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Pushing Past Limitations

FeaturesArt_Feb20182Editor's note: This story was originally featured in the February issue of MReport, out now.

Inspiring an effective team of 600 Bank of America employees comes with a motto: Success doesn’t have an endpoint. Rather, it’s a starting point to creating new standards and approaches to the jobs mortgage professionals do every day. At the Bank of America Northern California Division for Consumer Lending, business leaders have the privilege of serving 18,000 households with their home financing needs. But how is this achieved?

The answer is simple—pushing past limitations and stepping outside of comfort zones, although this comes with developing several habits to continually create new standards in personal and professional advancement, especially for women in the industry.

Taking that step outside of one’s comfort zone is very much in line with the recent and dynamic trends that women in the industry are continually making to carve out a space for themselves in the workforce, as well as empower fellow women.

Studies from the National Association of Realtors that range from revealing how single women are outpacing single men in homeownership to one on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau highlighting the business advantages of diversity in the mortgage industry confirm that women assert a major influence on all sides of the transaction, as homebuyers and as real estate and finance professionals.

Considering the growing prominence of women in pivotal roles across the nation today, how can women in the industry channel this momentum and nudge outside of professional comfort zones to further advance the progress of women in the workforce?

Clients’ Needs Know No Bounds

As real estate and banking professionals, it is important to adapt to the needs and desires of clients during their homebuying experience. The aim of every successful lender is to fulfill homebuyers’ dreams. However, the ways in which these ambitions are reached have evolved over the years through new technology, laws and regulations, and demographics.

As previously addressed, women are a growing force as single buyers and are also the primary decision-makers in many homebuying scenarios. To be a successful lender means taking this to heart and adapting strategies to approaching clients.

Importantly, as women increasingly exercise their economic independence, recognize that they want, like all buyers, to feel assured and confident when working with lenders. Ultimately, homeowners want to understand the process, have access to the best resources, and have an experience that they can trust.

If lenders understand their market and take proactive steps to be attuned to the sentiments and behaviors of the clients served, not only will the outcome be the success of a happy client, but a growing business as well.

Insist on Embracing Digital Evolution

In an era of constant digital evolution, it is impossible to ignore how technology is continuing to grow and is an integral part of the industry. The next step to successful lending is technological education—for both professionals and their clients.

Lenders, for instance, use technology to make mortgage applications easier and more efficient. A process that was typically known to be time-consuming and paper-intensive has evolved so that it can now be done online in minutes.

What’s more, there’s still the ever-important option of having the help of an in-person mortgage expert, depending on the customer’s preference. Incorporating technology, appropriately into businesses processes can create the perfect balance between applying digital tools and engaging in person with clients.

It’s no secret that the lending industry, for many reasons, has been slower to adopt technology even as it tries to simplify a traditionally paper-intensive process. However, the industry is now at an age where lenders can be part of the change.

As approaches are modernized to work better with clients, let’s also be mindful of how lenders can sharpen interpersonal skills to assure that clients feel comfortable knowing that their lender fully understands their specific circumstances.

Join Forces and Surpass Boundaries

On the surface, it might seem easier to tackle strategies and tactics alone. However, there is power in numbers. Work better together as collaboration is a key element for innovation and growth, and reaching one’s full potential as a real estate professional.

According to a 2013 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research titled, “Are Women More Attracted to Cooperation Than Men?” women are skilled collaborators. In fact, this study revealed that women are inherently more open and more likely to work with others. This is something that leaders should inspire among employees because a diverse range of ideas from professionals of varying backgrounds brings innovation, distinction, and ultimately results to business endeavors.

With the sheer number of women in the industry, there is tremendous opportunity to find mentors and mentees to learn from and work with. When lenders collaborate with others and are open to input, it breaks down barriers and allows the discovery of best practices and opportunities that can be career changing.

Another way to work towards better collaboration is involvement in professional organizations. Expanding one’s professional network is a great way to connect with others in the industry who aren’t necessarily day-to-day coworkers.

Mortgage professionals encounter countless professionals in other areas of expertise—which can be used for proficient advancement. For example, financial advisors and attorneys might be able to provide a different and helpful perspective when approaching business strategies and what can be offered to clients. Therefore, it is in mortgage professionals’ best interest to look for involvement in a wide variety of professional organizations.

Exceed Expectations

As the industry settles into a new year, mortgage professionals must use their momentum to continue to be the forces to motivate and drive colleagues to success. Men and women alike can help each other by recognizing their value and connecting one another with resources to continually challenge themselves to new standards of success.

Bank of America, for instance, fosters an inclusive workplace where employees feel motivated and valued by working toward a diverse U.S. workforce that is more than 40 percent racially and ethnically diverse, along with a global employee population that is more than 50 percent female, including nearly 40 percent of its global management team. Additionally, Fortune magazine recently recognized Bank of America among the most diverse places to work.

Whether it’s through events and networking opportunities for employees, or offering affordable lending solutions and community engagement for clients, having substantive conversations about new approaches can motivate all of the industry to build a more empowered workplace.

In the coming new year, let’s demonstrate what the industry is capable of, not what’s comfortable. Understand the people who are working to define new standards of success. Think about what can be done differently to educate oneself and reach greatness, while also helping others do the same.

Consider how to renew professional commitments through collaboration and channeling the energy of women empowerment to motivate diversity in the industry, and to continue to set new standards for achievement.

About Author: Ann Thompson

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Ann Thompson, SVP, Divisional Sales Executive, Bank of America, manages the Northern California Division for Consumer Lending, including 400 lending officers, in addition to their management team and support staff. The lending team originates approximately $10 billion in first and second mortgages for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch clients and also for clients introduced by real estate agents, builders, and previous clients. Thompson has enjoyed a 28-year career in banking, with a consistent emphasis in consumer lending, structured high net worth client lending, and commercial lending. Thompson serves on the Board of Trustees of the Oakland Museum of California and was named one of the “Bay Area’s Most Influential Women in Business” by the San Francisco Business Times in 2016 and was added to their “Forever Influential” list in 2017. She lives in the East Bay with her husband of 30 years and has two sons.

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