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Opinion, commentary and analysis on everything that makes the U.S. housing economy tick -- not to mention the ghosts in the machine, too. Written by HW's team of editors and reporters each business day.

Why HousingWire launched the HW TECH25 program

The story behind the industry’s newest tech awards

January 24, 2014
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Mortgage technology. For decades — if anyone in the industry here is willing to be truly honest — that phrase was often something of an oxymoron.

I say that with some background. Many readers might not be aware that I’m a former software engineer, and helped build a technology platform that has been used to manage hundreds of thousands of properties within the past decade. You also might not know that I’m the co-author of a patent involving that same software.

I share that so you understand I’m speaking from at least some direct experience here.

In fact, roughly 10 years ago at this point, I can still recall watching a demo of a software platform from a vendor — still in market today, and no, I won’t name them — where their first attempt at web-based tech involved query strings in the URL, so if you quickly understood the file numbering system you could literally open any file you wanted. (And that included access to borrower information.)

I’m sure that’s no longer the case with this vendor or their tech, but it illustrates the level of tech acumen that all-too-often once passed as “cutting edge” in our industry.

No wonder most mortgage banking institutions preferred their old mainframe system or client-server battle-axe, as proven and battle-tested as it was both ancient and outdated.

This is, after all, mortgage banking. Bankers are by nature risk averse and typically conservative in their business management approach; and in a trillion dollar industry that underpins much of the U.S. economy, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For decades, industry dynamics didn’t require much technological innovation, either. A weekly rate update was sufficient for most in the market; heck, for that matter, reading industry news on a weekly broadsheet — and paying to do it — was considered synonymous with being “up-to-date.”

But then came the financial crisis. And on its heels came an unending slew of regulations and legislation that to this day continues to reshape mortgage banking as we know it.

From this seemingly sudden chaos HousingWire.com emerged, based on a clear understanding that the pace of market change (and therefore demand for information by those in the industry) was increasing exponentially.

The same change in industry dynamics has given rise to a “golden age” of technology in mortgage banking, too. (And also in real estate, where the fight to become the Amazon.com of the real estate biz is yet undecided and the pace of tech innovation is nearing dizzying levels.)

Much of the steady, old-line technology the mortgage banking industry had successfully relied on for decades finally found itself unable to match wits with a new, dynamic and ever-shifting landscape in mortgage banking. And many technology providers, from established companies rushing to rethink their platforms to new upstarts swooshing into the space, saw an opportunity to do something that the industry hadn’t seen much of (or needed much of) previously.

That something? Innovate.

That’s what the HW TECH25™ is really all about: highlighting those pioneers & visionaries willing to invest in tech innovation within the U.S. housing economy – for the betterment of the mortgage and real estate industries, and by extension for the betterment of our entire economy that depends so much on each of them.

Beyond defining our inaugural HW TECH25™ around innovation, we also are doing something else unique: limiting the competition to actual software vendors, or dot-coms whose business model is built around their unique SaaS technology.

The question is why limit our look at technology? And the answer, again, lies in our understanding of innovation.

True innovation scales up. There’s a lot of great tech being developed in-house by various service providers, to be sure, but technology that fundamentally changes an industry first has to actually be available to an entire industry.

It’s that simple.

And make no mistake: there is a lot of innovative work being done right now by a number of software, tech and dot-com companies in the mortgage and real estate space. We get to cover it nearly daily here at HousingWire.

As a (former?) techie, I’m excited to see the level of innovation and quality of the tech now sweeping through our industry. And my hope is that the HW TECH25™ encourages more of it in the future.

I’m equally excited to see the strong initial response to our call for entries, and can share that our team is already beginning to review applications we’ve received.

Applications are open only through the end of this month, so if you haven’t yet applied, I encourage you to do so!

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