MReport April 2022

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14 | M R EP O RT COVER STORY people think you're not doing your job. We really need to turn this around, and it starts with company culture. As a company, you need to make sure your goals coalesce with the loan officer's goals. For example, millennials are driving today's housing market, but to capture these borrowers—especially millennials from minority communities—you can't just be there when they are ready to go. You must start at the bottom up and educate them. You also must hire people who think the same way and are naturally helpful people. What is keeping minority borrowers from refinancing? Abelyen // There are a lot of minority homeowners who have been making their payments and would like to get a cash-out refinance to get rid of crippling credit card debt, but their lender is not willing to do that because their debt is too high. It's a real double-edged sword. It may not be intentionally unfair to minority communities, but that's basically what it is. Many people in the minority community also do not refinance because they don't trust their lender. That's especially true if a homeowner has someone in their family who lost their home during the foreclosure crisis. Back then, my own mother, who is an immigrant from the Soviet Union, got an option ARM and was told she could make her payments anytime she wanted. She had no idea how horrible her loan was— but she wasn't supposed to. It was just an opportunity for the lender to cash in on naïve borrowers and charge them a ton of fees, and they all got their homes wiped out. What are some critical considerations from your perspective when the industry is working to build and foster diversity and inclusion, on everything from team morale, employee development, and/or talent acquisition? Miki Adams, President, CBC Mortgage Agency // From a business perspective, helping to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion will lead to more success as a company. If your workforce looks like the community it serves, then your employees will have a clearer picture of the challenges faced by your customers. In addition, hearing points of view from people unlike yourself can provide a wealth of valuable information you wouldn't otherwise have, and even change your mind for the better. Roxana Davidoff, Co-Founder and CEO, Big Purple Dot // The mortgage industry has traditionally been a male-dominated market. So right off the bat, we need greater gender diversity. As a woman who has been able to suc- ceed as a CEO despite my gender, I see that women leaders and women-owned businesses are becoming far more common than they have ever been. That new norm we're heading towards gives me hope. Frank Fuentes, National VP of Multicultural Community Lending, New American Funding // The top consideration, I would say, is to create an internal task force comprised of diverse team members—and if possible—diverse departments, not just leadership. In the case of New American Funding, when I developed our initiative for Latino Focus, I took people from marketing, underwriting, sales, and customer service just to get various perspectives. Another consideration is to in- volve your marketing team. Your marketing team plays a critical role in creating a buzz internally when you are creating these ini- tiatives and committees. You are also going to include your human resources team. However, it is very important to bring everyone together from all your company's different departments … I think that is the key. What does that look like when you're actually figur- ing out how to select this D&I team? What does that process look like? Fuentes // With New American Funding, I first got together with my marketing team and sent out a companywide survey. We had probably 1,000- 1,500 employees at that time, so we sent out a survey discussing what we were doing. We asked if they wanted to be involved in a leadership role or a committee role, and if they didn't, if they had interest in continuing to receive updates on these initiatives. The involvement of the market- ing team was critical, and we are fortunate here at New American Funding that our marketing team is very diverse in both age and ethnicity. That was a huge advantage I had when assembling this team. What are some practical ways you think can be done by the industry to help foster a more sustainable, equi- table, and diverse housing ecosystem for buyers and homeowners? Adams // At CBC Mortgage Agency, a majority of our bor- rowers are minorities, so we are working to ensure the people on our team reflect the diversity of the customers we serve. This can be a challenge in a state like Utah, where we are based and where more than 80% of the state's residents are white. But it hasn't distracted us from our focus on developing a diverse workforce. With more than 80% of our em- ployees working remotely across several states, we have a diverse pool to recruit from. We also look for opportunities to recruit within predominately Black-owned or Black-led organizations in Utah like the Utah Black Chamber. Fuentes // What has worked the best for us at New American Funding has been grassroots com- munity events … being out there in the market, and in under- served communities, teaming up with local governments and city officials, to bring education and awareness to these communities. Between 2013-2019, we must have conducted nearly 100 different events or presentations in some capacity in underserved commu- nities across the country. A majority of these events were B2B … they were Realtor- centric, with the idea that if we educate the real estate profession- als, that will trickle down into their communities. We partnered with Freddie Mac and Radian Mortgage Insurance on this this initiative and discussed how best to interact with the Hispanic consumer. There was a lot of talk around social media, video engagement, cultural nuances, un- derstanding the Hispanic/Latino borrower profile, etc. What are some of the key practical takeaways that you've learned from your D&I initiatives, and how are you implementing these lessons and takeaways? Fuentes // What we have learned over the years is how to adjust our internal processes to serve these consumers, because that has been a work in progress. You must have the proper opera- tions staff and have the right sales staff to mirror the communities that we're trying to serve. I think the biggest accomplish- ment for New American is that as we have evolved with these initiatives—our operations staff

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