Women in Technology: LenderClose’s Tabitha Ochoa
Updated: Jan 12
A special edition celebrating Women’s History Month!
In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus spotlights innovative women who are positively impacting technology applications in the credit union industry, and beyond.
For this issue, we visited with LenderClose’s Product Discovery Manager Tabitha Ochoa. With approximately 400 credit union clients, the Des Moines, Iowa company offers a technology-focused lending solution designed to enhance the speed and efficiency of the lending and borrowing process.
By W.B. King
Technology applications, once developed in siloed departments, are now an interactive, inclusive enterprise touching all aspects of a financial institution. Tabitha Ochoa has been privy to this evolution.
“My career evolved into a more tech-driven role, rather than beginning as one. About a decade ago, I was in a job where I frequently interacted with technology that facilitated borrower verifications,” said Ochoa, who spent nearly 12 years working at Equifax as a fulfillment and product manager.
“There, I was able to identify opportunities that would enhance the process, and my excitement for automation and its potential benefits grew from there,” she added. “My interest in discovering opportunities to create efficiencies within the lending industry has been a constant since.”
Joining LenderClose in March 2020 as a product manager, the following April, Ochoa was promoted to product discovery manager.
“At LenderClose, I can cultivate that interest at a larger scale, considering enhancements for the entire lending cycle through my work with internal teams, vendors and clients,” she said, noting the company is a CUSO.
Prioritizing Collaborative Efforts
When Ochoa began her tenure with Equifax, she said that engineers and technologists were often siloed from product development teams, which wasn’t beneficial to either department as a full understanding of how the product was developed and rolled out wasn’t understood. Finding the right balance, she said, is difficult and an ongoing practice.
“I have also seen teams attempt a more comprehensive, knowledgeable approach to the lifecycle, where everyone seeks to learn everything about every process,” she said. “This is imperfect as well as time spent onboarding engineers can become incredibly long as more time is needed for knowledge transfer.”
Today, she sees more product teams “prioritizing a collaborative effort,” where system experts focus on and discuss how the entire lifecycle of the product will be affected.
“Through this, everyone can weigh in to develop the best solution possible,” she continued. “The unique expertise that everyone brings has the potential to identify an unknown issue or pose an idea that could make the solution more ideal.”
Another change she has seen is in the number of women who are working in technology roles. And the shift, she added, has been significant.
“I am seeing more women in every role within the tech process from coding to quality to leadership roles. It is great to have more women in the field and have them put their stamp on the industry,” Ochoa noted. “More women view technology as an option now. The more women who are in leadership positions, the more younger women see it as a viable option for them. Also, we are supporting it more as a society with more programs specifically geared toward women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM programs].
Creating Efficient Solutions
Ochoa is always eager to start the workday because her role speaks to her longstanding interest in solving problems that create “current and future benefits.” This process, she added, includes a discovery to roll out process that makes it “easier” for all parties.
“I enjoy working with my fellow team members as we take a consultative approach to our clients, discussing how to enhance the borrower experience,” she said. “From there, we can identify pain points that our clients and the industry have, such as secure document transmission, and determine the best way to introduce a solution into an end-to-end, digital lending cycle.”
LenderClose’s platform, she explained, was designed to collect real estate and borrower data elements into a single user interface, which allows users to “access multiple reports” through one access point.
“This creates a faster and more efficient home equity and real estate lending cycle,” she offered. “It also addresses the issues that slow down the loan origination process, such as documentation and verifications, allowing credit unions to compete in the home equity and real estate market.”
When asked what tech platforms she is working on, Ochoa said new strategies are based, in part, on working with vendors to ensure solutions are in line with the ever-changing marketplace.
“We are seeing a gap between the appraisal industry and the lending industry in terms of technology. We are working to bridge that gap. With the high demand, cost and turn time of appraisals, alternative valuations have often been sought-after to meet lending needs and define options for an in-person appraisal,” she continued. “An exciting part of my role is working with vendors and solutions that can help achieve that innovation and present other opportunities to fulfill lending outside of a full appraisal.”
Giving Voice to Credit Unions
Ochoa is also a proud member of the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO), a mortgage standards development body that addresses key topics and business challenges relating to digital transformation.
“Through my work and contributions to developing new mortgage standards, I can comment on how decisions may affect the credit union industry and share insights with LenderClose and its clients,” she said. “My participation in MISMO committees, such as remote online notarization (RON) and property valuation, allows me to stay in tune with changes that are happening within the lending industry.”
To ensure LenderClose’s 400-plus credit union clients’ voices are heard, Ochoa regularly reports back to MISMO conveying what her clients might want or what challenges the industry is facing.
“This may be relating to a specific topic and advocate for their needs within these groups. Then, I take what I learn and ensure that LenderClose’s technology is ready for market changes, as well as advise our clients on how to best prepare,” she noted. “Together, we can collectively find great solutions for an ever-changing lending space that inspire success.”
Credit unions, she explained, are also able to participate in MISMO. To this end, she said “great benefits” could be realized from “being present” and “weighing in on these topics” firsthand.
“There are various ways for interested credit unions to get involved and join MISMO ranging from in-person and virtual summits and conferences to regular sessions and meetings that meet on a monthly or weekly basis,” she said. “A good first step is navigating MISMO’s online resources and determining which committees may be most relevant, such as servicing, e-document and e-mortgage and property and valuations workgroups.”
Credit Unions Are Family
As a proud credit union member, Ochoa said she “loves” going into her local branch and feeling seen and valued. “People there know me well enough to ask about my family. That personal touch has always allowed credit unions to differentiate themselves from larger financial institutions.”
This same credit union philosophy, she added, is embedded in LenderClose’s foundation. The company, she said, was built with credit unions in mind.
“We are a CUSO, which means we understand credit unions’ needs and the solutions to meet those needs. We also understand the role of much-needed collaboration to make those solutions a reality,” she continued. “We work hard to create efficiencies with technology that allow credit unions to accelerate the lending process from end to end and create a better member experience.”
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