2013 Tech All-Stars: here are this year's winners of Mortgage Banking's annual award for people making a difference in mortgage technology.

Author:Hewitt, Janet Reilley

The mortgage industry could use some heroes these days and the professionals behind the industry's technology are rising to the occasion. In these uniquely challenging times, the industry faces an intersection of demands that only technology has any hope of solving. Admit it--you'd be lost with out it--technology is your friend. * That's why once again this year Mortgage Banking is taking a moment to recognize the often-unsung heroes that with the help of technology make our jobs easier, keep the regulators smiling and, over the long term, are building a better industry. * So, listen up--it's time to meet Mortgage Banking's 2013 Tech All-Stars. * Since 2002, Mortgage Banking has singled out those making a difference in the industry's technology sector. This annual recognition is not about big-budget, brand-name tech companies or well-oiled PR campaigns or fancy cocktail receptions where you have to buy a table to play. It's just about people who are slowly but surely making a difference. * So this year Mortgage Banking has named seven standout individuals who are doing something that deserves industry recognition. This is our class of 2013 Tech All-Stars.

A motley crew

This group is about as different as it can possibly be. Their contributions range across the board. But it all comes down to helping borrowers, lenders, investors and regulators work together better to forge a better marketplace. Here's a brief rundown of what these folks managed to accomplish.

There's an innovator who spent five years building the nation's largest standardized single-family home-rental data warehouse 'Walter Charnoff). His contribution is helping to facilitate the huge wave of private investment in real estate-owned (REO) and foreclosed houses that has sped up the turnaround in home prices.

Three industry tech players devoted countless volunteer hours with MISMO[R] workgroups to develop and maintain a standard list of all mortgage documents and what they contain. This ensures that when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) requires new disclosure documents for borrowers, it draws from these standard document definitions so they can be used for both eMortgages and paper loan documents (Karen Grimes, Jill Leach and John Liston). With their collective efforts, the government-mandated borrower disclosure documents won't slow the adoption of eMortgages going forward.

Another veteran industry technologist (Linda Haran) brought to market an interactive, Web-based, on-demand query, analysis and reporting tool that delivers customized consumer credit data that will help guide better-informed strategic decisions, such as where to open a new branch, where/when to tighten underwriting and where to offer a new loan program. The granularity of this tool is very cool.

Then there's an entrepreneur who founded a company and patented a platform that allows borrowers to do a rate-reset refinance by themselves with the click of a mouse (Keith Kelly). It's a feature that can be added to existing loans in servicing portfolios as well as new originations. For those borrowers who are feeling the pinch from tight finances and could benefit greatly from a refi but just don't have the closing costs--here's your answer. This could materially reduce delinquencies down the road. (Read the feature article in this issue called "Disruptive Innovation" for more details.)

Finally, we salute a policy person (Chris Robb) with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) for playing a lead role in training multi-state exam teams to use technology for examinations. The CSBS's efforts have helped make examinations less invasive, shorter and cheaper through the limited-scope electronic exam.

With a wave of new regulations in the next year, Robb has helped the MISMO workgroup in developing the requirements for a unique loan identifier that understands the legal and technical implications of the rulings.



Walter (Wally) Charnoff has spent 12 years working in and around mortgage technology. He came up with some early applications of technology for financial service providers during the days of CD-ROM and dial-up Internet. But his latest company--RentRange, launched in 2008--is what this current recognition is all about.

Charnoff saw there was a lack of property-specific, rental-price data for single-family rental properties. So, as the foreclosure crisis started to unfold and the idea of buying real estate-owned homes and renting them emerged as an answer to the growing inventory problem, investors faced a lack of critical information. For investors seeking to buy single-family homes and rent them for a period of time, they had to rely on the opinions of real estate agents and property managers as to what they might rent for--a critical component of the purchase decision.


To address this problem, Charnoff set about building the first reliable address-level rental automated valuation model (AVM) for single-family homes.

It took him five years to develop the single-family rental-data warehouse. Now that RentRange has four operating years under its belt, the company is experiencing phenomenal growth.

So what makes this innovative entrepreneur tick? And was he always interested in technology?

He says back in high school he wasn't really a "techie" guy, but he was definitely "inventive and resourceful." He actually wanted to become a marine biologist when he was in high school. But he ended up taking to the skies rather than the water.

Prior to getting his degree, Charnoff left Montclair State University in New Jersey, where he was majoring in business management...

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