Twenty-eight years ago, a finance entrepreneur established his fledgling business in the back of a friend's music store. The very definition of a startup, the company began with one telephone on top of a desk fashioned from a wooden door atop two rusty file cabinets. From these humble beginnings, a real estate finance enterprise was born.
Today, Greystone has grown to become one of the nation's leading providers of commercial financing for multi-family and healthcare properties, with approximately 8000 employees across the U.S. Over the years, Greystone has added related lines of business, including property acquisition, development, and management, as well as lending, investment, and advisory services.
In early 2015, Greystone launched an initiative to evaluate and overhaul their loan processing system. The company had adopted Salesforce several years prior to manage CRM activities, yet the sales organization was not using the platform to its full potential. Greystone's legacy loan processing system was built on a proprietary lending platform that did not provide the flexibility and integrations that the company needed to achieve their objectives.
A small app development team was established to take on the challenge of building a modern system that would streamline loan processing for both customers and staff. Greystone Labs operated outside of the broader IT organization, which gave them the freedom to choose their own development tools and technologies.
The Greystone Labs team needed a flexible technology solution that would support their rapid development and deployment processes, and allow them to build a fully integrated system. Because Greystone loan customers were typically not as tech savvy, the team needed to produce an exceptionally smooth user experience that they could easily iterate on going forward.
Maximizing system investments with Heroku + Salesforce
Greystone Labs began by consulting with Salesforce support engineers on ideas for their new loan processing system. Heroku, part of the Salesforce Platform, was the natural choice to build their customer-facing app due to its easy integration with Salesforce products. The team was already familiar with Heroku from past experience. Because Heroku is a polyglot platform, it also supported their desire to use open source languages.
Greystone Labs took a microservices approach to architecting their new system, keeping services small, decoupled, and modular. Along the way, they discovered new ways that Heroku could help them optimize their system. The team built all of their end user custom apps as well as many of their internal-facing apps on the Heroku platform. Heroku Connect seamlessly syncs data between them all.
Greystone's tech stack uses Rails and Django on the back-end, moving more towards Django as Python has better support for automating their underwriting models. On the front-end, the team primarily uses React; when they need a full front-end framework, they'll use Redux or an iteration of Flux. Their database solution is Heroku Postgres.
Several Heroku Add-ons extend Greystone's portfolio of apps and support the team's development processes. In particular, the team uses Codeship for continuous integration, which allows them to avoid direct deploys. They push to Bitbucket for source control, and Codeship watches certain branches for updates, which triggers testing and build processes. They use Papertrail for log management, Pusher for messages over WebSockets, and SSL for encryption.
On the Salesforce side, the team uses Salesforce Sales Cloud and Salesforce Communities to manage sales activities and customer relationships. Beyond Heroku Connect, their system integrates with Salesforce in other ways. It uses Salesforce OAuth for authentication and user management, and it leverages several custom Apex API endpoints, which trigger Salesforce specific functions.
System security is a major concern in the world of financial services. Along with Salesforce and Heroku, Greystone's system integrates several best-in-class services, such as HelloSign, Box, and others. With top service providers powering their apps, along with partnerships with several security audit firms, Greystone Labs meets the highest security standards.
Faster processing, greater efficiencies
After only four months in market, Greystone's new system has already processed over $800 million in loans. The company is now running their entire FHA lending program on Heroku, and starting a pilot for their Freddie Mac program.
Just as valuable, their new system has surfaced inefficiencies in their legacy internal processes that surprised the organization. Since the new system launched, Greystone's loan processing time has been reduced by half and the team has its sights on halving it again.
The Greystone Labs team has also personally received positive feedback from clients on the user experience. With their new client-facing experience on Heroku, all complexity is hidden behind a smooth, sophisticated user experience. In future, Greystone Labs plans on extending its applications to partners outside of the company, such as brokers and local banks.