This week’s HW+ member spotlight features Eric Lapin, who was recently appointed chief strategy officer at FormFree. Tapping into more than 25 years of experience, Lapin will strategically identify and execute growth opportunities at FormFree to drive the company forward. Prior to joining FormFree, Lapin served as first vice president of corporate development, national agency services, at Old Republic Title, and has also held leadership positions at Altisource, Black Knight, First American and Credit Suisse.
Below, Lapin answers questions about the housing industry:
HousingWire: What is your current favorite HW+ article and why?
Eric Lapin: I’ve been enjoying the HW+ team’s coverage of Figure Technologies (including this recent piece from Flávia Furlan Nunes). I appreciate companies with the boldness and fortitude to drive the industry forward. That’s what drew me to this role at FormFree, too.
HousingWire: What is the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
Eric Lapin: I attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. There was a row of clubs and restaurants right in the middle of campus, including O’Sullivan’s Wharf on Colley Avenue where I waited tables during the day.
A few nights a week, I also worked DJ shifts at a bar on Hampton Boulevard called The Elbow Room. I had a blast playing all sorts of rock, dance and hip-hop music using the bar’s turntables and my own CD collection. Being around that energy was enthralling and created a nice diversion from studying.
HousingWire: If you would have picked a different career, what would it be?
Eric Lapin: In a different life, I would be a professional musician or music producer. I currently play in two bands as a drummer in Charleston, South Carolina. One is a rock band, and the other is a jam band (complete with a horn section) that specializes in 90s and 2000s hip hop and funk.
We have an agent and play private gigs, clubs, corporate events, festivals and even the occasional wedding — though we politely refuse to do ‘typical’ wedding favorites like the Macarena, Brown Eyed Girl, and the Electric Slide.
People often say that when you do something you love, it won’t feel like work. That is how I feel about playing music. I love being able to improv on the fly, translating the energy of my bandmates and the crowd into something new and different. It’s even fun when one of us messes up. It’s all part of the “live” experience, and you can’t recreate that.
HousingWire: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Eric Lapin: When I was in my mid-20s, I worked for Provident Bank based in Cincinnati, which was later acquired by PNC. As my role with the bank grew, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn various areas of the lending business, including wholesale, correspondent and warehouse lending.
There was always a lot going on within the different divisions, and the business would ebb and flow depending upon the rate environment. The president of the mortgage division was a seasoned veteran in finance, and whenever he would hold company meetings, he would end the calls by taking questions from the audience.
I’ll never forget when I asked him, “When do you think we will stick with an operational flow that works and will help drive more business”? He replied, “If it ain’t broke, break it.” His point was that complacency kills progress. Learning and improving is an ongoing process, so we should never stop augmenting our knowledge and trying new approaches.
HousingWire: What’s 2-3 trends that you’re closely following?
Eric Lapin: Here are the following:
- Digital currency. Banking consortiums are emerging that seek to facilitate the trading of loan pools via stablecoins that are valued on par 1:1 with the U.S. dollar. By reducing the latency of asset transfers, these consortiums hope to enable real-time settlement at reduced cost and with greater security. This added efficiency has the potential to help financial institutions pick up a few basis points per transaction.
- Blockchain. Distributed ledger technology has laid the groundwork for much more than just digital currency, especially as we get better at connecting legacy systems and data sources with blockchains. These connection points, called “oracles,” make it possible — not just theoretical — for lenders to reduce compliance costs while conducting faster transfers of loan trades and assignments of transfers on loan servicing.
- Investment in technology. Forward-thinking lenders see today’s margin compression as a call to adapt and change, not hunker down. As volume slows, many are considering enhancements to their current tech stack as a long-term growth strategy.
HousingWire: What keeps you up at night and why?
Eric Lapin: I worry we’re not making enough progress when it comes to creating opportunities for more renters to become homeowners. Housing inventory is low, interest rates are rising and median income isn’t keeping up with rent inflation. I believe government and private actors alike need to move faster to address these trends and make generational wealth-building available to many more families.
HousingWire: What’s one thing that people aren’t paying attention to that you think they should be paying attention to?
Eric Lapin: We all need to pay better attention to what’s going on outside of our respective ‘bubbles.’ Instead of saying “we don’t do that here” or “we have never done it that way,” leaders should pay attention to what is working well in other countries as relates to lending. Legacy thinking and well-intended regulation have kept industry innovation to a snail’s pace, especially in the United States, when in reality data, technology and analytics exist today and could provide value right now.
The financial institutions that are thinking globally, learning from others’ success stories and investing in research and development are the ones making the greatest strides and positioning themselves for future success.
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