It's not uncommon for ambitious CEOs to cite Amazon or Google as inspiration for the future growth of their own business, but becoming such a giant in mortgage lending requires two qualities that may seem diametrically opposed. You need to cover every aspect of the lending process, or as much as possible, while quickly bringing new technology to market that can meet the demands of a rapidly changing world.
There are downsides to just being perceived as one of those things. Innovative, fast-moving smaller players may appear too limited in their offerings. When a company is large, it risks appearing cumbersome or simply too expensive to accommodate smaller operators in business.
"A common misconception we see in some corners of the market is that we are somehow too big or too expensive for everyone but the largest lenders and service providers in the country," said Shelley Leonard, Black Knight's chief digital and product officer . "Institutions of all sizes rely on our solutions, and we've streamlined our implementation processes so that the entire industry, regardless of its technical stack, can benefit from our advances."
This is where careful marketing strategies and strategic acquisitions come into play for the bigger characters in the field. Take another giant, ICE Mortgage Technology, for example. The cloud-based platform enables lenders and investors to reach borrowers and to issue, complete, sell and buy loans. But the company has also worked to position itself as a nimble innovator.
“New technologies are not the sole property of young companies. Our leadership is manically focused on being the best, we are definitely not on our hands, ”said Jonas Moe, senior vice president of Marketing and Market Strategy at ICE Mortgage Technology. "I have never met a person who is more passionate about achieving and exceeding than our President Joe Tyrell. He's definitely not the person to sit back, relax, and take pride in what we've achieved. "
Its size and status as a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange enable the company to set itself apart from the competition through acquisitions. ICE is aimed at companies that can challenge every aspect of their systems, Moe said. It bought Merscorp Holdings in 2018, Simplifile in 2019, and Ellie Mae in 2020, as well as DocMagic's electronic vault technology and Polly's loan trading capabilities that year.
Black Knight also cultivates its own innovator image when buying up smaller companies. The newly installed CEO and Chairman Anthony Jabbour is trying to convey the spirit of a startup, Leonard said, adding that the financial services and data provider is investing heavily in incubating its own projects. But the company has also made six acquisitions since 2020, with NexSpring Financial's mortgage-broker-focused lending system and marketing firm Top of Mind being the most recent.
However, certain acquisitions may soon be more difficult to make. In July, President Biden signed an executive order calling for greater scrutiny from the Justice Department and federal regulators over mergers and acquisitions as some of them stifled market competition and increased costs for consumers.
When asked about their concerns about the executive order, Black Knight officials said the company “believes that strong competition within the industry is essential to drive innovation and positive change. We have always obtained and secured all official approvals for planned acquisitions and will certainly continue to do so. ”As of the reporting date, ICE did not return a request for a statement on this topic.
Regardless, the marketing message needs to sell a seamless digital experience and a strong return on investment. ICE takes a targeted approach when it comes to managing the perception of its potential customers.
“We're not sending the same message to 20,000 people with a spray and pray approach. We could send a single message or create a webinar for 20 people, ”said Moe. “Whether you are a broker, correspondent, wholesaler, retailer or lender, we want to understand your needs and then make sure we are offering the right product to the right people at the right time. ”
Careful timing of the campaign rollouts is the key to a successful product launch. Start too early in the development lifecycle and run the risk of over-promising and under-delivering if the product struggles. If it is made available too late, the new offer will lose some of its luster.
"We usually wait for the product to be ready to ship: it has gone through multiple rounds of user acceptance tests, we know it will be a viable solution, and it has been quality assured and stress tested," said Moe.