How to Solve the Challenges of Technology Implementation in Capital Markets Firms?

How to Solve the Challenges of Technology Implementation in Capital Markets Firms?

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I'm Wes Snow, president and CEO of Ascendix  Technologies, a CRM product and Consulting   Services Partner in the commercial real estate  space. We're a certified Consulting partner for   brands like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics  CRM, and work with countless other CRM tools   over 26-year history. We spent the last 16 years  devoted to working with commercial real estate   brokerages across the globe including tenant rep,  landlord rep, and investment sales brokerages. As   well as Capital Markets firms or what might  also be also be referred to as commercial   mortgage brokerages which is the focus of  our discussion. Today we are facilitating   a discussion with Revel Stark, the Director  of Business Development at Innovative Capital   Commercial about some of the work we've done  with them on this technology front. Hello Revel! 

Revel: Good afternoon, Wes! Wes: How about we have you   introduce yourself formally and the firm  Innovative Capital. Just get started that way.  Revel: My name is Revel Stark I'm with Innovative  Capital. We specialize in commercial lending   and leverage everything from private money to  institutional capital in order to provide our   clients really the right loan for their business.  So when you're working with us, you're gaining the   knowledge that we have amongst our team which a  lot of us are previous commercial bankers really   wanted to provide more options to their clients  and more solutions. You're also leveraging our  

network of lenders, our volume of business that  we introduce to those lenders and the technology   that we've built with Ascendix to really  provide our clients a better lending solution.  Wes: So you probably partially answered  this question in those opening remarks,   but obviously this is about technology in  the commercial real estate sector. And if   you don't mind, maybe more acutely defining  some of the fundamental issues and results   that you were hoping to address or achieve by  leveraging technology? That would be helpful   for the audience - just kind of knowing where we  started and we'll talk about where we ended up.  Revel: When we started this process, we looked at  really the pain points that we were experiencing   as an organization and as as a commercial lending  broker. I mean, ultimately, we're helping people  

that are looking for capital and introducing to  the people that have the capital. And the better   that we can serve the borrower and the lender.  You know we're doing our job. So, ultimately,   in the beginning of it was like: " Well, hey, how  do we house all this information of our lenders   and our borrowers? We obviously need a CRM to  do that, right? How do we continuously market to   our clients so that they remember that we exist  and we don't talk to them one day and then the   next day they forget that we're an organization or  forget that we can provide solutions to help them,   right? So, obviously the answer is we needed a  robust CRM. So we started shopping around for  

the different CRMs and we're recommended to really  take a hard look at Salesforce. Salesforce isn't   the most cost effective option, but in the world  of fintech it's it's definitely one of the best   if not the best the ecosystem around Salesforce  is very robust and really it comes down to the   challenge of connecting all those technology  solutions within your tech stacks, so they work   well you know for not only your internal team but  also anyone engaging that system. So everything   from our marketing strategy to bringing in  our clients and all their loan documents,   their loan application, everything is built in  one system so that we can create efficiency within   that system and ultimately speed and obviously  anyone that's looking for money would like to have   that money you know sooner than later, of course. Wes: Excellent, thank you. There was a comment   about marketing and I do want to  get back to that but before I do:   you know we've been doing this for 26 years and  there's always this measurement stick of if we're   going to invest this in technology what's the  return on investment? And it's candidly been   a very elusive goal for many to achieve. In  your opinion and, perhaps, in your experience,  

what do you think needs to be in place in  order to maximize the chances of getting a   solid return on investment on this technology? Revel: You know, it's definitely a challenge.   You know first when you're building the  technology you know you're telling the   software what do you want what do you want it to  do, right? And we're working hand in hand with   Ascendix to ultimately create strategies within  software to serve our loan officers and help them   achieve more bandwidth, so they can take  on more clients. they can do more loans,   and ultimately drive more revenue. So one of  the biggest challenges that we have is really   only creating the tech, right, which that seems  to be an easier challenge at this point in time   but the one of the harder challenges is to get  your team to adopt the tech ,so that they can   ultimately achieve that return on investment that  you're looking for. So in our personal scenario we  

have leads being developed through our marketing  efforts, and then we're handing those leads over   to our sales teams, and now we've identified the  new challenge which is "hey, how do we process   these leads most effectively? How do we engage  these new referral partners or borrower contacts   and ultimately move them through a process of a)  achieving that they know we exist; b) achieving   if they understand our value proposition, right?  And then gaining their trust over time so that   they refer us business or they come to us to  you know serve a loan request that they have,   so that we can you know, hopefully, really impress  them through that process and they want to not   only come back and do it again with this, but  also you know bring some friends, bring some   referrals. So it's really the adoption of taking  new strategies and marrying it to people that have   ultimately run a race, one specific way. You know,  in the past, they're used to running the race on   you know their own two feet and you're giving them  ultimately you know, for example, an e-bike, where   they can run it faster and more easily, and you  know smell the roses along the way, if you will,   as they're you know cruising around on e-bike.  So it's just it's breaking down those concepts   to them and hopefully having really a growth  mindset to so they pick up the tech and start   utilizing it to achieve that return on investment. Wes: Yeah, married to that and maybe going off  

scripture a little bit. I think one of the lessons  that we've learned doing this for years is that if   anything we're in the change management business  they're analog and very manual ways in which   people are doing business today and we're trying  to make them better by leveraging technology. But   that's necessarily change and we're moving some  people's cheese. In your mind's eye you know   what are you doing to make that change management  easier and more consumable for your users as you   continue to progress this technology roll out? Revel: I'm always looking for answers to this   question but really it's getting our team  involved, so that they have insight into the   solution. And then, you know, from my perspective,  you know, I kind of have a service mentality of  

leadership. So when I'm talking to my team it's  not like "hey do this because I I say to do it   this way." It's like I listen to their pain points  and I create solutions around those pain points   and then introduce it to them saying: "Hey, these  are the ways that we're looking to you know speed   up your processing, remove administrative tasks  that you don't really like doing, right, through   automation. But ultimately, trying to get them as  much as we can involved in the solutions so that   they have buy-in to that solution because  ultimately you're going to need them to   test the system that you built for them and then  always feel free to give you feedback, so that   you know they're in a safe space where you're not  going to be like: "Oh you know don't make excuses   do it this way. But it's like: "Okay, I hear you,  right? Let's see what we can do to improve the   process to make it faster and better for you,  right?" And ultimately you know big picture   you've got to create that synergy, if you will, or  that company culture, where people are feel free   to be able to provide feedback and nobody's,  you know, feelings are going to get hurt if   you know your idea wasn't a good one or it didn't  execute as you might have envisioned it to do so.  Wes: Very good, yeah. I think putting a safe  environment for people to be freely and willingly  

sharing their perspectives is important here so it  sounds like you've got some of that going on so.   Let's circle back to your decision on Salesforce.  You've made that decision for Salesforce and you   had a partner that you were working with. Clearly,  we were not there first, shame on us for not   having marketed ourselves to you sooner. But can  you walk us through you know what led to parting  

ways with the initial partner and, maybe more  importantly for this audience, why you selected   Ascendix? What was the background, the DNA strands  that you saw in us that felt would allow us to   help more successfully see this project through? Revel: Yeah. So our original partner, they're a   great partner and they were referred over to us,  very technically smart with Salesforce was able   to, you know listen to the Vision that I had,  and help me create structure around that vision   to ultimately start that build. You know what  anyone will find out you know building software   it's going to take longer and it's going to take  a little bit more money than you might have wanted   to think about in the beginning but you know if it  was easy everyone would be doing it. But the fact  

of the matter is it's not easy but it creates,  you know, a lot of opportunities to differentiate   yourself from your competition. The reason that we  ended up parting ways with our original developer   and they're a great developer, a lot of knowledge  about Salesforce and they were able to help me   take my vision and build structure around it so  that we could start that build. Their business   model had began to change, where they're focusing  on different aspects of what they're wanting   to create. Some of that was creating different  applications and whatnot. So they had spoken with  

me and said: "Hey, we want to kind of change how  we're doing business" and I said: "Hey, you know,   we also, you know, it's taking longer than we  expected. We're going to also need a little bit   more horsepower in regards to building what we  need to build or more manpower. So we decided,   you know, it's a good time to potentially look  at other opportunities. Lucky for us, Ascendix   had reached out to one of our partners and said:  "Hey, you know, we specialize in commercial real   estate commercial lending and we're a Salesforce  developer. We think would be a great resource for   you." So, I had saved that email and or sent over  to me and I'd say that email and flagged it and  

when I heard that ultimately I'm just gonna need  a new Salesforce developer, I had reached out and   spoken with yourself Wes, which was fantastic I  learned that you're from Dallas, I'm from Tulsa,   Oklahoma, so that was an easy conversation. So it  is ultimately as I start to inform you about what   we're wanting to accomplish and listening to what  your guys experience was, it just seemed like "oh,   well, this is a kind of a layup relationship, if  you will, this could be really good. One other   aspect I really liked is you had local support in  Dallas and you also built out of team throughout   Europe. And I, you know, personally we use our  website is developed out of the Philippines and   I'm used to working with international teams  and understand the opportunity to, you know,   stretch your dog a little bit and get great  work at a more favorable cost to the business.   So ultimately, we joined forces and you  introduce me to your initial team and we   started getting to work and it was kind of you  know the first month's always a test phase of   getting everybody brought up to speed, but you  know the team asked great questions, I could   tell that they're very proficient and we started  having a lot of a lot really a lot of fun working   with each other and knocking down the different  challenges that we were identifying to ultimately   build a faster and more efficient tech stack. Wes: I remember Revel it was this time last year  

I was making phone calls to you from our offices  over in Europe and that was the day that you said:   "Hey, I got the green light, let's go forward."  And that's literally almost a year to the day.   It's kind of an interesting thing that we have  this interview scheduled for that day there but   I remember right now having that call. Revel: I knew it. I mean time flies,   when you're so busy. Wes: You know, it's interesting. As you know we've   built a product on top of the Salesforce platform  called AscendixRE for Capital markets. But when   we arrived into discussions with you, it was clear  that you had already moved in a really progressive   way in your own direction on the platform and I  think it's it's really great for us to be able to   pivot and change the hat that we're wearing from  being a product provider to going back to our old   days of just simply being a CRM consultancy. but  when you learn as you develop these products a lot  

of the lessons that you're learning in building  your product and I'm hopeful and it sounds like   you're echoing this that some of that journey that  we've been on has been highly leverageable for you   not necessarily as a product. Although there is  a derivative products you're using. Moreover,   just as an advisor and a consultancy on the  Salesforce platform that happens to be deeply   immersed in the commercial real estate sector. Revel: Yeah I would say not only do you guys   build solutions for me, but I'm constantly in  communication with our developers to ask questions   almost as a that almost has it's Salesforce  support continuously. We have two aspects that   we work with you guys: one on the marketing front  advising us on our Pardot marketing platform,   but also you know Salesforce Conga templates that  we're utilizing, action documents that are being   you know all of our information is emerging into  those documents. So I do my best on a regular   basis to try to stump your team and if they don't  know the answer, right, within about 24 hours they   come back and we'd be like we've done the research  we've got the answer for you. And we'll create an  

actionable plan around that. So, you know, we've  got it down to a nice rhythm, it's very easy to   communicate, there's always a quick response and  sometimes I get a response I'm like: "What time   is it in their world? And are they still working?"  So, it's you know, it's really it's been a lot of   fun and we've made so much progress and I can't  wait to see really the fruits of our labor.  Wes: Well without revealing quote unquote  secret sauce there, perhaps there are some major   milestones that you can convey to the team to  the audience here as to what you've accomplished   in this journey and that it has it's been a  journey this these projects never are not you   know one and done there's a an evolution to them.  If there were maybe one or two things that you're  

most proud of having accomplished in this journey,  whether that be with us on your own or otherwise,   maybe you could share that with the audience here? Revel: Yeah, I mean the first aspect of our   business is we want to be able to let people know  that we exist, right? I mean obviously we can   solve different commercial lending challenges,  leveraging private money and our knowledge,   and our network of lenders. So that's you  know that's one of our biggest challenge in   the beginning is to make sure that people know we  exist. So we have our own database of clients well   we need to make sure that we're marketing to them  so that they know the services that we provide,   they can see the loans that we're funding, and  then we remind them that: "Hey, if you have a   commercial lending challenge reach out to us.  We're your advisor." So one of the first things  

was to create great content that goes out to  our current database of clients. And the other   aspect is to start to leverage you know social  media and email marketing, to reach out to new   prospects and ultimately bring them into our  business so that we can introduce ourselves,   become known to them, become liked by them, and  ultimately become trusted by them, right? So   with that you know we've built  that application within Pardot   and ultimately automated the lead generating  process that comes in and introduces those   leads and auto assigns them to different  loan officers within our organization. So   it's a constant process of automation where  lead comes in hand it off to a loan officer.   We've automated the process of teeing up a phone  call for the loan officer, where they can then   click to dial within the system and reach out to  that person with the opportunity to engage with   them and have a good wholesome conversation  with the new person, right? After that we've   automated the process of following up with that  person providing them resources of who we are,   what we do, why we do. Ultimately, our goal is  to ,you know, with some of these features is to   automate the administrative tasks that you know  kind of look at it like you know tipping dominoes   over but you're manually having to tip each domino  over right rather than tipping one domino and it   runs to a certain stop point, where it needs  input from the user again. We want to take as  

much administrative tasks that really no human  likes to do off their plate, so they can spend   more time being humans and connecting and engaging  with other humans, right? And when we do that in   a really good way, we have great conversations,  we're able to uncover challenges that we consult   and ultimately drive more business. That's a  really you know it's easier said than done,   but when it's working and when you overcome  all the challenges associated with that,   it's really something that's quite impressive.  And then there's another aspect of our tech stack   is the ability to you know securely transfer  information between us and our clients. So,   we've created a digital loan application. We use  a program called "Community" to do that. And that   allows us to securely ask for information from our  borrowing clients, any financial documents that   need to be protected. So we can securely bring  those into our system and then ultimately quickly   extract that information, underwrite the loan  in-house, and then introduce that loan through a   what we call "a loan summary" which takes all all  the documents or all the documents and all the   data points of those documents and ultimately does  all the homework that a lender would want to do,   if they had a new loan on their desk. So by  doing that in-house and introducing that to  

multiple lenders that have an appetite for that  type of deal, we can quickly get "a yes" or "a   no" from our lending partners, if they can  do the deal and get a quote, so that we can   offer multiple quotes back to our client and  give them options. And that's a really neat   process for them because if you've ever been in  a loan scenario and you've applied with one bank   well in that scenario it might take you four  to six weeks to learn that you're not going to   get the loan that you're looking for. So you  went through all this process of uploading   all this information, working with your Banker  to ultimately get told "no". Well four to six   weeks that's a long time, it's a lot of work to  get told "no". We can get that time down into   at least one week because the relationships we  have with our lending partners saves our clients   from a lot of headaches and ultimately gives  them options. And when they have options, they   can choose a loan that's best suited for them. Wes: Well, there's a lot going on there and you  

know that one of the things that we've tried  to instill in each of our implementations is   always focus on the end-user here and making their  lives lives easier. And the question that I have   to ask is why wouldn't someone want to use this?  You've automated a lot of the marketing up front,   people talk a big game there, but very few want  to actually make the investment and put in the   work like you've done. So you've knocked that  ball out of the park there and then you've got   all the automation you use the word "automation"  about 10 times as you're going through this and   I think that's what I like to call "broker candy"  or what's in it for me with that factors that we   always want to have laced into our conversations  as we evangelize this to have people really see   that we're not just training you on a new tool  we're actually transforming the way that you   do business with you in mind that you're working  hard. Not working harder but smarter in doing the  

job here And then that last piece about being  able to digitize the experience that that you   have with these folks that are outside of the  firm that you're doing business with the loan   application process and being able to take  what was traditionally been analog and/or   relegated to email and attachments and forms  being filled out. There's I think a lot that   you've got on that front to not only speed up  and expedite that process but other things that   are feedback loops that in the past have been  slow burn and because they're manual and slow,   you sometimes make bad decisions or at least  on bad on dated information or you're trying   to close that loop so you can react much more  quickly to the data as it changes over time.  Revel: Well I think any business has typically a  process of refinement to improve. The challenge   is when you're doing it outside of software could  it can be very slow right and there's no system to   create guard rails and or repeatable processes  that have metrics around. So that you can see:  

Are we speeding up? Are we slowing down? Where  are we getting stuck? How can we refine that   process to move faster? But absolutely the whole  idea is to continuously have that feedback loop   and continuously find that software so it's more  efficient, right? That takes time, it can be a   little bit frustrating for people when they first  get the you know version 1 compared to version 10,   but I think we can all think about our iPhones on  you know version 1 compared to what we have now   with our iPhones. That didn't come overnight that  was a lot of hard work from a lot of developers.   But the things are our smartphones can do now,  compared to what they used to be able to do. You   know I look at that and I think where are we going  to be in 10 years? How refined will this process   be? How much automation will we have built into  it? Well we definitely have the blueprint and the   opportunity to achieve that goal basically built. Wes: Well, Revel, you've accomplished a lot and I   have to say just you are a big part of this I  talk with a lot of people and it's the people   within the firm and their vision, do they have it  or do they not, and do they have the intestinal   fortitude to see that vision to reality. And it's  been a pleasure working with you on this and the   success that we've had together is in no small  part due to to your efforts there, I appreciate   your partnership. Accomplished a lot but there's  still things that you want to accomplish. Maybe  

without you know again disclosing too much,  maybe share what you see on the horizon with   regards to your future investments in technology? Revel: Yeah, I think, you know for us we're based   out of San Diego, California, we just opened an  office in Scottsdale, we've got an office up in   Orange County and we've got, we're starting an  office in Michigan as well. But when I look at   our future vision I know that you know ultimately  about 30% of commercial loans get funded,   right? So there's 70% of people that are trying  to get money that they can't find the right   lender to ultimately provide them the money to  support their business or support their real   estate investment goals, right? So, if that means  to me, there's a lot of pain in the market. People   are getting turned down and they ultimately are  stumbling through this process and they don't   ultimately know where to go. Well, we receive a  lot of our referrals coming actually from lenders   that work with us because we introduce business to  them, and we're a soft turn down for their clients   that they know it's a good client, they know it's  a good business, they just their credit department   doesn't have an appetite for the deal. So they  introduce them to us. So yeah Wes when we look at   the future of what we're wanting to accomplish,  you know, one of the things that we look at is   pain in the marketplace. And we know about 30% of  commercial loans they're funded that means they're  

70% that are not those clients obviously are  feeling defeated or frustrated when they aren't   getting the capital they need to support their  business or the real estate investment goals. So   with that pain and we provide a solution to help  those borrowers find the right lender to get the   right loan, right? And we also help our lending  partners receive business that they might not   have known about or that client would have never  known about that lender, right? So for us it's   really to refine our current process you know we  have an office here in San Diego, we just opened   one in Scottsdale, we've got one in Orange County,  and we're opening one in the beginnings of one in   Michigan. But it's to refine our current process  with marketing driving in new business to our loan   officers, supporting the loan officer to package  up the deal, develop and underwrite the deal,   introduce that to our lending Partners  efficiently so that when our lending Partners   receive that information, they know it's very  trustworthy, they know that they can depend on it,   to give us a quick quote back. We've perfected  that at our smaller size. Really ,my goal is to   scale the operation and provide this solution to  more cities. So I know you're based out of Dallas,  

I think that would be a great market for us,  we'd love to be working in your backyard,   but you know ultimately, we know that there's  pain in the market, we solve for that pain,   we're marketing to that pain, it's bringing in the  lead volume so that we can ultimately serve those   clients and do a really good job for them. At some  point in time that's really our goal is growth.  Wes: Well, going back to that question I mentioned  earlier about ROI, I think the word "scale:   comes to mind. I don't think that you could,  your aspirations are high and I think, if you   try to think about doing this without technology,  you just simply can't scale, at least not very   quickly. And I think that's done by eradicating or  removing the inefficiencies in the organization,   increasing the accuracy of the data and not  getting a higher use of it by turning it   into just not data collection, but business  intelligence. And at that point you've now,  

obviously, got champions in the organization that  are starting to leverage this. I think that's all   fantastic. So in closing, you've learned a lot  of lessons along the way, I'm sure, and perhaps   for those that are listening in you might be able  to provide them some takeaways, top three lessons   that you learned or pro tips, if you will that  you could provide to the audience. When they're   considering implementing technology, whether  it be in capital markets or mortgage brokerage,   or banking. Some universal, you know, pro tips  and lessons that you learned would be great.  Revel: Yeah, one would be: it's going to  take a little longer than you wanted to,   right? And you don't know what you don't  know and really until you know it. So  

it's kind of like you know driving down the  freeway, you can only see so far ahead of   yourself and as you know get to the rise and  you get to see all the new challenges in front   of your other all the new hurdles that you just  could not know that they were going to be there   based on your current level of development and  where you were within that development journey.   So you know having patience is key. Continuously  just putting one foot in front of the others and   working through challenges and it's kind of  fun, you'll come up against something that's   just stumps you and you'll have to kind of chew  on that challenge and talk about it, you know,   with your team or whatever, to ultimately find a  solution. Even the first rendition of the solution   might not be the end solution, but you will you  get there, right? And then once you build build   this solution you've got to test the solution.  So one I guess my biggest Pro tip is make sure   everyone in the organization understands  that this is not going to be an easy task,   but it is one that is very worthwhile. There's a  lot of organizations that are going through this  

process to improve their business and it's going  to you know, at some point in time, exponentially   help them do their business faster and better.  So in my opinion, if you're not taking this   necessary step, you're really going to be behind  the development curve and not be able to compete   with some of your competitors that are putting  these strategies in play. So again: set the   right expectation with your team, be patient and  make sure everyone really has a growth mindset,   so that they can provide feedback and be part of  the solution and you know not part of the problem,   like for example, if the system didn't work  perfectly in rendition 1 where they throw   their hands up in the air and they're like: "oh,  it's broken, it'll never work." We identified   a challenge. let's fix it and move forward. Wes: I love that setting expectations is key.   I think also setting very clear goals of what  you want to accomplish and getting alignment   all up and down the organization in that. There  will be challenges and if you're not aligned,  

and you don't have that clear vision of what  you're trying to accomplish, those ebbs and flows,   those valleys can end up becoming skirmish  points there that end up stall if not killing   the project. And so you can always lean on the  alignment and the clear "hey we this is all worth   fighting for. We knew this wasn't going to be  be a quick win" and being able to have that as   I called it "the intestinal fortitude" to see  through those valleys that you can get to the   peak. So I just echo everything you said there. Revel: I will add one more thing to that too.   Oftentimes you might want to change the goal post,  if you will, right? So you have the idea of what   you have one in mind right and you build to that  and then halfway through the build you change,   right? And that for developer it can be hell,  right? So you really want to, you know, if you're   building something, it's like the old idea of, you  know, measure twice and cut once. So that you can  

really think through what you want to build and  then build to that and you can always make changes   in adaptations, but we you know in our scenario  we change something mid build that ultimately   changed about how 30% of the logic of the system  worked for us. And it really derailed us for   a good 6 to 8 months of having to deconstruct,  to reconstruct, to make ultimately a better   solution and arguably it is a better solution.  But it was a painful lesson to learn for sure.  Wes: Yeah. So have a general heading but also  be willing to, you know, swallow some pride and   perhaps some energy to course correct, if you see  data is telling you to do something different.

2022-09-10 09:44

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