Why Equator Is in a Hiring Spree


The distressed mortgage market and demand for default-servicing technology is not ebbing away any time soon. Before that happens, vendors are busy beefing up their strategic resources.

The distressed market is here to stay for at least another three to seven years, says John Vella, COO of Equator, a national default-servicing technology provider, and loss mitigation and foreclosure activity will remain “at fairly high levels.”

Translation? There is a five- to seven- year window of growth opportunity for those operating in the distressed mortgage market.

Since 2003 when the company started Equator has seen steady growth that in the past couple of years accelerated to about 40% annually, Vella says. The short-term goal is to strategically keep up with the current demand by hiring handpicked experts in the field who have extended product development and management knowledge.

In July Equator appointed residential and commercial real estate veteran Chris Crocker as vice president of real estate to oversee Equator’s solutions designed to help real estate agents to become more productive.

“We are in the midst of a major effort to build out and expand our solutions for real estate professionals,” said Chris Saitta, CEO of Equator. “This is a huge initiative for us.” Crocker was selected “as a key component of the company’s plan to increase use of its technologies that enable real estate agents and brokers to receive and fulfill transactions while managing property sales with greater efficiency and growing their businesses.

He most recently served as vice president of operations for the southwest region of NRT LLC, the parent of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, where he oversaw more than 100 Coldwell Banker branches and 6,000 real estate agents.

Additionally, he has served as vice president of corporate services for NAI Capital Commercial Real Estate where he represented the affiliate of a commercial real estate services organization with more than 5,000 agents in 55 countries and was a board member of the California Association of Realtors. All of the above made him the right man for the job, executives said.

Equator plans to develop technologies that will help maximize future opportunities in this segment of the market and gain more ground in this market segment, Crocker said.

“The current housing market is creating opportunities to further streamline and automate a servicing process that’s become increasingly more complex over the past several years,” says Saitta. Hence, investing “in experienced leadership” will help anticipate market needs and fulfill demand.

It explains why the mortgage technology vendor has been in a hiring spree.

At the end of June Equator appointed Seever Sulaiman as its new chief technology officer. His responsibility is to work alongside Equator’s chief information officer “to manage strategic planning, development and oversight” of technology products.

A seasoned executive with more than 15 years of experience and a frequent speaker at mortgage industry events, Sulaiman joined Equator after most recently serving as CTO of applied analytics for LPS, where he was responsible for managing a large team of technology professionals and overseeing a multimillion-dollar technology budget. He also served as CTO of Interthinx, where he built and managed mortgage risk detection and compliance products.

More broadly Sulaiman will oversee the future expansion of the Equator infrastructure, Equator executives said.

Constant regulatory changes in the loan default segment of the mortgage market, the introduction of new programs and a volatile climate “are putting a strain on servicers” and challenging mortgage technology providers, Sulaiman says, so the race to come up with new solutions is on.

Especially for vendors, he adds, a combination of innovation and deep understanding of the market and the opportunities it represents helps bring about new solutions to the industry.

Earlier in June the company hired five former executives from Bank of America, Fannie Mae, Fidelity and Intuit “to further improve” the company’s scale.

Russell Walker is Equator’s new vice president of information security and compliance and has managed information security, risk management and compliance programs for entertainment, financial services and health care industries such as FSRDG, Starbucks and Warner Bros. Entertainment. He will be responsible for setting policies and protecting data stored on the Equator system.

Vice president of technology John Ardy and director of technology Jeff Huffman are responsible for streamlining clients’ software development experience. Ardy brings to Equator 20 years of experience including executive positions at Fidelity National Commerce Velocity, Countrywide Financial Corp. and Firstsource Solutions. Huffman is a 15-year industry veteran with project management experience with Fortune 500 companies and last served as vice president, portfolio/program management for Bank of America.

Director of IT development, Stephen Kirkham, has a background in software design and development, consulting and enterprise architecture working for, most recently, Disney Interactive Media Group, Intuit Financial Services and Sun Micro Systems.

Relationship manager Lance Hamilton is an experienced consultant with short sale, REO and home retention experience he gained, among others, working as a senior project manager for Fannie Mae, where he integrated the GSE's Servicing Management Default Underwriter system with many of the largest U.S. banks, and as assistant vice president with Bank of America.

“All of our new team members were selected for their vast talent and capabilities to support our goal of staying on the leading edge," said the firm’s Vella.