Chris Flynn: Why Data-as-a-Service Will See Strong Adoption in the Mortgage Industry

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PERSON OF THE WEEK: Now that a majority of mortgage transactions are all-digital – or at least mostly digital – due to the pandemic, many lenders are now shifting their focus to the data that are being used to power their online, AI-driven, fully automated lending platforms – and how it can be best utilized to generate more business.

For one thing, lenders are now realizing that data is the key to delivering a more personalized self-serve mortgage process.

As such, the data providers a lender works with – what they offer and how reliable they are – has become a critical business decision.

In fact, data is now such an important element to so many businesses across so many industries and verticals that it has given rise to the term “Data-as-a-Service” – which covers anything from data storage to integration to processing to analytics services delivered via the cloud.

So why is Data as a Service important to mortgage lenders? To find out, MortgageOrb recently interviewed Chris Flynn, vice president, division business director, for First American Data & Analytics.

Q: What is Data as a Service, and why is it so important now?

Flynn: Data as a Service (DaaS) is a variation of the more familiar Software as a Service (SaaS) model. In the broadest sense, it means enabling customers to engage with data in the manner or procedure that helps them meet their business needs – not just presenting data through a product or report. A truly comprehensive DaaS solution provides a wide array of data content, in configurable and customizable delivery mechanisms, to solve high-value challenges. The DaaS solution delivery could occur transactionally through an API, involve enrichment of a customer’s own data, or simply be the mass consumption of bulk data. 

The latest evolution of DaaS solutions involves moving large amounts of data onto cloud platforms, like the Snowflake Data Marketplace and Amazon Web Services (AWS), and allowing clients to access this data and work with it there. Recently, our company announced that we’ve joined the Snowflake Data Marketplace and have made a number of our large real estate and mortgage data sets available through the cloud.

DaaS solutions are creating opportunities for clients to not only take advantage of the power of content in the cloud, but also to use these platforms to further expedite innovation with the data assets they can access.

Q: What advantages does DaaS have for clients?

Flynn: Data as a Service allows providers to tailor the data and solution to meet the specific client requirements and deliver the exact information in the manner it needs to be consumed. A client could use DaaS to make a decision on a single property or transaction in a customer’s system, or to access data on more than 100 million residential properties – a nation’s worth of data – for business intelligence. 

DaaS via cloud delivery solves a number of challenges for users. It reduces the effort, time and costs of acquiring and managing large data sets. We’re talking about the steps required first for extraction and delivery and then for data operations, such as acquisition, ingestion and transformation. Customers also always have the latest, most up-to-date data at their disposal, without intervention or having to request it from their providers. By ingesting third-party data this way, it can quickly and easily be combined with the customer’s own data enabling faster innovation and value recognition.

Conversely, if a customer need is identifying specific data attributes associated with a loan or property, etc., deploying a modern API framework to empower processes is a more point-solution example of DaaS to quickly and succinctly acquire that data and populate an internal system or record. Now data can now be consumed in near real-time and in a secure manner. Data consumers should not have to filter through multiple reports or outlets to solve their problems.  

Q: Is the cloud simply a delivery mechanism or is it a collaborative platform?

Flynn: Depending on the client, it can be both. It is a very efficient and secure delivery mechanism. There’s no need to contact your content provider or request the latest data – it’s all live and continually updated in the cloud, taking a lot of the “push/pull” out of the equation. Cloud providers have also developed modern workspaces that can enable a whole litany of programmatic analytics language, business intelligence software and machine learning programs – all plugged in and efficiently accessed.

This is one of the reasons that FinTech and PropTech companies are increasingly sourcing, aggregating, enriching and consuming their data on leading-edge, cloud-based platforms. They are consuming the data and running large-scale analytics within the platforms. 

This opens up opportunities for modelers to quickly deploy data sandboxes or cloud worksheets to develop and test new concepts rapidly. So, they know what works (or doesn’t) without sinking an inordinate amount of time into data management.

Q: What will, or won’t, DaaS replace?

Flynn: As we’ve noted, Fintech and PropTech companies have been the early adopters of DaaS methodologies or practices, because they realize it’s potential to democratize data. Most new start-ups, and an increasing number of mature data companies, wouldn’t think of sourcing their data any other way. Whether through cloud delivery or an API, they’re getting the data they need when and where they need it. 

In the near term, DaaS will most likely be an alternative means of accessing data for most mortgage and real estate clients. They will continue to rely on data reports or FTP transfers and uploads, as most of the processes are in-place and working for what they need—today. 

But tomorrow, or in the not so distant future, this will change, much the same way as SaaS changed the way businesses deal with their software providers. The efficiency, customization capabilities, and overall flexibilities that more modern technologies can provide will become the standard, not the exception. 

Data providers, like First American, are making these kinds of interactions available in the cloud, providing curated and linked datasets in cloud platforms with modern workstations and meaningful analytics. As more clients experience and become more familiar with this type of delivery option, it will most likely accelerate DaaS adoption.

Q: Five years from now, how big a factor will it be? 

Flynn: DaaS, through API and cloud delivery, will likely be the primary way most users consume data and it will be a huge factor. We’re seeing that velocity pick up and we see the inflection point on the horizon. DaaS will be the norm sooner rather than later.

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