MReport November 2021

TheMReport — News and strategies for the evolving mortgage marketplace.

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14 | M R EP O RT FEATURE T echnology has taken over an ever-larger portion of the mortgage business, from prospecting to market- ing to FICO scores to applications—all the way through closing. That being said, the lending officer staff is still the engine that makes a mortgage com- pany go. Whether that mortgage company performs like a finely tuned race engine, one that's in need of a tune-up, or one that is sputtering on its way to dying depends largely on a mortgage company's hiring and retention strategies. For this month's cover story, MReport speaks with represen- tatives of Churchill Mortgage, Embrace Home Loans, Homespire Mortgage, Inlanta Mortgage, and more about best practices for find- ing, recruiting, and retaining the talent that will keep any mort- gage company running at peak performance. Balancing Productivity Against Culture B efore hiring a new loan officer or other mortgage-related workers, a company needs to decide what skills and characteris- tics it wants in its new personnel. For loan officers, mortgage firms say, beyond loan production, they look for a combination of people skills, a collaborative nature, and the ability to communicate. Loan production figures are relatively easy to find, said Steve Adamo, President of National Retail Production for Embrace Home Loans. "We do a lot of analysis on existing loan officers, using different tools to determine what they are doing in their mar- kets related to purchase activity and total volume." However, it's "people skills," said Lawson Hardwick, VP of Onboarding and Expansion for Churchill Mortgage, that can make all the difference as to whether a loan officer hire proves to be successful. A loan officer must be able to build relationships, and since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, they must be able to build those relationships remotely as well as in person. Any new hire must be a fit within the Churchill Mortgage environment, Hardwick noted, echoing a familiar refrain from those interviewed. Meshing well with the existing team can some- times be just as critical as loan production itself. "Some people have a ton of volume, but when you bring them in, they become toxic to the organization," Hardwick said. "They wreck your opera- tions staff, [and it turns out that] they're not worth what you had to go through to get them in the first place." Hardwick and others agreed that mortgage companies need to dig into both a candidate's loan production numbers and their personal characteristics before making an employment offer. "The numbers can be flashy and exciting, and some companies can be quick to hire; we are not," Hardwick said. "We have turned down people in the past who have on paper looked like fantas- tic hires that would help us on the sales side of the organization." For key leadership hires, Hardwick also meets with the candidate's spouse, if there is one. "You're not just hiring that person; you're hiring the whole family. You can learn a whole lot by seeing people interact with their spouses. We try to make our- selves available to people in the family so that they can see that we are doing our due diligence, that we care about the people that we hire." "For all employees, culture fit matters," said John Russo, Regional General Manager for Georgia and Florida for Homespire Mortgage. "I gauge that differently today in the post- COVID-19 world than in the past. Now we're relying more on tech- nology and Zoom meetings. For a producing loan officer, the pri- mary skill set that we are looking for is the ability to create, sustain, and build on relationships." "Our culture is centered on the core values of community, empowerment, achievement, in- novation, and courage," Adamo said. "We have a lot of individuals spend time with individual loan officers before they join the team." Homespire needs loan officers to generate their own business, Russo added. "We're not a com- pany that provides leads. There The Building Blocks of Success Representatives of Churchill Mortgage, Embrace Home Loans, Homespire Mortgage, Inlanta Mortgage, SitusAMC, and more discuss best practices for finding, recruiting, and retaining the right talent. By Phil Britt

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