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Expert Insights: D&I Recruitment and Retention

This piece originally appeared in the May 2022 edition of MReport magazine, online now.

Victoria Garcia DeLuca serves as Guild Mortgage’s first-ever VP of Marketplace Diversity Strategy where she leads the firm’s long-term initiatives in promoting minority homeownership and sustaining diversity, equity, and inclusion in lending.

At Guild, she is tasked with the recruitment and retention of minority loan officers, developing new products for minority markets, and serving as a liaison with government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). She leads Guild’s participation in the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) and the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America (NAMMBA). She serves on NAHREP’s Corporate Board of Governors, and represents Guild with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) “Home for All Pledge,” the industry’s long-term commitment to addressing racial inequities in housing.

Of Mexican and Honduran descent, Garcia DeLuca is bilingual in English and Spanish. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry, creating programs for underserved markets in the Midwest and South. She previously served as SVP of Federal Savings Bank, where she led a team supporting homeownership within Hispanic and Black communities, was a Sales Manager with Wintrust Mortgage, and a Sales Manager, Diverse Segments Specialist with Wells Fargo.

What are the two to three most critical considerations when working to build and foster diversity & inclusion (D&I) when it comes to internal team morale, employee development, and talent acquisition?
A number of organizations are creating Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), but we need to take this a step further by fully understanding that the support needs of diverse employees may be different than those of non-diverse employees. Employee engagement surveys should be conducted to keep a pulse on the atmosphere in the workplace. These surveys help us gain information on what is working, what needs to be tweaked, and what employees need, and want to see more of. Gathering this data and taking action on the findings will help to improve the employee experience. When we take these learnings and apply them in the creation of an employee engagement and retention strategy, it can also help us attract and retain top talent from diverse backgrounds.

Diverse workplaces are statistically proven to be happier, safer, and more productive. But building a diverse workplace does not end with the hiring process alone. It is critical that mortgage companies have a formalized plan to not only recruit diverse employees, but also retain, mentor, and promote them. At Guild Mortgage, we have access to many possible career paths for continuous development, and we are purposeful about encouraging D&I across the company.

By adding a more diverse element at every level of the company and prioritizing inclusion efforts, we can more accurately reflect the community where we live and work. With a combination of employees from various backgrounds and experiences, we can demonstrate innovative strategies to benefit underserved communities.

What are some practical ways mortgage industry professionals can help foster a more sustainable, equitable, and diverse housing ecosystem for homebuyers/homeowners?
Our nation is becoming more diverse, with individuals from various backgrounds making vital contributions to our economy. The latest census suggests there will be no ethnic or racial majority in less than 30 years. Our nation’s economy will benefit as long as businesses commit to meeting the needs of these diverse communities as consumers.

Across industries, companies must embrace diversity with inclusion policies essential to developing a solid foundation in the marketplace.

To assist the home lending industry in becoming a more accurate reflection of our country’s diversity, one strategy I focus on in my role as VP of Marketplace Diversity Strategy is diverse lending. I am dedicated to leading advocacy efforts and homeownership education to increase financial literacy and help build generational wealth in underserved communities. With more inclusive recruitment, our team of mortgage consultants can better recognize the challenges facing our potential customers in these unique markets. As a result, we can build bridges to increase access and meet the home lending needs of these diverse communities. It is my sincere belief that every borrower counts, and we must rise to serve them where they are.

What are some practical takeaways you have learned from your organization’s own D&I initiatives or programs? What changes have you implemented due to those findings?
Leadership buy-in is necessary, as change starts from the top. We created a Diversity & Inclusion Committee that includes some of our executives and managers. For us, it is not about checking a box. We know these efforts matter, and we have seen the benefits of having an increasingly diverse workforce firsthand.

What D&I lessons have emerged from the challenges of the pandemic?
It is interesting that, for years, we have had worker supply-related issues where demand exceeded supply in the job market, particularly for skilled jobs. Yet, companies really did not start wrapping their arms around the talent crunch until the pandemic, when we saw how many people were resigning and finding new jobs during The Great Resignation. It really opened the business world’s eyes to the fact that candidates are truly in the driver’s seat.

Candidates want greater flexibility in when and how they work. They want to work for companies that have an identifiable mission and are making a social impact. They want to work for “employers of choice” that create strong missions by driving D&I initiatives, while aiming to achieve financial success for themselves and their stakeholders.

The Great Resignation has taught us that:

  • We must offer greater flexibility to employees. They want to work on their terms, and not that of their employer.
  • A company’s D&I and social impact initiatives are important to people. The companies that drive social impact and D&I are going to be employers of choice. If candidates are in the driver’s seat and want to work for those companies, then creating an environment that fosters D&I is good from a talent acquisition perspective.
  • Companies that implement effective D&I initiatives are often more successful, as there are so many benefits that diverse teams bring to an organization. Becoming a welcoming and open place to work for everyone is simply good for business.

For a company that is looking to build an internal commitment to D&I, where should they begin?
Companies should begin by learning what D&I is and why it matters. There are a lot of resources online and company case studies. LinkedIn also offers free courses on the subject.

From there, companies should create a business case with data and specific case studies to show how D&I initiatives can have a positive impact on their business.

This will help others more easily understand what is to gain, and help to secure that important internal commitment and leadership buy-in.

Companies should also consider doing an analysis of what has worked and what is happening in their organization today. We are learning that a lot of companies are stronger in D&I than they thought … they just never tracked it. Some companies may find they already have a diverse workforce, but they have not supported it the way they should or never differentiated it enough. In those cases, the companies can analyze the good they have done, and determine how to best support their diverse employees moving forward.

At Guild Mortgage, we listen to our diverse employees to understand how we can best support them, as well as our diverse client base. Understanding a diverse homebuyer’s loan program needs and how to provide the most effective homebuyer education resources continues to be a top focus for us. To reach new and diverse markets of prospective homebuyers, it can require a grassroots and community-based approach. We need to understand these differences to create the right support structure for our Loan Officers serving diverse markets.

As we move forward, diversity is an essential ingredient to grow a strong and inclusive team and an organization that is built to last. A diverse lending strategy expands our market potential, while positively impacting underserved communities.

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.
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