MReport April 2022

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M R EP O RT | 15 COVER STORY and leadership within opera- tions has evolved simultaneously. That's been a real blessing for us. Obviously, that comes about be- cause of the support we get from our leadership, the ownership of New American Funding. When you speak about the evolution of your D&I initia- tives and mirroring your customer base, is it about ensuring that the staff is more diverse, or are more trained to interact, or all of the above? Fuentes // Number one is having a diverse staff. Number two is understanding that, even if you have that diverse staff, when it comes to processing or underwriting, let's say, a Latino borrower in Atlanta … that file is going to consume more re- sources than maybe any A-paper borrower in Orange County, California, with a 780 FICO score and 20% down. We staff up accordingly, and that requires an executive deci- sion on budgeting to apply those additional resources to have that manpower, realizing that it takes more hands-on underwriting or processing that type of a con- sumer. And that's where we see the opportunity. Yes, it requires more resources from the top of the house, but ultimately that's really the secret sauce. At New American Funding, there's two separate channels— the call center environment and there's the outside sales. When a lead comes in, we have a small army of customer service reps, which scrub those calls. And if those individuals sense a heavy accent or difficulty in communi- cation, then they make the execu- tive decision to move that lead or that call to a Spanish speaking loan officer, which makes the process a lot smoother for the consumer. What sort of changes have you seen over the course of the pandemic? Are the needs of minority borrowers changed as a result of the pandemic? Fuentes // I think over the past two years, there has defi- nitely been an impact on Latino borrowers. You will see positive numbers in Hispanic homeown- ership rates in 2020 and 2021; the trend is still moving upward. It is ticking up in the right direction. The biggest impact is that there are a lot of markets where Latino consumers still want to meet face-to-face, and that is still a big issue in this environment. For any other type of bor- rower, it works fine. "Hey, let's jump on FaceTime, and we can have a conversation. We can talk about your financials, run your credit review with you." They're all good. But with a lot of Latino homebuyers, especially on the East Coast, Midwest, and Texas, they still want to have that face- to-face interaction. It remains a challenge, but it is getting better as we start opening up. If a company lacks a strong D&I program, where should they start? Adams // We believe diversity starts in the C-Suite, and I am living proof of that. I am a Japanese American woman who has been given a chance to lead a great organization whose mission is to help families of color and other low-income and minority families achieve homeownership and wealth. Helping Black and Hispanic families achieve the ability to accumulate housing wealth is so gratifying. Davidoff // Beyond gender, our customers come from a variety of backgrounds, so diversity in race and culture is a must. My parents immigrated to the United States, so I've witnessed the strength of cultural diversity up close. Our companies need to have people on our staff who come from the same background as our clients. In addition to helping us gain greater insight into our customers, diversity among employees gives companies a different perspective on how to get things done. Fuentes // The most important thing is to just put feelers out there internally, and see where every- body's mindset is regarding diversity and inclusion. In this day and age, you would probably get more participation than you would three or four years ago when it comes to initiatives of this nature. ERIC C. PECK is Five Star's Managing Digital Editor. He 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 "The biggest impact is that there are a lot of markets where Latino consumers still want to meet face-to-face, and that is still a big issue in this environment." —Frank Fuentes, National VP of Multicultural Community Lending, New American Funding

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