Industry veterans launch Canopy in bid to shake up residential due diligence space

Industry veterans launch Canopy in bid to shake up residential due diligence space
This article originally appeared in FinLedger, HousingWire’s sister-publication focused on Fintech.

Residential due diligence is an area of the mortgage ecosystem that’s overdue for disruption, according to two industry veterans who want to offer something completely different in the due diligence space through their newly launched company, Canopy.

Canopy CEO John Levonick and COO Andrew DeGood, who cut their teeth at Clayton Holdings in the early 2000s, say that the tech used to perform due diligence today actually introduces friction into the process, especially down the line as loans are bought and sold multiple times. They’ve built Canopy on a cloud native platform with the goal of facilitating easier transactions and providing better data at a lower cost.

In an interview with HousingWire, Levonick explained what he thinks will differentiate Canopy from other due diligence providers.

Of first importance, Levonick said, is that by utilizing the LauraMac platform, Canopy is able to capture and transfer information to capital market participants in a way that doesn’t degrade over time.

“Under current methods, after being bought and sold several times, the loans are so far removed from the first purchaser that due diligence has to be done again — often by the same firm that did it the first time,” Levonick said. “We are looking to conduct due diligence at the consummation of the mortgage for investors, then put that data onto a non-repudiation data base where any subsequent purchaser of that mortgage, if they can prove that they are the holder in due course, can come back and request the initial due diligence results and data sets.”

The technology that originators use now to automate manual functions often has an unintended consequence for due diligence, Levonick said. “You’ve just automated a black box — no one can see it except the original due diligence provider. You can’t go back to the point in time when the due diligence was done, so how do you reverify that over the next 30 years? That’s why it has to be done over and over again.”

Levonick noted that the LauraMac tech platform allows Canopy to provide due diligence on a true fractional basis. Without this technology, Levonick says, a fractional review usually means a due diligence provider will do a full review on every data point, then go in and obscure some results manually to provide a narrow window of data.

“LauraMac gives us the ability to pull out modules independently without having to put in four hours of effort. If the client wants to order just a compliance review, we have the ability to key in data points for compliance, versus all the data points,” Levonick said. “This gives us the agility to serve clients quickly and efficiently — and offer very competitive pricing.”

In addition to traditional due diligence services, Levonick sees potential for leveraging blockchain to support digital assets as an additional/optional element at some point in the future. “What was done [with the loan] goes on the blockchain and it’s based on verifiable data. You don’t have to show the data, you just have to show the logic of the test and how that was fulfilled. Any subsequent holder could prove what was done as if they were the very first investor.

“For example, in reviewing a seven-year-old loan, you might be looking at whether the originator obtained the credit score from Experian. With blockchain, you could see that it was done through an API that was encrypted, and identify the fact that it came from Experian. There is no ambiguity there,” Levonick said.

With Canopy, Levonick and DeGood see an opportunity to change the game for originators, servicers and investors by cutting the cost to acquire loans.

“Due diligence providers occupy that pivotal seat between the primary and secondary market,” Levonick said. “Investors only get what due diligence can provide at a price point they can bear, and up to now technology hasn’t been able to provide better data in a cost-efficient manner. Due diligence in this moment needs to be a friction reducer and better data provider.”

Levonick said Canopy closed a seed round to launch and is open to taking on additional capital, but doesn’t anticipate needing it. “With our lean methodology and knowledge of the industry, we expect to be cash-flow positive in short order. While we leverage technology, we exist as a service provider, not a software company, so we’re not looking for 15x multiples,” he said. “I can’t wait to issue dividend checks to investors in the first year of our existence.”

That confidence comes from a long, varied career in different parts of the mortgage ecosystem. Levonick was a closing manager at Fiserv before becoming senior regulatory counsel and then director of regulatory compliance at Clayton. In addition, he was the director of legal services at Accenture, chief compliance counsel at Opus, and counsel and special counsel at Ballard Spahr and Pepper Hamilton. He has also been a special advisor to OC4, an AWS partner, and is currently a member of the legal working group of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance.

DeGood has served in senior roles at Consolidated Analytics, Mortgage Industry Advisory Corp., and Allonhill, as well as director of business development at Opus and client service manager at Clayton.
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