Editor's note: This story was originally featured in the February issue of MReport, out now.
In our annual Women in Housing Issue of MReport in September, we were proud to feature 60 outstanding female leaders who are trailblazers in the industry, including Freddie Mac’s Jodi Morton who serves as VP of Data Government and Management for the Single-Family Business. Morton joined Freddie Mac in 2004 with an already accomplished resume, having earned a B.S. in accounting, and a B.S. in business from the College of Charleston. In 2014, she earned a Master’s degree in finance from American University. This month, we sat down with Morton to get a more in-depth view of her role, spearheading the development and implementation of the Single-Family data strategy.
M // In your role at Freddie Mac, you help set data governance, policies, standards, and practices. What criteria do you use when creating a data strategy for the Single-Family business unit?
MORTON // I spent my first 90 days on the job talking to our stakeholder groups to be sure I understood their data needs. That’s when I realized we didn’t need a one-size-fits-all framework, so we developed a “fit-for-purpose” framework with different control criteria for different types of data. Financial reporting data calls for a rigorous level of control but there are other data sets that need different controls. We update our governance standards annually with input from our governance working group, as well as colleagues in audit, compliance, and legal.
M // How do you coordinate with Freddie Mac’s analytics and data science teams to provide them the information they need?
MORTON // It’s all about collaboration and communication. These teams—two of my internal stakeholders—have projects that are essential to our success. We have developed roadmaps that lay out what these data experts will need, what my team will provide, and how we’ll achieve our shared goals. This collaboration enabled us to debut our Automated Collateral Evaluation tool earlier this year. It allows lenders to waive a traditional appraisal on qualifying properties—saving borrowers hundreds of dollars and cutting as much as 10 days from the closing process.
M // We’ve been hearing the term “big data” a lot recently. What does this term mean and how does Freddie Mac approach big data?
MORTON // Big data is shorthand for extremely large and varied data sets that can only be analyzed by computers to reveal patterns and trends. Let me put it in perspective: We have 40+ years of historical data more than 75 million mortgage records. We receive more than 300,000 loans and 712,000 appraisals monthly. We’re using big data to draw meaningful insights from it to reimagine the mortgage experience–driving significant value for our customers, borrowers, and the industry.
M // How do you balance making your data accessible while also maintaining control over it?
MORTON // This is something we think about constantly, working very closely with Freddie Mac’s enterprise-wide information security and IT teams. Every time we acquire a new data set, we have to determine how to control access to it. Every time we build a new tool, we need to understand its risks and decide how to mitigate them. It’s an ongoing process.
M // What advice would you give to other women who are interested in getting into data-heavy fields, which can often be male-dominated?
MORTON // Just do it. I believe in taking a risk when it comes to my professional life. I spent more than 20 years in financial accounting, controls, and reporting—I’ve been in male-dominated fields my entire career. I have leveraged my prior experience as a user of data to build our data strategy. I have developed a network of data professionals that I consult with. So my advice to other women is to jump in with two feet.