Stephen Ryczek drives product and technology initiatives as President at Constellation Mortgage Solutions (CMS). The company has made headlines with the acquisitions of ReverseVision and Axacore and the release of its new LOS called NOVA. CMS is a leader in the mortgage technology space and is poised to continue to make advancements. We asked Stephen about his career and what’s next for CMS. Here’s what he said:
Q: What got you into technology?
STEPHEN RYCZEK: Well, if I’m being very transparent, money. I went to college a couple of times and got a degree in hotel restaurant management and a master’s degree in international business. Back in the 90s, even with those degrees, I still couldn’t find jobs that would pay my rent and my loans and give me a good perspective for the future.
Often, I’d go to local state-run job facilities to search for a job. I always came across computer jobs that were paying twice as much money as anything else out there at the time. So, I began to explore tech positions for potential career opportunities. I used computers, played video games, and had varied interests, but the financial opportunity is what drew me to technology.
So, I went back to school, secured another degree in Computer Science, and got that first opportunity. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Q: Describe your mortgage industry journey. How did you first get involved in the mortgage space?
STEPHEN RYCZEK: That’s kind of a funny story. I started in software working for companies like IBM. I moved into the dot-com space back in the late 90s. I obtained a lot of experience in various industries, including healthcare, travel and tourism, and data analytics.
I had a contract in healthcare that ended in 2001, and I needed to find a job. I looked at what was available and came across a project management job working for a small loan origination software provider. I remember talking to my wife, and she pointed out I had no experience in the industry. I told her it couldn’t be that hard. We bought a house, and you just sign a few papers. It wasn’t that difficult.
I got that opportunity and realized quickly how challenging and complex this industry really was. There were many variables and different pieces of software that needed to come together and were expected to work cohesively to drive the entire process. So, fast forward, and I’ve now been in the industry for 20 years. I don’t think I ever anticipated that because when I started, it was all about doing things out of necessity to provide for my family.
That first job was the start. I had various jobs thereafter that presented many lessons along the way. I’ve done almost every technology job there is in the loan origination and servicing space. I have always been an agent for change and transparency, and that didn’t necessarily play well with my peers. I’m not a political player, but I place a lot of stock in trust, and by that, I mean that trust goes both ways. I want to trust my leaders, and I want my team and leaders to trust in me and my vision. Pushing for change and transparency sometimes led people to the incorrect assumption that I was not always a team player, and at times, I felt overlooked for executive positions, which put a bit of a chip on my shoulder. That “chip” is a motivating force for me, it doesn’t only drive me to prove people wrong, but instead to innovate and create change at CMS and within the industry, and it keeps me from becoming complacent.
In 2017, I accepted a position at Mortgage Builder Software. In 2019, when Mortgage Builder was acquired by Constellation Mortgage Solutions (CMS), I became President. I wanted to take the lessons I learned throughout my career and put them into practice in my CMS leadership role. I selected a team of people that wanted to help rebuild the company and trusted in my process.
Today, I run three companies, and it’s important for me to be very transparent with my teams. I interact with everyone at a team level to ensure they clearly understand our product strategy, mission, purpose, and financials. I strive to ensure our employees feel valued and are an important part of the team that is driving the business forward.
Q: How has the mortgage industry changed since you first started out?
STEPHEN RYCZEK: Overall, I think there have been some productive advancements on the consumer side, with some of the point-of-sale (POS) providers bringing new technology to the space. I also believe there have been improvements in areas such as reporting and analytics. Outside of that, I think the industry has stayed somewhat stagnant for the last 20 years. A lot of the platforms that existed back in those days are still mainstream platforms that exist today with some minor touch-ups. I fully understand that it’s because of how hard it is to build these platforms from scratch, but that doesn’t mean that we as an industry, should not be trying to solve many of the operational challenges facing our clients.
I don’t see industry leaders trying to think outside the box by looking at other industries to see how they improve efficiency and offer better client and consumer experiences. These are things that I make sure my team thinks about. I want us to look outside of the mortgage industry instead of only at our competitors. I want to evaluate the opportunities and benefits of doing things differently.
Also, there hasn’t been enough real investment into this industry or acceptance of different ways of thinking to drive it to a better place. In my opinion, it still takes too long, and it’s too expensive to close a loan.
Q: Based on what you just said, what do you think needs to happen to move the industry forward?
STEPHEN RYCZEK: Investment in the industry is a huge component but not only from a financial perspective. We need to bring in new ideas, new people, and new thought processes from outside of the industry. The mortgage industry is a place where people tend to stay long term and, thus, innovation suffers. A change of perspective can make all the difference in how you think about your products and do things differently.
Q: CMS states it is setting the Gold Standard in mortgage lending technology. What does that mean to you?
STEPHEN RYCZEK: Trying to think and act differently instead of playing follow the leader. We are a leader in our own right by being a different type of service provider. We have a unique approach to how we package our software offering as a true enterprise solution in a manner that makes it easy for our clients to digest. We combine our years of mortgage and LOS experience with employing thought leaders from other industries to support our lenders and their end users. We partner closely to support their business not only at a particular time but also focus on keeping our offering nimble for any new business opportunities that may come their way.
As we continue to grow the business, the most important thing to me, and where we set that gold standard, is the very close relationships we have with our clients that separate us from many other tech vendors. We listen to our clients regularly and innovate to meet those needs.
Q: You introduced NOVA at the end of 2022, how is NOVA the future of loan origination and what sets it apart from other LOS tech?
STEPHEN RYCZEK: NOVA is built on brand new web-based technology, it’s multi-browser, but NOVA is also multi-device, and that starts to separate us from our competition.
We have put a lot of thought into developing and re-imagining our LOS. For example, how do we want workflow to function, and how do we want to incorporate automation within the system? The communications features of NOVA are cutting-edge. However, they are all ideas and thought processes that didn’t resonate from within the industry. We looked at other industries to see how they do things in the best possible way.
These improvements provide a much better product experience and create efficiencies to drive the loan origination process much faster with a lower operational cost.
Q: What advances can we expect from CMS going forward? What’s next for the company?
STEPHEN RYCZEK: We are going to continue to grow our portfolio of offerings through acquisitions, preferred partnerships, and financial investments in our current technologies. As you may know, we started with a single company, Mortgage Builder, and then acquired ReverseVision and Axacore.
ReverseVision is the perfect example of where we are looking to invest. After the acquisition, I quickly realized the platform needed significant business and technology improvements. I spent time talking with our clients and identified that many of our clients also spent a lot of years in the traditional forward lending space. I decided that incorporating reverse origination into a single platform with forward origination made the most sense. That is the next phase of NOVA, which will release in Q2 2024.
Not only do we feel that this is a major operational improvement that our lender partners will be able to take advantage of, but we also realize this industry has been disregarded. Even though reverse mortgages are a niche market, there is a big outlying opportunity for a single platform LOS. Not many people are aware there is approximately $11 trillion in equity being held by persons 62+. This segment of the population can’t apply for certain loans leaving them with equity in their homes that can’t traditionally be used. Our single platform LOS is beneficial to our lenders as well as helping their consumers secure their financial future.
This is just a small example of our continued efforts to drive this industry forward.
Q: What is your personal goal as President of CMS?
STEPHEN RYCZEK: Building an outstanding reputation for Constellation Mortgage Solutions. As we go down this innovative path with NOVA, I want our prospects, current clients, and vendors to think of CMS as an outstanding partner. I want them to know we listen and react proactively.
I want to leave a legacy where Constellation Mortgage Solutions is a scalable future-proof group of companies that has the right leadership, people, products, and a great reputation. My vision is that CMS continues to thrive long past my leadership.
As a charismatic executive in mortgage lending technology, Stephen Ryczek drives product and technology initiatives at Constellation Mortgage Solutions (CMS). As President since 2019, he is successfully positioning the company as a leading digital enterprise loan origination and servicing technology for the residential mortgage industry. Stephen also plays a key role with new acquisitions that continues to build Constellation’s fintech footprint in the mortgage industry. Under his leadership, he oversees multiple companies and drives cross-functional growth.
Stephen has a tenured background in information technology at Fortune 500 companies and smaller FinTechs. He has early-career technology experience in project management and product development and has a proven tech record of 27 years. In the last 20 years, he has focused his career on building software enterprise solutions for commercial and consumer origination and servicing and auto origination and leasing. Stephen’s background demonstrates his strong understanding of product development, platform infrastructure, and the benefits of cloud services that bring dynamic product strategy to CMS and Constellation Software.
With a multitude of experience evolving solutions into new technology and always figuring out “a better way,” Stephen continues to take CMS to the next level and drive new technology to the mortgage industry.
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