MBA NewsLink interviewed FormFree as part of its continuing series of profiles of Premier Members of the Mortgage Bankers Association. This interview was originally published on MBA.org.
MBA NewsLink: Please provide a brief description of your company
Founded in 2008 in Athens, Ga., FormFree is a fintech company that empowers consumers to understand their ability to pay and share it with lenders like never before. We recently made a big splash at MBA’s 2023 Annual Convention & Expo with two announcements opening doors to more inclusive mortgage credit decisioning.
First, we announced Passport®, a portable financial ID that makes it easy for consumers to quantify their borrowing power and share their verified assets, employment, annual and residual income and rent payment history with their preferred lender in just minutes from any web-enabled device. Passport is free to consumers and will be promoted in partnership with serial entrepreneur Kevin Harrington of “Shark Tank” fame. Kevin participated in our in-person MBA announcement along with fintech entrepreneur-turned-rapper DIVINE, whose performance of the song H.O.P.E. captured the excitement over these products and their potential to expand homeownership opportunities.
Second, we announced our online marketplace where lenders compete for the business of Passport users, called FormFree Exchange (FFX®). Once consumers are ready to transact with a mortgage lender, they anonymously share their verified data on FFX to receive immediate offers from a marketplace of lenders who fully understand their ability to pay, residual income, CRA eligibility and down payment assistance eligibility.
Passport and FFX are just our most recent offerings. Last year, we launched our Residual Income Knowledge Index™ (RIKI™), an innovative method for evaluating consumer creditworthiness based on residual income analysis. Earlier in our history, FormFree broke ground with AccountChek®, an asset, income and employment verification service acquired by Stewart in 2023.
Both FormFree’s CEO Brent Chandler and Chief Customer Officer Christy Moss have received MBA’s prestigious Tech All-Star Award in recognition of their outstanding contributions to mortgage technology. FormFree is a nine-time winner of HousingWire’s TECH100™ award, among numerous other industry accolades.
MBA NewsLink: Please provide a list of key senior personnel
- Brent Chandler, founder and CEO
Chandler is a widely recognized innovator in financial services technologies who helped create the world’s first online trade at CheckFree and ushered in the “aggregation revolution” at CashEdge (both later acquired by Fiserv). He has also held senior-level positions at Merrill Lynch and Fidelity. With the consumer debut of Passport, Chandler aims to transform the lending industry once again with technology that leapfrogs current financing barriers.
- Michael Covington, Ph.D., director of research
Covington plays a critical role in FormFree’s efforts to improve creditors’ understanding of borrowers’ ability to pay using artificial intelligence and human common sense. He is retired from UGA, where he led the Institute for AI. He holds degrees from UGA, Cambridge and Yale.
- Eric Lapin, president
Lapin works with FormFree’s CEO to align operational execution with strategic vision. His responsibilities include business initiative execution, key capital projects, enterprise business development, operations, product, technology, finance, and risk. Prior to joining FormFree, he held executive positions at Old Republic Title, Altisource, Black Knight, First American and Credit Suisse.
- Christy Moss, CMB, chief customer officer
Moss, a 30-year mortgage industry veteran, leads voice-of-customer initiatives across the organization and oversees sales. Before joining FormFree, Moss spent 11 years at Fannie Mae (OTCMKTS: FNMA), where she played a critical role in advancing business initiatives in the post-crisis mortgage lending ecosystem. She previously held positions at CitiMortgage, Wachovia and GE Capital Mortgage Services.
- Martin Prescher, Ph.D., chief technology officer
Prescher guides the development of FormFree’s groundbreaking technology with his advanced knowledge of programming languages and software development. He is passionate about leveraging machine learning and data science to create innovative solutions that transform customer experiences, optimize operations and generate long-term value.
MBA NewsLink: What are some key trends your company is tracking?
Alternatives to traditional credit scoring that provide a more comprehensive picture of a borrower’s creditworthiness and help lenders make more informed decisions, including:
- Cash-flow analysis
- Residual income analysis
- Positive rental history
- Cell phone and utility payment histories
- Advances in and lending use cases for blockchain, a form of distributed ledger technology that securely records, tracks and stores information across a network of computer systems
- The rise of the marketplace economic model in mortgage lending
- Consumers’ increasing desire for control over their own data, privacy and self-sovereign financial identity
- Industry-wide efforts to democratize lending and expand access to homeownership to credit invisible consumers and other underserved demographics.
MBA NewsLink: Why did your company join the Mortgage Bankers Association?
FormFree has been a premier member of MBA for many years now because our relationship is a strategic and mutually beneficial one. Like MBA, we are advocates for financial inclusion. For too long, the housing finance industry has overestimated the risk profiles of FHA borrowers, who are more likely to be Black, Hispanic and first-time home buyers than the general homebuying population. As a result, the very borrowers who need access to affordable home financing the most have paid dearly because our industry has misjudged their ability to support a mortgage loan.
We believe lenders that truly want to level the playing field and ensure all borrowers have access to the American dream of homeownership will need to embrace smart applications of alternative data that complement legacy data points such as credit scores. Rent, utility, cash-flow and residual income data show much promise for helping lenders qualify more young and minority borrowers into the future.
As alternatives to traditional credit scoring become better understood and prove reliable in helping underrepresented borrowers become successful homeowners, the financial community will have a responsibility to adopt them. By doing so, they will open the door to homeownership to many creditworthy borrowers who have been disenfranchised by outdated credit score-based underwriting.
We look forward to working with MBA and its members in pursuing this future together.
MBA NewsLink: How has being an MBA Premier Member benefited your company?
MBA is the most influential organization in our industry, setting the stage for technology advances that streamline and improve the lending process for both lenders and consumers.
We joined to enjoy MBA’s many benefits and strengthen the organization with our fiscal support and active participation.
MBA retains a dedicated staff of economic and policy experts who serve as a leading source of mortgage industry insight for policy makers, GSEs and leading media outlets. As such, the MBA has proven to be a powerful vessel for FormFree to communicate the urgent need to improve how consumer creditworthiness is evaluated and open the doors to homeownership to more minority, low-to-moderate income and marginalized homebuyers.
MBA NewsLink: Any additional comments, suggestions or areas of improvement that could improve your premier level membership experience?
FormFree believes that focusing on advanced consumer data technology education would be a valuable addition for the broader membership. As the financial landscape continues to evolve, the increasing prevalence of blockchain and decentralized financial networks is set to have a significant impact on the future of lending. Therefore, incorporating this educational aspect into our membership offerings could be instrumental in preparing our members for these evolving trends. We appreciate the opportunity to contribute our thoughts and suggestions for the betterment of the association.