One of the most challenging questions to be asked in the course of a business transaction is, "How much is it worth?" This is especially thorny in regard to real estate. Fortunately, Vladimir Bien-Aime is able to help today's real estate professionals find the right answer.
Bien-Aime's company, Global DMS, presents itself as "the mortgage industry’s preeminent provider of commercial and residential real estate valuation solutions." This statement has been more than affirmed by Bien-Aime's real estate industry peers. The award-winning company and its charismatic, hard-working leader have played a crucial role in bringing the real estate world back to its senses following the last recession, and Global DMS proudly notes that it has "retained 100 percent of its lender clients since its inception."
We spoke with Bien-Aime about his work in the distinctive world of real estate industry valuation.
Q: What was the inspiration for Global DMS, and was this the first company that you created?
Vladimir Bien-Aime: When I co-founded Global DMS in 1999, I did so with a vision that was definitely ahead of its time. What we do is automate the complete appraisal management process for residential and commercial properties via the Web. Our solution produces accurate valuations when banks and lenders underwrite loans.
Before the mortgage meltdown and before anyone ever much cared about how to accurately value a property, I saw the need to drive and instill the importance of valuations. Before the mortgage crash, credit was always king and served as the primary barometer by which to assess the risk of default. However, investors left out a critical element—how much a property is truly worth. Today, however, the mortgage industry now takes the valuation of properties as seriously as a borrower’s credit score within underwriting guidelines.
Global DMS is the first company that I created. Before that, I consulted on special technology projects that involved the analysis, design and implementation of large-scale technology systems for several of the mortgage industry’s leading corporations. I've also worked in the appraisal space as a systems engineer and in information technology for the Department of Environmental Protection.
Q: How long did it take to launch Global DMS?
Vladimir Bien-Aime: Having a software development background, I was actually the one who coded the original application, which kick-started the genesis of what has become a very robust, enterprise-class valuation management technology platform, which we call eTrac.
Rome wasn't built in a day. I hired another programmer and began further developing the solution. It took years of fine tuning the software and slowly adding staff to get where we are today. Again, while I saw the value and importance of appraisal software automation, the mortgage industry as a whole did not until numerous compliance rules and regulations forced lending organizations to take housing valuations much more seriously than before.
Since 1999, Global DMS' solutions have advanced significantly over the years. When the compliance storm hit, we were ready; most, however, were not. We gained significant traction and a demand for our solution, but we really started to take off in 2008.
Q: What have been some of the challenges in running your company? And on the flip side, what have been some of your triumphs?
Vladimir Bien-Aime: I’ll answer the first question in two parts. First, I am an entrepreneur by nature. It’s in my blood. What this means to the company is that our employees they must possess an entrepreneurial mindset and a tolerance for risk and reward. Finding these types of people is no easy task. When I first started Global DMS, I really had to spend a lot of time and energy locating these hidden gems. I needed drivers. Make-it-happen, roll-your-selves-up people who are high energy, industrious, ambitious and dedicated. It’s hard to locate these types of “A” players who are capable of dedicating themselves to building an organization from the ground up.
Second, leading a company that is thriving in a fast-moving industry and functions in a hyper-growth mode requires the effective management of growing pains. That’s an ongoing challenge, but is one that I have a firm handle on.
We were well-prepared for the highly intensive regulatory landscape that the mortgage industry now operates in. All of our hard work and focus in developing enterprise-class software has paid off—In spades. Our success is based on our clients' success. It is very gratifying when our clients share with us how much more efficient, effective and 100 percent compliant they are when it comes to processing appraisals in today's appraisal space.
We are the leading innovators and the trailblazer in the mortgage industry for appraisal process automation.
Q: How are you marketing your company's products and services?
Vladimir Bien-Aime: We market our solutions and services directly to mortgage lenders, banks, credit unions, appraisal management companies and third parties such as independent home mortgage appraisers. We successfully built a strong, highly recognizable brand in the mortgage industry that conveys how our technology effectively automates complex business processes and the value proposition we deliver.
We developed a traditional sales force and supporting marketing functions that is very effective in marketing and selling our products to Global DMS' target market. To date, we have won many awards for our technology solutions. We constantly innovate and advance our products to help make our clients be as successful as possible.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to get a foothold in today's financial services industry?
Vladimir Bien-Aime: As we know, financial services is a highly fluid, tough, and increasingly regulatory ridden industry, in particular the mortgage sector of financial services. Make sure that you have a viable business model. Perform your market research. Does your target market truly have a need for your products/services? Just because you think so doesn't mean that they do. Don't get overly excited and rush into things. Be strategic first, tactical second.
Believe strongly in your endeavor, be passionate about it, and remain committed to it for the long haul. Have a tolerance for risk. This isn't easy, but trust your instincts. Some will tell you that your idea(s) outright won't work. Don't get discouraged by the naysayers. Have resolve and march forward with unwavering drive. However, be careful of letting emotion skew your judgment and always proceed cautiously and objectively.
Phil Hall is senior editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]