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Donna DelMonte has more than 20 years experience in the mortgage industry. In the course of her career, she has managed wholesale and retail lending operations for major lenders, with responsibilities that spanned across the entire residential home loan process, from origination and underwriting through risk management and secondary marketing. She has gained prominence over the years with high-profile positions including senior vice president of operations at United Lending Group, senior vice president of operations at GMAC-RFC, senior vice president of wholesale lending at NovaStar Mortgage Bank and vice president of sales at OneWest Bank.
In July 2010, DelMonte joined StreetLinks Lender Solutions, an appraisal management company and mortgage solutions provider of Assurant Inc. She currently holds the position of senior vice president of product development.
Under DelMonte’s team leadership, StreetLinks successfully introduced its StreetLinks QX product, a highly regarded automated appraisal review tool. In a corporate release, StreetLinks singled out DelMonte for praise, noting “StreetLinks QX has since improved our own collateral underwriting efficiency by 40 percent and is utilized by top lending institutions nationwide, with 1190.91 percent growth in number of customers in 2013.”
National Mortgage Professional Magazine spoke with DelMonte from her office in Orange County, Calif., on her work with StreetLinks and her views on the state of the industry.
NMP: What makes StreetLinks stand out from its competitors?
Donna DelMonte: To me, it is the StreetLinks team—the people, the leadership and the core values that define us and the Assurant organization. Our leadership team is comprised of experienced appraisal management experts and lending professionals from diverse backgrounds, creating a unique balance that allows us to challenge ourselves and to keep our vision in line with the lenders and appraisal professionals across our industry.
You have been in the mortgage industry for more than two decades. How has the industry changed, for better and for worse?
It has changed a lot! I started back when we had to type out loan documents. It was time-consuming and paper-intensive. We even had to glue photographs to the documents. There was not a lot of security and control over the process. Things would become lost on cabinets and left on someone’s desk.
In retrospect, I can say that, overall, it was a good learning experience. Today, many of the tasks you used to do manually are now done instantly with new technology, such as automated underwriting utilities and appraisal review tools. That clearly makes things much easier. But at the same time, there have been many new regulatory guidelines that lenders need to comply with. Oversight and adherence can create more opportunities for potential problems, delays and expenses for lenders, which can trickle down to the consumer.
What are the primary considerations that go into the development of StreetLinks’ automated valuation tools?
First and foremost, we design products that challenge the status quo. If we cannot create something better than the products that are already available, we are not going to do it. At StreetLinks, we listen very closely to our customers to determine their likes and dislikes of the products that are currently out in the marketplace. We use that information as a sounding board for what to develop or refine next.
As a team leader, what do you look for when seeking out individuals to be part of your team?
There are certain things that I always look for: Leadership quality and an individual who understands the goals of the organization. It is very important to have a team member who has a positive attitude and is able to contribute their ideas to us. They also need to display honesty and integrity, and know the importance of doing the right thing.
Another important factor is flexibility. Things change and we want employees who can successfully adapt to change and are able to contribute new ideas to the success of the company.
And finally, interpersonal skills are crucial. A successful team member is one who is comfortable communicating with people.
What is your opinion of Fannie Mae's Collateral Underwriter, and how will it impact the appraisal process?
It is a new process for everyone and has certainly brought the industry’s attention to how lenders handle their quality control procedures.
As with anything new, people need to be aware of what is required and be properly prepared before using it. Then again, lenders always need to research quality tools and need to understand how the use of these tools can impact their business. I believe the release of CU, along with recent and upcoming regulatory changes, will leave lenders heavily focused on further standardizing procedures, ensuring compliance and attempting to lower costs across the board.
Do you see mortgage banking, as a whole, and the valuation sector, in particular, as a strong career environment for young people coming out of college and into the workforce?
Now that is a question that has not been asked in a long time! Both of those career paths offer great opportunities for young professionals. They have certainly been very good for me and my peers. We all experienced the ebb and flow of the industry throughout the years, but overall it continues to grow and can always use new minds to offer fresh ideas and perspectives.
I strongly believe in offering internships so that college students can understand what the pros and cons are for this type of industry. I have a daughter in college and I tell her all time to do an internship and use that experience to learn what she wants to do.
What projects are you currently working on?
We are continuing to focus on our AppraiserPlus program, which generates ACH payment within one business day of an appraiser completing an inspection. We’ve had fantastic results with this program. We are also continuing to improve on the technology behind StreetLinks QX and our suite of products. Our goal at StreetLinks is to offer one-stop shopping for lenders that rely on and trust our data.
Outside of work, how do you spend your leisure time?
I am a huge boater and am a fisherwoman. We’ve had a boat for more than 15 years, and I love to go out to Catalina and go fishing in the local waters. There is great weather there all year round!
Phil Hall is managing editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
This article originally appeared in the March 2015 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.