Fresh out of college in the early 1990s, Kelly Malatesta was headed to an employment agency at a downtown Houston office building when someone flagged her down. The woman had noticed Malatesta’s Louisiana State University bumper stickers and thought they knew each other in college. Although this turned out not to be the case, the woman asked Malatesta what she was doing. Malatesta responded that she was looking for a job.
“She said, ‘My boss is hiring,’” Malatesta recalled. “I asked her, ‘What do you do?’ She said, ‘I’m in mortgage banking.’ I’m like, ‘No, I want to be in sales.’ I knew nothing about the field.”
The woman, a new hire herself at JPMorgan Chase, told Malatesta a bit about the job of a mortgage originator, then passed along her boss’s name and number. Malatesta called the manager, who told her to put her resume in the mail — they were done hiring.
“I did not mail it to him,” Malatesta said. “I got in the car and I took my resume down there, and I sat in his lobby for an hour while he was on a conference call so I could hand-deliver my resume. I don’t know what made me do that back then at 20-something years of age. I thought maybe face to face would be better. He hired me on the spot.”
Malatesta worked for 16 years at Chase, learning the ropes of mortgage financing while becoming one of the company’s top loan producers. She now works for First United Bank & Trust, a $10 billion bank with 85 locations throughout Texas and Oklahoma.
You have to find like-minded people who you work well with, and you build that loyalty and that trust, and then you can refer business back and forth.
Malatesta turned in her best-ever performance last year, producing $371.8 million on 672 loans. She placed among the best originators in the country in Scotsman Guide’s annual rankings, coming in at No. 7 for Top Women Originators and No. 16 for Top Purchase Volume among all originators.
Malatesta regularly works with real estate agents, but she also likes to “go down the path not so traveled” to work with homebuilders, financial advisers and accountants. “You have to find like-minded people that you work well with, and you build that loyalty and that trust, and then you can refer business back and forth,” Malatesta said.
One of these referral partners invited her to speak more than 20 years ago on his financial- planning radio show in the Greater Houston area. She’s now featured weekly on Steve Drake’s “Money Matters” to talk about mortgages.
Finding prospects is one thing, but earning their business is another. Listening is key to building a rapport with clients, Malatesta said. She recalled a recent phone conversation where she noticed the prospect’s Louisiana accent. They got to talking about Louisiana and how they both ended up in Texas, which wound up leading to a 30-minute phone call.
“Both he and his kid are building (homes) near each other, and I’m working with both of them now,” Malatesta said.
Mortgage banking is challenging but never dull and always rewarding, Malatesta said. She recalled a moment last year when she saw joy on the face of one of her clients, a teacher who had never owned a home.
“She’d been renting for 20 years,” Malatesta said. “We got her into one of the city programs that gave her a downpayment, because she didn’t have a lot of money saved. I can tell you that is one my favorite loan stories, because you know how much you helped somebody.” ●