NCP portfolio company Volly has had an exciting year so far. Between consolidating three companies into one, undergoing a full re-branding of the business and hiring new talent, the Volly team has been hard at work. We talked to Volly’s CEO, Jerry Halbrook, about what’s going on with Volly. Read our conversation to learn more about Jerry and this exciting company.
NCP: Tell us a little bit about your professional history before joining Volly.
Jerry Halbrook: The majority of my professional career has been in the financial services industry, starting with my initial job out of graduate school with Deloitte and Touche, where about 85% of my clients were banks, brokerages or mortgage companies. I first got into the mortgage industry in 1991 when I left Deloitte to go to work in the capital markets finance area of Prudential Home Mortgage. I learned a great deal about mortgage banking at Prudential Home Mortgage, and we had a great team. Many of the executives I worked with at Prudential Home Mortgage are now C-suite executives spread throughout the mortgage industry, so that initial opportunity there started my network of mortgage industry executives across the country.
After Prudential Home Mortgage, I spend most of my next 20+ years in C-suite positions in top-five lenders, such as CitiMortgage and Bank of America, as well as doing a very successful private equity-funded direct-to-consumer lending startup and consulting and advisory work with KKR and Blackstone. In 2011, I made the jump to the technology world as the President of Black Knight’s Origination Technology Division, and after many years building a successful technology business, I wanted to get back to a more entrepreneurial environment, which led me to Volly.
NCP: There have been lots of exciting changes happening at Volly. How did the rebrand/rename come about, and what does it mean to you and your team?
JH: As you know, LoyaltyExpress, SoftVu and LendingManager were all acquired by NCP, and I joined the company to consolidate these three companies’ technologies and marketing services into a comprehensive platform strategy. The branding exercise was started to create a new beginning for the three companies as a consolidated business operation and to foster a new focus as a multi-product platform of technology products and related services. This was an exciting opportunity to have the various management teams participate together in choosing a new name, but we had to move quickly, and that was a challenge. The branding company we engaged wanted to have 6 – 8 months to manage the rebrand process, and we basically gave them 6 weeks.
The Volly name was chosen to reflect the key aspects of our products and services. Our focus is on the loan officer and their customer, and the lending process entails a significant back-and-forth exchange of information and communication between the loan officer and their customer – and the name Volly was created to reflect our commitment to providing technology and marketing services to Power the Journey.
NCP: What are some highlights of your time at Volly? Anything you’re particularly proud of your company and your team for?
JH: I have been in this position for about five months now, and much has happened in that time period. I am most proud of our dedicated group of technology and marketing professionals that work very hard every day to serve our clients in a very difficult market condition. While we are working on the platform strategy and growing the company, that is an easier task when clients are happy with our service and our products. That is a reflection on our dedicated employees who continue to get up every day and focus on what we can do to improve our clients’ businesses and serve their needs.
NCP: What are some of the biggest challenges your team faces in your industry, and how do you work to overcome those?
JH: We are facing very challenging market conditions in terms of the market interest rate environment, which has significantly reduced the lending volumes in the industry over the past 18 months. This puts margin pressure on our clients, and as a result, they have to look at ways to reduce costs and improve productivity, and in some cases, close their doors, merge or be acquired.
At the same time, our competitors are investing heavily in product innovation and targeting our high-quality clients. All of this puts pressure on our margins and makes it difficult to grow in this market. Our focus is on continuing to serve our clients every day, working extra hard to expand the products and services we can offer to existing clients to enhance our position with them, and focusing our product roadmap strategy on what clients tell us are their top priorities. By doing these things, we continue to add value to our clients’ bottom lines and customer satisfaction.
NCP: What do you love most about your work at Volly and the company as a whole?
JH: What I love most is the people. The way the team has welcomed me and other recently hired executives into the company and continue to work hard as an expanded team has been great. They have embraced our multi-site operations and our Volly platform strategy, as well as embracing the changes I am making to consolidate into one company.
Those types of changes impact culture and relationships and require team members that have historically worked within the confines of one location to think broad and big and embrace team members in other cities, etc. That can be a challenge, and I love the enthusiasm with which our team has embraced these changes and gotten behind the Volly strategy.
NCP: When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?
JH: Most of my free time is devoted to my family and friends. I also have some toys, and I love to spend time on my boat, driving my sports car and playing golf, and I generally just like to be outdoors and active.
NCP: Describe the partnership between Volly and New Capital Partners
JH: The partnership with NCP has been terrific. The team we work with at NCP – James, Adam and Trey, as well as with Larry Huff – could not be more supportive and helpful to our cause. They provide terrific counsel and partnership and are committed to our success and helping us navigate these difficult market conditions. As the CEO, it is great to have that supportive capital partner and business partner to use as a sounding board for our strategic initiatives and provide the capital we need to be successful and grow this business.
NCP: In your time at Volly, what has been the most beneficial part of the partnership with NCP?
JH: I would have to say the supportive partnership attitude from NCP that we are all in this journey together. At various times in my career, I have worked with Boards and/or Investors who were either uninterested or were divisive. NCP’s approach to supporting management is a differentiating factor, in my opinion, and it adds value to the business as they participate and provide their experience to me and my team.