He's been keeping it simple for two decades
For a man who by his own admission stumbled upon the mortgage industry by chance, Rocky Foroutan (pictured) has stayed the course for two decades (and counting).
As the founder and CEO of LenderHomePage, a cloud-based digital mortgage platform, powering lender websites, mobile apps, and consumer-facing marketing campaigns, Foroutan’s ‘secret sauce’, as he likes to call it, is all about providing the best solution to customers.
“Our philosophy has always been to make it simple and easy to use,” he told MPA. “Homebuyers are already anxious because they’re making a big decision in their financial lives, so we make the technology easy and user-friendly so that it does not add to the complexity of the transaction. That has always been the central design objective for us.”
Foroutan started out as a software developer, carving out a successful career in computer storage and town community telecommunications before his brother-in-law introduced him to the world of mortgages and lenders.
He met a wholesale mortgage lender who asked him to develop a website for his company. Realizing it was an underserved market, Foroutan dived in, convinced he had solutions no-one else was offering at the time.
“We knew there was a wave of digital transformation, so we caught on to that and started talking to our clients…and started to innovate,” he told MPA on hearing he had been nominated in this year’s Housing Industry Icons list.
LenderHomePage began operating from a small home office in 2003, building turnkey websites for mortgage brokers and loan officers. Sixteen years later, the company now serves almost 3,000 clients. Foroutan attributed his company’s success to his team. “The most important aspect of our business has been putting the right people in the right seats,” he said.
Asked what attracted him so much about the mortgage space, Foroutan said brokers and lenders were generally “people’s people”.
He said: “They are also sales people, and I realized we could thrive in this market if we could develop the right service and product - they would appreciate it.”
Unlike other industries which are more focused on controlling the purse strings and ROI, mortgage professionals are willing to spend money if it produces results for them, he said.
“That was a good indicator for us that it was going to be a lucrative market, but at the same time, you get to serve the very people that are underserved, so everything kind of lined up for us.”
Foroutan continued to build a niche for his company, acknowledging there are new challenges on the horizon - the flip side of what is undeniably a thriving but highly fragmented sector.
He said: “There are too many technology providers, and some of them are not very friendly within the ecosystem in terms of being able to plug into everything.
“When you’re trying to serve a particular mortgage company, they could have a technology stack back in their shop that is difficult to plug into. It makes it a little bit challenging sometimes to get someone off of one system and to adopt the right system.”
Challenges are also opportunities in Foroutan’s eyes, as a smaller company like LenderHomePage “can be a little bit disruptive” and offer quicker and more pragmatic solutions.
“The challenge lies in that a lot of people in the workforce are accustomed to some kind of more antiquated and not very user-friendly software,” he said.
Changing people’s established work routines and behavior could be “a little bit difficult”, but Foroutan insisted that it was also a great opportunity to transform the workplace.
“Mortgage brokers would really benefit by employing technology in their workflow. That sounds like obvious advice, but believe it or not, with all the technology that’s available to them, they use the bare minimum, or sometimes don’t even use it and continue to stay the way that they have been doing things,” he said.
The reticence among some in the broker community to embrace technology is a thorny issue for fintech companies, but for Foroutan the solution is simple.
“If they take a little bit of extra time, a little bit more training, a little bit more involvement to try to put the technology into practice, in the long term they’re going to reap the benefits,” he pointed out.
Foroutan’s spirit of co-operation is a philosophy he would have been well advised to embrace in his younger years, he admitted.
“When I was younger, I had too much pride or I just didn’t think that people were doing it right - I was all about building (the company),” he said.
“Now, I’ll definitely get involved with partnerships earlier. It’s about striking the perfect balance between what should be built in-house and what could be brought in as a third-party solution and bolted on to ours.”