Since taking the reins at a small Ohio originator 2 years ago, the executives at Smartfi Home Loans have spent the past 26 months building a high quality, experienced team and focusing their sights on growing the reverse mortgage market and expanding home equity use in retirement.
With a high level of expertise in a niche area of the mortgage market, the Smartfi® team was preparing the organization to become a leader in the reverse mortgage industry.
“In the wholesale reverse space, we’re one of dozens of lenders, not hundreds,” said Bill Berg, Smartfi’s Finance, Technology, and Servicing Leader. “We aim to be a leading lender in the space by investing in our people and technology to build a best-in-class wholesale platform for a smooth reverse mortgage origination process.”
While partner-facing solutions are high on Smartfi’s list of tools to innovate, develop, and build, the company also found itself lacking in the back-office, due to the homegrown accounting system they inherited.
“The system was very basic and had extremely limited functionality,” said Berg. “We immediately recognized it wasn’t sufficient, it wasn’t modern, and it didn’t have any functions that a basic accounting system would have.”
Overall, Berg and the other members of the Smartfi executive team were generally concerned about the lack of versatility in their existing platform.
“There were many tasks that we couldn’t do before [on our previous system],” recalled Berg. “Particularly around accruals – the lease accounting and broker management – just basic tasks that we weren’t able to do because the system didn’t allow it.”
The system’s long list of issues, paired with Smartfi’s goal of streamlining as much as possible and keeping costs low, made it clear to Smartfi that the team needed to make the jump to a system that could not only support the basic needs of the company, but also give them the tools and access to information they needed to be able to expand in the future.
Loan Vision was a name Smartfi was familiar with, as the company had prior knowledge of both Loan Vision and another industry specific accounting solution. When faced with the decision between the two, it was the opinion of a very reliable source and the immense drill down capabilities Loan Vision provides that really sold the team.
“Obviously, for the business we’re in, the fact that you can attribute a loan number with a series of fields that describe the loan to any journal entry is by far the most important part of the system,” said Berg. “I mean, by broker name, by account executive, different fee categories, closing date, funding date, commission calculations, broker expense, all the vendor expenses, etcetera. Having a loan number as the thing you can tie everything back to gives you enormous ability to analyze the profitability of a loan.”
Loan Vision’s implementation process was another factor that impressed the Smartfi team.
“It was well planned, and [the Loan Vision team] was there for us in a way that I’ve often not seen vendors there,” recalled Berg. “There was a good plan. The team was diligent and kept us on track. And teams and processes like that are the difference between success and failure. When we were done training, we were done training, we were ready to take the reins.”
It didn’t take long for the Smartfi team to realize just how automated their day-to-day tasks could be after their Loan Vision implementation was complete.
“You know, the ability to load things in bulk has been a game changer,” said Berg. “It offers scalability. I’m going to do the same 12 accruals every month, regardless of size. It doesn’t matter if the accrual is 10 lines long or 1,000. Now, I can automatically load in 70 or 80 lines a month in the time it would have taken me to load 5 in by hand.”
Along with automating many of their processes, Loan Vision has given Smartfi the ability to analyze their data at a deeper level and therefore make more informed decisions.
“[With Loan Vision], there is this wealth of information at your fingertips,” said Berg. “To understand the ins and outs at the loan level, there’s a tremendous amount of analytical power there. I’m not sure how you would be able to successfully understand your business without it.”
Today, the Smartfi team is excited about their future with Loan Vision and can’t wait to see what other areas of the business their new mortgage accounting system will help automate down the road.
“This has truly been a positive experience,” boasts Berg. “If you’re a company who originates mortgage loans, you need a system like this. The people have been so responsive. The system has a good look and feel and is easy to navigate. It’s above my expectations. It’s an exceptional product with a great company to support it.”