It’s 7 a.m. and Mark Cohen is in his Beverly Hills office talking about the bond market. CNBC is airing in the background. Cohen keeps one eye on financial news throughout his 14-hour days at the office. It’s a must for one of the top mortgage brokers in the country.The founder and CEO of Cohen Financial Group remains confident about the mortgage business, although he believes that the market will slow a bit in the fourth quarter of this year. “Just a feel,” Cohen said. “It’s hard to keep up with the pace. It’s been pretty frantic.”
Year in and year out, Cohen ranks as one of the best in his profession. Over the course of his career, he has originated more than 21,000 loans for $14 billion-plus in volume and has landed atop the Scotsman Guide Top Dollar Volume rankings numerous times. In 2020, Cohen closed 1,050 loans for $905.2 million in volume, good for seventh place in the publication’s Top Dollar Volume category. Of this total, 44% were purchase mortgages and 56% were refinances.
Cohen broke into the mortgage business in the mid-1980s by partnering with his mother, Gloria Shulman. Fresh out of law school, Cohen didn’t know what to expect, but he found an instant attraction to the business.
I think the best benefits financially … is when you can be more entrepreneurial and create things, in the sense of having a lot of available options and thinking about how to structure deals.
After working with his mom for about 15 years, Cohen created his own mortgage company. He notes that Shulman is still active in the mortgage industry. “She’s 82 going onto 60,” Cohen joked. “She loves the business.”
Cohen Financial Group does a large number of conforming loans, which he calls the “bread and butter” of the business. “Those deals are just easier,” he said. But he keeps his business diverse. He works on a wide range of transactions, including bank-statement loans, investment properties and some commercial real estate deals. He notes that not everybody in the Southern California area is a W-2 wage earner.
“I think the best benefits financially — and just emotionally rewarding — is when you can be more entrepreneurial and create things, in the sense of having a lot of available options and thinking about how to structure deals,” Cohen said.
How has he landed at such a high level? He credits his team and support staff. He’s also driven, having printed out a list of past deals that he keeps on his desk to look over for potential refinancing opportunities at any spare moment.
And the mortgage industry is a relationship-driven business. “It’s just really important just to build a rapport with people,” Cohen said. “Two of my best friends I met through the mortgage business. They were clients for me 20 years ago.”
Relationships remain important not just with clients but also with referral and lending partners. Cohen has affiliations with four real estate companies in Southern California. He’s not the exclusive lender for these companies, but he’s the recommended lender and this helps bring in a sizable share of his purchase business.
Over his career, he’s met a number of interesting people and learned about their lives. In Southern California, that’s everyone from blue-collar workers to entertainment executives. Helping them obtain a mortgage is professionally fulfilling. “It’s a high level of satisfaction,” Cohen said. “Obviously, at the same time, it’s financially rewarding, too.” ●
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