Skills Developed in Navy Helped Boutique Servicer Survive, Grow

Mortgage & Real Estate

Kevin Cordell spent seven years in the U.S. Navy and took the team building focus he found there as a guiding principle for the mortgage venture he has run since 2007.

By 1981, when he was discharged as an electronic communications and navigation equipment technician, the New Jersey native had internalized a crucial military-life lesson: team building. 

You are not an individual but part of a team who depend upon each other to get the job done,” he recalls. “Like with the ‘Three Musketeers’ the motto is: One for all and all for one!” 

In 2007 when Cordell founded Madison Management Services, LLC in Kenvil, N.J., that motto played a big part in the decision to always have the same person manage an investment deal, acquire and service a distressed asset, establish direct communication with the borrower if and when necessary, analyze loan data and dispose the note.

He already had accumulated over 20 years of financial market technology experience in various senior management roles including systems analyst and development engineer for NRT, Inc., Parsippany, N.J., a $5 billion real estate services company. Also, he had joined the Phoenix University Online faculty as a business systems course facilitator only a few years after earning an MBA in business administration.

Cordell build Madison Management Services as a boutique loan servicing and investment company, with over 100 loans in its investment portfolio and 10 experienced employees who currently service roughly 1,000 mortgage loans.

What brought the firm into being however, he says, is teamwork. That Navy wisdom gained during the time he spent stationed at several navy bases and on several ships “on how to get along and work with people from different parts of the country,” still is central to his business strategy. “They do not let you forget that you are part of a team; not just in your shop or department, but on the entire ship, you depend on each other.” 

Teamwork skills helped shape his networking efforts. For someone who claims his biggest professional challenge is marketing, Cordell is outspoken and consistent in pursuing referral-based business leads, industry events and the media.

As founder, president and CEO of Madison Management Services, he lists among his responsibilities: assessing exit strategies and borrower management, training new employees on debt collection and loan servicing, analyzing loan files, secondary market loan trading, and day to day technology operations.

He regularly attends investor events as a speaker on bankruptcy, loan servicing, home retention, and loss mitigation strategies for investors.

Cordell started his mortgage market career as a note investor. The foreclosure crisis expanded his focus to include nonperforming loan servicing and loss mitigation, specializing in junior liens and seriously delinquent residential mortgage loans.

“It all goes back to establishing single point of contact from day one, having one person who continuously works with that one borrower and that one investor, very closely, to reach a solution to the problem,” he says. “We were able to do that quickly because there’s no red tape or bureaucracy” of the kind one may see in the military or the government, “the borrower was working with the rep who was working directly with the investor.”

As an investor, Cordell says, you understand lender/investor limitations in cases when borrowers get frustrated about their inability to get a loan principal reduction because the loan may be securitized, the servicer is the trustee and the bond owner is not willing to take a loss. Lenders are not interested in accruing principal losses. “Some investors are willing to offer discounts to borrowers while some other investors want to collect every dime.”

The housing market is recovering and like its industry peers his servicing company is readjusting and constantly changing. Learning “how to improvise and change when change happens,” is another Navy skill that has enriched his life, he says.

As an information technology veteran, he also always saw himself as an agent of change, “because when you are implementing a new software system, the business process is most likely changing or going to change,” so people need to change along with it.

As to mortgage servicing, he adds, it involves future loan value assessments that are based on data and economic assumptions, so risk is proportional to how aggressive an investor’s strategy happens to be. MSR purchases pose prepayment, evaluation, operational cost, and new default risks that may lead to complications, he says, but they also represent opportunity.

“There are different ways to grow,” Cordell adds. “For some it’s MSRs, for others it’s subservicing, or special servicing, but diversity is king.”

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