had assembled an in-house software development team and were building custom loan origination software straight from the ground up. Around the same time, Millennia Mortgage moved to mortgage banking, so we began building tools within the loan origination software that would enable us to effectively manage all aspects of banking. Gradually we added business intelligence, workflow management, and business rules that governed security and data integration. A further step was integrating our system with third-party vendors, which created additional efficiency and time savings.

Piece by piece, we were creating from scratch all the major components of the mortgage production chain. At every step along this development path, we knocked down one inefficient task after another, shaving precious time off the mortgage production process while creating company-wide transparency

Enter the Cloud
By 2003, Millennia had grown from a mere startup to a robust company employing over 125 employees producing 400 loans a month. It was around this time where we began our migration to a virtual, paperless office engaging Citrix, the leader in desktop virtualization. Citrix allows businesses to virtualize both the server structure and the user experience. By centralizing our hardware and software in a securely protected co-location facility, we broke free of the physical constraints of traditional IT infrastructures and office space. Empowered with our proprietary electronic document management system, our staff could now login remotely from home or a laptop, have the identical user experience they’d expect while sitting at their office desk, but also have a client’s complete paperless loan file callable from directly within the loan origination software. We had enabled any employee with an Internet connection and a web browser to perform their job from any point on the globe. By all accounts, Millennia was operating in ‘the cloud’, so to speak.

This was right before the Orange County, California mortgage industry began experiencing explosive growth. The recession of 2001-2002 had set everyone back a bit, but by 2004 things in the mortgage business really started heating up. The competition for quality operations staff was extremely intense; the best were demanding up to $20,000 signing bonuses. By moving Millennia to a paperless, virtual environment, we didn’t have to rely solely on the Orange County labor market. Our operations were now cloud-based and no longer tethered to a geographic location, which meant we could hire anywhere. Aided by cost-of-living differences, we could bring on high-quality personnel living in places like Minnesota at a fraction of the price.

At the same time, our evolving technology platform allowed us to parse out our loan workflow with such refinement that we were able to contract out more and more work. While our competitors muddled with conventional linear workflows that were labor intensive and high cost, we were able to automatically assign tasks commensurate with pay grade, thereby maximizing the utility of highly compensated staff. For instance, business rules and queuing logic within our loan origination software system ensured processing assistants received the bulk of the heavy lifting, while processors and underwriters could focus on work more in line with their level of expertise. Underwriters and assistants were hired on a contract basis, and paid on a per task basis, to engage at times of peak production, effectively responding to production backlogs and keeping turn-times inside of 24 hours. Our self-assigning queuing technology would email contractors, enticing them with variable bonus incentives that were tracked, reported upon and tallied for payroll accounting.

In a 24/7 environment, contractors could work on their own time and didn’t have to quit their day jobs – they could work at night from home. By staffing with full time employees to meet production lows, and engaging contractors to manage the surges, we achieved a high level of staff-production utility. Everything – all the data, documents and software – stayed on our system. The underwriters couldn’t download anything or print anything. They didn’t need to. When the underwriters’ analysis came back in the morning, everything was stipped out, and the checklists and findings were handled by our processors and assistants. Everything happened electronically.

Meanwhile, each Millennia ops staff member had his or her own pipeline management screen within the loan origination software system. At a glance they could quickly see what needed to be done and done first, whether it was requesting a demand, ordering an appraisal, opening up title and escrow, signing off on a satisfied condition, or anything else. At the same time, our assistants, configured into three levels, would track down the multitude of conditions on a file, including making borrower contact for outstanding key documents, a benefit the sales agents truly appreciated. Our development of task and file queuing, empowered with paperless, allowed us to move away from the linear structure of file management so multiple people were able to work on the same file at the same time. This created even greater staff efficiencies, because there was less waiting around for something else to happen before someone could get to work on the file.

In 2004 we embarked on the last key component on the underwriting side: an automated underwriting and pricing engine. Fortunately, one of our investors, GMAC, granted us a large sum of money to invest in this technology. We interviewed all the prevalent vendors at the time, but rather than lease their technology, we opted to purchase the code and further engage them to build our first generation AUS just the way we wanted it, completely integrated with our proprietary loan origination software.

With exceptional ease, we could take a borrower profile and come back with all the different loan programs that the customer qualified for, stacked, conditionally approved and priced side by side. Once a loan product was selected, it was downloaded into the loan origination software along with the loan terms, end price, and a conditional loan approval. Callbacks to the AUS were facilitated at the click of a button, enabling underwriters to routinely validate approvals and pricing in the midst of guideline and pricing changes. Approval certs were produced and loaded directly into the paperless loan file, while automated AU integrations for certification were maintained with key industry investors.

What were the results of implementing a virtual ‘cloud’? These innovations, over the course of an 18-month development and implementation period, ultimately shortened the loan life cycle by 40 percent, reduced the costs of operations staff by 35 percent, doubled loan volume, and improved profitability as a function of basis points by 33 percent. Loan agents were thrilled with turn-times and accountability, customers were happy, underwriters were satisfied with controls, processors were funding over 100 loans per month, managers could lead, and everyone was making more money.

By 2005, 60 percent of Millennia’s operations staff were working remotely from home, plus 20 percent of our sales force. We had grown to doing business in nearly every state and had a fully-integrated advanced call center telephony solution. We were one of the first companies to develop electronic loan delivery to secondary market investors. And from all the evidence we could gather, Millennia Mortgage had become the first end-to-end paperless mortgage banking operation in the industry. While we didn’t call it that at the time, without our ‘cloud’ technology, none of this would have been possible.

By the time Millennia shuttered its lending operations in 2007 – an event tied directly to market forces – the company’s staff of 250 people were producing upwards of 800 retail loans a month. Regardless of Millennia’s fate, I knew, as did many of my colleagues, that we had something special with our technology. Acris Paperless Solutions started out in 2005 as simply an electronic document management company, and in 2011 we changed the name to Acris Technology, incorporated all of Millennia’s technology, and launched Mortgage VCO, a comprehensive and affordable suite of cloud-based, mortgage office management products available to lenders nationwide. It includes the mortgage loan origination software system we built from scratch, VCO Lend, as well as a desktop virtualization solution including MS Windows ®, MS Office ®, an integrated IP Telephony solution, paperless document management software and electronic signatures.

So while I’m no longer running my own mortgage company, I’m passionate about helping other lenders realize the full benefits of cloud technology – a virtual, automated, paperless mortgage office, without any of the development headaches we went through. You might imagine that when I talk to these lenders, one of most compelling things I can say is that I’ve lived in the cloud myself. And let me tell you, the view from up there is amazing.

Martin Williams is CEO of Laguna Hills, California-based Acris Technology, the company behind Mortgage VCO, a full suite of cloud-based software applications and business support resources for the mortgage industry.

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PaaS, SaaS, IaaS – Clearing Up the Confusion

November 3rd, 2011 | Posted by Richard Johnston in Cloud Mortgage Technology

Cloud ComputingJust had an interesting discussion with a senior executive and the topic was what is the difference between PaaS (platform-as-a-service), SaaS (software-as-a-service), and IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service)?

The very foundation of a "cloud" computing environment centers on these core elements. An effective understanding of them is necessary to compare the options and leverage the cost benefits of the "cloud." By now I believe that the users at large are familiar with and understand what SaaS means but to simply define it; SaaS represents any software tool that is available over the web, utilizing a browser to access, manage, utilize and deploy to the end-user, any application absent the necessity to install such software on their own server platform.

Now to better understand the other two, PaaS and IaaS, we need to first build out three basic concepts; the end-user, the middleware and the core system when one looks at the entire IT system. To build any IT system you first address the core systems-the physical hardware. This can be installed in a closet, a server room or in some data center offsite. It is the offsite installation that brings us to the "cloud". Next you have the middleware- software that runs the hardware on the backend, the operating system, the plug and play software at the heart of every application and lastly the user interface to actually access and use a given piece of software.

The core system and the middleware represent the platform-as-a-service. The large cloud providers will all supply a company with a platform from which to install and run their own IT environment. They essentially provide the hardware, the OS software, the power, connectivity and secure environment for all of the equipment. They rent you the platform based on memory storage, CPU capacity and access bandwidth. From there you install your application software packages; you provide the IT systems admin, the network admin, the programming support for all applications and the licensing to run all systems.

Going a step further, we realize the infrastructure-as-a-service. In the final element the cloud allows us the ability to deliver not only the platform-as-a-service but we can also deliver the software, the licenses, and all levels of system support allowing the company to significantly reduce in-house IT staff from their overhead cost structure. The companies will then realize the economies of scale that a cloud provider can deliver by leveraging their resources in a unique environment or in a multi-tenant environment where the computing resources are shared across many companies and the smart-hands of the skilled administrators and programmers are at their disposal but not on their payroll.

Where does VCO Desk fit into all of this? In VCO Desk the platform is delivered via a secure connection using Citrix. Once you have logged into the system your VCO desktop opens and in it you now have specific software applications available to use. This infrastructure is the supported software (middleware) that the user needs to do their work. These applications are associated with the core operating system, such as XP or Windows 7, and the other basic MS Office applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and so forth. Then come the other supported tools like Acrobat, as well as user-specific SaaS applications unique to their own environment. There are other elements that can be layered into VCO Desk such as telephony, document management and direct support server applications provided by the user's company, yet deployed on the Acris Technology cloud server set. All of these IT elements are managed and offered to the user, accessible from any location on any device, via a simple Internet connection to the Acris Technology "cloud."


Acris Launches VCO Airlift to Promote a Cloud-Based Future

October 11th, 2011 | Posted by Paul McQuade in Cloud Mortgage Technology, News & Press

Mortgage technology provider launches consulting service to demonstrate how mortgage companies can transition to a virtual office with little to no change to their existing software

Laguna Hills, CA (PRWEB) October 11, 2011

Acris Technology, the software development company behind Mortgage VCO, a full suite of cloud-based software applications and business support resources for mortgage bankers and lenders, has launched a new consulting service designed to help lenders and other financial service companies build an entirely cloud-based virtual corporate office. Named VCO Airlift, the new consulting program will identify the specific steps a lender needs to undertake to run a compliant, scalable, paperless, virtualized mortgage office without the expense and complexity of on-site servers, software, maintenance and upgrades, while taking into account the company's existing software and business needs. Airlift will also pinpoint the savings in dollars that lenders will realize by freeing themselves from on-site servers and legacy systems and migrating to a virtual environment.

Airlift specifically leverages lessons gained since Acris Technology has been managing and hosting virtualized platforms since its inception in 2005. Earlier this year, Acris Technology launched VCO Desk, a virtual office platform tailored specifically for the mortgage industry. Through a secure Citrix environment, VCO Desk enables racks of servers to be replaced by an array of hosted, load balanced virtual servers, allowing desktop users remote access to all of a company's applications and data while providing greater IT power, scalability and security. Developed and refined over the course of years, VCO Desk had been in use privately for years by Laguna Hills, California-based Millennia Mortgage to process over $10 billion in funded loans.

"Everyone is talking about cloud computing, yet it is not clearly understood by many small and mid-sized lenders in a way that makes it actionable," says Martin Williams, CEO of Acris Technology. "Because we have 'been there, done that' with our own virtual office platform, VCO Desk, it occurred to us that we can guide others who are weighing this transformation but aren't sure how to get there. We're calling it VCO Airlift because it is designed to 'lift' companies into a cloud-based environment, where so much more is possible."

While some additional expense and equipment may be required to build a totally cloud-based mortgage office - such as procuring sufficient high-speed Internet service and configuring dual monitors for staff, for example - virtualization allows lenders to save an enormous amount of money that is normally spent on IT staff and on-site, physical servers, which typically handle email, database, file storage and other functions. In comparison, a virtual corporate office uses secure, remote servers to handle all of a company's IT needs, while allowing staff to use emails, files, electronic documents, loan origination software and customer relationship management (CRM) tools just as they normally would. In addition, in most cases, lenders do not have to give up any of their current applications or software to place their business in the cloud.

Once a lender signs up for Airlift, Acris consultants will perform a thorough analysis of the lender's existing technology infrastructure and software applications and return with a clear set of steps indicating what the lender needs to create a virtual office, what challenges specific to the lender may exist, and the different options that are available. Participants in Airlift are under no obligation to buy Acris Technology products or services, but will benefit from a thorough report and access to online tools and resources for moving their business into the cloud.

"With mortgage rates at all-time lows, now is an opportune time for many lenders to be considering a cloud-based future," says Richard Johnston, president of Acris Technology. "Right away, they get greater data storage with automatic backups, better security and unlimited scalability to handle an increase in business - all with lower overhead. But they also get the ability to leverage mobile technology, add remote staff, and more easily manage today's tough compliance challenges through a single, common platform."

According to Johnston, the direct and indirect benefits of moving a company's mortgage operations into the cloud include:

  • Elimination of all or nearly all on-site IT costs and staffing
  • Reduced IT complexity
  • Greater scalability of IT functions and data storage
  • Improved data security
  • Greater control over a company's workflow, files and customer relationships
  • Integration of all communications, including emails and phone calls, into the mortgage process
  • Removal of all geographical boundaries from a lender's hiring criteria

Attendees can learn more about VCO Airlift at Acris Technology's Mortgage VCO booth 1201 at the Mortgage Bankers Association Annual Conference and Expo in Chicago. Acris Technology will also be demonstrating VCO Desk, which delivers a Windows desktop environment to any computer, laptop, iPad or tablet PC with a high-speed Internet connection and is able to host practically any third-party or proprietary software. VCO Desk is part of Acris Technology's Mortgage VCO suite of solutions, which includes cloud-delivered virtual desktops, sophisticated loan origination and processing software, paperless document storage, digital signature technology, IP telephony, and mortgage-specific consulting and IT services.
About Acris Technology

Founded in 2005 and headquartered in Laguna Hills, California, Acris Technology is a technology provider offering custom software development and a full range of IT services and infrastructure support. Its flagship product, Mortgage VCO, is a virtual corporate office solution that provides all the necessary software and tools to run a completely paperless, cloud-based mortgage office, enabling clients to realize increased productivity, shorter loan life cycle times and reduced expenses. The virtual suite includes loan origination and processing software, paperless electronic document management (EDM), digital e-signature tools, IP telephony, virtual desktops with Microsoft Office® and Outlook®, plus software customization and development services, IT, telephony and Citrix® virtual office consulting. For more information, visit



The Mortgage Technology Daisy Chain Syndrome

August 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Paul McQuade in Cloud Mortgage Technology

mortgage technology strategyWhile at the sparsely attended Western Secondary conference, I had an unexpected takeaway. Based on the lack of foot traffic on the exposition floor, one might come to the conclusion that things other than vendor services were on the minds of attendees. No doubt the mortgage executive has a lot to fret about these days. There are significant looming issues, inside and outside our industry, which can easily preoccupy any executive. A failure to remain abreast of leading trends is risky and irresponsible, which is why strategic initiatives must be at play at all times. And today, no strategic plan is complete without a technology component. Looking back 10 years, most executives will tell you that they underestimated the importance of technological innovation both as an industry shaper and a differentiator from the competition.

A company should have a perpetual strategic technology plan in motion that is an integral part of an organization's overall strategic agenda. A plan that aims to improve efficiencies to drive down costs, while also capitalizing on innovative ways to drive business and top-line revenue, will ensure a company remains nimble in a rapidly-evolving industry.

I gleaned more industry insight, not from speaking to people on the expo floor, but from my casual conversations in the hotel lobby. I was amazed at the multitude of systems that companies are using to simply take a loan from cradle-to-grave. One professional described a collection of systems they were using within his company. One to manage loan prospecting, another for processing, then a handoff to an underwriting system, and yet another for funding, servicing and fulfillment. At many junctions, the rekeying of data created redundancies and inaccuracies. In a perfect world, a loan application progresses effortlessly, always on a forward path, yet we know that many loans suffer setbacks and need to be reworked. These setbacks can cause logistical challenges and data integrity issues, especially within a daisy-chain system whereby loans are pushed back down the chain. The inherent inefficiencies of a daisy-chained structure add time and costs to production, creating havoc for ops, sales, secondary and quite possibly QC if data integrity issues culminate into audit issues.

In conclusion, the ultimate strategic goal for any mortgage banker should be the adoption of a comprehensive loan origination and processing system that seamlessly ties and manages the core nodes of the loan life cycle: marketing, prospecting, origination, processing, underwriting, funding, interim servicing, and fulfillment. A system that can accommodate departmental staff, providing easy access to information and tools, yet have a sophisticated permissions-based rules engine, will ensure efficient throughput, positive user experience, and high data integrity. Ancillary functions like pricing, compliance testing, final loan docs, decisioning, etc. can be incorporated seamlessly into the workflow via integrated links with various service providers.



Can I Really Trust the Cloud With My Client’s Mortgage Data?

July 13th, 2011 | Posted by Paul McQuade in Cloud Mortgage Technology

When the reference to “the cloud” comes up in conversations with regards to the mortgage space, we are often asked the very understandable question; “How can the cloud possibly be safer than having my servers and data on my own premises?” Our question back is typically something along the line of… “What is your disaster recovery process for getting back up and running in the aftermath of a large “unfortunate” event?” The answer is usually some form of offsite data storage. One of the biggest advantages of the cloud is business continuity with the least disruption. Then add the layer of security and access control delivered by the rock solid Citrix interface and the benefits of the cloud start to become very evident.



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