Joe DeDominicis – Nations Reliable Lending LLC
Joe DeDominicis wants to make sure the American dream of home ownership doesn’t become a nightmare—for a homebuyer or the people who originate and service the mortgage.
“It’s the largest transaction you’re probably going to make in your life,” he says, and adds it can be fraught with unending forms, interminable waits and a lack of information for homebuyers.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, DeDominicis has worked through nearly every financial aspect of homebuying and selling, from mortgage origination and credit risk assessment to servicing loans. Now, as chief financial officer and chief technology officer at Nations Reliable Lending LLC, DeDominicis is building a technology infrastructure to allow borrowers and lenders to rest easier, he says.
“It should be an experience unlike others and as transparent and as easy for our customers as possible,” he says. “We need to take into account what the borrower’s needs are as they apply for a mortgage. It’s the borrowers that are first-time homebuyers or who may need some help to qualify—that’s where we stand out.”
Easing the wait
Founded in 2007 and headquartered in Houston, NRL is licensed to operate in 48 states and has 73 branches. The company shared in the good tidings of the residential housing boom in 2020, with its loan originations doubling from $1.4 billion to $2.8 billion, DeDominicis says.
But that good fortune was far from assured as the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, bringing health and economic worries, as well as big changes in mortgage processing. The world is going digital, as is homebuying, and DeDominicis is making sure NRL takes advantage of the changes.
The company has enjoyed something of a head start in showing the value of technology in its operations—DeDominicis says employees were able to work remotely in August 2017 when Hurricane Harvey struck, flooding Houston.
Even before the 2020 boom, it could average 40 days to process a mortgage from application to closing. DeDominicis says it can, and should, eventually take as few as eight days, but only if appraisals occur quickly, originators have all the financial information they need and documents such as disclosures are signed as soon as they’re available.
NRL is averaging 27 days from application to closing, and DeDominicis says he’s pushing to shorten that by introducing better analytics, secure documentation transfers and tight cybersecurity to gain the trust of homebuyers.
Sometimes that just means presenting clear information first time homebuyers need. On the NRL website, customers can find out all about state and federal mortgage and financing programs such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Federal Housing Administration’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
But if someone wants to apply for a mortgage at 2 a.m., DeDominicis is making sure they can. He and his staff are creating a new point-of-sale system that allows borrowers access through a variety of devices, including their phones. The new system will also help NRL loan officers collect data and documentation more efficiently which speeds up processing loan applications and decreases the time from application to closing, he adds.
“This is where we have the advantage,” DeDominicis explains. “We can provide multiple paths for borrowers—presenting them the information before they choose a path.”
Ease of use
NRL has doubled its volume of business in a year without adding a significant number of employees, he adds, so he and his staff added a Salesforce customer relationship management system as well as a new point of sale. These enable loan officers to handle the increased workload by putting more information and data at hand for them.
While speeding up the process, the new CRM provides analytics to show the quality of third-party leads and how well employees are pursuing those leads. The analytics will also show which types of leads are best to pursue. The CRM provides regular updates to borrowers and NRL realtor partners throughout the origination cycle. Those are part of the indicators needed to determine how well the company is performing, DeDominicis says.
“From the internal perspective, I’m trying to get data to present it to the people who need it when they need it—no searching, just present it,” he explains. “But I don’t just look at [return on investment]. We always lead with making the right decisions based on ease of doing business and customer satisfaction.”
Tailoring the technology to support both the sales and operations sides of originating mortgages is a challenge, and it’s made even more so because NRL is also subject to federal, state and local regulations. So it’s crucial the technology ensures compliance with all of these regulations. The company is routinely audited by state regulators—it may face three at once, DeDominicis says.
Accounting for tech
“My passion for tech is something that I grew up with,” he says, noting his father was a mechanical engineer for GE.
By the time he was 18, DeDominicis was building computers for gaming. When it came time for college, the Philadelphia-area native pursued a different path, though, and earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Maryland in 1990.
He began his career as a senior accountant for KPMG in 1990, and first entered the mortgage business as a vice president of capital markets accounting for Prudential Home Mortgage in 1993. In 1996, he shifted to risk management as a senior vice president at First Union, then took on the same role at National City Bank in 2002. He was also senior vice president and chief credit officer for its parent company National City Corp.
DeDominicis continued in the industry with executive roles at First Franklin Financial Corp., Merrill Lynch subsidiary FFFC and SN Servicing Corp., among other companies. He joined NRL in May 2017 with a clear view on how it could grow.
“The best thing I can do for the team and the company is to really set them up for success, create the vision, communicate effectively as a group and company,” DeDominicis says. “I view my job as an offensive lineman—clear the path of any obstacles in their way, making sure whatever it is they need to be successful is provided to them.”
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