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Pipeline absorption: Strong branch providers that extend their own capital are usually adept at absorbing a new branch's pipelines, thereby smoothing the transition.
Training: Often, mortgage bankers have the staff to conduct recurring training in FHA/VA governmental-loan products, technology and LOS updates as well as marketing seminars.
Marketing support: Some large branch providers supply leads to their branches monthly. Others compile and disseminate lead sources for their branches. Others have developed HUD- and RESPA-compliant fee-sharing programs for all those involved in settlement procedures, including Realtors, builders, certified public accountants and financial planners.
There are, of course, some perceived disadvantages to opening a net branch. Having to forego one's corporate name or identity concerns some. However, branch providers often allow their branches to use part of their names behind the corporate name to retain their identities. Couple this with the fact that some branch providers offer search-engine optimization to create brand recognition and leads for their branches, and the autonomy issue is often abated.
Some brokers worry about HUD's Mortgagee Letter 00-15 requirement that, in a branch office arrangement, all employees' income must be reported on W-2s. However, many branch providers allow their branch partners to expense as many legitimate business-related expenses as possible from their accounts before receiving income reported on a W-2. Therefore, the difference between receiving a W-2 or a 1099 is often negligible.
The net-branch or branch-partnership model appears to offer a wide array of advantages for independent mortgage brokers. While one's decision to become a branch partner is obviously personal, it can be a great move and an easy transition with the right branch provider.
Gil Holloway is a marketing and recruiting consultant for Dallas-based Benchmark Mortgage. Benchmark, ranked No. 57 on the Inc. 500 for 2004, supports 227 branches nationwide and can be viewed at www.BenchmarkBranchPartners.com. For more information on Benchmark or questions about branch partnering, contact Holloway at (214) 420-2723.
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