The mortgage finance system is always evolving, with participants continually searching for new, more efficient ways to do business, and make homeownership affordable and rental housing available to more families. As the largest source of capital for low- and moderate-income families and veteran homebuyers, it’s Ginnie Mae’s responsibility to stay abreast of market and business process innovations in order to successfully lead the industry to be more forward-thinking and adaptive. That responsibility is what led Ginnie Mae to launch its Innovation Lab in 2019.
Ginnie Mae’s Innovation Lab was created as a tool to support the evolution of programs, products and services that relate to our participation in the mortgage finance industry. A more robust innovative function will allow Ginnie Mae to systematize innovation across the enterprise, helping to bring more high-impact solutions to life in a more proactive manner.
This is accomplished by providing an isolated facility to intake, experiment and scale new emerging technologies to conduct “Greenfield Projects” and evaluate solutions for further investment, all with the ultimate goal of solving Ginnie Mae’s most pressing and challenging business needs. Examples of innovation opportunities include the use of cloud technology, robotic process automation (RPA), DevSecOps, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and predictive analytics and cognitive search.
It is important to note that innovation labs work varies, as industries and companies are trying to accomplish different goals and operate in different environments. At Ginnie Mae, our lab will focus specifically on bringing cutting-edge industry solutions and fostering a culture of innovation amongst our employees.
Ginnie Mae Innovation Lab matches the work of other companies committed to bringing in technology to make business more efficient. Most observers trace this approach back to Lockheed’s fabled “Skunkworks,” and have heard of this strategy being deployed in private sector companies, with little awareness of it being applied in the public sector. The public sector is very active, however, especially at the federal and GSE level, with USAID, NASA’s Solve Program, AFWERX at the Air Force, and the VA Center for Innovation as a examples of established innovation labs or teams.
Establishing an Innovation Lab is not without challenges, either in the public or private sectors. One of the most difficult aspects is convincing leadership that the lab will be additive to their programs as a service provider to help the organization find modern solutions to challenges. When Ginnie Mae launched its Innovation Lab, senior leadership knew that not every project would end in success. After all, by its very nature, innovation involves a degree of uncertainty and risk, so managing failure is an important element of the lab’s success. Ginnie Mae leadership pressed forward knowing that the most effective innovation programs take on a blend of transformational, homerun swing projects along with a more incremental, quick-win approach. Having a centralized innovation capability will allow Ginnie Mae to “fail” and move on from nonviable ideas more quickly and efficiently, while also making sure it’s capturing and consolidating what it learns from unsuccessful efforts so that it can use these insights moving forward.
Ginnie Mae leadership sees the inherent value of the Innovation Lab and strongly believes that the lab will see greater investment as Ginnie Mae advances its modernization, transformation and next-generation programs.
While leadership support is essential, staff buy-in is critical, too. Ginnie Mae structured the lab in such a way to make sure employees at all levels have the opportunity and resources to help them innovate; part of this will be accomplished through the launch of prize challenges and using the Lab space to test solutions with actual Ginnie employees. Moreover, leadership believes the Innovation Lab will enable the growth and development of talent across the organization.
As we all enter a new decade, Ginnie Mae is entering an exciting phase of its technology modernization with the Innovation Lab project. We have strong and reasonable expectations for the effort and are confident that the investment of staff and money will grow our mission of making the most efficient secondary mortgage market possible on behalf of government mortgage borrowers and American taxpayers.