Residential Magazine

Rise to Meet the Industry’s Challenges

Profound change affecting the mortgage business demands a reimagination of leadership

By Ski Swiatkowski

It is well understood that leadership is one of the biggest determinants for whether companies succeed or fail. Leadership plays a critical role in defining the specific actions that shape the direction of individual companies and, indeed, entire industries.

Currently, the mortgage industry is facing a leadership problem as many leaders struggle to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving landscape. This makes it a crucial time to reassess the approach to leadership in the mortgage industry, and to foster a new generation of leaders who can navigate complex challenges and inspire meaningful engagement and transformation.

Since the Great Recession, the mortgage industry has been undergoing a profound change. Technological advancements, complex regulatory changes and shifting client expectations have created a dynamic, interconnected and challenging environment for mortgage originators.

One of the most significant disruptions came in 2022 with the effects of rising inflation and fears of an overheated economy. A strong housing market and Federal Reserve policy changes led to the doubling of mortgage interest rates. This crushed the refinance business and reduced the number of qualified buyers in the home purchase market. This sudden drop in loan volume has sharply impacted the financial picture for all mortgage companies, forcing everyone to reassess their operating model and causing some to close their doors.

Clearly, mortgage executives who take the same approach as in the past are not going to solve today’s problems. Traditional leadership models that focus solely on hierarchical authority and top-down decisionmaking are no longer effective. Today’s mortgage leaders must adapt to the complexities of a diverse and fast-paced world.

Purpose driven

In response to the leadership problem, a shift toward collaborative leadership is imperative. Collaborative leadership emphasizes teamwork and open communication along with the ability to leverage the collective intelligence of diverse individuals within each company and the industry as a whole.

Leaders must create an inclusive and empowering environment that encourages collaboration, innovation and shared responsibility. By fostering a culture of collaboration, mortgage leaders can tap into the full potential of their teams, find better solutions to problems and drive impactful change.

The leadership needed in the mortgage industry must extend beyond profit-driven objectives. It should encompass a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to creating a positive impact on both internal and external customers, communities and the housing market as a whole. Purpose-driven leaders inspire and motivate their teams by aligning organizational goals with meaningful contributions to society. By embracing a purpose-driven approach, company leaders can attract and retain top talent, build client trust and enhance the industry’s reputation.

This does not mean giving up profit-driven objectives. On the contrary, it means using a better approach that leverages resources in a changing workplace.

Diversity and inclusion are essential components of effective leadership. A diverse workforce brings together a variety of perspectives, experiences and talents, enabling leaders to make better-informed decisions and drive innovation. Inclusive leaders create a culture where everyone feels valued, respected and empowered to contribute their unique strengths. By embracing diversity and inclusion, mortgage executives can cultivate an environment that fosters creativity, adaptability and resilience. Done properly, diversity and inclusion will provide viable solutions to current and future problems faced by the industry and society at large.

Leaders in the mortgage industry must be adaptable and agile in the face of constant change. They need to anticipate and respond to disruptive forces, such as technological advancements and regulatory shifts, to maintain a competitive edge. Agile leaders embrace experimentation, learn from failures and continuously evolve strategies. It is also important to foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptability for everyone within the organization.

Influential voices

To address the leadership problem, organizations within the mortgage industry must prioritize leadership development initiatives. Providing people with the necessary tools, resources and coaching opportunities is crucial for building a company that has effective leaders.

Too many organizations take their high- performing individuals and promote them into management roles without providing them with the knowledge and tools to prepare them for their new role. Upper management then wonders why these people struggle and the company has problems.

Leadership development should encompass a multifaceted approach, which starts with education. Organizations should foster a culture of continuous learning and knowledge sharing, not just occasional training, to address companywide problems.

This can be achieved through structured leadership programs, workshops and seminars that focus on enhancing essential skills and competencies. It could also include initiatives such as regular team meetings, cross-functional collaborations and knowledge-sharing platforms.

In addition to internal leadership development initiatives, mortgage leaders should also actively engage with industry associations, professional networks and thought leaders. These external engagements provide opportunities for leaders to expand their networks, exchange ideas and stay informed about industry developments.

By actively participating in industry conversations and sharing insights, mortgage leaders can position themselves as influential voices and contribute to shaping the future of the industry. Encouraging employees to engage in ongoing learning, whether through self-study, online courses or industry certifications, helps to create managers who are constantly evolving and staying abreast of the newest industry trends and best practices.

Coaching is also a crucial component of leadership development. With a focus on key skills they’ve learned (such as emotional intelligence, communication, problem-solving and strategic thinking) and ways to incorporate them into their daily activities, it’s a win-win situation. The leader gains greater capability and competence. The company receives a better return on their training investment.

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Ultimately, the problems in the mortgage industry demand a fundamental shift in approach to managing and leading — that is, rethinking leadership. This rethinking requires a collective effort from individuals, organizations and industry stakeholders. It means a shift in mindset and an embrace of new leadership models that prioritize collaboration, purpose-driven approaches, diversity, adaptability and continuous learning.

By investing in leadership development and creating an environment that supports and nurtures the people responsible for managing at every level within a company, the industry can create a new breed of leaders who are capable of driving positive change and navigating the complexities of the modern mortgage landscape. Effective leadership can address the industry’s problems while shaping a better future for its employees, companies, borrowers and society as a whole. ●


  • Ski Swiatkowski

    Ski Swiatkowski is an author and speaker who passionately shares the wisdom of his 39-year experience as a successful mortgage originator and executive. He’s the founder and owner of Radical Performance, a consulting and executive coaching firm that focuses on strategic planning, performance improvement, and leadership development for companies and individuals. Swiatkowski also serves as a member of the board of directors at Scotsman Guide Inc.

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