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Zulu Assets Leads Investment in Next-Generation Digital Mortgage Technologies

RealKey, an innovator in digital mortgage technologies that enable bank and non-bank mortgage lenders and brokers to streamline the mortgage loan processing experience, today announced that it closed $3.4 million in seed funding, led by Zulu Assets. Additional investors included 2Enable Partners, Second Century Ventures (NAR-National Association of Realtors investment arm), Sandalphon Capital, Little Green Bamboo Capital, and numerous notable angel groups.

The seed funding was oversubscribed by $400K, further solidifying RealKey’s position in the digital mortgage space. The infusion of capital will enable RealKey to accelerate the launch of new products, broaden its services, and aggressively pursue new market opportunities.

“We are excited to support RealKey’s transformation of loan processing,” said Blake Picquet of Zulu Assets. “Who hasn’t had a bad experience in the lending process? RealKey is poised to dominate this space once people realize the time savings and efficiencies that can be gained by all parties.”

Over the past year, RealKey has experienced rapid growth, solidifying partnerships with Flagstar Bank, one of the largest residential mortgage servicers and banks in the United States. In addition, the company now has nearly 100 lenders and 3,500 loan programs built into its AI, as well as hundreds of brokerages utilizing RealKey’s digital mortgage platform.

“We are excited to partner with our investors, whose investment in our company further validates RealKey’s positive momentum in the mortgage space,” said Christopher Hussain, CEO, RealKey. “We are growing rapidly as we move closer to our vision of a document-centric and unified approach to finance and fintech. We look forward to progressing to the next phase of AI to automate processing and underwriting further, improving communications, implementing our own OCR, and integrating with more lenders’ LOSs, POSs, and other ecosystem partners. We could not have accomplished what we have without a great team and the support of our investors.”

Christopher Hussain, CEO and Founder

I am excited for the kick off of our Fireside Chat series, where you get to know the people behind the scenes of RealKey. Many of you already know me, Christopher Hussain. I have shared with you my personal experiences as the top mortgage loan originator (MLO) in the country for back-to-back years, and how the mortgage industry’s many inefficiencies led me to create RealKey.

Without question, the success of RealKey is because of team effort, and I am fortunate to work with some of the industry’s leading talent, like my esteemed colleague Rob Reid, Head of Sales Operations and Strategic Partnerships. Rob has over 30 years business development experience in software, specifically in the real estate and mortgage industry. After working for some of the country’s largest organizations, he decided to join a startup – RealKey. Find out what Rob’s most memorable professional achievements are, lessons learned, why he left the corporate world, and how he believes RealKey is transforming the mortgage industry. 

We’re rare beer fans/collectors here at RealKey, so open a nice beer, join us, and get to know the people behind the scenes.

This article, by RealKey CEO Christopher Hussain, appears in the April 2021 issue of MReportavailable here, and on their website here.

We’ve all been talking for months about the housing bubble we’re in. There has been a record number of home sales and refinances due to both unprecedented low interest rates and the ongoing movement of individuals and families leaving metropolitan areas for more affordable suburbs. At the same time, the global pandemic has taken a significant toll on millions of people who have either lost their job or had their income reduced.  

While home sales have been soaring in many parts of the country, the number of homeowners behind on their mortgage has doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. According to the CFPB6% of mortgages were delinquent in December 2020, up from 3% in March 2020. Of these, 2.1 million borrowers were more than three months behind on payment, an increase of over 250% since March 2020. Combined, these households are estimated to owe almost $90 billion in deferred principal, interest, taxes, and insurance payments. 

Additionally, one in five renters is behind on rent. As a result, both President Biden and the FHFA have extended moratoriums on single-family foreclosures and real estate-owned (REO) evictions through the end of June. The FHFA has also stated that people who have mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac can apply for a three-month extension of COVID-19 forbearance. This means borrowers can potentially be in forbearance for up to 18 months.  

While these actions can certainly help many homeowners and renters, there are legal challenges underway to determine whether these moratoriums are constitutional, and within the federal government’s power to enforce. Even if they do remain in place, there are restrictions, and not everyone who needs help will qualify. Still, others may find the terms and financial assistance not worth their time and may opt to bypass these options altogether. Furthermore, even with the extensions granted, June is just around the corner. Yes, the U.S. economy is gradually rebounding, but millions of Americans are still out of work and are struggling to make ends meet. It won’t be long before millions of homeowners, as well as renters, will be expected to resume their monthly housing payments, and may also find themselves owing a lot of money in back payments. Because of this, I unfortunately believe that we will soon begin to see a flood of foreclosures hit the market.  

Preparing for the Flood 

Nobody wants to see renters evicted or homeowners going into foreclosure. However, the truth is that property owners and banks can’t afford to keep granting deferrals and taking the hit on their bottom lines. At some point, they will stop being flexible. At the same time, banks want to work with people as much as they can and avoid taking measures that will erode their customers’ credit. Logically, when an individual’s credit is good, banks can offer them more services. Overall, more consumers having strong credit is good for the economyand good for lending institutions. So, while banks and lenders are trying to preserve their financial positions, they also want to help their borrowers. In order to accomplish both goals, they are likely going to start enforcing stricter requirements for documentation and proof of hardship. 

As those who are still affected by the pandemic attempt to qualify for refinancing into new loans with lower monthly payments or take cash out from their equity to make ends meet, they may not all be eligible. Lenders and processors will be flooded with paperwork as they try to accommodate customers’ needs for refinancing or other potential modifications should a refinance not be approvable. Imagine having to capture and review all of the required documents, identify what additional paperwork is needed, and communicate with and request information from thousands of individuals, their employers, creditors, and financial institutions.   

The situation is reminiscent of the housing crisis of 2008-2012, when there were tremendous volumes of loan modifications and people were hiring attorneys and specially licensed mortgage loan originators (MLOs) to document and argue their hardships. The entire process often took months to complete, with significant backandforth between lenders, borrowers, and anyone they hired to represent them. This extensive backandforth further exacerbated the hardships people were already trying to avoid and/or relieve by working with their lenders. Similarly, with the tsunami that is coming, consumers and lenders can’t afford to have these processes take months. They need it to be handled properly the first time around. In essence, what the mortgage industry needs are greater efficiencies, more automation of the document collection and review process, and streamlined methods of communication between all parties involved. 

Automated Digital Mortgage Processing Can Help 

Efforts to streamline mortgage processing through technology already provide some relief from the burdensome amount of paperwork involved in the mortgage lending process. However, existing systems have gaps and limitationsand with the onslaught at our gates, loan originators, underwriters, and lenders will still need greater efficiencies through automated document collection and review. While Point of Sale (POS) systems require tax returns and bank statements as initial documentation for submitting to underwriting, they lack the intelligence and foresight to ask for the needed letters of explanation or supporting documentation. Additionally, Loan Origination Systems (LOS) have numerous integrations and can capture data from submitted documents and other sources, but they don’t automatically trigger the request for specific documents as needed or help get the items from all the parties involved. 

Handinhand with the document collection process is communicationanother area where significant improvements can be made. Current systems focus on communicating with the lender and consumer only. But to streamline the process, it’s important to bring all parties involved into a single place where everyone can communicate, and to have a single point of truth for the transaction and documents involved. Any party in the process should be able to get immediate feedback without having to wait for overwhelmed originators, processors, and underwriters to review items (each of which has differing levels of experience).   

Without automation to facilitate document gathering, intelligence to detect what’s missing, and a portal for centralized communication among all parties, one missing form or piece of data can stop the entire process. This creates added delays and frustration in an already cumbersome process. Ultimately, what’s needed is a system that focuses on the documents rather than the application, because the application is where most of the misinformation and inefficiencies start.  

Find out the three ways that technology can significantly streamline mortgage loan processing to help MLOs effectively meet the increasing demands for loan modifications, while also improving the customer experience in the full article, available in the April 2021 issue of MReport, here, and on their website here.

Christopher Hussain, CEO and Founder

Home sales are at record highs across the country, and that means for those in the mortgage industry, having the right technology is more important than ever. By being an early adopter to cutting-edge solutions, you can gain an upper hand by closing faster, providing a better experience for your customers, and increasing client acquisitions so that you can grow your business. RealKey is helping mortgage loan originators (MLOs) do just that with the Founders Club, an exclusive group of users who learned about and joined RealKey before all others.

We know that understanding and addressing what our customers want, need, and expect is the core to success for you and for us. As a Founders Club member, we’ll give you extra time and attention to help maximize your productivity by minimizing wasted time and expense beyond the RealKey platform. That means you will have exclusive access to me, Christopher Hussain, and RealKey’s leadership team. I will share with you my insights, and tips and tricks so that you can do more with less effort. I will help you nurture your business growth, and show you how to seamlessly interact with everyone involved in the mortgage process so that it’s an enjoyable experience for you and your customers.

Founders Club exclusive access includes:

  • Christopher, CEO and Founder of RealKey, will make himself available for one-on-one discussions with branch offices. Based upon availability, Christopher will also provide single MLOs with extra time and support to help them improve performance and productivity. 
  • RealKey’s leadership team will host bi-weekly user group meetings to share ideas and learn what features are most important to their business.

Offices and MLOs who would like to participate must sign up for RealKey by May 12th.

When signing up, there is no cost or obligation required of you. You will have early access for users of your choice, plus 14 full days beyond May 12th to continue trialing the product before any charges are made.

With the Founders Club, we are rewarding our most loyal users by providing increased access to the leadership team, because your success is our success. As time progresses, additional exclusive perks will be provided to our most loyal users, including designation of your status on our platform.

With the RealKey Digital Mortgage Platform, we are changing how the mortgage industry operates, shortening the loan processing cycle by up to 50%. We are setting a new standard for more efficient mortgage processing by automating documentation collection and review by underwriters and processors, and streamlining communications through a centralized chat for all collaborators in the mortgage process.

Want to learn more about the Founders Club, and how you can join now to gain exclusive and early access?  Visit here.

RealKey, an innovative provider of digital mortgage technology, today announced the strategic appointment of Rob Reid, who joins the company as Head of Sales Operations and Strategic Partnerships. In this role, Reid will lead the company’s sales and business development efforts, helping build the RealKey brand within the mortgage industry and beyond. 

“I am thrilled to have Rob join RealKey’s leadership team. He has a proven track record of implementing forward-thinking strategies and successfully building brand awareness that results in significant growth,” said Christopher Hussain, Founder and CEO of RealKey. “Choosing to be part of our transformational efforts is validation of the market need for the digital platform we are delivering and the potential for RealKey to shake up the status quo. He joins a team of leaders from many industries who are helping us make our mark in the industry.”

Before joining RealKey, Reid held leadership positions that span a number of notable organizations, including zipLogix, Equifax and Threewide/ListHub. He brings over three decades of business development experience in the software industry, and as RealKey’s Head of Sales Operations and Strategic Partnerships, he oversees the strategic growth and expansion of RealKey.

Reid joins an elite group of leaders on the RealKey executive team, who bring mortgages and lending, real estate sales, software design and development, and brand marketing experience from companies like TurboTax, Intuit, Oracle, ZipLogix, and Esurance/AllState. Founder and CEO Hussain was also the top mortgage originator in the U.S. for two consecutive years prior to starting RealKey.

“Joining RealKey is an opportunity to get in on the ground-floor of a company that will bring much-needed change to the mortgage industry,” said Reid. “We are digitally transforming the mortgage industry with an innovative platform that enables intelligent document collection and centralized communications for all parties involved, bringing significant improvements to how mortgages are processed and underwritten. I’m excited to be building this company and contributing to our future success.”

“Having Rob on-board will be key to our efforts to transform the lending process and deliver cutting-edge technology solutions that improve the experience for everyone involved,” said Alan Tifford, Head of Experience Design Strategy for RealKey. “We are on the threshold of huge growth as we build the RealKey brand and deliver best-in-class products and experiences to our customers, and Rob’s contributions to our efforts will be invaluable.”

Christopher Hussain, CEO and Founder

Rob Reid, Head of Sales and Strategic Partnerships

 

We are excited to announce that RealKey has graduated from the Flagstar Mortgage Tech Accelerator, the first and only U.S. accelerator dedicated to mortgage technology. The accelerator was an intensive three-month virtual program designed by Flagstar Bank, the sixth largest mortgage lender in the country. We were selected to participate because we have a clear understanding of the industry, and are addressing a pain point for Flagstar, their broker channel, and the rest of the industry.

During the accelerator, RealKey was in good company with fellow participants Stavvy and Home Lending Pal. In fact, each of our organizations was recognized for creating technology that will disrupt and transform all areas of the mortgage business — from mortgage origination, processing, marketing, and servicing to compliance, sales, underwriting, credit, and quality assessment. 

On graduation day, we were joined by approximately 70 Flagstar mentors, including members of the C-Suite and other top executives. The day’s events provided an informative platform to demonstrate how companies can leverage the latest technology to improve efficiencies and provide tech-enabled products to their customers.

Without a doubt, the accelerator gave us an opportunity to forge new relationships that will enable us to bring about transformative changes to the mortgage industry and improve the customer experience. However, as many in the mortgage and banking industries know, for potential vendors, there’s a heavy lift to formalize a relationship. 

For example, while a bank may want to do business with a vendor, establishing that partnership is not always an option for the bank. Why? There are several reasons, with bank regulations being one of the key holding points, as well as the expense and time that go into vendor management and certification. While mortgage lending companies like Quicken Loans and United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM), and some of the the bigger banks like Chase and Wells Fargo, have more resources to adapt to an increasingly tech-dominated environment, growing banks like Flagstar are increasingly leveraging tech accelerator programs to find those companies — like RealKey — that can solve their problems. And at the end of the day, this is a beneficial situation for everyone. 

At RealKey, we are working to prioritize Flagstar’s needs because they took the time and initiative through this accelerator to get to know us, and make working together a win-win. Being first, they get priority. Their showing us behind the scenes is definitely a factor now in prioritizing features and programming of their loan programs, overlays, and forms associated with the bank. We know their pain points, and can address their needs through features built for the TPOs (Third Party Originators) they work with. Eventually, we can integrate directly. For Flagstar, they have an early first mover advantage over banks and lenders that connect later and cannot be prioritized the same.

Through the accelerator, we have come to realize that there is a great advantage to aligning ourselves with small to mid-sized banks. For instance, with a bank like Flagstar, the sixth largest mortgage lender in the US, they have extremely stringent – even brutal –  requirements to become a vendor. The accelerator program identified that, as well as great uses for future capital, which will benefit RealKey, Flagstar, and the industry as a whole. The advantage for us is that we can work with Flagstar early to have everything in place in advance, shortening the time to implement. And for Flagstar, they get the advantage of identifying before their competitors leading-edge technology that will help them to compete and thrive.

The Flagstar Mortgage Tech Accelerator validated that we bring specific value to companies like Flagstar, their broker partners, and the rest of the industry, as evidenced by the below feedback and praise we received from Flagstar’s leadership: 

  • As a former top mortgage loan originator; Christopher and his team know firsthand the pain points from the production side and solutions to solve with technology, not the other way around.
  • While others in the space are focusing on the top of the funnel, RealKey is solving the problems that occur once everything goes through the funnel — from the multiple parties that create complexities in the mortgage process to inefficient systems for data collection, validation, and communication.
  • RealKey is a cloud-based, paperless solution that streamlines the processing experience by automating document collection, verification, and review, and keeps all parties seamlessly connected through a centralized chat, replacing disconnected communication tools like email, text and phone.

Our graduation from the Flagstar Mortgage Tech Accelerator reinforced the importance of innovating and discovering those areas of great opportunity. For us, that means collaborating with companies that have a similar mindset, and leveraging technology to solve for current and emerging challenges.

With the RealKey Digital Mortgage Platform, we are changing how the mortgage industry operates, shortening the loan processing cycle by up to 50%. We are setting a new standard for more efficient mortgage processing by automating documentation collection and review by underwriters and processors, and streamlining communications through a centralized chat for all collaborators in the mortgage process.

Want to learn more about RealKey? Click here to schedule a demo. 

Christopher Hussain, CEO and Founder

RealKey is honored to announce that we won second place at Startup Grind’s inaugural Quickfire Demo Day, an exclusive, invite-only pitch competition that was part of Startup Grind’s virtual Global Conference . RealKey was invited because of our experienced leadership team, and our innovative technology that demonstrates a clear product development and execution roadmap.

RealKey was one of the top 10 finalists selected from over 2,500 companies that were asked to participate. Event attendees included several hundred investors, and finalists from the USA and Europe, representing industries of AI, AR/VR, blockchain, fintech and SaaS. The day’s events featured a pitch competition format, where each company had a private screening with judges. Participants were allotted 90 seconds to pitch — a difficult task to accomplish — and provided two minutes for a question and answer session from the judges.

My key takeaways from Startup Grind’s Quickfire Demo Day include:

  • During RealKey’s presentation, the judges focused on the round rather than our team. Most often, this line of questioning is an indicator that there is interest in investing — they believe in the idea, and see a company’s growth potential. In our situation, we have room for any accredited investors interested, and I’m excited to see that people are moving forward by investing in RealKey and our goal to maximize the mortgage industry’s productivity by minimizing wasted time and expense.
  • What really stood out to me was the global reach of the event’s distinguished judges. For instance, one of the judges was Tim Jackson of Walking Ventures, based in London. Our winning second place with an international panel of judges reinforces the fact that the mortgage process is a complex ecosystem in need of transformation through automation. I was impressed that the likes of Tim Jackson and fellow judges Allison Pickens of The New Normal Fund and Stacey Bishop of Scale Venture Partners understood the need and potential for change in the mortgage industry.

With the RealKey Digital Mortgage Platform, we are changing how the mortgage industry operates, shortening the loan processing cycle by up to 50%. We are setting a new standard for more efficient mortgage processing by automating documentation collection and review by underwriters and processors, and streamlining communications through a centralized chat for all collaborators in the mortgage process.

Want to learn more about RealKey? Click here to schedule a demo. 

Christopher Hussain, CEO and Founder

I recently had the opportunity to share with IdeaMensch my professional journey and how my experiences in the mortgage industry led to the creation of RealKey. IdeaMensch is a platform for entrepreneurs and visionaries to share their insights as they bring ideas to life.

As an entrepreneur, I see problems that I want to fix, and in my experience, automation through technology is typically the best approach to solving these problems. I have found that automation of manual tasks is what gives people more time to do more and be more. Whenever I can, I apply this thought process — where can I automate to save time and reduce mistakes — to my work.

For instance, during the housing crisis, I worked with a startup in auto repossessions, where I used technology to update antiquated, manual processes by automating the task of repossessions. I was working for this company back in 2008, when the first iPhone was released. In the app store, I discovered an app that translated other languages to English in real time, using augmented reality and text recognition. Seeing what this app could do, I had an “Aha!” moment. I decided to repurpose the core technology for auto repossessions by identifying license plates.

Traditionally, auto repossessions were done by using skip-tracing to track down vehicle owners who have defaulted for significant periods on their loans, and then collections would step in to encourage the individual(s) to a resolution. The actual act of repossessing a car, especially at someone’s home, can be dangerous, as repossession agents have been threatened and even shot at. Using this new technology, we put dashboard cameras into contracted tow trucks, and those cameras took the license plate information through our database, eliminating the need for skiptracing, collections, or going to someone’s house or workplace to repossess a car. Instead, you simply drove around and collected cars. The application proved to be wildly successful, the company took off, and the startup was later acquired.

I applied what I learned about automation to my own business, and became the number one mortgage loan originator (MLO) in the United States from 2010 to 2011, personally originating and funding over $2 billion in residential loans in all 50 states without the support of any staff. My success was possible because of the systems I built. Automating mundane tasks allowed me, as a sole individual, to accomplish what the typical top producing MLOs and their personal teams of 5 to 10 individuals were able to do. 

For me to be a top originator in the US, I made a lot of personal sacrifices, often working non-stop. I missed out on holidays and vacations, and felt like I was trading my relationship and family for work. Finally, I had enough. I knew there was a better way to provide accurate, fast service, resulting in happier customers.

I know first-hand the pain, frustration, and pressure to close loans. Hours to days are spent on tedious tasks like chasing documents, verifying information, and keeping everyone, from borrowers and real estate agents to title/escrow and accountants, updated in the process by calling and sending numerous emails. Everyone involved in the mortgage process deserves a more cost efficient, less time consuming approach to processing transactions.

To solve the problem, I partnered with Alan Tifford, who is now RealKey’s Head of Experience Design Strategy. Prior to joining RealKey, he led Intuit’s design and innovation strategy, and was design lead for the TurboTax product line. In our conversations, he challenged the concept of even taking a loan application. Why? Because in the mortgage approval process, what a person says is hearsay until the right documents are received to prove the information on the application is factual and accurate, and a loan cannot be funded until then. Knowing this, what was the solution?

What became evident is that we needed to automate the process, specifically in the area of document collection and review, and streamline communication for all parties. We would need to lead people to a document centric approach, and here is where we saw the opportunity to fill in the industry’s many gaps. For instance, numerous tools already exist, but current systems do not automatically and intelligently trigger the additional information needed. Furthermore, they do not document for all the possible conditions and different rules, and do not interact with all the individuals involved in the process. For example, many existing systems enable chat only between the lender and borrower(s), which is not helpful when there are multiple parties involved in the process, and each person needs to be kept updated on progress. These systems and processes are not holistic. 

To solve the problem, RealKey was developed. A digital mortgage platform, RealKey is an industry game-changer that automates documentation collection and review by underwriters and processors, and streamlines communication for all parties involved through a centralized chat. Building RealKey was and remains deeply personal, as many of the platform’s features come from my experiences in the industry and my vision for transforming how loans are processed. 

To read the full article, visit here.

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