Center Stage with Applied Business Software

by 11 Jun 2009
The Niche Report talks with AJ Poulin, National Sales Manager for Applied Business Software.   Give us a description of service(s) that Applied Business Software offers. We are the developer of The Mortgage Office™, the leading loan servicing software solution for the lending industry.  The Mortgage Office™ is a complete suite of products designed from the ground up to specifically address the needs of those who originate and service loans and mortgage pools.  Its modular design includes complete solutions to fully automate loan servicing, loan origination, mortgage pools, trust accounting, default services tracking, and escrow administration. Tell us about the origin and background of Applied Business Software. We’ve been developing time-saving products for the lending industry for over three decades.  In 1978, when ABS was founded, our software filled a void.  Computer programs (not called software then) were hard to find, and there was nothing in the market that was made specifically for private lenders.  Back then lenders were doing a lot of fractionalized deals, meaning that they had more than one investor on each loan.  These lenders wanted a way for the program to automatically and accurately pay investors their monies as payments came in.   Keep in mind this is long before personal computers were commonplace.  When someone wanted to buy it we delivered a stack of 8 inch floppy disks, which they installed one at a time.  And if you think that is funny, keep in mind that back then hard drives didn’t even exist! Word of mouth quickly spread and our product became the de facto hard money software. By 1995, ABS had amassed a large customer base in California.  This is when Microsoft rolled out Windows 95, and that changed everything.  Understanding the magnitude of this rollout, ABS rewrote the entire DOS program to be compatible with Microsoft Widows.  We released the first Windows version in 1996 and the product revolutionized the industry.  Drop down menus and right clicking replaced tab-tab-shift-alt-F5.  While it may seem like a no-brainer now that the decision to go to Windows was obvious, there are still companies that sell DOS programs, or didn’t convert to Windows until recently – 13 years after the rollout of Windows. One of things that ABS facilitated was the ability to charge servicing fees to investors.  In the 1980’s, people managed their investors’ loans as a courtesy, not for profit; the rationale was that the profit was made at closing.  We advocated and envisioned that our customers could generate revenue on both sides, and to also split the other fees (NSF, late fees, etc.) associated with servicing.  Many customers said they would never, under any circumstances, charge their investors to service.  It was a revolutionary idea, and eventually they all agreed.  Our customers’ profits went through the roof, as did our sales. The other big turning point in ABS’ history was the advent of the Internet.  Prior to that, demos were done on site.  If the drive was more than a couple of hours away, we would make sure the client could afford the software before hitting the road.  On a good week, our company would do 1 or 2 demos per week.  Currently, our company does 25-30 web-based demos per week, or 5-6 per day.  As the number of demos increased, and the number of sales increased, we grew our tech support, sales, and programming departments proportionally. Tell us about the company culture. Our company is an extremely efficient and streamlined operation.  Our professional tech support people are experts in our software and also in the mortgage industry.  They aren’t temps, and they aren’t overseas.  They work closely with our programming and sales teams.  When a new customer comes on board, the tech department already has an intimate knowledge of their deal structure, and how they pay investors.  This hands-on approach makes going live with the software extremely fast.  Some customers have gone live within 24 hours. ABS continually programs and tests new features.  Because of this, our software is incredibly powerful, flexible, and popular.  Our company is also very stable, with very little turnover.  Some of our customers have been using the software since the early 1980’s.  We have thousands of users in almost every state, and in 13 countries.  The fascinating thing is that hours will go by without one incoming tech support call.  It’s a testament to our product, which comes with built-in help, on demand training videos, online FAQs, and customer maintained user groups. Who are your main competitors? And what are your plans to gain market share or retain market share? We like to kid that we don’t have any competition, but it’s essentially true.  Some software companies may have a couple of nice features, but our software has thousands.  By our latest research, we know of over 70 companies that make loan servicing software.  This doesn’t intimidate us at all.  A survey done last year by Fidelity Information Services found that of the known hard money lenders in the U.S., 83 percent use our software.  We had known that our software was popular, but we didn’t know it was that popular! Another survey that was done last year by a non-profit housing organization found that of the 12 most popular servicing programs, our software ranked first for tech support, was the easiest to use, and had the highest customer satisfaction. We feel these two surveys reflect our core business philosophy:  make the best product on the market, and we’ll lead the market.  Our software is lightning fast, very powerful, and by far the best value for the money.  How will Applied Business Software stay ahead of both the rapidly changing technology and mortgage environments that are inherent to your business model? That’s an easy one.  We always try to be 5-10 years ahead of everyone else.  As an example, we came out with Web Publishing over a decade ago.  This allows borrowers and investors to go online 24/7 and check out their accounts.  Investors can even go online to see investment offerings.  At the time this was something only the big banks could do, and the Internet wasn’t a household word.  The same with ACH; this allows our customers to debit a borrower’s monthly payment directly from their bank account, and to also post funds directly into their investors’ bank accounts.  Most software companies still don’t do this. Another example is managing impounds, in compliance with RESPA.  Several years ago we created a module that can run an Escrow Analysis Disclosure Statement in seconds.  It’s been a big hit, and it’ll be an even bigger hit next year – Federal law will require everyone servicing loans to implement this.  While other software companies are reading through the hundreds of pages of regulation, in a mad scramble to modify software to do this, ours is already in use across the country.  These are a couple of examples of how our company has anticipated changes in the market.  We have a great team of researchers and analysts, and they report their findings on a continual basis. What can we expect to see from Applied Business Software in the near future? That’s top secret. We don’t sell vaporware, so we never talk about a product until its ready for prime time.  That said, the sales department is anxious, ready and trained to promote our new (top secret) products. Where do you see Applied Business Software five or ten years from now? ABS will expand into a wider varie ty of markets and continue to gain market share.  One thing that continues to set us apart is the number of products we offer (17) and the wide array of industries that we support.  Our non-hard money client list includes cities (Miami, Boise) counties (Oakland County, Michigan) states (California) non-profits (Habitat for Humanity) institutions (Baltimore Life Insurance) and even schools (Pepperdine University).  As our customer base grows, our core philosophy remains the same; if we build the best product, and have the best programmers, support people, sales people, marketers and researchers, our software will continue to make our customers profitable.  Profitable customers are happy customers, and that positive word of mouth will continue to be the majority of our sales.

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