Women in Technology: Mortgage Cadence’s Melissa Kozicki
Updated: Jan 12
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 Mortgage Cadence’s Director of Compliance Melissa Kozicki. The Denver –based company, which counts more than 75 credit unions as clients, is dedicated to building and delivering loan origination systems for an easy, more intuitive, digital mortgage lending experience.
By W.B. King
Back in 2006 while working in the mortgage lending industry in and around Michigan, difficulties in the regional manufacturing economy led Melissa Kozicki to reassess her career and take stock determining what else might interest her.
“At the time, I just wanted to expand my job opportunities by trying the technology side of the business, but never expected it to be such a perfect fit for me or that I’d still be here all of these years later,” she told Finopotamus.
Mortgage Cadence, an Accenture Company, has been partnering with lenders since 1999. And since Kozicki came aboard, she has experienced many positive changes in the industry, especially as related to technology.
“I have definitely seen an evolution in our ability to follow our own advice as an industry,” she said. “In the past, we may have recommended that our clients improve their efficiencies using integrated technologies, going paperless or working virtually, but we were putting so much of our effort into our products that we didn’t always take advantage of these efficiencies ourselves.”
Prior to the pandemic, she noted that the ability to work from home was much more common for tech firms opposed to other operators in the market.
“This helps us work more efficiently in multiple time zones and still achieve a better work/life balance,” she continued. “We also see the benefits of more robust integrations both in the products that we use and the products that we offer, allowing a better selection and ‘fit’ for the needs of specific companies and users.”
Encouraged by Workplace Advancements
A former chair of Michigan Mortgage Brokers Association (MMBA) and past recipient of its Distinguished Faculty of the Year award, Kozicki’s career highlights also include being honored as one of Mortgage Professional America's 2015 Elite Women in Mortgage.
Additionally, she has authored numerous publications and training courses, including federal compliance content for Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) NMLS-certified continuing education.
While Kozicki said that she has been “fortunate to work with strong women in technology” throughout her career, these women generally were the exception rather than the rule. Nevertheless, she remains encouraged by workplace advancements.
“I definitely see more women working in higher positions within technology and you frequently find more women heading departments and playing leadership roles in technology than 20 years ago,” she noted.
The most valuable lesson Kozicki has learned over the course of her career: It’s okay to make mistakes, a lesson her first boss in the mortgage industry taught her.
“Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes happen and even the most careful planning can’t always avoid them. The important thing is how you react to your mistakes. I try to always own my mistake and work to problem-solve, then analyze to make sure I don’t repeat it,” she continued. “Blame, guilt, anger or excuses don’t benefit anyone, least of all me. I try to pay this forward by being supportive to those around me when they make a mistake to help them fix the problem, determine how to avoid a recurrence, and move forward.”
With 388 employees currently working at Mortgage Cadence, she has plenty of opportunities to mentor and guide colleagues to achieve collective goals.
“As a tech company, each employees is aligned to technical work, since each role at the company collectively supports Mortgage Cadence’s loan origination system (LOS),” Kozicki noted.
When Finopotamus asked what industry tech trends are capturing her attention, she responded: “All things automation is exciting.”
In her estimation, the industry is at an intersection of “desperate need and technological capabilities.”
Lenders, she said, are “looking at contracting markets and trying to find ways to make technology help them be more efficient, coupled with the promise of technology-based abilities that are commercially available in ways that have never been before,” she continued. “The industry is primed for significant change with only the will to adopt those changes standing in the way.”
Vendor Regulatory Work Group
Kozicki is no stranger to the ever-changing mortgage lending market and has long had her finger on the pulse of what is happening both behind the scenes and with compliance and regulatory issues.
“Technology vendors have to be much further ahead than our financial institution clients when new rules come out so that we can develop, test and release systems in time for the financial institutions to use them to comply,” she said.
Pointing back to 2010 when the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development modified the “Good Faith Estimate” form and then to the following year when the Federal Reserve modified the “Truth in Lending” form, Kozicki said technology vendors, for the most part, “labored in isolation trying to understand and implement these rules.” This, she added, often led to different interpretations.
“In fact, financial institutions who used more than one vendor sometimes would end up generating forms differently from within their own institution,” she noted.
When Dodd Frank passed in 2012, Kozicki took action by forming the Vendor Regulatory Work Group, which, she explained, provides a “support system and safe space” for regulatory technologists to come together.
The Work Group is open to any technology vendor in the residential mortgage lending industry and provides a forum to “think out loud about regulations so that we can go back to our own teams and plot out the technology we will each use to support our clients,” she said.
“Ironically, we never discuss technology itself – that is not the point of the group,” she offered. “Rather, the Work Group allows us to discuss interpretation and labor over key factors like the placement of a comma in the rule and its impact on interpretation, or, even more importantly, we discuss things that are left silent in new rules, such as rounding and precision when performing required calculations.”
The Importance of Being a Member
Among the first differences Kozicki learned about credit unions opposed to banks is never referring to a member as a customer. This "firm distinction and emphasis on members really says it all about credit unions,” she said.
“While everyone wants to provide good service, it seems to me that credit unions do it because it’s why they exist, not as a means to an end,” she continued. “Personally, I can tell you that we belong to the credit union my husband has been a member of since childhood, and there’s a reason for that which goes well beyond the financial services themselves.”
While she said credit unions are by-and-large successful with services offered, Kozicki warns of complacency. “Many credit unions are reluctant to change their procedures or invest in new technologies, which could provide them with greater benefits.”
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