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Residential Department: Q&A: Laurel Knight-Keane, President, National Association of Professional Mortgage Women: October 2018


Q&A: Laurel Knight-Keane, President, National Association of Professional Mortgage Women

Professional mortgage group launched by women promotes leadership

Nine women in 1964 launched in Seattle what was then known as the Seattle Association of Professional Mortgage Women. Three years later, the group formally changed the word “Seattle” in its title to “National,” with the purpose of organizing local associations throughout the United States.

“At that time, women weren’t heavily represented in the mortgage industry,” said Laurel Knight-Keane, the association’s national president. “So, they wanted to form a group that focused on educating and promoting women.” Today, the National Association of Professional Mortgage Women (NAPMW) has 20 local organizations throughout the country. It accepts both women and men into its ranks.

Knight-Keane, who works for Fairway Independent Mortgage in Lynnwood, Washington, joined the association in the late 1990s. She became the national president this past April. Knight-Keane talked with Scotsman Guide about her group’s mission, its goals and how it provides camaraderie for the industry.

Your organization has been around for more than 50 years. Does it still have the same mission now?

Yes, as far as the education portion. That’s what we were founded on. Now we have tried to expand on education and tie in leadership skills.

How do you do that?

We provide webinars. For example, we have one on leadership training for all our members. Every month, there’s a different topic. Some of it is based on our own internal leadership needs to help develop members who would be willing to step up into leadership roles in our organization. It also ties into your everyday life and job.

Are there more hands-on, day-to-day instruction opportunities focused on the mortgage office?

We’ve been focusing on leadership training a little bit more. When we first started, a lot of the companies did not provide their own internal training and education. … In the last several years, a lot of companies have turned to doing a lot more internal training.

Is there a need for more women to be in leadership positions in the mortgage industry?

There’s always a need for that. And we’re starting to see more and more of that in the industry, which is fabulous. ... I think that it’s important to encourage the younger generation to come in and provide them with really good information on how to be a good leader and what constitutes a good leader. … It’s being able to give the upcoming generation the tools they need to be successful and take their careers where they want to go.

Is there a gender pay gap in the mortgage industry like other professions?

I don’t believe so when you get into each of the specific categories. On the loan-officer side, you’re paid on your production. The effort you put in is the paycheck you get. I’m not as well versed on what processors and [others] make. … I don’t believe there’s too much of a gap.

Is that one of the attractions of the industry for women?

I think that’s probably one of the attractions in that you’re not limited in your income. But there are others — the flexibility of the job. Not every company requires you as a processor or underwriter to be sitting in an office.

You can work out of your home. That’s a big draw.

What challenges do women face in the industry?

I think some of the challenges with that flexibility is there are a lot of things we have to do in a day. This industry, for the most part, is not a 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday job. Sometimes you’re working seven days a week. Sometimes you’re not.

No matter what industry you’re in, you’re faced with challenges. In this industry, we’re not faced with as many challenges, because it’s really based on the effort you put in, the connections (you make), the networking, that type of thing.

Are there any legislative issues that your organization is concerned with right now?

We stay completely out of that. That’s not our focus. Our focus is the education and leadership development.

Why do you believe in NAPMW?

It’s a place where it doesn’t matter where you’re from. I have friends all over this country because of this organization. ... It’s a good referral base if you’re looking for a new job or looking to do something different. It’s a good network of people aside from the education and leadership training. Our saying is, “Come for the education, and stay for the friendship.” That’s true. There are some pretty incredible people in this organization, both men and women. And I am very fortunate to call a lot of them my friends.

Laurel Knight-Keane is president of the National Association of Professional Mortgage Woman, an organization that promotes education and leadership in the industry. Knight-Keane joined the association in the 1990s. She has worked in the mortgage industry for 22 years. She is currently the branch manager at Fairway Independent Mortgage in Lynnwood, Washington.


Jim Davis is editor of Scotsman Guide Residential Edition. Reach him at (800) 297-6030 or

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