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There’s an adage that goes “the bigger the risk, the greater the reward.” But there is also an idea that taking risks can backfire and prevent people or companies from achieving their greatest success. For Leo Budin, the CIO of Cascade Financial Services, the risk-reward relationship has always fueled his passions. On this episode of IT Visionaries, Leo discusses how he implements lessons he learned during his days on Wall Street into his current job in the mortgage industry. Plus he explains the growing divide between programmers and the way the industry is evolving right before our eyes.

3 Key Takeaways

  • Technology is not always welcome in the manufactured home industry
  • Fearless Programming is a vital effort that happens when programmers operate without worrying about failing
  • There is a big divide between older and younger programmers in the efficiency and confidence in their skills

For a more in-depth look at this episode, check out the article below.

Risk and reward always fascinated Leo Budin. The frivolous and cavalier nature of not knowing the solution to an outcome carried him through his time at the University of Connecticut and later to a career on Wall Street, where he clashed with some of the industries highest rollers. Flash forward to 2020 and Budin still manages risk, just under different guidelines. Budin joined IT Visionaries to discuss why fearless programming is disrupting how his department operates, and how Cascade is becoming a major player in the mortgage industry through innovation, and the changes he sees coming in the home-buying process.

Budin is the CIO for Cascade Financial Services, a company focused on delivering mortgages to individuals who purchase manufactured homes. Budin’s department oversees the buying process and purchasing of a home, which he spoke about on IT Visionaries. He also discussed how the programming industry is undergoing a dramatic shift between older developers and the younger generation, how his team developed software to streamline the approval process, and how he sees the industry evolving over the next decade.

Cascade Financial Services operates in the manufactured home industry, a space the company has resided in for over two decades. While the company possesses a long track record within the marketplace, manufactured homes still occupy a small portion of the overall real estate industry. This means that Budin and his team face mounting challenges — most notably that large-scale applications don’t fit their needs.

“Manufactured homes are a very small nature of the total market out there,” Budin said. “It’s a small market, but it’s a niche. So what ends up happening is if I’m starting a company or an existing company, they look at all the different mortgage types and they basically tend to work on the majority of the market, not on the small segment.”

To combat the lack of accessible applications, Budin comprised a team of professionals, remote and local to Phoenix, to build products and applications that fit the company’s needs, something that has not always been embraced in the space.

“Technology is not really always welcomed in the mortgage market— and especially in that manufacturer’s home part of the mortgage market,” he said.

Among those projects Budin and his team worked on is Cascade’s application portal, a piece of software that decides in seconds if a customer is approved for a home loan. 

“When the borrower’s applying, they’re online and they’re waiting on the screen,” Budin said. “So we can’t take three hours to price this loan and figure out whether we want to be an originator or not. We need to give them an [answer] within five, 10 seconds.”

The application calculates millions of scenarios through simulations, assessing the risk and reward of varying applicants in seconds, instead of days.

The technology excites Budin due to its risky and disruptive nature and reminded him of the book, Moneyball by Michael Lewis — a true story about how the Oakland Athletics implemented Wall Street principles into their scouting and baseball operations department, emphasizing the parallels between the two industries’ reluctance to welcome new technology.

“When you automate a problem and you can originate a bunch of mortgages, that cost of development gets spread over many, many loans,” Budin said. “So you can actually produce loans cheaper because you don’t have to hire people to originate them manually.”

A big reason for Cascade’s ability to automate at scale are the programmers Budin has recruited and employed to fill out his department, a group of individuals who do work he referred to as fearless programming.

“Older style programmers, unfortunately, have a lot of fear built into their behavior, they don’t fit the modern organizations anymore because in today’s world, because of agile, because of some of the ways we’re doing things, it’s not always the best to research,” Budin said. “[Now] it’s better to deliver something quick and dirty, versus super perfect and take a longer time because once you deliver what I call a prototype and you deliver it quicker, the business may change the question. So you gotta be able to iterate very quickly and keep up with their kind of thought process.”

So how does an industry that struggles to adapt to change continue to innovate over the next decade and where does Budin see the marketplace heading? According to him, if companies want to survive over the next few years, it’s important they adapt to the digital landscape.

“It’s an adopt or go out of business type thing,” Budin said. “I imagine a scenario where a borrower can sit at home, log into some dealer’s website, look at all their models, negotiate the price, and then right from there be redirected to apply for a mortgage from several companies and then pick a mortgage. So I can imagine where they don’t even have to leave their home to finish their transaction.”

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