Mortgage technology company Blend recently showcased its home loan origination platform at FinDEVr Silicon Valley 2016. The company’s CTO and co-founder, Eugene Marinelli, presented Blend’s data-driven mortgage on stage along with Nivi Jayasekar, the company’s Software Engineering Lead.
We recently followed up with Marinelli (pictured right) with a written interview to get a better grasp on the tech side of Blend. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon in both computer science and engineering, Marinelli has worked at top tech companies including Google, Apple, and Palantir.
FinDEVr: Where did you start your career and how did you gain experience needed to run the tech side of Blend?
Marinelli: I became interested in programming in high school and went on to study Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, with summer internships at Google and Apple. After graduation, I joined Palantir as a software engineer, working on Palantir’s financial analysis product with a focus on the Hedgehog programming language. During this time, I teamed up with a world-class engineering team and learned the foundations of building a product. Additionally, I was exposed to the pain from using archaic technology in the mortgage industry.
FinDEVr: What has been the most important technological development in the mortgage lending in the past few years, and how has it influenced Blend’s strategy?
Marinelli: New financial data APIs have made it possible to digitize most of the mortgage application process. This drove our decision to expand our focus beyond lender-facing functionality to include a borrower-facing one. Lenders have also become more interested in providing a modern borrower experience and are much more open to using cloud-based systems. Ultimately, this has allowed us to build our platform using the latest technology in a highly iterative way.
FinDEVr: What is the most difficult aspect of Blend from a compliance standpoint and how do you simplify it for developers and lenders building with Blend?
Marinelli: Each lender has its own compliance policies and procedures based on its unique business model and risk philosophy. Accordingly, we receive disparate requests for functionality and features that create complexities for a single code base. This can make it difficult to codify the product in a way that neatly balances compliance with the user experience. Moreover, regulations apply to nearly all aspects of the UI, so it’s difficult to limit the scope of changes that must be validated for compliance. We address this by making sure that all borrower-facing UI changes are specced in detail and reviewed by our in-house compliance counsel (and often our customers). In addition, where needed, we support configurability for a better lender and borrower experience.
FinDEVr: What do developers (builders themselves–not necessarily end clients) love most about Blend’s API?
Marinelli: We’ve designed the API from the beginning in a RESTful style, making it fairly intuitive to the caller. The endpoints are also designed in a generic/flexible way, making them suitable for both programmatic integrations and UI. We’ve also built security, roles, and permissions into the API, making it easy to use and extend the API in a secure way.
FinDEVr: Aside from the major players, what company do you admire for its approach to technology?
Marinelli: We mostly emulate the technology practices of more established tech companies, but we’ve taken inspiration from Stripe’s API as well as Github’s release process. However, I really admire Blend’s approach to technology the most.
Watch as Eugene Marinelli, CTO & Co-Founder and Nivi Jayasekar, Software Engineering Lead, present Blend at FinDEVr Silicon Valley 2016.