Welcome to our new series: 5 Questions with FinTech Founders, where we sit down with the next generation of FinTech innovators to hear about how they got started, and where they are going.
In this installment, we spoke with John Paasonen, Co-Founder and CEO of the digital mortgage lender - Maxwell.
As CEO, John ensures that all of Maxwell’s capabilities deliver real results for the hundreds of lenders that use Maxwell every day. John has been recognized by the industry, and has received numerous awards including HousingWire’s ‘Rising Star’ award in 2019, Tech Trendsetter award in 2020, and Progress in Lendings ‘Thought Leadership Award’ in 2020. During his 20-year career in financial services, John led corporate strategy for PayPal’s payments, credit, and North American businesses and held multiple leadership roles at American Express’ international business.
1. What inspired you to start Maxwell?
The trigger was my own horrifying mortgage experience in 2014 when a mortgage lender nearly caused us to lose the home we had under contract. That kicked off deeper discovery into what I learned was an enormous ($3T/year), regulated and highly fragmented industry (20K+ lending institutions) with a complex value chain ($10K+ cost to produce a mortgage). No one had attempted what we were aiming to achieve.
2. What problem were you trying to solve in the market?
Maxwell is building a common infrastructure layer for the small and medium-size lenders to lower their costs, improve their price competitiveness and broaden the pathway to homeownership for millions. Think of Maxwell as the "Shopify for Mortgage" -- all the capabilities, infrastructure, and capital access that a lender requires to run their business. Today we facilitate as many mortgages as a Top 5 lender in the U.S. and we're just getting started.
3. What's the best piece of advice you ever got?
Pick your investors wisely.
4. Describe a time when you needed to change course or course correct. Why and how did you do it?
The mortgage industry is cyclical and can be unpredictable. We've come to embrace that at Maxwell -- both the "up" and the "down" cycles create tremendous opportunities for change in our industry. One example where we had to course correct was in Q2 of 2020. At the onset of the pandemic, liquidity in the mortgage market seized up. We acted quickly, furloughing 25% of our team and preparing to manage to a forecast where half our clients went out of business. Instead, by late summer 2020 the mortgage market was on fire. We quickly built a scaling machine, growing from 35 people to over 125 people by the end of the year.
5. What are you most excited about in 2023?
We all expect 2023 to be a challenging year with the housing market in a downcycle. As mortgage lender volumes fall and their margins get squeezed, many will recognize the need for a different way to run their business. Moving fixed costs into variable costs, implementing technology to create more transparency and efficiency, and re-evaluating the structure of their third party costs. We're excited for our position in the market to be able to deliver impact to lenders across the U.S.
To learn more about Maxwell, visit www.himaxwell.com.