Blue Ridge Bank, N.A. (BRB) of Charlottesville, Virginia is going Bitcoin. Last Wednesday, BRB announced it is stepping into new customer services territory by providing Bitcoin access, both at its branch and off-site ATMs. Cardholders have the option to purchase and redeem Bitcoin at 19 BRB ATMs. 

Blue Ridge Bank employee Daesha Graves at BRB’s Mineral (Virginia) Branch Drive-Through ATM with Bitcoin capability.

The cryptocurrency made headlines Sunday when according to data from CoinDesk, Bitcoin’s price surged more than 5% to an all-time high of $49,716, “driven by news of large firms like Tesla, Mastercard and BNY Mellon warming to cryptocurrencies.” Then yesterday CNBC, among others, reported Bitcoin’s price reversed course, sinking 2.4% to around $47,925. Apparently, this is normal. Both fans and skeptics said price fluctuations are part of the Bitcoin legacy.

To add Bitcoin access, BRB joined forces with BluePoint ATM Solutions, a national ATM operator based in Woodstock, Va., and Boston-based LibertyX, a U.S. bitcoin ATM software provider.

If you ask BluePoint ATM Solutions CEO, Wade Zirkle, Bitcoin-capable ATM management services are gaining traction. He expects more demand from community banks and credit unions now looking to deploy innovative fintech solutions at their branches.

Consumers who have been asking for the ability to buy Bitcoin from their banks during the past few years are leading the demand, explained Chris Yim, co-founder & CEO of LibertyX, which since founding in 2013, has provided Bitcoin access to 8,500 ATMs at local convenience stores, pharmacies, and gas stations across the country, according to the company website. “BRB is the first bank in the nation to offer Bitcoin services on their ATMs,” said Yim.

Brian K. Plum, CEO of Blue Ridge Bankshares, Inc., BRB’s parent company, said Blue Ridge Bank “is excited to continue its evolution to serve the growing needs of our current and future customers. The ATMs remain able to serve cash-based and inquiry activity, so this is simply layering on more services and reinforces our commitment to the future of banking for all customers.”

In mortgage news this week:

  • Top of Mind integrates its Surefire CRM with Blend
  • BK offers Optimal Blue PPE lock data via RAP
  • Candor milestone: 250K automated loan underwrites on LES
  • UpEquity closes $25M in Series A funding

Top of Mind integrates its Surefire CRM with Blend 

Customer relationship management (CRM) and direct mail marketing software Top of Mind Networks has integrated Surefire CRM with the Blend point of sale (POS) platform, allowing automatic loan data exchanges, including borrower contact information, between users of both platforms.

The integration automates loan workflows by adding Surefire CRM’s award-winning content to loan applicants, keeping borrowers engaged and informed, according to the company website. Ultimately, it leads to less loan application abandonment by potential borrowers, and higher loan originator productivity.

“Data indicates that only 63% of mortgage loan applications started are fully completed,” said Nick Belenky, Top of Mind EVP of sales. “A premium lending POS like Blend can increase that number, and when paired with Surefire CRM,” elevate it from the moment a borrower begins a loan application to homeownership.

Blend’s digital lending platform, used by Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and over 250 other financial institutions, processes more than $3.5 billion in mortgages and consumer loans daily and helps lenders streamline the customer journey for any banking product from application to close.

The integration of Surefire CRM’s intelligently, software prefilled loan application helps borrowers and LOs keep mortgage applications on track with less effort.

Pre-filling that includes known borrower information bolsters lenders’ Net Promoter Score (NPS), according to Van Vaziri, Blend enterprise account executive. Combined with in-process automation to completion, he added, it enables lenders “to deliver a white-glove experience.”

Black Knight offers Optimal Blue PPE lock data via RAP

Product pricing engine (PPE) mortgage rate-lock data provided by Black Knight, Inc. affiliate Optimal Blue are now available within Black Knight’s Rapid Analytics Platform (RAP), enabling users of the cloud-based enterprise data and analytics solution to have direct access to various datasets.

The added PPE rate-lock data integration within RAP’s user-friendly platform allows subscribers to source data, execute queries, create advanced analytics and train machine-learning models to gain valuable insights, according to a company statement.

Capital and secondary market professionals, along with servicing portfolio managers, reportedly can leverage RAP “for benchmarking, predictive forecasting, and to enhance prepayment, valuation, and risk management models.” The data, which delivers key transaction variables 60-90 days before loan closing information is otherwise available, provides visibility into short-term prepayment trends and more timely, accurate insights into refinance incentive.  

Already a powerful mortgage finance and real estate investing data platform, RAP allows users to access Black Knight’s entire data ecosystem, merge that data with virtually any other source, and apply advanced analytics capabilities, explained Ben Graboske, president of Black Knight Data & Analytics.

The addition of the daily Optimal Blue rate lock data expands RAP’s offerings even more, creating “a slew of new opportunities for even more timely views of the market,” he said. The rate lock data also benefits users of Black Knight’s servicer-contributed mortgage-performance information, which covers primary-sourced, loan-level mortgage performance data for nearly 70% of the market.

“Daily rate lock data provides the closest thing we have to a real-time view of the origination market,” which is critical to holders of mortgage-backed securities or mortgage servicing rights, said Scott Happ, president, Black Knight, secondary market technologies. 

Candor passes 250K automated loan underwrites on loan engineering system

Candor reported its Loan Engineering System (LES), the adaptive loan-underwriting platform the Atlanta-based fintech debuted in August 2020, has since processed more than 250,000 mortgage loans.

The big milestone was achieved in just five months of production, and was fueled by a significant jump in the underwriting volume in January 2021 when Candor closed more than 45,000 mortgages and brought on board its tenth major lender client, Alcova Mortgage.

Alcova joins American Financial NetworkAmerican Pacific Mortgage, and several other top lenders already on Candor’s LES, which automates the underwriting of loans backed by a defect insurance policy issued by an undisclosed internationally known, global insurance carrier.

Candor’s patent-pending Knowledge Engineering Technology underwriting models use natural and artificial intelligence-powered critical thinking and decision-making capabilities to automate mortgage lending.  

The platform models reportedly use extensive data to provide lenders the capacity power they need. For example, it cross checks information from the Fannie Mae Form-1003 to validate and verify supporting documents, third-party data and lender and compliance guidelines, before underwriting loans. Candor’s client data show the platform helps users reduce the loan cycle time by an average of 18.7 days; increase pull through by 14.6%; and reduce underwriter touches from 2.7 per loan filed, to only one, increasing processor productivity by 20%.

UpEquity closes $25M in Series A funding

Austin, Texas-based mortgage fintech UpEquity closed a $25 million in Series-A funding round led by Next Coast Ventures, which includes $7.5 million of equity financing and $17.5 million of venture debt.

The new funding will reportedly assist product and business development efforts, support the company’s expansion to new markets in 2021 by building new collaborations with real estate agents and reducing their time-to-close to 10 days.

UpEquity reported it originated $100 million in mortgages in 2020, which ranks it as a fast-growing mortgage company. The 2019 founded startup is currently empowering first-time homebuyers and other consumers interested in benefiting from all-cash, low interest, automated underwriting offers in Texas, Colorado, Florida and California.

“Our goal is to finally align the mortgage industry with consumer interests,” said Tim Herman, UpEquity co-founder and CEO in a statement. “This funding is validation that consumers, real estate agents and venture investors understand the power of removing friction from the home buying process.”

UpEquity doesn’t charge customers anything to make the all-cash offers. The company makes money off customers paying interest on the loans, with rates hovering around 2.5% right now. The company has done 300 deals so far — only two have failed, TechCrunch reported.

Instead of requiring buyers to have an existing house for sale, UpEquity provides both a cash offer and a mortgage. According to Herman, cash offers can close faster and remove financing risk since home sellers “are more likely to accept cash,” while buyers save anywhere from 1% to 4% of the home sale price. As real estate continues to evolve in the face of limited supply and tight competition most innovation has focused on the front end, said Thomas Ball, managing director at Next Coast Ventures. “Until now, nobody has expedited what happens after the borrower submits an application.”

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