Welcome to the very first blog post for Brace Engineering!

The Why

For those of you interested in learning a bit about us, we are a software startup in the mortgage servicing space. Our focus is providing modern software solutions to an extremely complex industry still very much reliant on manual and paper-based processes. Our first product offering is focused on what the industry calls “loss mitigation.” Loss mitigation, or “loss-mit” for short, is the segment of mortgage servicing that kicks in when the borrowers of a loan find themselves in a situation where they are unable to make their mortgage payments.

Not only is this an extremely complex and costly operation for the servicer to manage, but it’s also an extremely stressful event for the borrowers.

Today, in 2021, when a borrower misses a mortgage payment, they are mailed a packet from their mortgage servicer that is anywhere from 10–50 pages in length detailing everything they need to do to explain and prove why they’re unable to make their payments. It is a daunting thing to receive this from your servicer. More likely than not, if you’re unable to pay your mortgage, you’re also unable to pay a lot of the other bills in your life and oftentimes, in this situation, people tend to shut down. This packet goes unanswered or is completed only partially and in many cases, sent back to the servicer much later than it should have been. This process is then followed by many iterations of back and forth through snail mail, which, unbeknownst to the borrower, is silently disqualifying them for possible programs that are time-sensitive in nature that would have enabled them to remain in their home. The whole process is slow and confusing. Not to mention, in addition to whatever hardship you’re experiencing that has gotten you in this situation, you’re now at risk of losing the roof over your head.

That’s where Brace comes in.

We provide a white-labeled, frictionless, digital experience for our borrowers to quickly submit an assistance application, paired with a modern portal for mortgage servicers to manage the entire process from borrower submission, loan evaluation, on through to providing the homeowners options that aid in keeping them in their home whenever possible. We are not just building enterprise software, though. Anyone can do that. In addition to modern workflow tools married with complex task-driven rules engine mechanics on the servicer-side of the equation, we’re also digitizing and simplifying the borrower experience to help these borrowers find options that enable them to stay in their home in extremely abbreviated timelines. We have taken the legalese-laden, overwhelming, paper-based borrower process and boiled it down to a beautiful, expertly-guided experience. Our solution maximizes efficiency in time spent by the borrower providing the necessary details and leveraging modern integrations to pull in assets, income and, in some cases, supporting documentation that this process sometimes requires to consider eligibility for various programs.

The How

The engineering team here at Brace has built a security-first, cloud-based SaaS solution that can get a mortgage servicer online and accepting digital applications in no time. In partnership with industry experts, we have crafted a comprehensive onboarding experience to iterate through the three major steps of our integration: single sign-on integration options, in-bound data capabilities, and out-bound data and completed application delivery solutions. Once our servicing partner provides these details, we work on establishing a dedicated UAT (User Acceptance Testing) environment to begin testing these 3 main touch points. Simultaneously, the Brace Customer Success team is responsible for capturing all of the customization options we offer: from branding for the white-labeled experience to custom questions and answers that might deviate from the standard assistance form.

Since security is paramount to everything we do, particularly when deploying a cloud solution in such a highly regulated space, one of the first architecture decisions we made was to provide a dedicated, single-tenant installation of the entire Brace platform, each deployed to a client-specific cloud account. Given we undergo an annual SOC 2 Type II audit of our cloud security, this ensures we can confidently evidence least-privilege access and that Client A can never access Client B’s data and vice versa. This architecture decision adds a level of complexity to our model, but is one we knew we were taking on. As a result, we have solidly designed a version-controlled, fully repeatable installation and forward-thinking update management solution using tools like Terraform, Kubernetes, and Helm.

What’s Ahead

In the coming months, with each new blog post, in addition to learning what it’s like to be an engineer here at Brace, we will delve into why we consider ourselves Agile-aligned, dig deeper into our architecture I touched upon above, why and how we use React, why we’ve taken an async approach to our Java (this ain’t your grandpappy’s Java!) and why we’ve built one of our core backend utilities with Elixir. We’ve also done some really fun and interesting projects, from custom application-database access layer libraries (which we’re looking to share with the open-source community in the near future!) to evolving Brace engineering ergonomics, all of which we can’t wait to share with our readers, so stay tuned!

The Team

As for the team itself, they’re an amazing bunch of folks. While it’ll still be a little while longer before things go back to normal and we’re back in an office, the fact that we have grown the team as much as we have (and continue to do so) during these crazy times is something we are extremely proud of.

We’ve managed to navigate this currently-all-virtual thing and are able to have regular company-wide Happy Hours, smaller team-specific events, plus a weekly cross-team get-together that brings folks from different teams together to talk about what they’re working on and what’s going on in life in general. Keeping people involved, up to date, and maintaining the knowledge that they are a part of something important is really difficult when you’re all remote, but it remains one of the most important areas of focus for us here, and we’re looking forward to sharing our continued journey with you!

Written by: Rob Brueckmann, VP Engineering

Software to Revolutionize Mortgage Servicing