Commercial Magazine

Lisa J. Haynes, Mortgage Bankers Association

A diverse workforce makes a mortgage company stronger

By Victor Whitman

At the Mortgage Bankers Association’s national convention in Denver in 2017, then MBA Chairman Dave Motley described the commercial and residential mortgage industries as too “male, pale and stale.” The national trade group has, for several years now, championed the cause of promoting diversity in the mortgage-industry workplace.

MBA’s position is that its members need to recruit and promote more minorities, women and young people — and that this goal should be central to a company’s recruitment and retention efforts — so that the people making loans and processing applications are more representative of their borrowers. Lisa J. Haynes, who has been spearheading this effort as MBA’s diversity and inclusion officer, spoke with Scotsman Guide about the drive — and the progress made — to make the industry more diverse.

Does the typical mortgage company still lack diversity?

The industry as a whole has made some significant strides, but I do believe that there’s a lot more that we can do. We have probably 20 to 25 conferences a year, and we are seeing some improvement when we look across the audience and those attending are both women, young professionals [and] people of color. But, you know, we certainly feel like there’s a lot more work to be done.

Why is it important for a mortgage company to have a diverse workforce?

There has been several studies that speak about the importance of diversity and how diverse teams actually are more innovative and successful. Just from the business-advantage standpoint, it’s important that companies recognize that bringing different voices, and different experiences and different backgrounds, to the table is advantageous for the company. You know, our members are in business to make money. And, therefore, having that competitive edge of a diverse talent pool is going to be critically important.

What steps can a company take to recruit more minorities and women?

It has got to be deliberate and intentional. You want to make sure that you have a diverse pool of [employee] candidates. That will often require you to look beyond some of your more traditional headhunters, and that you make your headhunters aware that the diversity of your hires is important. Oftentimes, headhunters bring you the first resumes that they get, which may or may not represent a diverse population. So, I think, companies have to be willing, to some degree, to slow down the process because you have to be more deliberate.

Another way is to be connected to certain affinity groups within our industry, such as the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, the Asian Real Estate Association of America, the National Association of Mortgage Brokers for black professionals, and the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. Those organizations can help fill your pipeline because they’re connected to specific groups of people.

How do you measure whether your company is adequately diverse?

That definition is going to differ depending on your company. To me, it’s really the issue of inclusion. Is your organization the kind that is inclusive, because inclusion will often drive diversity. If people feel like they belong, or feel like they are included, that will drive people to a particular company. But it’s hard to say [or] set that particular target without doing some broad-range look at the company.

Is promoting women and minorities to management and leadership positions a related issue?

An organization that’s diverse at the bottom, not very diverse at the top, is still missing out on the potential for that competitive advantage by not having that diversity among the decisionmakers. And so, I think the two are very related issues which is, yes, we want to create a diverse workforce, but we also want to move that diversity up into the decisionmaking levels. We can’t lose sight of the fact that the recruitment part of it is not enough.


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