Ellie Mae @ AWS re:Invent – Data Monetization Journey on AWS

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Learn how Ellie Mae accomplished their data monetization journey with Persistent and AWS, building highly innovative, scalable, secure, and fully managed solutions based on massive data (around 50% home mortgages in the US) on AWS

Persistent customer Sachin Dhoot of Ellie Mae recently spoke with The Cube’s Rebecca Knight at AWS’s virtual re:Invent.  

Sachin is Vice President for Data and Platform Engineering at Ellie Mae, the leading cloud-based platform for the mortgage finance industry. Its technology solutions enable lenders to originate more loans, lower origination costs, and reduce the time to close, all while ensuring the highest levels of compliance, quality and efficiency. 

Its mission is to automate everything possible for the residential mortgage industry, but to do that required moving to a cloud-based architecture such as AWS, moving away from its own private data center where every customer had their own database. The system was clunky and cumbersome with poor access to data which in turn slowed down their loan origination system.  

Ellie Mae also boasts an incredibly rich industry dataset – 50 percent of all US home mortgages – which lenders are extremely interested in using to get actionable insights about the industry, about their competitive advantages and develop some innovative services on top of it.  

Ellie Mae’s newly built data platform with AWS technologies focused on lenders’ needs by simplifying the mortgage process. In addition, the peer data analytics enabled lenders to compete and offer better loan products and services, while ensuring privacy. Lenders are becoming more data driven. With the value of the additional data now apparent, they are asking for more insights in order to continue to innovate loan products and services.  

I would definitely want to mention Persistent. They came up with a lot of good design suggestions on how we should develop the data platform and the solutions on top of it. The insights product, which I talked about is done along with their help. So I’m very happy with the partnership I have with the Persistent and AWS.

Sachin Dhoot, Vice President – Data & Platform Engineering at Ellie Mae
Excerpt from the video

Rebecca Knight: Hi and welcome to the Cube Virtual and our coverage of AWS re:Invent 2020. I’m your host, Rebecca Knight. Joining me is Sachin Dhoot. He is the Vice President for Data and Platform Engineering at Ellie Mae. Thank you so much for coming on The Cube. Such an honor to be here. So, we are talking today about Ellie Mae’s journey toward data monetization. Before we begin, though, I want you to tell our viewers a little bit about yourself and your role at Ellie Mae.

Sachin Dhoot: So I’m the Vice President for Data and Platform Engineering and before I talk about myself, a little bit about Ellie Mae. Ellie Mae, which is now part of the technology division of Intercontinental Exchange, is the leading cloud-based loan origination platform for the mortgage industry. Our technology solutions actually enable lenders to originate more loans, lower origination cost, and reduce the time to close, all the while ensuring the highest degree of compliance, quality and efficiency. Our mission, as we call it here internally, is to automate everything for the residential mortgage industry. So that’s what we do here. And we take great pride in doing that to make everything automatable.

Rebecca: I love it.

Sachin: Yes. And if you have gone through the mortgage process, you will see the number of papers you have to sign. And so we are on this journey to automate as much as possible in this. So I’m the Vice President of Data and Platform Engineering, like I said; I am a lead and I’m responsible for all of the US based platform and data solutions, including our highly secure, scalable data platform and globally. Just to give you the magnitude of how much data we talk about: Currently Ellie Mae in its platform stores data of nearly 50 percent of all U.S. mortgages. So that’s the scale which we are talking about. And I’m responsible for having the best data platform to support that.

Rebecca: So in terms of the data monetization journey, like most innovations, it starts with a problem. What was the problem that you were trying to solve here?

Sachin: Yes, that’s a great question. So earlier in our initial design, what used to happen is the customers had access to their loan origination system and data, and the way they had access to the data was writing some custom built applications to actually export our data from their production systems. So this had its own share of challenges. For example, if there I wrote some inefficient queries to export all the data since they were acting on the same production database, it used to slow down their loan origination system.

Sachin: Plus they did not get access to all of their data. And we had heard it loud and clear from our customers that not only did they need access to the data, but they also wanted us to manage their data. They did not want to get into managing the database or schema changes and all of that. Plus, we also had such a rich industry dataset. We are talking about 50 percent of all US home mortgages. So they were also very interested in using that data to get actionable insights about the industry, about their competitive advantages and develop some innovative services on top of it. So those were the challenges which we were trying to solve.

Rebecca: So what was the original architecture like? You’re describing what sounds like a very poor experience for both for me and the lenders themselves. It sounds clunky and cumbersome and then also leaving a lot on the table because, as you said, it was a rich data set. What was the original architecture?

Sachin: So the original architecture was not a cloud-based architecture. We were in our own private data center and every customer had their own database to work with. So it was a great architecture at the time when the technologies are not evolved, and we had a highly successful product as a result of that. But when it came to data, it was not a very good experience for them. So while the loan origination system was looking great, the access to the data was not to the extent what we wanted.

Rebecca: So, using best in class technologies. And tell us a little bit about the new product.

Sachin: Yes. So our journey really started when we heard all of the customers’ feedback and the requirements, so that we basically went back to the drawing board. We said, yes, we have a highly successful product in the market, but we also want to solve this problem without affecting their experience with the loan origination system. That was the challenge which we had taken internally. So what we did was we evaluated quite a bit of cloud providers and technology stacks; the parameters which we had put in that time because of the scale of data, needed unlimited scalability and reliability of any provider. We needed a secure, secure data storage, including the personally identifiable information protection. So as you can imagine, we deal with loan mortgages, so security is on the forefront for us. We needed a cloud provider which would match up with that expectation.

Sachin: And there were some other parameters which also we were able to check because of that highly scalable performance data. We needed big data for this storage. We also needed the ability to seamlessly import data from any applications, internal or external. Right. And it absolutely gave us all of this. And we did evaluate a lot of cloud vendors and it came up on the top. AWS, along with Persistent, actually helped us with this evaluation and the development of the data platform.

Rebecca: So tell our viewers a little bit now about data connect and what it is for lenders now.

Sachin: Yeah, so what we what we did was with cloud technology, we developed a common platform and then we started building interconnect solutions on top of it. Right. We created solutions based on the customer’s need. So one solution which we have is what we call the data connect suite of products. With this they can replicate their data from the cloud, from their private data into their warehouse, or they can access reports and run analytical queries directly on our warehouse, which is again in the cloud. So all of the all the solutions are available depending on the customer’s need. But that is all separate from the role of the origination system. We made sure that we are not impacting that existing business while creating these new solutions in the market. All of these were built on AWS.

Rebecca: But you also took things a step further and explored what was possible if you aggregated data from all lenders, the resulting insights. Tell our viewers a little bit about insights and what it allows.

Sachin: Absolutely. So that that was a very cool product, which we came up with. So, again, because of the rich data set, which we have, we are in the position right now to aggregate the data and come up with actionable insights on top of the data. And so we call this product insights. This is our latest offering, again based off of AWS and the data platform. So this this product gives us information about the industry trends on how the mortgage industry is going and it gives the lenders the ability to compare themselves with their peers and with the industry so they can actually benchmark themselves and decide whether they are doing great, or not great. What do they have to change? And this is all in near real time. This is not like a month-old data and all that. So that that’s the beauty of this program.

Rebecca: And what are you hearing from customers? Because as you said, that real time benchmarking, understanding how they’re doing relative to their rivals is a game changer?

Sachin: It is. And customers are super excited about it. We just launched this a few months back and we are seeing amazing adoption for this product, in fact, just not the adoption side of things. We are also seeing so many new use cases and requirements coming from the customer now that they understand we have such a massive data and it’s impacting their business, they just want to add more and more things to it so that it can solve problems. So it gives a unique opportunity for us where we can monetize more, but we can also help solve lender’s problems.

Rebecca: Right. Helping them solve the challenges that they’re facing. Talk a little bit more about the primary benefits of the solution, the unlimited scalability, the fact that it’s fully managed, the storage. Tell our viewers a little bit more about the benefits.

Sachin: The benefits about the solution are that customers or lenders don’t have to worry about how it is managed. It is all taken care of. They just have to access it when they need it. It is available on demand. It is available 24/7. This year has been especially busy for us where the interest rates have dropped and the loan volume and the loan applications have just gone through the roof. But I’m very proud to say that any stack or all of the data solutions and in fact all of our other products, they are able to scale, and they have been able to scale to the record volume this year, all because of how we have designed it using the technology. So the customers really benefit. They just need to focus on their business. They don’t have to worry about underlying infrastructure or how things are going to scale if their volume is going to go up or not, or are there any security issues with that. We take care of all of those things. They don’t even have to do a lot of customization to get hold of this product.

Rebecca: So I want to ask what’s next for you. You just referenced the fact that Ellie Mae is incredibly busy with record mortgage applications. Of course, companies and people around the globe are still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. What are some of the big trends you’re seeing and what’s next for Ellie Mae in the coming year?

Sachin: We have an exciting and a very rich road map coming up. So as I started this interview, I said Ellie Mae is now part of ICE technology, an Intercontinental Exchange division. So as part of this transition, which happened recently, we also have under our umbrella of two companies which actually touches close to 80 percent of US loans in affordable mortgages.

Sachin: We have such a unique opportunity now to not only expand our dataset, make it more rich, and then come up with more additional use cases which are going to help solve customers’ problems and also make them competitive in the market. We have a lot of good opportunities related to data and I feel confident because of the data platform and the technology stack we use. We will be able to handle all of those things.

Rebecca: Can you tell our viewers a little bit about the partners that are helping you on this data monetization journey.

Sachin: AWS definitely helped us in the initial parts in evaluating the design and the solution. Architects came in and worked with us, but along with that, I would definitely want to mention Persistent. They came up with a lot of good design suggestions on how we should develop the data platform and the solutions on top of it. The insights product which I talked about, was done with their help. So I’m very happy with the partnership I have with Persistent and AWS.

Rebecca: Thank you so much for coming on The Cube, Sachin. I really appreciated talking to you.

Sachin: Nice talking with you.

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