Constellation Mortgage Solutions (CMS) has been making waves by launching new dynamic technology and completing several acquisitions and partnerships. CMS provides industry-leading lending technology solutions through its products: Award-Winning NOVA LOS, Mortgage Builder LSS, and ReverseVision LOS. As the Gold Standard for mortgage solutions, CMS offers lenders of all sizes enterprise technology empowering Lenders on the front lines with innovative solutions designed to deliver exceptional loan quality, regulatory compliance, and drive profitability. CMS has been working for more than two decades to help mortgage professionals streamline operations and close more loans faster to increase ROI. Kelli Himebaugh, the Chief Revenue Officer and leads Sales, Marketing, Professional Services, and Vendor Relations at CMS, talked to our editors about what’s next for her and the company. Here’s what she shared:
Q: How did you first get involved with Constellation Mortgage Solutions?
KELLI HIMEBAUGH: My background at Constellation Mortgage Solutions (CMS) goes back to the beginning of 2008 when I started working for CMS, then known as Mortgage Builder Software, as an account executive. After the real estate and mortgage markets had to find a way to recover after 2007, we capitalized on that time to make Mortgage Builder a prominent loan origination system in the industry.
One of the things that gave us a great start back in those days was that our system was experienced at originating government loans. It was evident after the mortgage crash in 2007 and 2008 that most loan origination software had been built around the subprime market. Our competitors had yet to invest in tech functionality for government lending, which had been in our offering since our beginning in 1999. So, during our initial sales push from 2009 through 2012, we doubled the customer base and focused on delivering a fantastic customer service reputation. We looked after our customers after we closed the deal and completed their implementations. Then we developed a tune-up program to ensure our clients continued using the software to its maximum capability and stayed with our solution.
In 2014, the original owner of Mortgage Builder accepted an opportunity to sell the company to a publicly held tech corporation. Mortgage Builder’s value was attractive through the reputation of having a solid customer base and the tenure of employees with the company. But, most importantly, the company stood out because we were mortgage people who built the software for the residential mortgage industry. Unfortunately, the fact that we had such strong industry experience fell by the wayside when the acquiring tech corporation made a course change in both the philosophy and operationally in how the company would be run. Our tech needed updating, just like all the tech in the industry at that time, but instead of investing in our 15 years of experience, the acquiring tech corporation made a lot of promises to build something new. However, they didn’t have the experience or plan to replicate the system’s strength, or a clear understanding of industry needs. My heart broke at the change in the company’s course, and I left the company in 2016 to work for another vendor in the tech space.
In 2019 the tech corporation that purchased Mortgage Builder decided to exit the space after forfeiting its reputation, customer base, and revenues. At that point, Constellation Software learned of the opportunity to acquire Mortgage Builder and committed to a new business plan supported by a core of tenured employees and faithful customers. Constellation Software believed the original product was a robust system and recognized that Stephen Ryczek would be the leader in rebuilding the company in its first-year post-acquisition. As CMS’ new President, Stephen hit the road to visit and listen to customers while casting his vision of the first of many major initiatives and product plans to put the company back on track.
Later that year, I had the opportunity to meet Stephen, and he asked me to return to the company to rebuild a sales and marketing initiative which had been neglected for more than two years. So, in January 2020, I enthusiastically accepted. I wanted to mend my broken heart and started a plan to rebuild the revenues, reputation, and re-establish the connection of Mortgage Builder back to the industry.
Q. So you returned just before the pandemic with this monumental task ahead of you. How did you handle that as the pandemic began?
KELLI HIMEBAUGH: Well, it all happened in tandem, but there were advantages. While figuring out how to re-engage competitively in the market, it was a clean slate opportunity to launch a reinvented, virtual, and remote implementation process. While being a key necessity at the time, this continues to be a big part of our value today. We created a program to deliver a LOS implementation within 120 days from kickoff to user acceptance testing (UAT). It has been very exciting to sign new clients to our software services while delivering on the promises of product improvements and new solutions to our customers who have trusted us for many years.
Q: What’s next for Constellation Mortgage Solutions?
KELLI HIMEBAUGH: The big steps toward our future began last year in 2022. First, we started by renaming the company to Constellation Mortgage Solutions. Then, with more investments in additional mortgage products and technologies, it was time to separate our Mortgage Builder tech platforms from the company brand.
The primary driver for this decision was the imminent path for reforming our legacy LOS platform. CMS’ President, Stephen Ryczek, brought his entrepreneurial leadership and years of product and technical experience, and delivered a plan to improve our enterprise LOS in an innovative, technical, and achievable way. At the same time, while we were rebuilding the business, we invested in the right tech tools to avoid rewriting our software from the ground up. As a result, we’ve successfully transformed our 20+ year LOS, delivering it with new technology underpinnings and moving it to the web with multi-browser access. NOVA, our new LOS, provides a fantastic new user experience. The feedback has been exciting and is meeting the industry demand for a new experience by both users and borrowers.
NOVA opens the door for new solution integrations, dynamic workspaces, workflow automation, and reverse mortgage origination products that will be added in 2024. Finally, a LOS product will support all residential loan products in a single origination tech platform.
Q: You mentioned that the company was founded as a tech company for mortgage professionals by mortgage professionals. Is that still a priority for Constellation Mortgage Solutions today?
KELLI HIMEBAUGH: Absolutely, yes. Our implementation, customer support, compliance, and product development teams have mortgage experience in their resumes. We want to ensure that our employees have been in our client’s “shoes” to interact and provide the best experience possible. Our approach in everything we do is to keep the mortgage professional front and center. If our employees can make that mutual industry connection and take care of clients with focus and provide that positive experience both timely and professionally, it can save hours or even days of business disruption for clients. Having mortgage experience across our client services teams is key to our brand success.
Q: What are your feelings about the state of the mortgage industry and technology in 2023?
KELLI HIMEBAUGH: For Constellation Mortgage Solutions, I would say it’s perfect timing. Launching a transformative new LOS with significant investment at a time when we see our competitors pulling back, not investing, and raising prices to support legacy software is providing CMS the opportunity to emerge as a fintech innovator that will define new expectation standards for the industry. When we’ve seen these market pauses in the past, our 20+ years of experience have guided us to lean into these times to help lenders reassess their technology. We listen to what they need help with and offer a cost-effective software exchange that is financially consumable for lean times and provides success-based profits when volumes normalize. Sustained growth for both technology companies and lenders depends on innovation and stability.
Q. What do you feel are the most important elements that have contributed to your success as a C-suite fintech executive?
KELLI HIMEBAUGH: First is the focus on creating, building, and maintaining strong relationships and partnerships in this industry. I’ve grounded myself by making decisions based on the “right fit” factor across my work and personal life. This has been my approach and philosophy, starting with building my teams, engaging long-term business partners, and client engagements. Working with people and companies that are aligned with similar goals and visions makes for a powerful force for business success. Your synergies with business partners bring you clients that are a good fit. They know how you do business and trust you with their referral. While winning is the goal, it isn’t about selling the most but how you achieve it for long and sustainable success. I am so very fortunate to have worked with wonderful people in this industry that constantly make me better and helps me continually achieve the objectives to build a stronger business at CMS.
And second, the biggest key for me is the element of loving the job. You must have spirited passion as a leader to keep your company and teams in a winning business position every day.
Kelli Himebaugh is the Chief Revenue Officer and leads Sales, Marketing, Professional Services, and Vendor Relations at Constellation Mortgage Solutions (CMS). Kelli has been in the residential mortgage tech space for more than 20 years. She is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to driving the need for new tech in the residential mortgage space as evidenced by the launch of NOVA – CMS’ new LOS, which is a 2023 Housing Wire Tech 100 Mortgage winner. Kelli is a member of the Progress in Lending Board and a multi-year award-winning mortgage executive. For more information on CMS contact [email protected]
The Place for Lending Visionaries and Thought Leaders. We take you beyond the latest news and trends to help you grow your lending business.