Founded in 1999, OpenClose is a fintech provider that has developed a SaaS-based lending automation software platform. Today, the company has expanded to become an award-winning, comprehensive loan origination software suite that slashes the cost to manufacture loans by up to 40%, reduces processing and underwriting cycle times by up to 50%, and requires minimal support to install and manage. OpenClose offers a true end-to-end, omni-channel, 100% browser-based, workflow-driven platform that effectively consolidates the digital POS, LOS, PPE and BI functions via a single provider, with easy access from any browser or mobile device. Jason Regalbuto, CEO/CTO at OpenClose talked to us about what he sees as the next generation of origination technology. Here’s what he said:
Q: Describe how you first got into mortgage lending?
JASON REGALBUTO: In 1997, I was running a small luxury goods company that I joined at startup. Through my experiences there implementing systems and technology, I realized the struggles and complexities faced by most small, growing businesses, but quickly began to appreciate the enormous benefits that could be realized. My friend, JP Kelly, who at the time was running a mortgage company, spent many hours together discussing our love and excitement of tech in general, but specifically the enormous possibilities for growth and efficiencies these systems would bring to businesses and the economy. The net result of those conversations and experiences led us both to shift gears and start Beanstalk Networks. Originally a pure play ASP business delivering PC-based mortgage software on the web, Beanstalk quickly morphed into what is OpenClose today. As native web technologies matured, we wanted to help small businesses plant the magic tech beans and reach the land of the giants.
Q: How has the mortgage industry changed since you first entered the space?
JASON REGALBUTO: While much has changed, too much has stayed the same. My early days in mortgage looked like rooms full of overflowing file folders, rate sheets everywhere, fax machines spewing paper which then needed to be sneaker netted to the right place. Very cumbersome and inefficient. There was software, much of it DOS-based running on PCs, with very little networking and digital file sharing and almost no policy or audit controls. That was state of the art from the days of handwritten 1003s and carbon copies.
Today, we have so much technology and software, much of the paper process is now digitized, product and pricing engines have replaced rate sheets, and automated underwriting is business as usual. Unfortunately, the process of origination, processing, lock desk, underwriting and all the rest are still to disaggregated and siloed. There is much more to be done, but the focus today is workflow and process compression and improvement and automation through rules engines and AI.
Q: Speaking of industry trends, how as COVID-19 changed the mortgage space and what additional changes do you think will happen as a result of the pandemic?
JASON REGALBUTO: Learning to work and interact at a distance has been a challenge but it’s being met. Fortunately, most of us had already begun adjusting to our new digital lifestyle. Amazon, food and grocery delivery services, etc. have been seasoning us for many years for what we are experiencing now.
That said, applying for a mortgage to purchase a home is typically the largest single financial transaction most Americans ever experience. Trust is critical to the process and traditionally borrowers wanted to sit down with their loan officer or banker face to face. To quickly have to shift to distant and virtual was a challenge but, from what our customers tell us, our web-based solutions made it easier for our them and their borrowers to make this transition.
On the business front, OpenClose as a company was well-prepared for the changed COVID-19 foisted upon us. We became comfortable years ago with having a distributed team. Hiring the best and brightest in the mortgage industry forced us to work with people we wanted on our team wherever we found them. As such, our internal systems were designed and engineered for working in a decentralized, anywhere fashion. One of the more difficult changes for us is not being able to be on the road: collaborating with our customers, attending conferences, prospecting and hosting partner meetings, etc. We find value in interacting with our partners, prospects, customers, and competitor .Exchanging ideas, getting to know one another — in person —is important. We are making it work, but look forward getting back out there as soon as we can.
Q: Is now the right time for lenders to embark on sweeping technology changes or should they focus more on making incremental technology changes?
JASON REGALBUTO: I don’t feel that any particular time or series of events should dictate this decision. It really depends on the needs of the organization and their goals. Personally, I’m a big fan of the carpenter’s rule: measure twice, cut once. Assess your businesses needs and the assets you have and balance that against the benefits and risks associated with the changes being considered.
One thing I’m really proud of is the suite of products and solutions we created as that they support both incremental and sweeping change for our customers. The magic happens in the business analysis, implementation and ongoing training and support – all areas where the OpenClose team and products shine.
Q: As you see it, what is the true OpenClose differentiator?
JASON REGALBUTO: While our products and solutions are cutting-edge and state of the art, it’s our OpenClose team that makes the difference. Their accessibility, loyalty, dedication and experience are what differentiate us from our competition. On average, most of our team members have been with us over 10 years and we have been able to maintain very high retention and loyalty through good times and bad. We hire seasoned professionals with years of industry experience. Our company has been never merged or sold and is still being operated by the original founder team.
Q: This year OpenClose has announced major partnerships with MERS, Radian, Genworth and Access Business Technology. How have these integrations added value for lenders and are more on the way?
JASON REGALBUTO: The mortgage process requires strong multi-partner participation and relationships to function. No single vendor provides all the products and solutions required to take a borrower from Open to Close. We have enjoyed terrific growth in both new customers, services and solutions offered by carefully cultivating these relationships and working closely with them to improve cost and experience for the industry and we enjoy doing the same for them. Exchanging ideas and working together to solve challenges, for our mutual customers, is very rewarding in many ways; with the right partners. No single company in our industry has all the answers and solutions, and probably never will.
Q: You say that OpenClose has “developed a unique approach to customer loan origination software implementation.” Explain what you mean.
JASON REGALBUTO: First and foremost, we care a lot about the implementation process. We learned very early on the difficulty and risk of implementing new systems and processes in the mortgage industry. Whether the solutions needed by our customers are incremental or sweeping, we know the risk of failure exists and the best way to mitigate that risk is to measure twice and cut once. That begins with implementation. We ask lots of questions and do deep analysis to truly understand the challenges our customers are asking us to solve. We listen and think hard about their needs and make sure we are providing solutions that will not only provide benefit and lift, but will also be sustainable and scalable going forward.
Q: What’s next for OpenClose as a company?
JASON REGALBUTO: While we are proud to be the first entirely web-based LOS we never stop dreaming about what’s next. We see true native mobile as the next leg up in the mortgage process. The tech overlords laughed at and mocked Steve Jobs when he introduced the Apple iPad – and it may now be one of the most important and power pieces of technology in existence. Native mobile for OpenClose means the entire mortgage process, for a borrower or mortgage professional, will be available on their phone or tablet accessible anytime anywhere. For borrowers, that means: more real time, personalized communications and faster searching for loan or refi offers that fit their needs. For originators and operations, they gain staff access to borrower information and loan status everywhere, always. Leveraging the incredible features of mobile devices today including the emerging 5G networks, cameras for document scanning and recognition, GPS location services, digital signing and video conferencing – all this tightly coupled to our robust and mature web-based solutions will result in a faster, better, and less expensive mortgage experience.
As CEO and CTO, Jason Regalbuto is responsible for the shaping of the company’s vision and positioning, the strategic design of our internal technology resources as well as the on-going development of our products’ technology initiatives. He leads and mentors a highly capable technical team in implementing key initiatives, ensuring the utilization of current technology platforms while stringently adhering to industry specific development guidelines. Jason has extensive Information Technology experience as CEO of Osborn & Robert, Inc. and as Vice President of Stubbs & Wootton, Inc., both based in Palm Beach, Florida. At these firms, he developed the Information Technology infrastructure, eCommerce Web site, as well as systems for Point Of Sales, Purchasing, Procurement, and Inventory Management.