The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, as of last year, the median age for an employee in the financial-services sector was 45. Real estate and mortgage professionals had a median age of 48.
These employees are moving closer to retirement and an enormous gap will be left when they eventually leave the workforce. Historically, a lack of younger people interested in pursuing a career in the mortgage industry has compounded this problem. Considering the spotlight cast on the thriving housing market during the COVID-19 pandemic — when other industries did not fare as well — now is the time to teach a new contingent of workers that this is an exciting and viable career option.
The pandemic has exposed the need for experienced, educated mortgage originators — as well as processors, underwriters and other operational team members — to handle the swell in business driven by the historically low interest rate environment. Unsolicited recruiting and unprecedented incentives also have proliferated as lenders mobilize to process financing requests.
This is not a new phenomenon, but the issue of growing the pool of operational talent has taken center stage across the industry. Mortgage company leaders should explore several paths as they address the need to attract and educate new employees.
Education is at the foundation of the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America (NAMMBA), an organization with a three-word mission: connect, grow, lead. CEOs, senior leaders and industry stakeholders can join NAMMBA’s Visionary program, which supports diversity and inclusion efforts in real estate finance.
NAMMBA has launched “Mission 2025,” a program to introduce high school and college students to the industry. Its goal is to connect 50,000 students to mortgage industry career opportunities by the year 2025. In fact, the organization will be hosting a college day this month as it kicks off its Connect 2021 event in Atlanta. Along with the opportunity to network with mortgage professionals, attendees will engage in a one-day introduction to the industry via sessions such as Credit 101, careers in real estate finance, and the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the housing system.
Additionally, the NAMMBA Leadership Academy is working to become an industry standard for providing employees with leadership training. The academy partners experienced professionals with those who are new to the business.
For those on the East Coast, the Mortgage Bankers Association of New Jersey (MBANJ) has a women’s committee that serves females of all ages in real estate finance. The committee extends beyond New Jersey to also include professionals from New York, Connecticut Pennsylvania and Delaware.
The committee has a mission to positively promote and impact women within MBANJ through the creation of a unique platform to network and build relationships. In addition to supporting and spotlighting the achievements of its members, valuable resources (including training and mentoring) are provided.
Leveraging the expertise of its women’s committee, MBANJ will be rolling out a new mentorship program in October 2021 at its regional conference in Atlantic City. This inaugural initiative is designed to encourage women to tap into the wealth of know-ledge available to them via other MBANJ members, thus helping them to gain confidence in their professional roles. The program will include a questionnaire to help identify those who are interested in mentorship — and in which areas. Members will be matched with the appropriate mentorship pod to focus on areas such as origination, licensing and education.
Cindy Corsaro, senior vice president at Promontory MortgagePath LLC, is leading the charge in developing this program. Corsaro is a licensing expert who is responsible for licensing and continuing-education requirements, among other things. “Companies with limited resources may find it difficult to develop a customized training program,” she said. “Partnering with counterparts throughout the industry to expand support for training and mentorship helps everyone expand their horizons.”
The Women With Vision (WWV) division of 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching offers virtual training to provide women with the necessary tools and skills to excel in their profession, and it has an annual awards program to recognize the accomplishments of women in the mortgage industry. Group or individual coaching, as well as certification in 24 core business-development and sales skills via virtual courses, are part of the WWV curriculum. This group also offers a scholarship for free one-on-one mentoring.
Introduced by the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), the Spark small-business grant program is designed to provide opportunities for retail mortgage professionals who are interested in becoming broker-owners. The goal of the Spark grant is to fund the costs of marketing, technology, licensing and other items so that new wholesale brokers are better equipped to set up a successful independent mortgage business.
Grant recipients get additional support from AIME and the broker community, helping them to build sustainable business models for any market environment. In addition to funding support for business expenses, grant recipients are assigned a mentor. AIME also provides a suite of Ignite training programs for individuals interested in starting a new career in wholesale mortgages.
Since 1948, the School of Mortgage Banking (SOMB) through the Mortgage Bankers Association has been an educational cornerstone for the industry. The SOMB consists of three courses. Upon completion, graduates will have learned all facets of mortgage lending — from fundamental concepts to strategic planning. SOMB graduates earn the title of Accredited Mortgage Professional. This designation recognizes individuals in real estate finance for their pursuit of educational excellence, high ethical standards and commitment to professionalism.
Yet another resource is Jackie Dunlap of Next Generation Home Loans and her training site, The Mortgage Calculator. She seized the opportunity afforded by quarantine to begin posting a processor training series and generate interest in the profession through her YouTube channel, which now boasts 4,000-plus subscribers. This past June, she celebrated her first full year as an official trainer, educating nearly 1,000 new mortgage professionals during this time by producing multiple video courses for processor training. Dunlap wants to continue growing these offerings to aid the industry and female mortgage professionals.
Mortgage companies typically do a fantastic job of selling loans, but they tend to not sell the industry well enough to attract top talent.
With an immense amount of change to absorb and implement, the past year has illuminated the fact that operational staff are indispensable to a successful organization. Potential employers must do a better job of providing opportunities to learn about the industry and the many directions a mortgage career can take.
Mortgage companies typically do a fantastic job of selling loans, but they tend to not sell the industry well enough to attract top talent. Collectively, there is a need to show both recent graduates and talent of varying generations across diverse demographics that this is a valued industry with lifelong career opportunities. It is imperative to recruit and train new mortgage professionals, and the many lenders and trade organizations who are connecting and developing the programs to do so should be applauded.
There are brilliant graduates with business and finance degrees, as well as working professionals in other fields, who may have never considered a career in the mortgage industry. Their skills and fresh perspectives are needed. Companies should focus on hiring and educating new talent, regardless of age, to strengthen the future of the industry and support the families who rely on the industry to help bring them home. ●