In this episode of The Support Automation Show, Justin Schmidt is joined by Tim Nguyen, Co-Founder and CEO of BeSmartee, a leader in digital mortgage innovation. They discuss BeSmartee’s approach to customer support automation, best mortgage automation practices and tools, and how automation enhances operational efficiencies.
Tim Nguyen Transcript
Justin Schmidt: Welcome to the Support Automation Show, a podcast by Capacity. Join us for conversations with leaders in customer or employee support who are using technology to answer questions, automate processes and build innovative solutions to any business challenge. I’m your host, Justin Schmidt. Tim Nguyen, good morning and welcome to the Support Automation Show.
Tim Nguyen: Good morning, Justin. Thanks for having me on.
Justin: Where does this podcast find you?
Tim: Well, I’m sitting right now in San Juan Capistrano. For those who don’t know, that’s southern California. South Orange County to be exact.
Justin: Beautiful. You are the founder and CEO of BeSmartee, a mortgage POS, and then also has some other functions built into the platform. Why don’t you give us a little bit of background on yourself and what led to the founding of BeSmartee and a little bit about what BeSmartee does.
Tim: Thank you for asking. I love telling the story because I was born and raised in the mortgage business, my first job out of college, and at the time, my wife and I, we owned a company called InHouse for nationwide appraisal management, title escrow, notary company. The back end of the mortgage business essentially. We would service a lot of borrowers, a lot of brokers, a lot of lenders. In 2007 there’s this bank called New Century that went under. They are the largest lender in the country and when they went under, the whole market tanked.
We started receiving phone calls from borrowers, because back then you would rarely ever meet your loan officer or the bank or the lender you work with, but you’ll always meet your notary, you’ll always meet your appraiser. We had that relationship and connection with the borrowers and we were the first person to call when things really started going bad. We got calls like, “Hey, I’m going to lose my home. I don’t know what a negative amortization loan is. What the heck is happening? I can’t even find my loan officer anymore.” We would field these calls.
They got me really curious, like how did their experience lead to them being in a bad loan that they didn’t understand? From that, we want to make loans easier, faster and more transparent. It’s really a story of passion for us. We felt very bad as family members had suffered through it. This was just not a good time in the world.
Fast forward to 2014, we transitioned from that. We started building BeSmartee, and went live with a product in 2016. Essentially what it is, is a white label enterprise SaaS. We license it to banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, non-bank lenders, et cetera. Anyone that does a mortgage or provides a mortgage for consumers, and they put it on their website, put it in front of their loan officers. For example, if you go to one of our clients today and decide to apply for a mortgage, learn more about a mortgage, check on the status of a mortgage, et cetera. There’s a good chance you might be interacting with our software behind it all. Might have your bank’s name on it, but a good idea it might be our software behind it.
Justin: That’s great. Capacity, we have a lot of customers in the mortgage and financial services space. I think this will be a good conversation because a lot of times on the show we talk about support automation more broadly. Every now and then I get to talk to someone such as yourself in a more verticalized and sort of well-defined space of something like a mortgage, where some of the nuances I think are really good to tease out. Thank you for the introduction and I’m going to start this interview with the same question I ask everybody off the top and that is, when you hear the words support automation, what does that mean to you?
Tim: I’ll be honest, I didn’t know the word until I came across Capacity to learn about your company. I looked it up and it’s just brilliant. It makes so much sense. I kind of extrapolate in my own mind. For me when I think about support automation, I think about it just simply as being a good business. So often do we think about, as a start up, especially as a young company, as a growing company, there’s just so much to do, right? Well you know what? Just throw it on the spreadsheet. You know what? Just drop it in Dropbox. You know what? Short term solution, right?
Once you get to your 10th employee, your 100th employee you look back and start saying, gosh, I really wish we just took the extra couple of days and did that right because now it’s really costing us time and efficiencies and frankly just simply delivering a poor experience to your internal stakeholders, your clients, your user base. If we just took the time to do that right in the beginning. How many times have we said that?
For me, support automation is just really smart business. Building that in from the beginning. Special tools like your company where you can do it much more easily in the beginning. Take that extra time, do it. You’re going to reap the rewards. Unless you think you’re going to be there for a year, don’t worry about it. You think you can build a long-lasting business. You really care for it now when things are easier, smaller.
Justin: Love it. I think some of the threads that you started to pull on there and coupled with BeSmartee and the value proposition that you all are bringing to market. Tease us up for the rest of this conversation. Specifically, something you mentioned as one of the proposed topics to cover during our conversation, that is mortgage automation and its role increasing operational efficiencies. For anyone who’s listening that’s not intimately familiar with the mortgage business, on the origination side, it’s all about getting the loan processed through, signed and closed as fast as possible and as efficiently as possible.
Because a lot of times in the mortgage space, your margins, when interest rates are what they are, the cost of production, as they call it, is what it is and it’s in the sales and moving things through quickly and efficiently. That’s where the wheat from the chaff is separated from a lender perspective. When you look at mortgage automation specifically and its role in increasing operational efficiencies, where do you think we are in the life cycle of adoption and proliferation of good automation technology in the mortgage process?
Tim: Generally speaking, poor. We’re just at the beginning stages of it all. The thing, there’s a broad audience here. I usually speak in front of mortgage people. Let me take a quick step back if you don’t mind, Justin.
Justin: Go for it.
Tim: The thing with the mortgage space, it’s very wide. That means you’re starting a pre-marketing, CRM, customer relationship, origination, data, title, fees, processing underwriting, post closing, all the way to the very end when you sell the loan off to your investors. It’s a very wide industry and when you look at our industry overall, it’s very disjointed. Why hasn’t anyone just pieced it all together? I’ll tell you why. A billion dollars couldn’t do it right now. It’s really that challenging. That’s why you have players that own certain spaces and those systems have to work together and that can only be so good.
Hopefully over time with more APIs, more relationships and partnerships and synergies, that stuff can really come together. Eventually somebody will build the whole end to end experience, but it’s highly regulated, it’s fintech, there’s a lot of personal information. It’s a very different model. Going back to your question, it’s poor right now.
Even if I look at our clients, I think that BeSmartee has the best automation space. We just came out with an RI calculator. Even for a small 40 loan officer lender without automation, we think that can increase your revenues by $115,000 per month. Not revenue, sorry, profitability and margin. $115,000 per month. That’s a big number because there’s a lot of costs to cut off. As good as I think we are at it, I still think we’re maybe at the middle of it all. There’s just so much more to automate.
Justin: You guys are doing both point of sale and third party origination, correct?
Tim: Correct. Yes, we are mortgage POS is our core bread and butter. We have a third party origination system. They have other ancillary tools and plugins, of course. Then we also just acquired a company called in November last year and what they do is automation as well. Have you heard of what’s called spreading the data in a commercial business sense?
Justin: I have, but I think this is a good opportunity to get another perspective on the definition of something like that. Why don’t you state what that is and then continue, because I think this would be good for the audience.
Tim: If you’re going to go out to a bank, usually a bank, and say, “Hey, I want a business loan, commercial loan, SBA loan, PPP loan,” whatever. Before they can even really help you, they’re like, “All right, give me your tax returns.” They have to take that data, move it to a spreadsheet, do a bunch of calculations. It takes about 2 hours to do that one step. When that happens, then you can go back to your client, say, “Okay, I can, or I can’t help you. Let’s take the next step.”
Essentially what we do is we just take that to our process, we turn it into a two minute process. You feed into our software. The data gets mapped, it gets calculated. Now you work with the KPIs and the metrics, then you get faster feedback to your consumer. This does a couple of things. You just saved your two hours. You save your consumer two hours. That two hours to the consumer is fascinating because it’s not like they’re actually sitting there for two hours. You’re going to call them back in two hours.
What you’re doing is bridging experiences, you’re speeding up the experience, you’re delivering value quicker, accuracy quicker, and giving them answers quicker, and that answer is worth everything. Otherwise, guess what? They think that’s too long. They’re going down, calling the next bank. When you call them back, guess what? They’re not calling you back anymore.
Justin: Exactly. The theme that you touched on there with speed and the efficient process on your guys’ blog, which I recommend to everybody besmartee.com/ You have some great mix of deeper 400 level courses. To make an analogy here, content on deeper things like the importance of an integrated point of sale loan origination system. But then also some much more, what I would call mortgage 101 type content, like what is the mortgage ecosystem, for example.
When you look at the state of mortgage automation, and you specifically called out that we’re very much on the beginning of that curve. Is there a particular piece in the tech stack, whether that’s LOS, POS, if you have the sales enablement tool, customer support, whatever it may be, that sits in that chain, and you’re going into a new potential. They’re getting ready to start a new independent mortgage broker, let’s just say that someone’s going to start a new broker. Which piece of the tech stack would you say to look at first to help ensure the best possible environment for automation going forward?
Tim: That’s a great question, Justin. Where I would start is looking at your LOS toPOS, frankly, for the fact that your LOS, you need it to close loans. Your POS, you need it to solicit the new generation borrower. We’re not doing business over the phone anymore, delivering different experiences. The second tranche I would look at, is all the other downstream things that you’re going to need. A CRM, credit, title, fees, documents, underwriting, you name it. There’s just a whole slew of vendors that people in our space are going to really think through.
What’s interesting about that question, too, as I think about it, is which part of the process from the moment you find out about a lender to the moment you close a loan and make your payments. Which one of the processes needs automation the most? Frankly, it all needs automation. It’s that to be very honest. Now, where I will say, though, to help is where have people started.
So 2016, it was the POS, and it continues to be the POS until more recently. Now, we’re starting to see automated underwriting, and automations there to really help things out. The market evolves and now we’re also starting. The second thing starting to come up is servicing automation, and delivering a better experience to the consumer and your staff there. Those are three tranches for the last six or so years.
Justin: It’s been fascinating for me on this topic because I don’t spend 100% of my time looking at the mortgage space. Capacity has customers, picks an industry and vertical and we probably have a customer in it. We do have a decent cluster in the mortgage space so I do look at it probably more than I would say that the average person does, and definitely more than the average non-mortgage- exclusive mortgage tech vendor does. I’ve really come to appreciate how complex the process is, from meeting with your realtor to calling the bank, to signing the 1,500 pages you get on closing, to finally getting your keys and moving the boxes in.
It’s a wildly complicated process, and what’s really interesting to me is how much really important human interactions still happens in that process. You look at the Rocket or Better or any of these houses that are purporting to want to do as much of a touchless loan, officer-less as possible or whatever. That’s obviously difficult to do because a home shopping journey is one of the more emotional purchases that people are going to do. There’s a huge, huge need and space for just really good human-human interaction.
Part of our thesis with support automation, and specifically, support automation to help close more loans more quickly, overlaps a lot with what you’re talking about, and that is making this as easy as possible for the loan officers and servicers and whoever else it is that has to deal with the homeowner throughout the lifecycle of this.
My question to you is, basically, how should lenders think about equipping their loan officers, whether it’s through tech, training, or whatever? Kind of give you a blank prompt on this. How should we look to equip lenders with what they need to be at their absolute best, especially going into a time like we are now, where rates, and inventory, and home prices, and inflation, and everything that’s going into this basket of issues that we’re dealing with. The big buying spree in the last couple of years is undoubtedly over, and we’re heading into a different period in the industry. What’s your advice on setting up everyone for the best possible success?
Tim: I think it means we have to define what success means. You hit it right on the nose and my promise to the audience, none of this has been pre-recorded or planned, but you asked an amazing question. What does automation really do at the end of the day? For the loan officer and you hit it again in the beginning because you said it’s a relationship business.
Justin: It really is.
Tim: No matter how much automation you have, it’s still the biggest transaction for most people that you’ll ever go through. Most emotional transaction. You’re going to live in this home for many years, and have great memories there. That’s what success is in my eyes. As the market shifts up, down, good, bad, whatever, the market will shift all the time. Loan officers are the professionals there that guide people through this. They provide the expertise to get through all these things and make the right decision.
Our aim is very simple: automation. Success is by eliminating, automating the redundant, mundane, tedious stuff that a computer can do, so that you as a loan officer can focus on the relationship, and ultimately be a trusted adviser to that relationship. I don’t need you to sit there and collect 100 points of data. I don’t need you to go calculate a bunch of stuff and grab things from different websites. I need you to walk me through what loan I should get myself into. I need you to talk to the realtor and explain why the mortgage is going to be delayed three days and why the buyer or the seller should give me that extra time. That’s where the value comes into play.
Justin: It’s going to be a very interesting period to live through here. Obviously, in down markets, we shift from origination and refinancing, to loss mitigation, default, dealing with the ugly side, if you will, of the lifecycle here. I think the businesses, lenders, banks that are going to be in the best position are the ones that maintain those relationships and are able to be in as much as the mortgage company that you deal with you’re on your mortgage every month can be a source of stability and clear communication and easy to manage, login and check the status or whatever it is. We’re going to get through this by making this easier on each other, which is basically what I’m getting at.
Tim: Yes, got to be transparent.
Tim: Got to be transparent. Easy is great, automation is great, but we have to make sure borrowers get the information they need, so they can make the right decision for themselves.
Justin: Yes, exactly. I’m going to change gears just a little bit here. The 15 or so minutes we have left. Again, thank you for your time and coming on. This has been great. I’m going to change gears just a bit. I’m going to change gears from let’s talk about mortgage automation and the benefits of having a strong point of sale or TPO like what you guys provide. I want to talk to you more as a founder and operator of a SaaS company because you have customers. You have customer success, customer support. You’ve got onboarding, you’ve got all the different things that you do with your business to help keep churn low and expansion revenue high, and all the stuff that us SaaS companies spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week trying to do.
When you look at the role of providing good automation and technology for support inside your own business, are there any lessons you learned from helping mortgage lenders have good automation practices that you can carry into your own business and your own customers? Is there any overlap or learnings there? I’m interested to ask you this because you’re in a very unique position to look at this from both sides of the table.
Tim: That’s an interesting question, and a good one at that. Look, we’re in the business automating the stuff for our clients. The first observation I made was it forced me to look inside our own company and say, gosh, we help our clients automate a lot, but we’re not doing it for ourselves. That’s the first observation. Yes, I think automation and efficiency, it’s a mindset. It’s a philosophy.
It’s not something you put on the wall and then check them off. You check off three boxes and you’re done. It’s a continuous improvement, it’s a continuous mindset. Every time you bring on a new task, new function, new vendor, you really have to take the time and think, “Okay, is there a better way?” There’s getting the job done now, then there’s getting the job done right. I’ll give you an example.
We automate credit. As you accept our process, we automate credit. We take the data, we calculate data, we move the data where it needs to go and do all these calculations and move to the downstream system, blah, blah, blah. We really save people time from having to do these things manually. When I look at that, I look at my own organization and I look at the way we onboard new employees.
We actually do run background checks and all these things because we’re FinTech related. We’re in people’s most personal information. We automated that so it’s one less thing that HR has to do. One less thing that can miss, so now our people become not doers, but monitors and observers and overseers of the process. That’s a different skill set. You remember The Simpsons? Homer’s standing there in front of his machine. It all runs on its own, but someone’s got to be there to monitor it and make sure that things are going right.
Justin: It’s interesting for me in the same regard because as a marketing executive at a SaaS company who has different tiers of customers, who maybe have larger contracts than others or more features than others or more users than others. We look at our internal processes for managing those workloads of our CSMs. It’s always such a great opportunity to practice what we preach, to use these stories we hear from our customers wanting us to help them solve whatever the problem is, and then taking some of those lessons and looking at them internally and go, “Actually, you know what? The such-and-such account made a really great point about this, and we’re looking at our data and have the same issue.” You start eating your own dog food in a case.
A little different for you guys because you’re not also out there closing loans. Your point there is a really good one, and one that I think, regardless of what industry you work in, and if you’re listening to this, there’s a correlation between the problems you’re solving for your customers and the problems you would solve for you if you were one of your own customers. It’s something that doesn’t get studied enough. I’m glad you brought it up. To close up here, I’m going to ask you the same question that I ask everybody at the end of this portion of the talk.
That is, and you can go back to the mortgage industry specifically on this one. When you look at the future of support automation, or just automation mortgage more generally, what do you think excites you the most about what you see on the horizon?
Tim: I’ll focus on the mortgage. That’s just what I live and breathe, and hopefully I give the audience a different perspective here. What excites me the most are the problems still lingering from decades. Specifically, we all know what a nice vision is going to be. You should be able to do a retina scan, do your fingerprints, scan your ID, and they should just give an approval. Then the loan should just close and everything should be clear and should just move in seamlessly.
You should never miss your payment because there’s a computer reminding you and helping you organize your expenses so you can pay for the roof in 10 years. The vision’s out there but I always tell people– This, I think, came from one of our facilitators, a mentor essentially. “Vision without execution is hallucination,” is what he basically said. Vision’s 1%.
We all agree what a great vision is. CEOs, co-founders, executives, whatever, product people. Executing that? That’s the battle. It’s very even more specifically in the mortgage space. That’s all that. How do we get a consumer from the fastest you can legally close a loan? Seven days. They should all be closing in seven days, or at least be ready to close in seven days. Sometimes you gotta wait for the seller to move out of the house but you shouldn’t have to stress out for four days before you move in. I should just be ready, go on a trip, come back, move in, have a blast.
We want to go end to end, so that’s the origination and closing process, then that moves over to the servicing of the loan. Then after that, you got a lifelong customer, potentially, if you do things right, that trusts you with their data, trusts you with their largest transaction. We want to build that all end to end.
I made a comment earlier that it’s going to take a billion dollar company to do this or a billion dollars to do it. We want to be there from end to end. We want to buy a ticket on Expedia or whatever website you use? Remember how difficult it used to be talking to an agent, not getting the transparent data? Now we can do it in 10 minutes. That’s how easy getting a mortgage is.
Beyond just getting the mortgage, you got to help the consumers stay in the home.
Help them be responsible and know what’s around that corner and help them give value to the home. Because ultimately, they too, and I’ll say this, home will end up being, for most people, their largest asset that will take care of them for many years until they’re gray and old and they leave this earth. Let’s keep the homes there for people and let’s help them be responsible and give them something appropriate.
Justin: I couldn’t agree with you more. It was fun for me listening to your answer because you touched on something that came up in an interview I recorded yesterday, as a matter of fact. This is something we talk about a lot on this show. The expectation for convenience and experience is so high for basically any economic transaction we have, that it’s incumbent on all parts of the value chain, in any type of economic transaction, to have the most seamless, easy experience possible.
The amount we’ve been spoiled by having world-class UX devices, like an iPhone or whatever, in our pocket. It sets an expectation that when you go to work and you log into your CRM, not to throw too much shade at Salesforce here, but using that should be as delightful as using Netflix. Going and buying a home and getting your keys and moving the boxes, should be as delightful as getting a mop on Amazon.
We have a long way to go to get there in both those instances, but that should be the goal. It’s good technology. It’s smart, efficient automation such as BeSmartee and Capacity are bringing to market, it’s going to help manage that. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m super excited for the future.
Tim: I can agree with you as well, because, when you look at this, “To what end?” I also ask myself. I think the end is if we’re all more effective, more efficient, allows us to create and do better, and move things forward. That’s what it’s all about.
Justin: To end our conversation, I’m going to go through our quick fire questions that we do at the end of every interview. First thing that pops to your head, what’s the book that you most often recommend to people?
Tim: From a business sense, Good to Great.
Justin: That’s a good one. That’s a very good one. What’s the best productivity tip/tool/hack/practice that you have in your day to day, that you think more people should look into adopting.
Tim: Take 10 minutes in the morning, get ready for the day, or take 10 minutes at night before you go to bed so you know what to walk into. Don’t walk into chaos. Plan it out.
Justin: That’s great. Who in the world of automation, or more broadly, business and operating a successful company or driving value for customers. If you could sit down over a cocktail or coffee, depending on the time of day, and just pick their brain, who would it be?
Tim: Frankly, I get to do it all the time. I belong to a CEO network of other peers. Get to sit down and just talk to people, work with people who are about our company size, who’ve been there, done that. They want to help, we get to challenge each other. These normal CEOs, I call them, are more meaningful to me than some guy running a $50 billion company.
Justin: Yes. As much fun as it would be to take Tim Cook out for coffee, the scale at which he has to solve problems is alien to a lot of us, right?
Tim: Yes. We had this one member, at the time he left he was a billion dollar company and all his issues and challenges and opportunities, they were just like, whoa. Cool but way above my head.
Justin: When coordinating the logistics of getting the G6 on a specific runway at a specific time, is one of the things you’re thinking about, some of the value falls off the back of the truck for me. This has been a great conversation. Tim, thank you so much for joining us. If people want to learn about you or BeSmartee, where are the best places to go?
Tim: BeSmartee.com. Reach out. Tim@besmartee.com. Feel free to reach out and LinkedIn. I do check my messages regularly, once every week or so. If I don’t get back too quickly, I apologize, but I do get back to everyone.
Justin: Tim, thank you so much for coming on the Support Automation Show and have a wonderful day.
Tim: Thanks, Justin. Have a good day yourself.
Justin: The Support Automation Show is brought to you by Capacity. Visit capacity.com to find everything you need for automating support and business processes in one powerful platform. You can find the show by searching for Support Automation in your favorite podcast app. Please subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. On behalf of the team here at Capacity, thanks for listening.