Residential Magazine

Featured Top Originator: Andrew Russell, RCG Mortgage

No. 7 Top FHA Originators, No. 10 Top Mortgage Brokers

By Hannah Darden

When Andrew Russell got his master’s degree in psychology, he had no plans to be a mortgage broker. Coming from a family of teachers, he wanted to work with kids, and he got a job as a guidance counselor and football coach. He loved it, but with the pressure of student loans and the looming Great Recession, he needed more financial freedom.

Russell was exposed to the mortgage industry earlier than most. His high school had a work-study program, and in senior year he worked part-time at a mortgage company and loved the sales aspect. After college, a friend from the program called him.

“He said, ‘Remember what we did in high school? You can try to make it a career,’” Russell said. “I thought, cool, I’ll give it a shot… I was in the business for a month or two, and then the crash happened.”

Despite the difficulty of the housing market collapse, Russell said the benefit of it was that it weeded people out of the mortgage industry — he had to pivot, but he was able to grow. He fell in love with the mortgage and purchase process: meeting new people, learning about their lives and anxieties, forging friendships and holding their hands along the way.

“It’s different if you’re going through a journey and I’m sitting right next to you, rather than outside the transaction,” Russell said. “With us, they really feel like they have someone within the process that’s their advocate.”

Russell pivoted hard to purchase after the crash and got into Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, which are still the cornerstone of his business today. While the loans could be more difficult or have more credit issues than conventional loans, he found the clientele were super appreciative. Nowadays, according to Scotsman Guide’s 2023 Top Originators rankings, Russell is the top FHA originator in New York state.

“I love digging and helping clients. Typically, it’s FHA and it’s (non-qualified mortgages). That’s where I get real excited, where the dopamine rushes and the excitement comes in,” Russell said. “Typically, the loans are a little bit harder from a technician perspective to do… The harder the loan is, the more excited it makes me.”

After pivoting, he started to build his pipeline and worked hard for several years, finding new opportunities along the way. In 2015, he transitioned from banking to brokering.

“It seems like mortgage brokers have all this power,” Russell said. “They have all these choices; they have great interest rates. I considered them highly skilled ninjas, because there are more variables — you’re more autonomous, have more weapons in the arsenal, a better product mix.”

Every person he asked told him he would fail if he transitioned to a brokerage. The pushback only motivated him. He spent a year at a brokerage to test the waters, and immediately knew it was the right fit. Soon, he opened his own company, RCG Mortgage.

Since 2017, RCG has grown from three employees to more than 40. He’s aggressively growing the company across the country, diversifying his business outside of New York. He credits his growth mostly to building real estate agent relationships, and he has a unique value add for his referral partners: an in-house digital marketing agency that helps Realtors grow and scale their businesses on social media. He uses it himself, and in six months grew from a few hundred followers to more than 60,000 across Instagram and TikTok.

For clients, Russell’s unique value add is emotional. He built RCG Mortgage to take a “consultative, human-loving, empathetic approach” to mortgage financing. After all, the industry is all about relationships, and Russell has a superpower — his knowledge of psychology.

“I think that the whole journey within purchase is all psychology,” he said. “The person is unveiling their credit, their asset portfolio. It’s super intimate, and I feel like the best mortgage professionals are like therapists for their clients, talking them off the ledge.

“Having the skillset, learning psychology and counseling from a degree perspective — I’ll take that all day long over an accounting degree, because clients remember the process. Was it bumpy? Was Andrew there for me? Did he come to my closing? That’s what they remember: the emotional journey.” ●

Tips of the Trade

Invest in yourself and believe in yourself. Sometimes you have to take a step back financially to take a step forward, whether it’s investing in leads or other things. Grow your tech stack; right now, tech is everything. Realtor relationships should be the core of everybody’s business because no matter what happens, people buy houses. Work at a mortgage brokerage because brokers have the lowest rates with the best service. You might as well be at the company that gives you the opportunity to win.


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