Robby Oakes arrived at a mostly empty office when he started in the mortgage business in 2003. He joined what is now Corporate Investors Mortgage Group Inc. (CIMG), then a small North Carolina company with about 10 employees. Everybody in the office was on a trip for top mortgage producers at the vacation resort Atlantis Bahamas. He was the only originator available when the company published interest rates in a local newspaper.
“I remember that rates dropped about a half percent my first week in the office,” Oakes said. “I think I locked 10 loans my first week.”
It was the start of an auspicious career for Oakes. He’s been one of the top mortgage originators, both in North Carolina and in the country, ever since. In 2020, Oakes closed 1,474 loans for $466.7 million in total volume. In Scotsman Guide’s 2021 Top Originators rankings, Oakes landed at No. 19 for Most Closed Loans and No. 29 for Top Dollar Volume. Of these loans, 48% were for purchase and 52% were refinances. All of his business was done in North Carolina.
“I am only licensed in one state, and only feel the need to be licensed in one state, because I can serve my clients as well as I need being the local option for lending,” he said.
Oakes grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, attended Chapel Hill High School and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002. Out of college, Oakes was hired as a financial planner at Northwestern Mutual, where he mainly sold life insurance. He became one of the top new producers at the company that first year, but he only made $14,000.
He knew he needed to make a change. He had a high school friend who was working at what was then Corporate Investors, now CIMG. His friend had made so much money as a mortgage originator that he was driving a new truck. The friend was leaving the company to work as a financial planner with his father. Oakes applied for his friend’s old job and was hired. At Northwestern Mutual, Oakes was required to make 25 phone calls, set five calendar appointments and visit four people a day. These quotas proved invaluable, especially as the mortgage business transitioned from a refinance boom to a purchase-heavy market.
“The training that I got at Northwestern Mutual was priceless, because I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to sell life insurance, but nobody calls you,” Oakes said. “I never forget the first day working at (CIMG), the phone rang for me and I remember saying, ‘Somebody’s calling for me? This is gonna be easy.’”
Since he started with the company, CIMG has grown and now has about 50 employees. Over the years, Oakes has been recruited to work for larger mortgage businesses.
“There are some national companies that I do respect and we operate very similar to them,” Oakes said. “However, being a local company, I find I can walk down the hall and speak to the owner of my company, and nobody else can offer me that.”
He says that CIMG’s principal, Clint Myers, is one of the smartest compliance individuals he’s met in his life. Oakes also enjoys the flexibility that he’s been afforded to grow his business, which includes a team of nine. He highlighted his processor, Michelle Coppola, and Nate Haines, a junior mortgage originator whom he calls his business partner.
“I enjoy my team the most now,” Oakes said. “I thoroughly enjoy teaching them and watching them grow, and watching our business grow as they grow.” ●