As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, June 2006.
While technology has transformed the mortgage industry, our business remains a people business. Computers can crunch the numbers, but people give the numbers substance -- converting numbers and scenarios into the right home loan for clients.
Simply stated, the best mortgage firms have the best people. The challenge, though, is finding top performers. To land these kinds of employees, a mortgage company must offer the kind of leadership, products, operations, marketing, unique selling propositions (USPs), training and recognition programs that will encourage them to soar as never before. These are all factors on which a mortgage company should focus to attract the best candidates.
Leadership: Ideally, a mortgage company's leaders will be successful former loan officers who've had their boots on the ground, working with clients and shepherding loans through closing. They are passionate about coaching, mentoring and leading seminars because they are salespeople at their core. They understand what motivates loan officers.
Products: Mortgage products should reflect the varied demographics and life stages of buyers. Clients might comprise young families, single households, move-up buyers, multiple-home investors, empty-nesters, recent immigrants or business-owners who have situations that don't fit cookie-cutter loan programs. If a certain product doesn't exist, the best companies will create it in days, not months, to support their sales force. The best mortgage companies are first-responders. They lead; they don't follow.
Operations: Having a powerful and organized team of processors, underwriters, funders and closers who are adept at moving loans through the system quickly will be a strong recruiting tool. When loan officers are free of operational headaches, they can focus on selling more products and generating more revenue. Great products without a great organization to back them up will send the wrong signals to a company's recruits.
Marketing: To keep up with the increasing appetite for value-added information, loan officers need fast-paced marketing solutions. Today, the best mortgage companies offer customized, automatic marketing that can be triggered with just a mouse click. From the company's marketing portal -- a vast online inventory of high-quality, high-value auto e-mails, newsletters, postcards, fliers, brochures, greeting cards, giveaways and direct-mail letters -- loan officers can select the marketing pieces that provide the most value to their database.
Moreover, with such programs, once the marketing campaign's content and frequency has been selected, the collateral is distributed automatically. When the pieces go out, the phone starts ringing and the e-mails start coming in.
Unique selling propositions: As the mortgage-lending industry becomes more commoditized, the best companies will offer USPs that their sales force can use to differentiate and brand themselves with their clients and business partners. When a company provides more value, its loan officers can build stronger relationships and create stronger business channels with key partners.
Training: The most-successful companies are committed to constant training and performance improvement. Their salespeople have access to the best tools and resources, and they know how to make the best use of these assets. Trainers should be former loan officers and operational experts who have frontline knowledge of the pressures and opportunities that loan officers face. They can thus use this knowledge to develop training programs that always hit their mark.
Recognition: It's vital for mortgage companies to honor their top producers at special recognition events. Surveys consistently show that employees who feel appreciated perform at a higher level. The recognition need not be expensive, but it must promote a company's commitment to acknowledging and praising outstanding employee performance.
To be a mortgage-industry leader, find the top producers who will take your company to new heights. Their rare qualities -- extraordinary focus and vision -- transform good companies into great ones.
John A. Manglardi is president of the Eastern retail division of American Home Mortgage, one of the nation's leading residential lenders with more than 500 retail offices nationwide.
Previously, Manglardi was president and chief executive of First Home Mortgage, a company he founded in 1984 and led as president and chief executive officer until its merger with American Home in 2000. He serves as vice chairman of the board for Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago. Visit the company's Web site at www.americanhm.com.