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Building an A-Team in Lending

Assembling a top-tier team of mortgage professionals requires much more than hiring loan officers or underwriters to fill a seat. Instead, managers must take the time to work with their team to ensure they have the best tools possible to do their job, but also engaging in training and collaborating with fellow employees. In doing so, lenders not only set themselves up for success in the long-term but also ensure their borrowers receive the care and attention they need to make one of the most important financial decisions of their lives.

Selecting vs. Recruiting

Today’s homebuyers are younger and more ethnically diverse than ever before, and there is an immediate and necessary need for lenders to demonstrate this shift in their hiring strategies. According to a study by Zillow, the average age of a mortgage professional is currently 54 years. Apart from navigating generational differences with millennial homebuyers, that’s nearly 200,000 loan officers that will likely retire out of the industry within the next 10 years–a significant loss of experience and perspective that will be difficult (if not impossible) to replace.

Traditional recruiting strategies may get bodies in the door, but rarely does this non-targeted approach translate into a well-run team. Lenders must instead focus on identifying skilled, talented and, most importantly, coachable employees for their branch. It also means recognizing potential staff who will embrace that organization’s unique culture. It’s a straightforward matter to train someone to be a productive mortgage professional, but there is no changing an employee’s personality or long-term goals.  

Engaging Employees

It is a painful experience to spend significant time and resources on training and developing new employees, only to lose them to a competing lender or have them leave because they were not a good organizational fit. One method to help retain the best and brightest is to connect experienced employees with newer ones through a dedicated mentor/mentee program that allows both learn from each other.

Much attention has been directed toward millennials and with good reason: they have the numbers and now, the purchasing power, to command that attention. Millennial employees understand how to interact with their generation, and serve as a powerful (and necessary) conduit between first-time buyers and the lender.

At the same time, senior-level professionals can help guide newer employees as issues arise. This reverse mentorship not only helps recent hires get up-to-speed more quickly but ensures experienced staff continues to learn new skills and tactics that benefit their career trajectory. Lenders should strive to have the right balance in place, one where younger employees are empowered to provide fresh approaches to reaching new customers through new technologies and tactics like social media while more experienced staff can leverage their experience and proven strategies.

Drivers of Success

The mortgage industry has professionals looking to distinguish themselves from the rest. Lenders can support these employees by providing them with the coaching and training necessary to improve how they conduct business with borrowers. It means supplying them with the right day-to-day practice, as well as demonstrating to them the necessity of helping borrowers with the heart of a teacher. In this way, lenders can strengthen their team’s efforts to engage borrowers nationwide, and guide them down the path towards the ultimate goal of debt-free homeownership.  

How does one work with the heart of a teacher though? Since its inception, the mortgage industry has operated as a transaction-based business. One of the primary reasons the mortgage market collapsed 10 years ago was due to unscrupulous lending practices aimed at putting borrowers in the most expensive home possible, whether they could afford them or not. Today, borrowers require lenders who can guide them towards the best financial decision possible, that is in-line with their long-term goals and life plans.

That’s not to say technology and educational tools don’t have their place in the lender’s training kit. Home loan specialists are in need of the ability to identify, communicate and serve borrowers before, during and after the mortgage process. Some good examples of this are mobile apps that allow prospective borrowers to explore recent MLS listings, save favorite properties and then quickly contact real-estate or mortgage agents to collaborate on narrowing their search. Other digital platforms allow homebuyers to review specifically-tailored loan options, payment plans, and long-term outlook.

While there’s no shortage of loan officers looking to make their mark on a lender’s office (further underscoring the competitive nature of the mortgage industry), it’s necessary for lenders to realize that it’s the team that matters, not the individual. When loan officers collaborate, across all groups, they can gain invaluable knowledge from each other and work to create a seamless, consistent experience for borrowers that will keep them coming back for more throughout their lifetime.

About Author: Kevin Watson

Kevin Watson is manager of Churchill Mortgage’s Middle Tennessee branch. A full-service lender in the mortgage industry, Churchill Mortgage provides conventional, FHA, VA, and USDA residential mortgages across 45 states.

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