Over the past 30 years, financial commerce has experienced three major modernizations in its service delivery process. In mortgage lending, it’s known as “disintermediation.” In its first phase, when traditional mortgage lenders were banks with higher rates than investors would demand, they could sell their loans through the mortgage-backed securities market, essentially using bond investors to lower rates to consumers. In its latest phase, Disintermediation 3.0, models wholly reliant on financial technology (“fintech”) essentially create the algorithms and software. These tools empower the direct lending platforms and, as the new breed of savvy borrowers knows, allow them to transcend conventional methods by being more agile, thereby providing faster and better service.
James George not only understands the evolution of these advancements, he’s a leader in the revolution they’re creating. His rare talent for predicting market trends and his in-depth knowledge of both traditional lending processes and the latest financial technologies has uniquely equipped him for predicting the lending landscape of the future. James is bringing that leading-edge insight to bear as managing partner of Panorama Mortgage Group, one of the largest Latino specialty lenders in the country. Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, the firm was founded 25 years ago by Jason Madiedo and today originates loans in 15 states at a rate of about $2 billion per year. Panorama looks to increase its mortgage originations to $5-$10 billion per year within the next few years.
That level of expansion is familiar territory to James, who began his career in finance as an analyst in Morgan Stanley’s fledgling computer services department, which grew to become the gold standard of the industry. Then, in the era now known as Mortgage Disintermediation 1.0, he progressed to start the ARMS (adjustable-rate mortgages) trading desk with Lehman Brothers and then became a producing institutional sales manager for Prudential Securities. Before landing at Panorama Mortgage Group, he would take on three more pivotal roles: as producing institutional sales manager for Donald, Lufkin, Jenrette and in institutional sales for both Countrywide Securities and Incenter Securities. Over the span of 25 years, during Mortgage Disintermediation 2.0, James impacted the growth of three of the largest private-label securitization mortgage conduits and brought an abundance of private investor capital into the residential and commercial lending space. In the process, he acquired a comprehensive understanding of a wide variety of financial instruments and of macro/micro economics and the effect on bond markets.
Now, during Mortgage Disintermediation 3.0, James is applying fintech solutions to bring efficiency and cost savings to the mortgage origination and securitization processes, making home ownership more broadly available to those who need it most. “The reason I’m at one of the largest Latinx mortgage lenders in the country is to use my Wall Street and fintech knowledge and solutions to help serve this rapidly expanding, yet still underserved, American community … particularly first-time homebuyers, which is a particular passion of mine.” James shares.
The Top 100 Magazine spoke with James to learn more about his role with Panorama Mortgage Group, the fusion of fintech and mortgage services, and how this synthesis is benefiting consumers.
James, what brought you from Wall Street to Panorama Mortgage Group?
During the time between my Wall Street finance and mortgage company careers, I was working on my own fintech company. To learn more about digital disruption and its application, I enrolled in Wharton’s Business Model Innovation in the Digital Age Program at the University of Pennsylvania. I then underwent an immersive Blockchain Technology Business Innovation and Application course at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Business. I did a deep dive into blockchain’s potential effect on the mortgage industry and was confident that by using it, coupled with other forms of digitalization, I could make the outdated mortgage model faster, cheaper, and more secure. After spending more than 30 years generating revenue for big firms, I wanted to bring this concept and my experience to a company that was forward-thinking and consumer-centric. That company was Panorama Mortgage Group. They brought me in to oversee their capital markets and I saw an opportunity to implement my fintech-oriented solutions. Like many other mortgage companies, their processes were labor- and paper-intensive. In the modern digital climate of Google and Apple, the time, effort, and accompanying costs were unacceptable. Transitioning to new tools and paradigms, I can now efficiently manage a mortgage pipeline of approximately $200-250 million, overseeing interest rates and credit risk as we address rapidly expanding demographics for primarily first-time home buyers.
How has fintech impacted the mortgage industry as a whole and benefited consumers?
Because fintech makes the borrowing process more efficient, it leads to lower rates and allows for expedited completion times—in short, it creates value across the board and avails a better, lower-rate product to more people. At Panorama, we have a large segment of Hispanic borrowers, and this particular demographic is growing at a rate of 100% each year. The implementation of fintech can facilitate that growth rate and is of great utility to first-time home buyers. There’s also a social component involved. Owning a home has become the symbol of the American Dream. If we can help consumers achieve that dream with more transparency, less expense, and increased security, I think it’s a game-changer for everyone. It’s also helping to correct income inequality and to build wealth, especially in an era when the government is not adequately providing for retirement.
What do you enjoy most about your work and what role has fintech played in your career?
I enjoy being able to see around corners, recognizing what may be the next big thing, and trying to capitalize on it. Using the knowledge I’ve acquired in finance and fine-tuning it for the fintech model is moving the mortgage industry forward, and I hope that my efforts accelerate the elimination of many of the antiquated methods. In the 2007-2008 mortgage credit crash, private-label mortgage securitization (Disintermediation 2.0) stopped. Credit for every non-GSE loan dried up as the connection to investor capital was lost. I remember how frustrated I felt when foreclosure rates soared and so many people were displaced. In fact, it was the impetus for my transition into this niche. When disintermediation first came about, allowing private capital to be underwritten by the government, I knew its success would depend on connecting investors more directly with consumers to provide lower-rate loans. The slow manner of mortgage processing now is not currently compatible with the new digital modalities. Today we have technology to directly connect consumers with loans. This is where fintech will truly change the game. I’m gratified to be playing an important part in the development and implementation of fintech in each area of the mortgage industry and for each demographic it serves.
James received a BA from Furman University and has held Series 8, Series 7, and Series 63 licenses. He holds various certifications from MIT and Wharton. He achieved the President's Council of Countrywide Capital Markets and is a recent panelist and presenter for the ABS & Structured Finance Summit Outlook. He frequently writes and podcasts about mortgages and interest rates for Panorama Mortgage.
Managing Partner/Advisor to the Board of Directors
Panorama Mortgage Group
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