Exclusive: Nationstar CEO Jay Bray on Mr. Cooper, the company's future
HousingWire gets an inside look at Nationstar's big plans
But when one visits Nationstar’s headquarters in the Dallas suburb of Coppell, it’s clear that Mr. Cooper is both the company’s present and its future.
The marquis outside the building may still say Nationstar Mortgage, but everywhere one looks inside Nationstar’s headquarters, from the lobby all the way up to the CEO’s office, Mr. Cooper is ubiquitous.
Mr. Cooper is on the walls, replete with the company’s new values that identify both who Mr. Cooper is and how Mr. Cooper’s employees should operate: “Challengers of convention. Champions for our customers. Cheerleaders for our team.”
Mr. Cooper-emblazoned items are on the employees’ desks, and in some cases, on their feet, as the company boasts Mr. Cooper-branded socks as one of its new marketing materials.
When the company officially announced its plans to rebrand in February of this year, Nationstar’s CEO, Jay Bray, said that the change was expected to take place in the first half of 2016, but now the company tells HousingWire that the current plans are for Mr. Cooper to take over in the first half of 2017.
So what’s taken so long?
HousingWire sat down with Bray this week in an exclusive interview to get an answer to that question, as well as what Mr. Cooper really means, the company’s transition plans, plans for the future, the impact of President-elect Donald Trump on the mortgage business, and more.
As for why Nationstar isn’t officially, publicly Mr. Cooper yet, Bray said the rebrand is much, much more than just changing the name of the company – it’s about reimagining and reinventing everything that Nationstar does, from mortgage origination to servicing and beyond.
As Bray tells it, Nationstar grew significantly in the wake of the crisis, as other mortgage servicers “weren’t prepared” for the delinquency levels that became one of the trademarks of the recession.
But as delinquency levels dropped, which cost other servicers dearly, Nationstar was faced with a decision.
“The mission from 2008 until two years ago was acquiring these (mortgage servicing) portfolios, making sure we boarded them, making sure we did a good job, and focusing on our customers, which predominantly were Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, the banks, etc.,” Bray told HousingWire this week.
“But ultimately we became the fourth-largest servicer in the country, with approximately 2.7 million customers,” Bray continued. “And it’s like, alright, what do we stand for? What’s our journey that we want to embark on? And we knew it had to be all about the customer.”
Then the company began down the path that would lead it to becoming Mr. Cooper.
“It’s so simple, in some ways. If you have happy customers, you’re going to have happy employees. If you have happy customers, more than likely, you’re going to have happy shareholders,” Bray said.
“And so we started reflecting on how do we keep these 2.7 million customers,” Bray said. “How do we actually put service back into servicing and deliver a better experience?”
The company began asking its servicing customers and other consumers about their experiences with their mortgage servicer and the homebuying process.
“You never get anyone high-fiving each other,” Bray said. “They’re not going on and on. So we ask them, what do you like about the process?”
The common answer was that consumers liked dealing with a specific person, whether it was their loan officer, their real estate agent, or another person in the process.
“So we said, we need to personalize this. And it has to be an advocate. It has to be something that resonates every day with our employees, like what would Mr. Cooper do for this customer?” Bray said.
“That’s what we’re focused on in 2017: How do you deliver a better customer experience? How do you make people happy to actually be a customer of ours? If you can do that, I think you can conquer the world, right?”
As Bray acknowledges, the transition into being a customer-focused company isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight, but he said that that mentality and mission is what Mr. Cooper is all about.
“Clearly, it’s a different way of thinking. I think it will be a differentiator for us. It’s not going to happen overnight. We’re still going to make mistakes. It’s a journey. But I like our chances. And I like where we’re at,” Bray said.
According to Bray, one of the first significant changes to Nationstar’s operations which embodies the spirit of Mr. Cooper is the launching of an all-new website and mobile app that Nationstar’s customers can begin using immediately.
The development of the new website and app, codenamed “Apollo” internally, was a two-year process, Bray said, that involved rebuilding the entire customer experience from top to bottom.
On the website, customers will find a “variety of unique updates, such as rich educational content, interactive data tools and informational mortgage payment modules.”
Nationstar previewed the website for HousingWire before its official launch, and the results of the company’s efforts are impressive.
The website is clean, appears incredibly easy to understand and use, and has many features that mortgage servicing sites don’t typically have.
The website includes a feature called “Street Smarts from Nationstar,” which is a “digital home loan advisor that can deliver custom insights on a customer’s loan, home and neighborhood.”
The suite of tools gives customers personalized data, including their credit score, tailored equity analysis, custom pay-down options and more.
The website also allows customers to see what other homes are available for sale in their neighborhood, recent home sales, and other neighborhood information.
“We don’t want to just enhance our site’s functionality, or add a mobile app, we want to upgrade our customers’ experience and challenge the standard for customer service in the mortgage industry,” Bray said in the release.
“These new tools provide a better experience with unprecedented convenience and the comfort of knowing we’re with our customers on their homeownership journey every step of the way.”
Speaking with HousingWire, Bray characterized the website as an important piece of building a relationship with the company’s customers.
“That’s why Apollo is so important. So a person gets transferred to us, and the first piece of information they get is here’s what’s going on in your neighborhood. Here’s the value of your home. Here’s how much equity you have. Here’s how the escrow process works, and it makes sense, as opposed to some legal mumbo jumbo,” Bray said.
“We want to welcome them and make them feel like they’re part of something special,” Bray said.
As Nationstar said earlier this year, the rebrand will bring its originations and servicing business under the Mr. Cooper brand umbrella.
That plan means that the company plans to consolidate its Nationstar and Greenlight Loans brands into Mr. Cooper.
And while Nationstar will continue originating new loans under the Mr. Cooper brand, the company’s main focus will be on the servicing side of the business, working to keep its servicing customers happy.
“I’d love to be the leader in the servicing side of the business,” Bray said.
“It’s the most significant asset in most people’s portfolio, so why not make them smarter about it,” Bray continued. "I want to celebrate when someone pays off their mortgage. We’ve educated them. We’ve communicated with them. They know where they stand. And ultimately, they paid it off, and life’s good.”
And Bray said that the company anticipates building on its servicing success to grow its origination business as well.
“I want it to be more of an inward focus than an outward focus, focusing on our 2.7 million customers,” Bray said. “If you’re one of our customers, and we’re making an impact in our relationship, you’re more than likely to say, you know what, I’m going to use Mr. Cooper to refinance. I’m going to use Mr. Cooper to go buy a home. I’m going tell my neighbors, these guys are awesome. “
In the short-term, Bray said, the company is focused on retaining its existing customers.
“But having said that, over time I think we’ll get more brand recognition through that and we’ll invest in the brand over time,” Bray added.
“It’s unlikely we’ll sponsor a NASCAR or anything like that,” Bray said with a laugh. “But I do think we’ll smartly invest to bring new customers in through the origination channel as well.”
And it all starts with changing the company’s mindset from within.
“Ultimately, if you don’t have the 8,000 people that interact with the customer everyday believing in it, believing in your values, it doesn’t work,” Bray said.
“That’s why we picked ‘Champion, Challenger, Cheerleader.’ It’s simple. You don’t walk in and see eight paragraphs on the wall. People understand that and it resonates,” Bray said.
“It’s got to happen from within. So that’s why when we internally rebranded, I didn’t want to go to the world and say, hey, guess what? We’re now Mr. Cooper,” Bray said.
“You’ve got to get your processes better — be on that continuous journey before you announce it to the world,” Bray said. “There are a lot of different processes, so it’s going to take time to be who we want to be. But we’re on our way.”
Check back with HousingWire on Friday for part 2 of HousingWire’s interview with Bray, discussing the impact of higher interest rates on the mortgage market, the possible regulatory rollback under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, Dodd-Frank, the CFPB, the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the potential for opening up the credit box in the future.