CTO on starting a new chapter in mortgage industry

She looks at automation, cyber and what it takes to motivate a workforce

CTO on starting a new chapter in mortgage industry

“Technology is going to turn the housing market. I think what’s coming next is how we can make this easier for the consumer.”

Lorie Helms (pictured) - Cherry Creek Mortgage’s new chief technology officer – made the point early on during the conversation: the mortgage industry still had much to do to enhance the house buying experience for customers.

“They’re still going into one place to take their app, another place to upload their documents, another place to do closing and get all that information. I think consumer end-to-end process still needs some work,” she told MPA last week.

“Consumers have got apps on their phone, and they want everything to be with them at every minute - they need that extra transparency,” she said.

Read more: Cherry Creek Mortgage launches digital closing platform

If consumers have come to expect a seamless homebuying experience, it’s mostly because younger generations who grew up using computers “since they were babies” were now adults who could get mortgages - and this is a demographic the industry had to focus more on, she said.

“They have definitely a different approach to how the process should work. They need more visibility. They want to be able to do anything from anywhere,” she stressed, adding that LOs should also be able to have that ability.

A 20-year mortgage technology veteran, Helms joined the Colorado-based full-service mortgage lender less than a month ago to head the company’s IT operations, software development and project management teams.

The move came just seven months after Cherry Creek changed ownership, heralding a reorganization of its corporate structure.

Asked what had tempted her to make the switch from her previous role at Covius to Cherry Creek, she said: “The culture is really what attracted me here - the people, the energy.

“There’s a refreshing lack of politics here that I haven’t seen before - those were the things that were big draws to me.”

Read more: LoanLogics CEO Bill Neville ramps up pressure on industry to go fully digital

In Helms, Cherry Creek has gained a CTO who was named one of the most powerful women in fintech by the Progress in Lending Association, as well as being a finalist for the Denver Business Journal’s CIO of the Year.

She said she had been pleasantly surprised by Cherry Creek Mortgage’s proprietary technology, which would suggest Helms had joined a likeminded team. “It’s very nice to come to a place where everybody loves the technology, including the operators and the sales folks that have to use it every day,” she added. 

Her other bugbear, aside from the need to hasten automation – and which she brought up unprompted during the interview - was cyber security, and what she perceived to be the passivity among some in the mortgage industry to the threat of hackers and ransomware.

“I think the bad guys are investing so much, we need to continue to do the same, and it needs to not be sort of a separate process or an afterthought - it needs to be part of every single process we do,” she said.

“We need to always be thinking about that, everything from testing to design, all the way through the process. Security needs to be in the middle of all of it, rather than sort of having it be this thing that we think sits around the perimeter.

“The other thing about security is you’re never done. You’re never like ‘OK now I’ve spent my $10 million, and all the walls are up and everything’s good to go’. It’s constantly changing, and I think that’s why we have to continue to have these conversations.”

Aside from gaining a tech expert, Cherry Creek could be getting a lot more, as she is also ‘a motivational manager’.

Asked what it took to motivate her workforce, she said: “The key is to have the right people in the right roles. I really think anybody can be successful if you find the perfect spot for them in your organization.

“My job is just to get out of the way and knock down the hurdles and let them succeed. That’s my philosophy.

“What’s important to me is that ability to have everybody’s voices heard – and that it’s OK to have a bad idea. I think you have so much more input from a more creative group, if you can extend the people who are allowed to have input into the process.”