Michele Buschman – American Pacific Mortgage
As a mortgage originator, beginning the workday can feel like an all-sides onslaught of correspondence and paperwork. Open Outlook to check your email. Now pull up the calendar. Oh, and don’t forget to download those new guidelines from Fannie Mae’s website.
Minimize. Maximize. Repeat until you develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
Now imagine working for American Pacific Mortgage (APM). Once logged in, your browser automatically pulls up the company’s intranet. Two clicks. Email, calendar, news, application links and important documents pop up front and center in one browser window. Everything you need is at your, suddenly pain-free, fingertips.
It’s called the Hub 2.0, and for vice president of information services Michele Buschman, the platform—once complete—will represent one of American Pacific Mortgage’s most ambitious initiatives yet.
“Because we’re such a distributed company, with branches and fulfillment centers across the country, maximizing employee engagement has been a major focus for APM,” Buschman says. “This digital workplace, allows us to bring everyone together under a solution that provides significant value to our employees, improves the efficiency of their workday and better connects our remote workforce with the corporate office.”
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Like many players in the financial services sector, American Pacific Mortgage uses an intranet portal for collaboration and correspondence between the company’s 1266 licensed loan advisors and 255 nationwide branches. While the internal alternative is inherently more secure than the internet, it doesn’t easily lend itself to bells and whistles.
The company introduced the Hub in 2015, primarily as a web-based platform for communication and document sharing. Compared to APM’s previous intranet—a version of SharePoint the company called “The Bridge”—the Hub proved a significant upgrade, streamlining numerous processes and allowing employees to locate documents and news far more easily.
But when employee engagement fell short of expectations, Buschman and her team began looking for ways to make their flagship platform more inviting. With millennial workers starting to become a majority of the incoming workforce, and the continued desire for flexible workplace options, the answer was straightforward, if not exactly simple: make the most critical functions available anytime, anywhere.
While Buschman says APM’s Hub 2.0 remains a work in progress, the platform it’s tied to has undergone a makeover, the first step of which was layering a state-of-the-art content management solution, Akumina, on top of the existing SharePoint platform, to facilitate the journey to a true digital workplace.
Now, instead of having to scale a series of hurdles in order to post content, the Akumina apps guide the company’s “subject matter experts” on how and where to add materials, including mortgage program guidelines, policy updates, new product announcements, leadership video messages, benefit information and more.
“Basically, it’s our own internal content management system that we use to build our intranet,” Buschman explains. “It leverages the underlying native SharePoint tools in a way that makes them easier for our subject matter experts to navigate, allowing us to always have new, fresh and updated content on the site.”
The science of storage
Phase one of the Hub 2.0 project will include moving APM’s more basic content, including news articles and community forums, in such a way as to customize the content for departments and employees.
After that comes what Buschman calls the “heavy lifting”: transforming the Hub 2.0 into a true digital workplace, with a “dashboard” that can be personalized with email, calendar, time-keeping, systems and document access. Once fully operational later this year, the Hub 2.0 will drastically reduce employee “toggle time”—the minutes of wasted clicks that cut into the day’s productivity.
Nowhere will these time savings be more apparent than with the company’s internal email, which Buschman says will be drastically reduced. With the capabilities of the personalized dashboard, users can target company announcements to the intended audience via the Hub 2.0, versus being sent to all employees’ via traditional email, thereby reducing unnecessary or irrelevant messages to employees.
“Everyone talks about wanting more communication, except when it comes to emails,” Buschman jokes. “There’s nothing worse than reading an email, only to realize it has nothing to do with you. So we’re working on eliminating that inefficiency by leveraging the customized digital workplace dashboard.”
If new Fannie Mae guidelines are posted overnight, underwriters receive an alert the instant they log on, assuring the day’s work is done in full compliance. More impressive still, a dashboard widget will provide a clear, prioritized look at current work queues, allowing underwriters to more efficiently complete the day’s work while seeing how they compare on key performance indicators vis-à-vis their peers.
Of course, all that data needs to be managed, protected and stored somewhere. Having outgrown their existing system, Bushman and APM solicited the help of Commvault, a global provider of enterprise backup, recovery and cloud solutions based in New Jersey.
In particular, APM needed a more secure, enterprise-level platform for protecting and managing their data—one that optimized their existing IT investments and resources while modernizing their data infrastructure. Through its deployment of the Commvault Data Platform, APM was able to help protect the company’s most vital information while mitigating risk and reducing maintenance costs.
“Because of how fast they’re growing and the increasing volumes of data they needed to manage and protect, American Pacific was an ideal client for the wide range of offerings we provide,” said Bill Wohl, Commvault’s VP and chief communications officer. “We look forward to the next phase of growth as APM continues to travel down the path to doing truly remarkable things with data.”
But while the resulting efficiency promises to be a boon to employees, a different, consumer-centric measure could be APM’s most ambitious initiative yet.
Mortgage of the future
For millions of Americans, securing a mortgage represents one of life’s necessary headaches—one that even the fastest technology measures can’t seem to cure.
“There’s a lot of talk about creating a 100 percent digital mortgage,” Buschman says. “The adoption from end consumers isn’t quite there yet, but we’re preparing for when that tide turns.”
To that end, APM has partnered with SimpleNexux to create a custom mobile app to be issued to customers at the start of the loan process. Once the customer starts an application or specifies a property, APM will send regular updates on everything from loan status to the documents required to keep their mortgage loan approval process moving. Rather than mailing individual documents, users can instead eSign them at home and securely send photos of other required loan documents via computer, tablet or mobile phone.
APM is also working on integrations with third-party service providers to pull certain customer information electronically (with their consent, of course).
Not only is the resulting data more reliable, having come straight from the source; it makes life easier for the customers. as well. No need to go digging through their home office looking for bank statements. It’s quality control meets customer service, and it’s the wave of the future for companies like APM.
The goal, Buschman says, is to get people into their homes as quickly as possible, and to drive down the cost of originating a loan. Though she says certain regulations—and the paperwork that results for companies like APM—will always make the latter a tough needle to thread.
“Time is money in the loan origination business, for both employees and customers,” Buschman says. “These measures are designed to save a lot of time, so we’re hopeful the other side of that equation will hold true.”
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