December 2016 - Getting Serious About Diversity

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FEATURE spearheading the company's diversification efforts. "We recognize that there is an ever-changing demographic in homebuyers and homebuyer preferences," said Matt Clarke, COO for Churchill Mortgage, a privately owned company with more than 420 employees. "Therefore, we created the position of Cultural Marketing Manager to ensure that we adjust within the new landscape. In recruiting and training, we look for people who are not only experts when it comes to processes and regulations, but who also have a deep understanding of the demographics and population of the local areas in which they work. We want them to understand the specific issues and concerns of prospective borrowers." Clarke added: "We appointed a Director of Customer Experience, who focuses on ensuring the borrower experience in the end- to-end mortgage process is edu - cational, enjoyable, and beneficial. And we've seen the effectiveness in high customer retention rates, product adoption, and usage rates of various services offered across the board. We believe this position is also responsible for the consistently positive feedback on borrower satisfaction surveys and in our online ratings." Beyond the internal activity to promote diversity, Churchill looks to conduct its business with diversity in mind, according to Clarke. "We strive to connect with the culture of each borrower," Clarke said. "For example, someone may be very heavily rooted in family and therefore base his or her decision to buy a home on the family's opinions. This requires patience, the ability to build trust and view each loan as a family, not a file. Culturally, spending and saving habits vary across the population. Some borrowers have saved the traditional 20 percent for a mortgage; others have zero debt, but operate with mostly cash. A diverse workforce equips us to adapt and guide the individ - ual through the mortgage process. More diversity in our workforce also facilitates the development of fresh ideas. From a marketing and advertising perspective, we have evolved with the constantly changing homebuyer population and strengthened our business development strategies with the healthy combination of experi - ences and insights provided by its employees at every level." At MiMutual Mortgage, Inc., there have been three factors pro - moting diversity, says Daniel Jacobs, EVP of national retail lending. "Decentralization, lending lo- cally, and technology has served to further our diversity," Jacobs said. "Anytime your talent pool is limited to a particular commu - nity, a company's workforce will likely reflect the level of diversity in the local community. Outside of large metropolitan areas, indi - vidual communities tend to be more segregated and less diverse. Over the last two years we have increased our racial diversity by 33 percent and our management team is comprised of 41 percent female managers. Expanding from a centralized model to a decen - tralized model with staff located in branches located in the com- munities we serve has allowed us to better reflect the communities we serve and diversify our staff. Also, as we've become more tech - nologically advanced, we are able to hire the best operations staff available for many roles, as we're able to allow some positions to be worked from home. This means we hire the best of the best where they are rather than the best available where we are." However, Jacobs acknowledges that diversity was a challenge immediately following the financial crisis as the industry had a significant downturn, so there was a lack of people with diverse backgrounds entering the industry. There was also a lack of diverse lending as regulators and lenders strongly stiffened borrower requirements, says Maria A. Gaitan, director of housing counseling and business development for Consolidated Credit Solutions, Inc. Prior to the crisis, too many minorities were fast-talked into inappropriate products, she added. Progress in Politics Former Congressman Barney Frank Offers His Take on How Far the Industry Has Come B arney Frank, who served in the U.S. Congress representing Mas- sachusetts for the Democratic Party from 1980 to 2012, helped build one of the most influential pieces of financial reform in U.S. history. Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Act requires various federal agencies to establish Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI), which will "be responsible for all agency matters relating to diversity in manage - ment, employment, and business activities" and "promote transparency and awareness of diversity policies and practices" within their own respective agencies. According to Frank, Section 342 was an initiative of Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Cali - fornia) "based on her observation that there is an under-representation of the affected categories in the industry and the affected agencies of the government." In 1987, Frank became the first U.S. congressman to voluntarily announce his homosexuality. Frank spoke with MReport about his experiences in politics and about his namesake legislation. M // Did you experience a lot of discrimina- tion as a gay man in politics? FRANK // No, personally I didn't, I must say. 22 | TH E M R EP O RT

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