Mar. 20: Vendors’ products, partnerships, progression, proficiencies; Saturday Spotlight: Merchants Bank of Indiana

Is it news to anyone that low rates, increased savings, population demographics, and working from home are driving housing values higher? Do you or your clients own rentals? The residential mortgage market is seeing strong housing demand and low inventory, so we can expect home price appreciation and thus reduced affordability. So what? The need for more single-family rentals will increase, and (some would say, unfortunately) help those huge companies that own tens of thousands of rental homes. And help the stock price of companies like Redwood Trust via helping the credit performance on the company’s retained investments. And as we saw with the FHFA’s direction causing Fannie to cap its portfolio of 2nd home and non-owner-occupied loans at 7 percent, this reduction of the GSE role in the investment property market should provide more opportunities for private capital, or people buying rentals with cash. Lenders are already shifting 2nd home and investment property pricing and execution.

Saturday Spotlight: Merchants Bank of Indiana, “Offering all of our exceptional mortgage services online.”


In 3-5 sentences, describe your company (when was it founded and why, what it does, where, recent growth and plans for near-term future growth). Founded in 2009 and headquartered in Carmel Indiana, Merchants Bank takes pride in serving our customers and recognizing the important role we play in providing needed financial services. We value one-to-one relationships offering products and services that meet the needs of those we serve. Merchants Bank offers a wide variety of products designed with clients in mind, including consumer mortgages, and correspondent & warehouse mortgage financing.


Tell us about what type of volunteer work employees are encouraged to engage in, or charities your company supports, and why. We are committed to the communities we serve. Our MPACT program was developed to help foster and support our corporate initiative of Merchants Positively Advancing Communities Together with both our charitable contribution dollars, and our employee volunteer service hours.

Merchants encourages our employees to give back by volunteering their time to help others, offering each employee 16 PTO hours per year to use toward service. In 2020, we recognized our employees who logged a total of 1,100 volunteer hours in the communities we serve. More than 500 of those hours were put towards the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a federal regulation designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to help meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities.

Our volunteer activities have most recently included distributing 280 backpacks full of school supplies to children living in Braeburn Village Apartments, Habitat for Humanity work in the King Park neighborhood in Indianapolis, donating food, blankets, Christmas gifts and more to the Horizon House, serving meals at St. Vincent House, fundraising for the Chicago Habitat for Humanity Women Build event, a fall cleanup project in Minnesota for an AEON affordable housing project, service projects to help residents of Village of Merici, and much more.  We model our engagement around efforts that support the advancement of affordable housing, connecting people and their communities, promote and improve education with emphasis on financial literacy, and stimulate the community and economic development.


What does your company do to help elevate your employees’ growth? Describe any mentoring programs, outside classes or training, in-house training. How does the company help people develop? At Merchants, our internal training and mentoring program, called Mastering Merchants, includes regularly scheduled internal training sessions that focus on providing our employees a better understanding of what each business unit does and how each of our different business units contribute to the overall success of the company. Our internal personal growth strategy includes support of industry specific trainings to further develop each of our employees’ talents and skillset. Employees are evaluated on a regular basis to measure goals and touch points through the year. ​​​​​​​


Tell us how your company maintains its culture in the office, or in a work-from-home environment if applicable. With considerable growth in recent years, we have made it a priority to incorporate both virtual and in-person connection points with all of our employees throughout the country.  We conduct regular virtual Town Halls where employees can connect directly to our executive leadership and learn corporate strategy and direction.  Resulting from the pandemic, we have also incorporated flexible work-from-home arrangements for those who need it.


Things you are most proud of that don’t have to do with sales. We have been recognized for six years in a row to the Best Places to Work in Indiana list, recognizing companies around the state that display sustained excellence. We’ve received the OneZone Business Excellence Award as the 2019 Business of the Year, the Commitment to Community Award Honoree by the Indiana Bankers Association 2020, and been a Community Commitment Award Honoree from the American Bankers Association 2020. Merchants Bank of Indiana has received national recognition from S&P Global Market Intelligence as one of the top performing community banks nationally with assets between $3 billion and $10 billion. Merchants was listed as #2 in the nation, the highest rated Indiana bank on the list.


Fun fact about Merchants Bank of Indiana? Our bank has a mascot who appears in our branded materials and media. He is a friendly green frog named Hopper, named after our marketing tagline, “It’s easy to bank, with Merchants Bank. Hop on Over!).

(For more information on having your firm, employee growth, and your charitable side featured, contact Chrisman LLC’s Anjelica Nixt.)

Vendor tidbits

Companies that provide services and products to residential lenders do a lot more than make up odd company names where middle letters are capitalized and that create spellcheck speed bumps. Or putting “e” in front of words. Let’s take a random look and see who is doing what.

Secure Insight, Inc. released the results of a survey of attorneys, title agents and escrow officers regarding their experiences with digital mortgages and eClosings. The poll of a random sampling of 600 settlement professionals nationwide showed over 84% are “familiar with the term eMortgage.” 30% have successfully closed an electronic mortgage transaction. 23% have worked with a remote online notary to close a mortgage transaction. 41% have completed formal continuing education to learn more about eMortgages and eClosings. And of those who have participated in an eClosing, 45% found the process easy and issue-free, 23% found it complicated but useful, and 7% found the process very confusing to them and their borrower clients and did not endorse the process.

Speaking of which, DocMagic, Inc., a provider of fully-compliant loan document preparation, automated regulatory compliance and comprehensive eMortgage services, and Secure Insight jointly announced the offering of a centralized training program on remote online notarization (RON) technology and processes. “The program establishes a trusted database of notaries that have been fully trained and certified on DocMagic’s industry-leading Total eClose™ platform.

This new certification program reaches the greatest number of notaries with a working knowledge of DocMagic’s Total eClose solution, and is poised to significantly move the adoption needle.”

Mortgage document preparation vendor International Document Services, Inc. (IDS) has entered into a partnership agreement with eNotaryLog, a RON company. Any lender will be able to facilitate a complete digital closing through IDS’s Solitude Solution. Notaries and borrowers will meet remotely to complete the closing transaction by eSigning and eStamping closing documents, as permitted on a state-by-state basis. eNotaryLog is an agile cloud technology company providing the most flexible, secure, and complete SaaS RON/remote ink notarization (RIN)/eSign platform for businesses and consumers who have digital remote notarization needs.

FormFree expanded its AccountChek® 3n1 (3n1) asset, employment and income verification service and now covers 85% of U.S. workers whose employers utilize a payroll processing service, representing over 100 million wage earners. The FormFree® 3n1 can now retrieve direct source income and employment data for 35 of the nation’s largest payroll service providers. 3n1 works by enabling borrowers to authorize payroll providers to electronically share their six most recent paystubs and most recent W-2 with lenders and refresh that documentation within 10 days of the loan closing.

Last month CoreLogic announced the development of the mortgage industry’s first Universal Title Data Structure (UTDS) to source data directly from the title agent’s production software in a standard, consistent format. Designed to alleviate the common title process challenges within the underwriting workflow, CoreLogic’s UTDS automatically digitizes, organizes and transmits over 350 individual data elements from title commitments, tax certificates, major endorsements and property reports. Rather than being locked in flat PDF documents, the UTDS releases the title data so that it can flow instantly and securely from the title provider directly to the lender’s LOS through CoreLogic’s Collateral Technology platforms, so the new Title and Closing Solution efficiently tracks and securely transmits all title order details instantly, replacing phone calls, faxes, and e-mail with an organized and centralized communication platform.

OptifiNow integrated with Mobility Market Intelligence (MMI), a resource that aggregates up-to-date production statistics and other information on licensed realtors and loan originators nationwide. The data provided by MMI offers unique insight into the capabilities of real estate and mortgage professionals. The integration allows OptifiNow’s mortgage CRM and marketing platform to connect with MMI, providing users with instant access to a sprawling database of realtor and loan originator production data. With one click, users can pull up comprehensive statistics on realtors and originators. Dynamic features of MMI are also accessible through the integration, such as tracking realtors for new listings or building instant co-branded flyers and microsites.

In technology adoption news, $4.4 billion producing lender AmCap Home Loans has implemented LBA Ware’s LimeGear™ business intelligence (BI) platform across its 143 branch locations. LimeGear is a turnkey BI platform purpose-built to promote mortgage lender productivity and efficiency. AmCap Chief Analytics Officer Matt Stokes identified LimeGear’s machine learning model, Propensity to Fund, which predicts the likelihood of a loan application to fund within 90 days, as his most heavily relied-on feature (enables lenders to manage warehouse more efficiently lines of credit).

Indecomm Global Services announced its latest release in its automation product suite DecisionGenius™, a mortgage automation solution that assesses income, credit, assets, and collateral of a borrower to deliver comprehensive decision-making for mortgage loan applications. With DecisionGenius™, mortgage lenders will be able to reduce risk with consistency in underwriting decisions; reduce cycle-time and underwriter touches; increase pull-through rates; and improve processor productivity. Users will see all the information needed to make an underwriting decision in one place, comparing application data to sourced data to investor guidelines.

National MI’s recent integration with Mortech’s Product and Pricing Engine brings National MI real-time, risk-based mortgage insurance pricing tool, Rate GPS®, to lenders leveraging Mortech’s industry-leading product and pricing engine, helping them gain operational efficiencies including increased productivity and decreased loan officer cycle time for a more expedited customer response time.

First International Bank & Trust (FIBT) successfully closed on the acquisition of Sodak Home Loans, a Sioux Falls-based full-service mortgage brokerage company. The acquisition of Sodak Home Loans assets marks the North Dakota-based bank’s official entry into South Dakota as a Loan Production Office. (Family-owned for four generations, FIBT traces its history to Farmer’s State Bank in Arnegard, North Dakota, which opened for business in 1910.)

Recall that SitusAMC acquired Street Resource Group, Inc. (SRG) and its widely utilized Warehouse Loan System (WLS) expanding SitusAMC’s existing ProMerit systems. The combined offerings will support more than 60 clients representing approximately $3 trillion in loan financing during 2020. SitusAMC will retain the SRG team, and SRG Founder and CEO Stanley Street will serve as Vice Chairman, SitusAMC Technologies.

Enhancements to the OpenClose DecisionAssist™ product and pricing engine (PPE) extends accurate and instant decisioning results to accommodate non-agency and custom non-QM loan programs. The development of new data points and complex rule structures support income verification, loan grading, and debt-service-coverage ratio (DSCR) incorporated into DecisionAssist’s pricing and eligibility logic. Lenders can easily load base pricing using FICO range, LTV range, and document type while utilizing the Investor Data Management System that provides data aggregation and ongoing management to support real-time market changes. DecisionAssist can be utilized as a standalone PPE and also accompanies OpenClose’s comprehensive, purely browser-based and omni-channel LOS, LenderAssist™.

(Easter is April 4. Thank you to Kit C. for this one.)

Years ago, when one could actually enjoy travel, a man and his ever-nagging wife went on vacation in Jerusalem and while they were there, the wife unfortunately passed away.

The undertaker told the husband, “You can have her buried here in the Holy Land for $150 or we can have her shipped back home for $5,000.”

The husband thought about it and told the undertaker he would have her shipped back home.

The undertaker asked him, “Why would you spend $5,000 to have her shipped home when you could have a beautiful burial here, and it would only cost $150?”

The husband replied, “Long ago, a man died here, was buried, and three days later, rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance!”

Visit for more information on our industry partners, access archived commentaries, or to subscribe to the Daily Mortgage News and Commentary. If you’re interested, visit my periodic blog at the STRATMOR Group web site. The current blog is, “Ops: Reducing Friction for the Borrower”. The Commentary’s podcast is live and at any place you obtain your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify).


(Market data provided in partnership with MBS Live. For free job postings and to view candidate resumes visit LenderNews. This newsletter is designed for sophisticated mortgage professionals only. There are no paid endorsements by me. For up-to-date mortgage news visit Mortgage News Daily. For archived commentaries, or to subscribe, go to Copyright 2021 Chrisman LLC. All rights reserved. Occasional paid job & product listings do appear. This report or any portion hereof may not be reprinted, sold, or redistributed without the written consent of Rob Chrisman.)


Rob Chrisman