The year was 1978, and the blossoming field of computer-based loan servicing and origination software was rife with competition. These trailblazing entrepreneurs, many of whom have since moved away from the nonconventional lending realm, included Jerry and Eddy Delgado. This duo, however, has since transformed their startup into Applied Business Software, a leader in private lending platforms.
The predominant product of Applied Business Software, The Mortgage Office, has been an essential part of private lenders’ success for over 40 years. Even though a quick web search for lending platforms spits out millions of results, The Mortgage Office has remained dominant in loan servicing and origination software for four decades.
As of this year, Applied Business Software has a new chief executive officer at the helm, Carlos Nodarse. In some instances, new leadership is met with uncertainty and miscommunication. In the case of Nodarse, however, the transition to CEO was not a difficult one; after all, he has been with the company for over three decades. Speaking with Originate Report about a multitude of subjects, Nodarse recalled the beginnings of a now booming enterprise.
“Our products represent decades of hard work and dedication,” Carlos said. “We’ve been very successful in marketing the product to a wide range of industries. Launched initially in our own backyard of Southern California, the pre-internet days limited our geographical market. As word spread, however, our popularity grew. When the internet came about, it really opened things up for us and allowed us to expand our reach to international markets.” “This ability, to instantly communicate with customers across the country – and the world – was a game-changer for The Mortgage Office,” Carlos said. “Now that the suite could be disseminated instantaneously, we were able to assist lenders across the U.S. and in over twenty countries, serving some of the largest private lenders, non-profits, tribes, cities and municipalities.”
“[These examples] are a perfect testament to the flexibility of our product,” he said. “We designed the product so it can be used, frankly, by anyone servicing a debt. We’ve been at this for a long time, and our team has been here for many, many years. We focus on our product, on providing top quality customer support, and listening to what our customers need from our software.”
This sentiment was shared by Jerry Delgado, who along with Eddy, sat down with Originate Report in 2018 to celebrate Applied Business Software’s 40th anniversary.
“What it takes [to remain successful] is moving with the times – you can’t be in what we call ‘the bleeding edge,’ but you have to be following the market and upgrading your software,” Jerry said. “For 40 years, we have probably used four or five operating systems, and every time you change you have to re-write the software – you have to keep the technology current. The difficult part of staying with the times is one of the things that attracted me to the industry.”
“It is difficult to think about this success,” Carlos added, “without harkening back to his high school days during the advent of the personal computer.”
“I thought all of it was fascinating. It intrigued me. I’ve always loved math and science,” he said. “I decided to take [a programming class] my senior year in high school. Frankly, that is really where I got hooked. I realized I loved the whole concept; I loved the creativity and the control I had of these machines. By that time, Jerry and Eddy [Delgado] were looking for someone to help at Applied Business Software with product manuals and asked me if I wanted to come help.”
Although this originally started as a summer job, Carlos returned to the company after graduating from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in computer science. In addition to learning the fundamentals of complicated machinery, he added that a computer science background was perfect for the bourgeoning Applied Business Software.
Today, everyone understands at least the basics of computing. During the late 1970s, however, Carlos said that this understanding was not a given. Primitive computer interfaces were often clunky and required extensive knowledge to operate.
“In 1987, I was offered a full-time job at ABS,” he said. “That was my ‘official’ beginning of a career here, and initially I wore many hats. We were a small company back then. I started doing quite a bit of customer support, which helped me learn a lot about the product and the industry. At the same time, I was getting my feet wet with the developmental side of the software. Getting involved in all aspects of the business has been one of the most rewarding factors of being at ABS.”
“At so many companies,” he said, “it is easy to get locked in a cubicle or shoehorned into working on one specific piece of a product. When part of a small-but-mighty group, however, these creative and professional ‘barriers to diversification’ easily dissipate.”
“You’re not stuck in one little cube,” Carlos said. “You learn about marketing, you learn about sales, and of course, you certainly work on the development of the product. Eventually, I started doing a lot of the development together with Jerry. I became the Vice President of Software Development and subsequently the COO. Just this year, I was promoted to CEO. It’s been challenging and fulfilling.”
Working in so many roles over the years, has allowed Carlos to appreciate and deeply understand the many facets of a complicated business. New players in the nonconventional lending and loan origination fields were not present for the evolution of the space. Newer players are constantly entering the market now, and Carlos deems this as healthy competition and signs of great times.
“In my new role [as CEO,] I oversee all aspects of the company. If I were to have just been involved in development alone, I wouldn’t have obtained the experience I need to run the organization.” he said. “The fact that I know exactly what my team members are going through is invaluable; I can relate to them all; Sales, Support, Marketing, Accounting, Deployment, Customer Success. For example, when I talk to my Support Team, and I demand things from them, I know I can look them in the face and say ‘listen, I’m asking you to do something that I’ve done.’”
When Carlos pushes something, his tight-knit team understands that these suggestions come from the perspective of someone who has been in the field for over three decades. His experience in a number of different departments, allows him to ‘keep a pulse’ on the day-to-day company operations while also trusting key players in all the departments to execute their tasks with competence.
In his role as CEO, Carlos said it is often challenging – yet rewarding – to stay up to date on the company when the technology associated with lending changes daily.
“That’s the way it’s always been,” he said with a chuckle. “Frankly, it’s one of the reasons why I love this business. We are constantly on our toes. We’re a successful company, but we don’t take that for granted. We realize that we need to keep pushing, and we do that daily. We’ve seen many changes over the years, and adapt quickly, which has given us the experience that has placed us where we are today.”
Throughout his career thus far, Carlos said he has watched a myriad of competitors shut their doors. As the technology changes – and new players continue to enter the space – some entrepreneurs, even if they have been successful in the past, fail to adapt to an oft-turbulent climate. The key to counteracting this? Carlos said it lies in a company’s ability to think on its feet and remain comfortable in the face of the unknown.
This philosophy – which Carlos describes as ‘move and move quickly’ – has helped Applied Business Software stay in business for over four decades. Even though this adaptation is often the subject of serious meetings and a certain amount of angst, he said there are moments in which the changing times cause him to laugh.
“The other day, I was speaking with a few of our new developers. They’re younger guys and the topic of Rolodex cards came up,” he said. “Now adays, everyone has a computer on their desk. This was not always the case. Computers were expensive, so our customers would print their borrowers’ and lenders’ contact info on Rolodex cards for reference throughout the office. When this came up [with the new developer] he asked. ‘what’s a Rolodex?’ Here’s a young man out of college and the concept obviously just no longer exists…it was funny.”
Although this instance of generational knowledge amused Nodarse, he added that it got him thinking about how some technology-based companies cut corners when coming to terms with new software and interfaces. We never cut corners, even if it means things take a little longer. This has always been a core design philosophy here at ABS.
“Customer requests are important driving forces behind our products”. Electronic signature processing, SMS texting along with a new loan application portal in our origination module has been met with high praise. To Carlos, this praise is important. After all, the Mortgage Office has been built with the customer in mind.
“We have our goals, we know where we want to get to in our product development,” he said. “We’re constantly plugging away at those goals because we know that our customers are going to demand it. It is what has made our company successful.”
Paired with these advancements – not to mention Carlos’ naming as CEO – has been the unimaginable, a global pandemic with disastrous consequences. When the news of the novel coronavirus first hit the United States, he said the Applied Business Software team was a bit apprehensive.
“The issue of working remotely, obviously, became a topic. With the exception of a couple of employees, we all stayed here [at the office,] providing support for our customers” Carlos said. “We’re part of the Essential Services in the financial sector. The value of a team environment is just something you can’t replace, and it makes us more cohesive, solid and simply better.”
Applied Business Software is a very close team, he said, referring to the ways in which some corporate communications at other firms have been stunted by a mix of in-person and remote work. Adjustments were made, naturally, to the ways in which the company operates, but Carlos said that team cohesion and effectiveness have been critical tools when grappling with a once-in-a-century pandemic.
“I certainly didn’t have pandemic penciled in on my calendar,” he said. “But for years now, we have been preparing for emergencies. All our internal servers and email system were moved to the cloud. We are prepared if something were to happen to our offices today. It would take no time for us to be back online. We let our customers know we were here to help; we have their backs. A big part of their business depends on us and we take that very seriously”
As states began issuing stay-at-home orders and the closure of non-essential businesses, Carlos admitted to feeling apprehensive. Despite these natural trepidations, he added that the growth curve for Applied Business Software is looking ‘robust’. ABS is experiencing a phenomenal year and has surprisingly seen a steady growth. It predicts a ‘pretty spectacular’ end of year. He attributes this steadiness even in a pandemic year to his committed team members and loyal customers.
According to the California Association of Realtors, the coronavirus pandemic has already had an impact on the state’s market. Mortgage rates will continue to stay low (and may even drop further,) and although the demand for luxury properties has decreased, this may present as a unique opportunity for investors. In any case, Carlos said Applied Business Software is closely monitoring the situation.
From a business standpoint, he added, the day-to-day operations of the company have not changed much because of the pandemic. The newly appointed CEO’s days still start with him driving to work (minus the traffic, of course.) Implementing social distancing at the workplace and following the county’s guidelines posed a challenge at first, but Carlos said he took this in stride. His family, however, has gone through more change during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All my three children did remote learning, and my daughter’s last semester of college was basically canceled. To my fortune, my wife is a former teacher and that has really made the difference in our children’s lives. I feel very blessed. She does a fantastic job with them and their education has felt no interruption.”
Having everyone spend so much time together is quite a change from what we deemed as pre-pandemic ‘normal life’. One aspect of quarantining at home, has been the opportunity to just ‘sit down and talk’; simple concept, yet so fulfilling.’
“It’s not that I didn’t [sit down and talk with my family] before all of this, because I’m a strong believer in open communications with my children,” he said. “My children are at an age now where we can carry on some pretty interesting conversations. And in that respect, it has been fun. But we live in California and we’ve got great weather, so I miss doing ‘California things’.”
Although trite, Carlos reiterated Applied Business Software could not have made it through the pandemic without its amazing employees and the support of its customers. He said his employees step up to the plate daily and constantly surprise him with an A-Grade performance.
From his perspective, it has been ‘invaluable’ to still have customers from when he first started at the company. “Our customers have been wonderful,” he said. “We’ve got incredibly loyal customers, who have been with us for as long as I’ve been here. We are always here for them sharing our experience and expertise.”
Very telling of a true passionate CEO, Carlos closed our interview with a certain elation in his voice when he said: “I am excited about the new technology we will be unveiling soon. Stay tuned.”