Mortgage lending is a unique business in many ways. As a loan originator, you’re often dealing with inexperienced clients who are making one of the most important decisions of their lives — and likely the most financially critical.
In other ways, loan origination is a career like many others, one that requires constant nurturing and growth. That can only occur when the individual loan originator makes a commitment to expand his or her knowledge and expertise. When that level of commitment is present, growth and advancement follow; however, lacking that dedication can halt a promising career in its tracks.
Originators young and old are guilty of negligence when it comes to gaining knowledge. Many seasoned originators are content and set in their ways, are not committed to finding new ways to get deals done, or are not keeping up with the many changes in products and processes that occur every year.
Younger employees can struggle with a desire for immediate gratification. That leads them to avoid the hard work of reading, researching and learning, in favor of quick fixes where they don’t truly learn to get better at their profession.
Plentiful and accessible
So, what does a healthy diet of learning in this business look like? The opportunities to gain knowledge are plentiful and easily accessible. How do you distinguish between the myriad of industry conferences, workshops, educational courses, webinars, magazines and manuals? What topics are worth your time, and which ones are beneficial, but not fundamental?
Far too often loan originators ignore learning about the basics of mortgage lending — how the various products work, understanding the complex web of rules and guidelines and how to leverage these to close more loans quickly. Instead, so many individuals are more concerned with learning about the latest in marketing or technology. While those may be more entertaining and engaging topics, if you aren’t up to date on the latest foundations of your business, you’re not making the best use of your time and education.
All loan originators should be committed to studying the products and programs they offer, and doing it well. Then (and only then) should they find new and effective ways of promoting, improving process and scaling. Remember that marketing and technology are simply tools. Without knowing every aspect of the product you’re selling, all the marketing and technology knowledge is wasted. No app or automated marketing tool can save an uninformed loan originator from disaster.
Broad and deep
Within the fundamental topics, your commitment to learning needs to be both broad and deep. Too many loan officers and even branch managers ignore so many great (and in many cases, free) avenues to learning, such as publications from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) and other trade groups; news briefs from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and announcements from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In an age where many clients have unprecedented knowledge about local real estate markets and data, it’s critical to have the latest information about your product. Who wants to hear from their borrower that Fannie Mae guidelines have changed? What does that say about your expertise? What does that say about your company? When so few originators have taken the time to properly educate themselves, is it any surprise that the mortgage and financial-services industries battle reputational problems?
One resource that goes underutilized is training opportunities provided by mortgage insurance companies. Many of them have the resources to offer training on everything from niche loan programs and how to use mortgage insurance, to different types of insurance and more.
Encourage and develop
A loan originator committed to his or her professional development can’t do this on their own, however. A successful mortgage company needs originators who are supported by management in their desire to improve, even beyond the required continuing-education courses.
Whether that means encouraging employees to attend relevant training and webinars, or providing mentoring/leadership opportunities, companies need to get behind their originators. Additionally, mentorship is a great way that successful leaders can show the next generation of originators the value of continual improvement through education.
If you’re a loan originator, you may be thinking to yourself that sitting in on an hour-long webinar from a trade association, or taking 30 minutes to read a bulletin from one of the government-sponsored enterprises isn’t worth your time. You’d be better off creating a snappy e-mail campaign, or an eye-catching social media post. Remember, though, that there are tangible rewards to pursuing education.
The more you know about the industry, the more you’ll know about successfully walking a borrower through a wide range of products, and the more loans you’ll close. This will increase your income, and your clients will be happier — and the happier you’ll be, too.
If you’re a manager or an employer in the mortgage industry, pay attention. With unemployment as low as it is, you can’t afford to miss out on easy ways to help retain your top talent. Encourage your employees to develop true expertise, and you’ll have a better chance to keep them as they blossom and build their business.
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To be a successful mortgage originator, you don’t need to be a world-class expert on Facebook or a graphic designer by trade. It does require you to be an avid learner who is committed to mastering the fundamentals of your products.
Think of your professional education as a home — if you focus on the granite countertops and chrome finishes before you plan and lay out a solid foundation and frame, you’ll be in trouble. Master the fundamentals, never stop learning and watch your career and opportunities flourish.