MBA Insights 2019 Tech All-Star Laurie Pyle: Simplifying Blockchain
By Michael Tucker
March 24, 2019
Laurie Pyle, Chief Operating Officer with blockchain as-a-service company Factom, Austin, Texas, knows firsthand how to use technology to solve real-world problems.
"My first professional foray was when I was in the U.S. Army as a linguist," Pyle said. "I had the opportunity to work to design a standard U.S. keyboard to type in Cyrillic. That got me interested in the application of what we could do to solve real problems."
Since her Army service, Pyle has gained more than 20 years of experience developing technology solutions for the mortgage industry. She currently manages Factom's technical development, product strategy, design and development and client services. Before that she developed component servicing tools with Stewart Lender Services, managing more than a million monthly contact points and component servicing for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and seven of the top 10 servicers. And at RealEC she was the solution architect of the B2B Exchange that processed settlement services of more than 75 percent of originated loans at the peak of the market.
Pyle also co-chairs the MISMO Blockchain Community of Practice and serves as an Executive Partner to the teaching staff at Southwestern University in Austin, mentoring future business and technology leaders about technology.
Blockchain technology is increasingly being explored for use throughout the financial services industry to enable faster and more secure digital transactions. Blockchain uses digitized and distributed ledgers that are shared across multiple sites to record transactions. Distributed ledgers can serve as a "single source of truth" for industry documents, data and transactions and can help lenders reduce compliance burdens, improve data quality and lower costs.
"But most blockchain technology today is very complex and one can easily fall down a rabbit hole of complicated algorithms and cryptography," Pyle noted. "Blockchain itself can be complex; it typically requires you to have developers with blockchain expertise, which can be expensive. If you are truly embracing the technology as intended, then understanding a decentralized governance model that enables a crypto currency is usually one step too far for traditional enterprise businesses."
So Factom developed a blockchain strategy that manages things differently--with no need to understand crypto-currency or have blockchain expertise. "You can integrate to it just like you would to any other application," Pyle said. "That's why it's called blockchain-as-a-service. An organization can be up and running within a day or two."
Pyle joined Factom three years ago as a consultant and has been a full-time employee for more than two years. "Having seen the technology and its capabilities, I felt a great need to bring it to the masses, especially to the mortgage industry," she said. "The mortgage industry deals with sensitive information and requires complex decisions that are subject to regulation and audits, so the evidentiary aspect of blockchain bring with it significant opportunities."
Pyle said she sees real potential for the mortgage industry to leverage blockchain technology to improve transparency and reduce costs, "which are key goals of any mortgage banking operation. I've spent the past few years educating the mortgage industry on not only what blockchain can do currently but the potential it has. Because it's a continually emerging technology transforming on a continual basis, its capabilities are becoming more robust and causing a lot of people to take notice."
Pyle compared blockchain to eClosing technology adoption. "I helped develop one of the first eClosing rooms and eVvaults," she said. "We performed the first eClosing more than 10 years ago and now, nearly a decade later, it's finally beginning to garner wider adoption."
Blockchain will be adopted much faster than eClosing technology was adopted because blockchain does not require multiple parties to agree on the value proposition, she noted. "Individual companies can immediately reap the benefits of the added evidence of blockchain," she said.
These days, Pyle considers moving blockchain technology forward a job and a cause. Through Factom, she is developing a simple means of incorporating blockchain's benefits into existing and new applications, which she called crucial to its wide and cost-effective adoption across the mortgage industry.
"The reality is blockchain is not going anywhere," she said. "It's a foundational technology that's here to stay. It represents an opportunity to build greater trust between organizations. I'm always looking for opportunities to make processes better."