Since getting its start back in 2012, mortgage technology provider Blend has been a key player in bringing the mortgage industry into the digital world.
And thanks to a recently announced $100 million in funding, the San Francisco-based company has a great runway for even more growth.
In an interview with HousingWire, Nima Ghamsari, CEO and founder of Blend, said, “First and foremost, our focus with the funding is to double down on mortgages so we can continue to have the best product in this space.”
As far as what doubling down on mortgages looks like, Ghamsari said one area is to further expand the ability for a customer to start earlier in the loan process with Blend and continue farther with the company to create a truly end-to-end process.
That kind of growth initiative falls in line with where the industry is going. For example, Notarize recently helped make a truly end-to-end digital mortgage possible by introducing a digital eClosing.
While the industry is moving into digital mortgages, it’s a long process that isn’t going to change overnight. Ghamsari added that it could take five more years for an end-to-end digital mortgage to be the norm.
With everything being heavily regulated and critiqued, Ghamsari said, “We have to be more careful in how we do things.”
Another area where Blend sees potential to grow is intelligence. “This is a data-driven process,” he said. “We have invested heavily to use the data that comes in to benefit that process of getting this mortgage from point of origination to closing.”
After Blend received $100 million in a funding round, the company said it planned to replicate its success with mortgages to other types of loans and expand operations outside the U.S. in the near-term.
Ghamsari emphasized that mortgages are its focus, but added that they do see themselves moving into areas beyond it.
Looking at what Blend already offers for digital mortgages, Ghamsari said that the process is already 95% overlapping into other types of loans.
A lot of what Blend builds for one product line is applicable to other products lines, and the company's client base wants that.
However, this move will take time, he said.
Ghamsari said the company's funding signals to the rest of the industry that it plans to stick around.
“We raised a lot of capital so people would know that we will be around in 10 years,” he said. “We want to lay to rest any doubts.”
At the same time the company announced the new funding, Blend also revealed two new major partnerships with Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank.
As automation becomes more prevalent in the space, lenders have to decide if they want to build the technology on their own, partner with someone to build the technology or acquire someone with the technology.
Tom Wind, president of U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, said of the company's choice, “The partnership with Blend has allowed us to significantly accelerate our time to market with an industry-leading customer experience. Leveraging Blend's dynamic online application, data services and customer connectivity allows us to focus on our strengths as a trusted advisor offering a broad range of products to help customers achieve their homeownership goals.”
“Important in our selection process was choosing a technology partner who understood our vision for taking the burden out of the mortgage process so our team of mortgage professionals can focus on understanding and meeting our customers needs,” Wind said.
Ghamsari explained the choice behind partnering rather than building as meeting in the middle a little bit.
“Over time, we have made our product more flexible and more robust, so it could meet the needs and the brands of the organizations that we are working with. By working with companies that all they do is build this technology, they can move more quickly,” he said.
Wells Fargo, which is the No. 1 mortgage lender in the U.S., also announced a partnership with Blend. Michael DeVito, head of production for Wells Fargo Home Lending, said, “As we said at Investor Day in May, we are in the ‘Age of the Consumer’ – a time when customer-centric experiences and ease of accessibility are the table-stakes in business.”
“Our partnership with Blend helps us connect our team — our customers and their data — and technology together to make the application process simpler and faster,” he said.
DeVito explained that there are three things that this partnership will do to help Wells Fargo’s mortgage growth:
- We will be able to harness the information we already have about our customers.
- Our home mortgage consultants can spend more time talking with customers to offer the trusted guidance customers really want.
- We will reduce the document-intensive procedures that weigh on both customers and mortgage sales professionals.
Jerald Banwart, Wells Fargo’s head of fulfillment, also commented on the partnership, saying, “Blend focuses solely on technology to build the best possible product. Their aptitude in this area allows us to deliver the simplest solution for our customers and our sales team.”
“We are transforming the mortgage experience for customers — making it simpler and reducing risk through the secure application of source data. It will automatically populate information drawn from source data into an ‘interview style’ online interface,” he explained. “Together, we will give customers more control over their mortgage applications, enhance transparency and improve the customer experience.”
U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo are the most recent in what will likely be a long string of partnerships for Blend. Ghamsari added, “These relationships have been in the works for a long time, and we are excited to partner with them."
As it stands he said, “There is a desire to change across the industry.”