2003 mortgage IT all-stars: this year's class of industry IT superstars is a varied bunch. Veterans and industry newcomers alike have led the way in bringing technology innovations to the mortgage business.

Author:McWilliams, Charlyne H.
Position:Cover Report: Technology
 
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You see these people at conferences. They are the moderators, panel members and speakers sharing insights on some of the mortgage industry's latest technology trends. But what do you really know about them? How did they get into the mortgage industry in the first place? What makes them tick? * The backgrounds of this year's mortgage information technology (IT) all-stars are as diverse as the technologies with which they work. Although their backgrounds range from former seminary student to former precious-metals purchaser, all have been able to muster their wide-ranging skills to become successful in the ever-changing and competitive mortgage technology industry.

GEORGE BEIER, 39

George Beier, president and co-owner of Loansoft Inc., Berkeley, California, attributes much of his knowledge to failure.

It was during his tenure at what was then Continental Savings, San Francisco, that Beier learned the ins and outs of the banking industry. "There is nothing like working for a failing company," he says. While other people at the savings and loan got laid off during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Beier was given more responsibility and became vice president of management information systems.

In this role, Beier was charged with finding a software application that would scrub the institution's loans to make sure they were salable. He couldn't find one, so he created a spreadsheet program and required the loan originators to use it to close a loan. After developing the spreadsheet, Beier picked up a book and taught himself to write code. When Continental finally closed, the owner sold Beier the code he had developed. He spent 1993 refining the code, and sold it to another savings and loan in 1994.

As the business grew, Beier says he learned two keys to being successful. First, "you have to focus on making customers happy," and he attributes success at that to listening to what clients want. He explains that his company has never had an installation not work, and he attributes that to listening to what the customer wants and then providing it.

The second key is attracting and "hiring good people and letting them do their thing"--and retaining those people in your company.

Although it's not uncommon for Beier to "pull the laptop from under the bed and work on code all day" on weekends, he's also active in local politics and serves on several boards, including the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board and the Peoples Park Commission.

CHUCK ELGIN, 47

If you don't find Chuck Elgin, executive vice president and chief information officer, within CitiGroup Inc., St. Louis, working to integrate CitiGroup Real Estate Lending Group's systems, you'll likely find him following Ohio State football.

A devoted fan, Elgin is a graduate of Ohio State, where he earned a degree in industrial and systems engineering. Following graduation, he went to work for the systems integrations division of Andersen Consulting. After spending 13 years working on many financial systems in the company's systems integration practice, Elgin says, "It was time for a change."

Elgin then joined Chemical Residential Mortgage under the leadership of Steve Rotella, who "wanted a new tech guy to put in a new system" that would allow the company to grow. During his eight years with the company, Elgin became known for his ability to integrate systems that were acquired in mergers and acquisitions and scale them to size.

So when he joined CitiGroup in March 2000, he took to heart the task of merging multiple origination and servicing systems. In fact, he's been able to help streamline the number of origination systems from 13 to three, and plans to merge the six servicing systems into one.

In addition to Buckeye football, Elgin says he enjoys managing a business and plans to stay engaged in the industry for quite some time. Besides, he says, "I'm not the type of guy to go sit on the beach."

GLENN FORD, 44

It was the desire to be an entrepreneur that steered Glenn Ford, co-founder of AllRegs Inc., Eagan, Minnesota, into the mortgage industry. AllRegs, an online publisher of reference information, regulatory and legal requirements, and forms for the mortgage industry, has outlasted half a dozen competitors.

Ford, who started the company in 1988 with his then-wife Julie Sohns, knew he wanted to be in sales of some kind because he had a knack for it. After starting his career as the director of membership at the St. Paul Athletic Club (where he'd been janitor, busboy and bartender), Ford sold contract printing for two years. Sohns, who was in the mortgage banking business, ran an idea by Ford to provide lenders with monthly updates on federal regulatory guidelines. The couple called 20 lenders in the Minneapolis--St. Paul area to gauge their interest in the concept--all said they would buy such a system.

Ford and Sohns purchased a computer and taught themselves how to write code. Their company has survived while competitors have come and gone, Ford says. "It's the satisfaction of success that's kept me in the business," he says. "I've grown to really like the mortgage industry, and the majority of my friends are in the industry too."

Ford, whose title of chief marketing officer puts him in charge of sales, marketing, customer service, product development and developing business alliances, says he likes his job. He adds that the company's 20 other employees provide the expertise and manpower to "do what I'm not good at or whatever I don't like doing," he says.

Ford's other passions include domestic and foreign travel as well as spending time with his 9-year-old grandson.

DOUG GALLAGHER, 53

Doug Gallagher, co-founder and president of Gallagher Financial Systems Inc., Coral Gables, Florida, studied for the priesthood before founding the company that bears his name. His time in the seminary came well before starting work in the mortgage industry some 31 years ago. His belief in giving back and doing the right thing is what he credits for his...

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