In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we reached out to several prominent Hispanic leaders in the housing and mortgage industry to celebrate their success, learn from their experience, and gain insight into the challenges facing the mortgage industry. Today, we’re excited to share this interview with Angel Alban, president of Zventus and chairman & co-founder of the Blockchain Hyperledger Mortgage Subgroup.
Alban shares career advice on how his Latin background gives him a unique ability, and how his company is at the forefront of a technological revolution that will transform mortgage originations and servicing forever.
Tell us a little about your background – where you grew up, what your interests were, and how you found yourself entering the world of mortgage finance.
A fun fact: I was born a couple of months after the Hispanic Heritage Month actually began as a commemorative week when it was first introduced in 1968 by California Congressman George E. Brown. This month-long event is special to me as it raises awareness while recognizing the contributions of the Hispanic community throughout American history.
In the early 1960s, my Ecuadorian father and my Guatemalan mother moved to Los Angeles, California, where I was born and raised. My parents sacrificed a lot to send me to Catholic school and give me the American experience of playing baseball, being a boy scout, riding a BMX, and skateboarding. However, while it may sound like a great upbringing, the one thing we never had growing up was a stable home.
As a family, we constantly moved from one place to another and I regularly had to change schools as my parents pursued new jobs and new opportunities. Like many first-generation kids, I became the official English teacher and interpreter for my parents. I would help them read the mail, fill out forms, or talk to bank tellers and waiters in restaurants on their behalf. It was an experience that taught me how to deal with transition and communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds.
I was a big science fiction fan growing up, and was interested in science, math, and mechanics so I took classes to study FORTRAN and PASCAL programming languages and motorcycle mechanics. After graduating from high school, I joined the U.S. Marines and was stationed in Asia and across the U.S. and graduated from the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy. After the military, I worked for ETAK, an independent U.S.-based vendor of navigation system equipment, digital maps, and mapping software, but the daily commute to West LA impacted my quality of life. Luckily, a friend told me that Countrywide was hiring close to my home, so I applied and was hired. I had no knowledge of the mortgage industry, but it turned out to be the best career move I ever made.
After being hired, I took my first mortgage banking training course and quickly learned that the lending industry is about helping people achieve the dream of homeownership and developing communities. After nearly 30 years in the industry, I feel it is one of the noblest professions, and it’s enabled me to follow my dreams and help others succeed. I am proud to be the first in our family, at age 28, to purchase a home. Thus, I’d finally accomplished my mission of having a stable family home, and I still live in the same house today.
You had quite an impressive career working at top mortgage banks and even spent time in London. Can you share with us a bit about your career and some of the things you accomplished?
Over my career, I have worked in all aspects of the mortgage business from origination and servicing to capital markets and everything in between. For nearly 30 years, I managed teams across strategy, operations, and technology in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
I had the privilege of working for top mortgage brands like Countrywide, Bank of America, Barclays, and Stearns Holdings – all of which experienced unprecedented growth, success, and challenges.
What I am most proud of is having the opportunity to expand my mortgage professional experience beyond the U.S. into Europe and Asia. To experience different backgrounds, languages, cultures, and travel to new countries was a life-enriching experience. From my travels to nearly 30 countries, what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter where you go, everyone in the world really wants the same thing… a place to call home. The home is where family is and in many countries it is multigenerational. I learned a lot about how mortgages work in different countries but most importantly I was able to help our borrowers with their home loan needs.
Looking back over my lending career, being at the forefront of technology was exciting as I saw firsthand how technology can transform businesses and the borrower experience. I was part of the technological revolutions from mainframe to distributed computing to web and cloud computing. The “techie” in me is very proud of the technological advances our industry has made, but I am most passionate about blockchain technology. Blockchain will transform all aspects of daily life just like the internet did for the world. Through my work at Zventus and the Hyperledger blockchain, I can continue the mission of delivering housing finance solutions, advancing technology, and improving communities on a global level.
I am very grateful to being part of this noble mortgage profession that empowers and transforms families and communities through homeownership. The life-long friends and relationships I made along the way are priceless.
Over your career, can you share some advice on how you were able to find new opportunities without having to make an external move?
My advice on how to create opportunities is to build a reputation of taking what you have and making it better. No matter the size of your team or company there are always opportunities to improve, which leads to learning and growth. Be the most informed about your process, department, division, company, competitors, and your industry. Build an internal thirst for knowledge. I’ve been on a quest to learn as much as I could, which spurred my personal and professional growth. I was fortunate to have worked for public companies, where I took advantage of public information like annual reports, monthly investor calls, and analyst reports, studying our company and industry. The more I gleaned from this information, the more I understood the mission and my purpose. I’d like to inspire people to look closely at the available public information to enhance their knowledge -- this helps to connect the dots between strategy and your day-to-day job, which creates the potential for new opportunities.
Volunteer for everything as it helps to grow your network and to get your name on the management radar. I would always volunteer for special projects and strived to deliver more than expected. I also focused on building relationships and bridges to learn from others in different parts of the organization, using my ability to talk with anyone from multiple backgrounds. I’ve never been afraid of taking on new challenges and fully embracing opportunities, even outside of my area of expertise. Don’t ever let that hold you back; use it as a driver for success. When you start identifying opportunities and improving outcomes, the bigger opportunities will start looking for you.
With all the changes and challenges we are facing in this global pandemic being mentally fit is important for personal and career success. To help me stay motivated, I developed a mantra many years ago for inspiration: No matter the type of day I am having, always work hard, help others, dream big, and make it happen.
Let’s talk about your current company, Zventus. Tell us what you do, where the idea came from, and how you got it off the ground?
We hire the talent to power our clients’ strategy, operations, and technology. Zventus is a global consulting, staffing, and outsourcing services company. Our unique approach helps us design staffing solutions that can be managed by the client or by Zventus. Our clients pick the delivery stack that best fits their needs. For example, their teams can be onshore, nearshore, offshore, hybrid, or a mix of all of them. These staffing capabilities provide strategic value and savings of up to 50% in technology delivery and end-to-end business processes.
The idea behind Zventus came from our time working at some of the world’s top companies. We recognized that these organizations saw outsourced teams as nothing more than commodities, with brands favoring low-cost delivery over high-value strategies and partnerships. Outsourcing service providers also struggled to differentiate themselves or improve the perception of managed services in the market, so most companies were unaware of the added value and benefits of the practice.
From our perspective, this was the perfect storm of opportunity. When launching Zventus, our goal was to evolve the traditional outsourcing approach into a trusted strategic partnership that improves every part of the business. We imagined a collaborative relationship that would transform marketing, sales, operations, and technology into high-performing business units that help companies evolve quickly and cost-effectively.
The result was a unique business model that fuses exceptional talent in the Americas, Europe, and Asia with the strategic value of world-class best practices and technologies.
You have quite a footprint in Mexico, and specifically Tijuana. For many, those are not the destinations one thinks of when considering outsourcing or nearshoring opportunities. What informed your decision to look there for talent?
One of my biggest passions is building creative, high-performance teams that drive the business forward. I’ve recognized talent in areas where people don’t think to look, mainly because my Latin background gives me a unique ability to build cultural bridges and access rich talent pools.
Mexico is the U.S.’s second-largest export market and third-largest trading partner. More than 18,000 US companies operate in Mexico, and over 1 million American citizens live in Mexico. Doing business in Mexico makes sense due to the same time zones of the U.S., high-quality talent and ease of doing business.
Tijuana is the fifth largest city in Mexico, with a 2.2 million population averaging 27 years of age, and 50% of them are bilingual in English and Spanish. In addition, Tijuana is the fourth most important financial district in Mexico, so we saw an opportunity to reposition the city into a source of hybrid nearshore/onshore strategic capabilities.
The key is Tijuana’s strategic location, which borders San Diego and is easy to access from major markets by car, train, or a short airplane ride. In addition, our teams have visas that enable travel to our clients’ offices. Being in the same time zone with easy access for training and meetings translates to being on the same page. Our clients find Tijuana, Mexico, attractive due to its cultural alignment, talent availability, short travel distance, and same time zone.
Let’s zoom out a bit – what other countries do you go to for talent, and how did you figure out what your global footprint was going to look like?
Zventus was global and remote from day one, so we were in a better position to take advantage of international opportunities when the pandemic started, as many companies were also looking to go global. During my time at top mortgage banks in the U.S. and Europe, I experienced firsthand the benefits of global talent pools and how they create a competitive advantage. It was all about offshoring in the early days of outsourcing, but that came with time zone and communication challenges. After years of iterating, we realized that combining nearshore and offshore would complement any global outsourcing strategy to help accelerate technology and improve service delivery.
Today, we operate in the U.S., Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Pakistan and Poland. Our future plans are to expand into Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia and India. This footprint allows us to offer a combination of nearshore, offshore, and onshore, sometimes called multi-shore outsourcing, which opens-up the global talent pool for our clients.
What industries do you serve, and then thinking about the mortgage industry specifically, where can Zventus provide value?
Today, we proudly serve middle-market and Fortune 500 companies in industries like insurance, healthcare, lending and capital markets, as well as supporting startups in their long-term growth ambitions.
Our leadership team each has 25+ years of lending domain expertise across the mortgage value chain. From loan origination to post-closing, servicing to capital markets, and everything in between. We know the mortgage industry, and, more importantly, we know the history and opportunities that each market cycle brings.
Some of the areas we advise on are growth strategies like diversification, new affiliate income streams, and new lending channels to mergers and acquisitions or joint venture opportunities. On the operations and technology fronts, we have extensive design, re-engineering and integration experience with new models that help improve the customer experience, deliver bottom-line results, and save our clients up to 50%.
We just launched a new blockchain lab for the financial services industry, specifically focused on modernizing the mortgage sector. The lab will focus on developing new products, services and solutions to enhance the loan process. These innovations will make mortgage loans more secure, easier to manage, and more economical, reducing costs for financial services firms by upwards of 50% per loan. On a personal level, it’s exhilarating to merge mortgages and technology, two of my professional passions, and I’m thrilled to be at the forefront of a technological revolution that will transform mortgage origination and servicing forever.
How do you enjoy spending your free time outside of work, and how do you manage your work/life balance?
For me, work-life balance is about spending as much time as possible with my wife and my growing family. My kids are 12, 15, and 18 years old and active in club sports like soccer, field hockey and karate. Also, as a family, we just took up paddleboarding, and we love it.
Sadly, I had to give up on skateboarding and baseball, but I unplug several times a week to work out, read, listen to music, and take online classes from cooking to blockchain technology. I am a devout believer in lifelong learning, both in the workplace and at home.
The opinions and insights expressed in this Q&A are solely those of its interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of either Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation or any of its parent, affiliates, or subsidiaries (collectively, “MGIC”). Neither MGIC nor any of its officers, directors, employees or agents makes any representations or warranties of any kind regarding the soundness, reliability, accuracy or completeness of any opinion, insight, recommendation, data, or other information contained in this blog, or its suitability for any intended purpose.