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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   June 2016

Are You Ready to Make the Leap?

Successful originators still need special skills to jump into branch management

Are You Ready to Make the Leap?

It's fair to say that many mortgage loan originators are natural-born leaders, or at least have a lot of the qualities necessary to become so. After all, a career in sales doesn’t usually attract shrinking violets. The mere fact that you’re an originator says something special about you.

That being said, it’s not a given that all originators — even the most successful ones — are cut out to take the next step into a leadership position, namely becoming a branch manager. If you are considering taking that leap, make sure you have a super set of skills in your arsenal.

For many top-producing originators, the move up to branch manager is the next logical advance in their careers. They feel they have proven themselves as originators and achieved their goals, and are now ready for a new challenge. They want to build and coach their own sales team. Likely, they are already a mentor to other originators in their office and want the additional responsibility, title and compensation of being the real boss.

This past March, the Mortgage Bankers Association projected purchase-mortgage originations would reach nearly $1 trillion this year and would increase by more than 10 percent over 2015’s total. Knowing that, many lenders, especially those looking to expand beyond their current geographical area, are looking to hire new branch managers and originators to handle the increased volume. The opportunity is there.

So what exactly are the character traits and skills that turn a successful originator into a successful branch manager? What is the difference between being merely successful in one role and being a leader? Just as in sports, the best players don’t necessarily make the best coaches or managers. The ideal motivation and skills may not be what you expect.

Employee building

Being a leader isn’t about ego — quite the contrary, actually. Although earning more money and prestige is certainly an important factor in wanting to manage your own branch, a main motivation for many leaders is the challenge of being responsible for more than just their own personal success and business development.

After all, it’s not just your career on the line. It’s also the careers of everyone you will be responsible for leading in your new role, and how they perform will be a huge reflection on you and your performance. It must already be natural for you to always be willing to make the time to help and guide others.

The real benchmark of success is building your own team and helping each member achieve better results than they could on their own. As the legendary sales guru Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” You have to genuinely care about your team and be a resource to help them maximize their individual talents and potential.

In short, effective leaders are patient, compassionate, understanding, creative, sincere and fair. They know that different people have different capabilities and talents, and motivating and managing each person is a balancing act. By helping others excel, these leaders gain loyalty from their team, which in turn motivates them to always put in their best efforts, raising the results for all.

Successful leaders today have to be as much psychologists and motivational speakers as they are business people. In many cases, great originators do not make great managers because they only know what has worked for them personally and don’t know how to share that information with others. Leaders know how to motivate each individual based on their unique personalities to get the most out of them.

Sales skills

Of course, successful branch managers also must utilize the same business and sales skills that enabled them to become high-producing originators in the first place. Branch managers must first and foremost be business developers. They need to be competitive, financially driven and not afraid to hear the word “no.” This can be said for high-producing salespeople in any industry, but it’s even more imperative for the manager of a startup mortgage branch to possess these qualities.

The real benchmark of success is building your own team and helping
each member achieve better results than they could on their own.

Quite often, not only must branch managers manage their employees, but they also must be able to manage their own clients and referrals. This is particularly true when the branch is new, as there may only be one or two originators there. For the branch to excel and become profitable quickly, someone has to start generating revenue from the start — and that typically falls on the manager, who must lead the team in personal production and set the pace for everyone. Not everybody can handle both responsibilities.

Community involvement

Branch managers also must be leaders outside the office. In fact, community involvement is probably one of the most overlooked functions of branch management, and the most important personal quality to be a leader is integrity. To become a central figure in your community, you must be a good and trustworthy neighbor.

Participating in neighborhood events and community fundraisers is not only inherently rewarding, but it enables branch managers to reach out to potential customers and referral partners. When your friends need a mortgage or know someone who does, they’ll know who to call.

Community involvement also helps branch managers fully understand the unique needs and desires of the neighborhoods they serve. As a branch manager, it also will be your job to evoke community spirit in the branch and get others in the office involved, leading by example.

Company support

There is unquestionably a lot of hard work involved in being a branch manager. The fact is, however, no one can be successful on his or her own. Although leaders are expected to create a successful team inside the branch, they also must expect and get a great deal of support from the home office.

Even the most talented branch managers and originators won’t thrive unless they have a fully committed support team behind them. One of the most important items prospective branch managers must be sure of, particularly with a new company, is that the home office is 100 percent behind them, no matter how far away their branch is from headquarters.

Many branch managers and originators don’t leave their companies solely to make more money. They leave because they are not getting the necessary support to deliver an exceptional experience to their customers. The most important part of that support is being able to close loans on time. That is a particularly critical element when the branch is new and in relatively unchartered territory, because you will be creating the reputation that will carry you into the future. Without that, you’re toast.

At the same time, however, your company also must be willing to grant you the independence and autonomy to run your branch your way. After all, who knows more about their local market and what will be effective than you, the branch manager? That also means not putting a cap on your earning potential. If your current or a prospective employer can’t promise this, it’s best to keep looking for one that can.

•  •  •

With the right mix of energy, motivation, skills and company support, branch managers can do almost anything. Although not all great originators are destined to be great branch managers, the opportunities to become one have rarely been better than they are today.


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