MReport April 2020

TheMReport — News and strategies for the evolving mortgage marketplace.

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M R EP O RT | 19 FEATURE COVER STORY disrupts manufacturing and global supply chains," Hale said. "In fact, anticipation of possible virus- induced weakness was one of the factors that motivated the Fed to drop the federal funds rate by 50 basis points and less than 2 weeks later cut it all the way to zero while simultaneously introducing other easing measures." "The Business Is the Same" T he spread of COVID-19 has disrupted all facets of daily life. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas enacted measures closing all bars and restaurants in an effort to fight the virus. Another aspect that is being affected are businesses, as com- panies are allowing employees to work from home. The housing industry is not immune to this movement. Austin Niemiec, EVP, Quicken Loans Mortgage Services (QLMS), told MReport that more than 90% of Quicken Loans' 18,000 employ- ees are working from home—in- cluding himself. Niemiec said they tested remote working starting on March 11 and by March 13 all employees were remote. He added the transition "worked flawlessly." "We're a forward-thinking tech- nology company. A large amount of our team members already had the capability to work full-time from home or work from home as needed," he said. Niemiec said Quicken Loans began planning for this two months ago, buying necessary equipment, and setting up em- ployees that didn't have remote capabilities. He added the chal- lenges they have encountered have been minor—shaky internet or phone connection—but they have been able to correct them quickly. He added that QLMS' goal is to take care of its partners' business and all the mortgage brokers it works with. "The biggest threat to compa- nies in the mortgage industry is the technology that relates to the infrastructure of getting loans closed," he said. "Loans are a deadline business with rate locks and documents that expire. I think that would be the threat to any major mortgage lender—losing the infrastructure to close loans. That infrastructure is something we've taken more than three decades to build, and it is running as smoothly as you can imagine." One of the problems that could arise would be from forces out- side of a company's control, such as verification of employment. "There are some employers out there that are shutting down, or municipalities or government entities that we need to call to verify employment. That might be difficult. Or verifying home- owners' insurance could become difficult. Our system is set up for success. But some of those outside factors could become challenging," Niemiec said. While admitting working from home is running smoothly, Niemiec said it will take some getting used to. "It's definitely different. I've tried to keep the same rhythm and routine," he said. "I wake up at the same time, shower, do my hair, get dressed. It's clearly different, but once you dial in and start to focus on the business, it's the same. Whether it's at work or at home, for me, it's serving people and solving problems, and that doesn't change no matter where you are." Niemiec said the current plan is for QLMS employees to work from home until April 6. No QLMS employees have tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19. Allen Price, SVP, BSI Financial Services, said 95% of its workforce is working remotely, adding, "we have a very robust work-from- home platform." "When it comes to borrowers, we want to make sure that we, as a servicer, are doing everything we can to keep people in their homes," Price said. Maintaining Order M ichelle Garcia Gilbert, Managing Partner, Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A., and Sapphire Title & Escrow Company, said the Florida Supreme Court sent out a notice that there is to be no in-person hearings. She said her firm has been able to reset most of the in-person hearings to telephonic hearings but noted Duval County cancelled all court hearings for at least two weeks. Gilbert said that most judges are encouraging telephonic hear- ings but noted "all judges are individuals" and that some are still requiring in-person hearings. She added that in those cases, her firm is using an appearance counsel to relay messages and appear before a judge. Despite not being able to appear in most courts, she said the spread of COVID-19 has caused limited dis- ruptions in day-to-day operations. Another question for the courts is what judges will do and if judges can work remotely. "There's a lot of uncertainty," she said. "While some courts have sus- pended proceedings all together, and others have rescheduled trials and evidentiary proceedings, many courts are accommodating telephonic hearings for continu- ity," said Roy Diaz, Managing Shareholder, Diaz Anselmo Lindberg P.A. and Chair of Legal League 100. "E-Filing continues to be operational, and phone hear- ings are expected to continue for a few weeks." Gilbert added that she is cur- rently still working in the office but all employees are equipped with laptops. More employees could be working from home in the near future. She added work on the backend can still be done as files can be sent SPECIAL REPORT: COVID-19 "Really, the biggest threat to companies, at least in the mortgage industry, is any technology that relates to the infrastructure of getting loans closed." —Austin Niemiec, EVP, Quicken Loans Mortgage Services

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