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Fannie Mae seeks innovators for partnership opportunities

February 12, 2018 | By

When it comes to mortgage technology innovation, Tracy Stephan is high on the list of people to know.

Stephan is director of technology-enterprise innovation at Fannie Mae and was one of the highlighted speakers at NEXT, a mortgage technology conference for women held recently in Dallas.

Stephan oversees the Enterprise Innovation Group, a fairly recent addition at Fannie Mae that is responsible for finding innovative and emerging trends and solutions in the mortgage industry. That includes networking with mortgage companies externally and talking with employees at Fannie Mae internally to learn what problems lenders, servicers, and investors want Fannie Mae to help them solve.

Read more: Lenders Look to Tech Innovation to Drive Down Costs, Increase Efficiency

Once the problem is identified, then Fannie Mae does what amounts to matchmaking. “We identify a fintech or a startup that could help solve a problem the industry is facing, and we bring everyone together to run pilots and share in the learning and discovery process.”

Part of what the new group is attempting to do is develop a new culture of innovation to celebrate the people and companies that are harnessing interesting technologies, she says.

Stephan identified three top trends in technology innovation that are attracting the most interest in the mortgage industry:

  • Blockchain: A record of transactions that is continually updated, blockchain has the potential to reduce costs, fees, and fraud – and improve transparency and efficiency – throughout the mortgage process. Some believe the technology for digital assets has the potential to change the mortgage industry.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Fannie Mae is learning how AI can be applied at various stages of the mortgage process and how it can be made widely available.
  • Digital Financial Identity: With mortgages, consumers share a lot of financial data. Just as people have a social media identity, they may eventually have a digital financial identity. More work will need to be done on data privacy before this becomes a reality, Stephan says.

Read more: Fannie Mae is challenging you to help us revitalize the nation’s neighborhoods

How to Innovate With Fannie Mae

Stephan says she finds companies to work with on innovation projects in a number of ways, including meeting people at mortgage technology conferences such as NEXT and following trends in the news and on the web.

Many others reach out to her directly through email or phone calls.

“My team is talking with two or three fintechs a day on average on what we call a ‘get to know you call.’ However, we don’t bring them in until we have something that we need help with,” she says.

Learning Environment

Stephan notes it’s important for mortgage leaders to establish a “learning environment” at their companies that fosters innovation. They should be committed to gathering and analyzing data as some of the hottest technology trends such as blockchain and AI are built upon data gathering and use. Fannie Mae encourages a culture of innovation by supporting diversity and inclusion, mentoring and job-rotation across disciplines.

Mortgage companies, she says, have the opportunity to innovate in a similar way as Fannie Mae by working with a fintech startup to “test and learn” to solve a problem they have. Oftentimes, a startup will be willing to do a pilot for a very reasonable fee as they are looking to build out their product or service, Stephan says.

Funding Innovators

“Fannie Mae used to be a very build-centric shop” in terms of innovation, she adds. “We are trying to change that so it is not only build or buy, but it could be build, buy or partner.”

In December, Fannie Mae issued a $10 million challenge to address the nation’s affordable housing crisis. Called the Sustainable Communities Innovation Challenge, it is open to public, private and nonprofit sectors. Under the program, Fannie Mae will commit $10 million over two years to attract promising ideas to address affordable housing issues.

By illuminating affordable housing problems and generating creative solutions, Fannie Mae can generate new business and opportunities that support our goals, adds Stephan.

For more information on partnership opportunities, contact Tracy Stephan at

Kerry Curry is a writer for The Home Story as well as several Texas and national publications and is the former executive and magazine editor for HousingWire.





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