Editor’s Note: This interview originally appeared in the June issue of MReport.
Whether by helping Freddie Mac drive company growth or focusing on the advancement of women and minorities in the industry, Riham El-Lakany has taken the GSE’s motto of “Leading the Way” to heart. El-Lakany is VP and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for Freddie Mac’s Single-Family division, where she is responsible for developing and leading marketing and communication strategies.
M // Since you joined Freddie Mac as Single-Family CMO last year, what are some of the initiatives you and your department have focused on?
El-Lakany // Freddie Mac is using data and advanced analytics to drive our clients’ business growth and reshape the mortgage market for the modern era. We’re out talking to clients about new programs, including our Loan Advisor Suite, our ACE program that obviates the need for appraisals in some cases, and our partnership with LoanBeam to help self-employed workers get into a home. These leverage Freddie Mac’s unique position and tech capabilities to enhance the mortgage process, make it more efficient and drive down costs.
We’re also partnering with fintech experts, economists, data scientists, and outside professors to share insights that provide a detailed picture of the next generation of homebuyers so that we could help our clients meet their needs. To that end, we’ve been focused on a campaign that we’ll be rolling out this summer called the “Borrower of the Future,” which will draw on these insights to educate the industry on trends that affect various buyer segments to help lenders better understand and serve their customers.
M // The “Borrower of the Future” campaign sounds fascinating, how does the millennial generation fit into this effort?
El-Lakany // This generation will shape the housing market. Freddie Mac is researching many factors including housing cost increases and impact on buying as well as different behaviors of this generation compared to previous ones such as waiting longer to get married and have children. The gig and sharing economies have also had a significant impact, affecting their needs and views on buying a home. Thus, it’s our responsibility to adapt and adjust to provide a housing market that meets their requirements and can also apply to future generations.
By using behavioral data and predictive models to better understand “the borrower of the future,” including millennials, we’re able to harness these insights to better serve this generation of potential homebuyers, future generations as well as lenders, investors and the broader housing market.
M // As Freddie Mac continues to focus on data and analytics, in what ways overall do you think technology changed the mortgage industry?
El-Lakany // As is the case with any industry, technology has provided the mortgage industry with the ability to simplify the homebuying experience and create a more cost-effective and sustainable housing finance system. This had been an industry that was slow to change, but today’s Freddie Mac has and continues to harness technology to transform itself and lead the market’s growth.
For example, Freddie Mac is automating the validation of borrowers’ assets and income to enable lenders to better understand the quality of the loans they are writing with Loan Advisor Suite. Our Automated Collateral Evaluation (ACE) product eliminates the need for a new appraisal on certain mortgages, saving borrowers those fees and reducing closing times by as many as 10 days. With LoanBeam, we’re helping self-employed borrowers who sometimes have challenges with mortgages to simplify and speed the process for calculating their income when underwriting a mortgage.
Our technological innovations are lowering costs for lenders and enabling them to process single-family mortgages more quickly with stronger safeguards, while also expanding into new markets. Technology will continue to be a catalyst for change and improvement in the mortgage industry, and Freddie Mac is helping lead that charge.
M // This month we are turning a spotlight on diversity and inclusion in the industry. What has your experience been rising in the mortgage industry?
El-Lakany // When I came to this country, I had a strong desire to be successful in the business world. I also instinctively understood how important it was to advocate for women’s equality, in business and otherwise. I began my career at the Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO), which only reinforced that drive to make sure women were able to have successful and equitable careers. As I moved into the finance world, which is historically a male-driven industry, it became very apparent that there was a gap in women leadership in many of these companies.
I’ve had experience with many leadership styles over the years, and one of the most important things I’ve learned is that women don’t need to take on a male persona to be a successful leader. Being authentic and focusing on your strengths is key to being a good leader. I’ve also had the benefit of having amazing mentors, both male and female, over the years who’ve taught me how— and how not—to lead effectively.
M // How does Freddie Mac strive to promote diversity of talent?
El-Lakany // Part of why I chose to join Freddie Mac is because as I’ve taken on more leadership roles, my goals have shifted to helping other women succeed. This year, we’ve launched an important initiative geared to helping advance women in the mortgage industry, #LeadingtheWay, to which our leadership has expressed a strong commitment.