Women in Technology: Valligent Technologies’ Jennifer Williams
Special edition celebrating Women’s History Month 2023!
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 Valligent Technologies’ Vice President of Operations Jennifer Williams. The Roseville, Calif.-based company, which has 44 credit union clients, offers appraisal, alternative valuation, quality control (QC) and regulatory audit solutions.
In August 2022, Veros Software, the parent company of Veros Real Estate Solutions, an enterprise risk management and collateral valuation services, acquired Valligent Technologies.
By W.B. King
Beginning her career as a call center representative for AirTouch Cellular in 1999, Jennifer Williams wasn’t pursuing a career in technology, but was soon swept up in the rising tide of wireless tech.
“I moved into training and development and started teaching new hire classes on the activation systems, phones and services. At that time, the wireless environment was an analog network, with no features – nothing,” she continued. “AirTouch Cellular soon became Verizon Wireless through a joint venture and wireless tech took off. There were new phones and new services like text and picture messaging, and digital coverage replaced analog coverage. It was a whirlwind.”
What excited her at the time were continuous — often weekly — product service updates and launches.
“I had to learn it, understand it and teach it. It was a really great time for me professionally. I became a manager of the training department and watched our wireless industry change,” she said. “With the hands-on learning, troubleshooting and system changes, I realized I enjoyed tech and found it to be very interesting.”
Williams stayed with Verizon Wireless for eight-plus years, eventually becoming training department manager. She would later join Valligent Technologies, becoming vice president of operations.
Providing comprehensive valuation technology expertise and services to banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders and insurance companies nationally, Williams noted that the company has developed “a state-of-the-art valuation technology platform,” which fully integrates with “best-in-class” data providers, loan origination systems (LOS) and on-demand cloud computing platforms and application programming interface (API) providers.
Gone Are the Siloed Days
Williams can point to a slew of workplace changes since entering the tech space, including IT operations that were once siloed and often led to a communication breakdown.
“It was not efficient in that there was a lot back and forth, a lack of connection and delays in response times. Now, it is commonplace for various stakeholders to be included in the very early stages of the concept design and build,” she continued. “This approach may take a bit longer to satisfy everyone, but, in the end, the tech works and there is more involvement through the process to ensure success.”
Another welcome change, she added, is seeing more women assume tech positions.
“Working with Valligent for the past 11 years, I’ve been able to partner with more women who are in tech support, tech management and tech project management,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate to work with many amazing and wonderful women.”
Among these women was Lisa Altman-Hirsch whom she encountered while working at Verizon Wireless.
“I was new in the management role and she had a way of improving my confidence and educating in a positive manner that encouraged and motivated me,” Williams recalled. “She included me in decision-making and taught me how to work with direct reports and the call center leadership.”
Noting that Valligent Technologies has 40 employees, seven on which are tech-facing, Williams said she does her best to pay forward the ethos she learned from Altman-Hirsch.
“I believe in a positive work environment, doing our best and also enjoying what we do,” she shared. “We are so fortunate at Valligent to have the employees that we do and the manner in which we work together as a team.”
Transforming an Entire Industry
When asked what trends in the credit union space have caught her attention, Williams told Finopotamus: data integration, analytics and automation.
“In-depth real estate data used to only be available locally through real estate agents and appraisers,” she noted. “We have witnessed an explosion of nationwide data availability in formats easily digestible and manipulatable.”
With this data, she explained the Valligent team can readily perform “trend analysis in local market areas on a variety of factors” and is in the process of developing artificial intelligence (AI) and “regression tools,” which will assist in analyzing data.
“We have developed end-to-end workflows that ingest the data, expertly analyze it allowing for efficient human review and adjustment to optimize speed and accuracy of conclusions,” she said. “The immense data and sophisticated analytical tools available usher in the new world of property valuation.”
Explaining that 2023 is a “very exciting time to be involved in the transformation of an entire industry,” Williams added that Valligent recently launched a new 4-Hour Evaluation product. A proprietary process, the solution connects with the homeowner virtually via mobile video application technology to complete a thorough inspection of the subject property.
“Because of this efficient inspection time, we compress a workflow from three to four days down to four hours. This allows credit unions to offer a very efficient valuation process to their members,” she said.
Long-term, Multifaceted Relationships
What separates credit unions from other mortgage lenders, Williams contends, is that a member is part of the organization, not a customer.
“Members use their credit union for a myriad of financial needs. The typical mortgage broker has more of a one-and-done relationship with a borrower obtaining a loan,” she said. “A credit union member is more like family – a long-term, multifaceted relationship.”
Credit unions, she added, also generally offer better rates and more substantial product offerings.
“Valligent aligns with that culture. Customer service is very important to Valligent, we pride ourselves on the relationship and partnership building we present to our credit union clients,” she said.
With a background in call centers and customer service, Williams said, “It’s very important to me that we are available, attentive and act with urgency.” She continued, “Credit unions have expanded their service options and asked for products that are more efficient and include more tech in order to remain competitive, while ensuring high member satisfaction levels.”