DESIGNING A CUSTOMER-FOR-LIFE PROGRAM

One successful LO describes his customer follow-up campaign.

Excluding real estate investors, most people will buy somewhere between four and eight homes in their lifetime. With a few refinances and maybe a lake, mountain or beach house thrown in, that may equate to six to 12 home loans over the course of a 40 to 50-year period of adulthood.

Most marketers will tell you that it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than find a new one, and that’s certainly true in the mortgage business. But mortgages are not like books, sodas, coffee or other products that people buy. In those cases, once you’ve gotten the customer to try your product and like it, habit alone may keep them coming back to you day after day. But people don’t buy homes very often. Even when you consider refinance loans, it can literally be years between the time you close a loan with a customer and when they need you again for a new purchase or refinance loan. With mortgage servicing sold so often, you can’t count on the monthly mortgage statement to remind the customer of your company’s name because your company may not be doing the servicing at the time your past customer starts thinking about needing you again.

The mortgage process can be complicated and most homebuyers know that a trusted advisor who gets the job done by building a comprehensive mortgage plan to match their overall housing and financial needs can be a great resource.

First Impressions
Building customers-for-life starts at the very beginning—creating that first impression as a great service provider. Our receptionists bake fresh cookies for our customers and once in my office, I offer them soda, water or coffee. These little things can help personalize the experience and cement you in your customer’s mind. Of course, the loan process itself and the closing must be smooth, so your company must have systems in place to make this happen. To back up HomeBanc’s promises of excellent service, our company offers an unconditional customer service guarantee. If after closing a customer is unhappy, we will refund their application fee. Less than one percent of our customers request this refund, but just having this guarantee is one more way I can distinguish my service experience from my competition and help create a brand impression that lasts past the closing table.

Ongoing Contact
So, you’ve made your customer welcome and you’ve closed their loan without a hitch, now it’s time to keep your name in front of them so they will keep coming back to you (and refer you to their family members and friends). During those intervening years, it’s important to keep your name in front of your past customers in a way that is effective, efficient and affordable without being too intrusive. Laws governing contact with past customers may vary by state. And the federal government also has things to say about direct mail, phone or e-mail solicitations. So in all the examples noted below, I’m assuming the customer has appropriately “opted in” to your communications with them. If you don’t know the federal and state laws governing customer contact, take the time to check those out so you don’t end up in any legal trouble.

Also, remember that you may not premium price your loans to recoup investments in marketing. If you’ve taken a customer to an event or made a donation in their name, you can’t quote them a different rate than you would quote a similar customer on whom you did not expend this marketing money. You don’t have to spend equal amounts of money on each customer, but you must give each customer equal pricing based on standard mortgage criteria. As you build your marketing plan, be sure to touch base with a lawyer or a mortgage banking association to make sure you stay on the right side of all RESPA, Fair Housing and other laws and regulations.

Use E-mail Sparingly
E-mail is a great and affordable way to keep in touch with your customers between loans. It costs nothing to send except the time it takes you to write it. With e-mail, I can affordably send important mortgage information, industry news, share mortgage and home financing tips, let past customers know about new mortgage products or just reach out from time to time to say hello (on a customer’s birthday, the anniversary of their closing or a holiday). All of these contacts will remind your customers of your name and company so you’ll be top of mind when they need a new loan. But be careful not to abuse this tool. Because it’s so inexpensive and easy, you might be tempted to bombard your customers with e-mailed information, hoping each time to create a brand impression. You’ll create an impression, but it won’t necessarily be the one you want. Customers across the board say they find junk e-mail just as offensive as junk mail. So use e-mail sparingly and only when you really have something important to say.

Snail Mail
Lots of people predicted the death of regular mail with the rise of e-mail. But traditional mailings can still provide an opportunity to touch base with customers in an efficient and genuine way. For my past customers, I send a variety of newsletters and postcards throughout the year to keep my name in front of them. These include an informational newsletter with mortgage tips, financial information and news related to housing and mortgages. This newsletter is branded with my name, company and contact information. I also send an occasional postcard mailer noting my contact information and reminding customers that I’m available to help them (or their family members or friends) with any home financing needs. I send personal “thank you” notes to customers for their business right after closing and if they’ve referred a family member or friend to me.

You can also send items like small calendars, sports schedules or important local contact information with your name and contact information on it in a business-card sized item or a magnet. These are items people tend to keep around for some time—they have a long shelf life—so they can be exceptionally good at keeping you and your contact information at the forefront of a customer’s mind when they need a new loan.

One unique item I send is a series of inspirational messages on CDs from HomeBanc’s Chief People Officer, Dr. Ike Reighard. Reighard is a nationally known speaker on work-life balance, workplace issues and living an extraordinary life. About once a quarter, he records a CD with a new inspiration message, which we make available to our own employees and to customers. Because Ike is so well known, many of my customers know he has this CD series and I will happily send copies to past customers or Realtors and builders I work with.

As with e-mail, use snail mail items sparingly. Monthly or quarterly mailings seem to be the most effective. Anything more often than that and you may start to seem like a nuisance. Again, with too-frequent mailings you’ll be creating an impression, but not one that is guaranteed to get you a customer-for-life.

Special Events
As customers come back to you time after time to do their loans, you’ll find some customers have moved up the economic food chain and are now buying very expensive homes. You should give all your customers the same level of service when working with them, regardless of the size of their loan. By law, you have to price the loans the same if the credit criteria are the same. But in marketing to these now higher-net-worth customers, you need to remember that it will take more effort to keep their attention because these people tend to be busier and have more marketing messages directed at them. By going above and beyond the regular mail/e-mail campaign with occasional special events, you can help keep your name in front of these busy, high-net-worth customers.

These special events might include inviting a group of customers to a concert or hosting a cocktail party or other gathering at an interesting location like a museum, art gallery, amusement park or local decorator show house. For example, we have invited a group of past customers to a well-known playhouse for refreshments and a performance. It’s another key successful way to show past customers that you want their long-term business.

Donations
The holidays are a great time to reach out to customers in a way that is more special than sending newsletters or branded items. Each year, I let my customers know in a holiday card that I’ve made a donation in their name to an Atlanta group called Children Have Rights in Society Homes (CHRIS), an organization for abandoned or abused children. In addition to my card noting that I’ve made this donation, the customer also receives a note from CHRIS acknowledging the donation on their behalf. Through this effort, I can touch my customers twice with my name and contact information but more importantly, help children in need and let my customers know about a great organization I believe in. It’s a win-win for everyone. If you do this, it’s important to pick an organization that won’t be offensive or controversial to some portion of your customer base. Charities involving children, local museums, local non-profit hospitals or other non-controversial groups may suit you better than picking a charity with a political or social agenda.

Monitor Your Efforts
All efforts at marketing and building customers-for-life will cost you money, time or sometimes both, neither of which you want to be spending if you’re not getting results. So it’s important to monitor your marketing results to make sure you’re investing wisely. This kind of monitoring doesn’t have to be expensive. For instance, I keep a database of past customers and note how many times they’ve come back to me. When I get a new customer, I ask how they heard of me. If they’ve been referred by a past customer, that’s proof that my customer retention marketing is working to keep my name and contact information top of mind with my past customers. I can also check my Web site hits and note if incoming phone calls spike after a mailing or e-mail campaign, which shows if my materials are getting through to my past customers and leading them to pick up the phone or visit my Web site. More sophisticated monitoring efforts could cost you much more than they’re worth, but a few simple things like those noted above can give you an idea if your efforts are working to develop customers-for-life.

Mortgage lending is still very much a relationship business. If you’ve done a great job for your customer, they will likely want to come back and do their next mortgages with you. But people are busy and have literally hundreds of marketing messages aimed at them every day. If years go by between a customer’s loan closing and their next house hunt or refinance, they may not remember your name, company name or how to find you when the time comes for a new loan. By marketing to your customers after the loan closing, you have a much better chance of building and keeping customers for life.

By Gary Welch

The “New” Management Challenges

Welcome to “déjà vu all over again.” Assuming you have management responsibilities within your organization, how are you accepting and handling the current market contraction? Stressed? Worried? Cutting staff? Scrutinizing overhead costs? “Woe is me” or “This too shall pass?” If you have ridden the learning curve of past market contractions, you have learned a few lessons. Hopefully you remember most of them. If you are relatively new to your management responsibilities and have not yet earned “war horse” status, your learning curve is rather steep. In an effort to rekindle war horse memories and decrease the pitch of the learning curve for newer managers, I offer the following management observations and suggestions:

Market Contraction Creates Greater Scrutiny
You suddenly are on an island. The “cover” provided by unheard of volume suddenly disappears when things slow down. Increased visibility means the “you will be held accountable” mantra is no longer empty rhetoric. Not that you haven’t been accountable in the past, mind you, but a new level of accountability will now be applied. Get ready for it. In fact, if you are smart you’ll get ahead of it. Become more proactive in a time of change, not reactive. For major brokers, “cost containment” is a by-product of greater scrutiny. Although you cannot “cost contain” to profitability, you can be sure that someone is closely watching the bottom line. Greater visibility today means you must manage and lead differently tomorrow.

The next time you have the chance to address your team, you may consider asking the following question: “What do you think you may have to change given the current market contraction we are now experiencing?” If the response is “I don’t think I need to change anything,” you may contemplate the value this employee brings to the team, because they are clueless. If, on the other hand, a few members of your team respond with: “I think I need to get back to basics more than I have” or “I need to change my marketing strategy” or any number of responses, you will know you have a team member worth keeping. The key, as an effective manager, is to create the environment in which this discussion can take place. Your management skills will be enhanced by allowing your brokers and operations team to self-determine the actions they believe will be necessary. Greater scrutiny therefore need not be limited to hierchy or third-party pressure—it is actually more effective if it is the result of “self-discovery.”

Get Out Your Chair and Whip
Greater scrutiny brings many difficult characters out of hiding. When suddenly confronted for applying yesterday’s business approach to a new reality, many people become a caged lion. This behavior will severely tax your management skills. If a group of caged lions is not a management challenge, what would happen if you added a bunch of “territorial protectionists” to the mix? The reactive behavior caused by myopic tunnel vision creates a leadership challenge in which a chair and whip may prove to be useful.

When markets negatively impact performance levels, aggressive personalities usually respond with aggression. They no longer become “team players.” Their only concern becomes their own hide, even if it is at the expense of the entire organization. This seems to be a “CLM” (Career Limiting Move) but it is amazing how evident this behavior can be. Part of the “caged lion reaction” can be attributed to how credit is allocated. Who gets credit for what can be a driving factor in dealing with difficult behavior. The ideal is that it should not matter; if the entire organization benefits why should it matter? People who “cut off their nose to spite their face” do not have a long-term view of weathering the storm together.

You may consider pointing out to your charges that they are either a help or a hindrance. There is no middle ground here. You are either helping to grow the company or you are doing whatever you can, either deliberately or unintentionally, to undermine the success of the company. When things get tough it is imperative that as a manager, you get tough as well. The chair and whip therefore becomes an appropriate visual.

The $64,000 Question
If you are old enough to remember this TV show, you’ll remember that contestants were asked difficult questions about any number of topics. When markets turn, greater scrutiny requires asking difficult management questions, both of yourself and the team you manage. Here are my favorite “Top Five.”

  1. “How am I doing and how can I get better?” This question should be asked by all brokers of their clients and existing referral base. As a manager, you need to ask it of your team. Only by asking will you determine the validity of the statement: “Fact doesn’t matter, perception does”
  2. “How can I change our collective mind set for more proactive marketing activity?”
  3. “How will I change my team meetings to reflect how we go after business in a changing market?”
  4. “As a broker, are you maximizing the investment you have made in your past borrowers? If not, what will you need to change to do so?”
  5. “What can you do internally to increase the spectrum of business volume?”

Measure the Proper Metrics
Will a change in the market change what you measure? How about how you track what you do measure? I strongly suggest you re-evaluate your performance metrics. Are you measuring and tracking what you should be today? Greater visibility requires assessing and monitoring the performance of your team. The question you must ask is: “Am I measuring and monitoring the metrics necessary to drive the behavior my team will need to weather the storm of a slowing market?” When high volume clouds the picture, the metrics being applied are seldom questioned. In addition, we also have a tendency to fall into a rut of monthly reports, endlessly reviewed in the same manner. As such, some of this “rut review” ceases to have meaning because our senses are numbed by sameness.

As an effective manager, you must be sure that you are rewarding the appropriate behavior. Changed results require changed behavior. If you change what you are measuring (what gets measured gets done), you will change the overall performance. For example, if you want to drive volume, don’t measure just volume. Measure the criteria that will get you there. Examples include:

  1. Average time application to submission
  2. Average time application to closing
  3. Number of past clients contacted per week
  4. Number of times you have asked for referrals
  5. Number of outside presentations you have made
  6. Number of new business sources per quarter
  7. Number of pre-quals per week

Managers today must reconsider the value of what they are measuring. Volume is an after-the-fact measurement. Get ahead of the curve by measuring the behavior that will ultimately drive volume. Don’t wait for volume to drop and then yell and scream that the sky is falling.

A wise sage once said “We don’t go through life, we grow through life.” He meant that we should learn from our past experiences. For those managers who have been in this business for over 10 years, you realize we live in a cyclical world. Markets ebb and flow as certain as the tides. It is incumbent upon today’s managers to recognize the hazards a changing market creates. Greater scrutiny requires greater manager vigilance and an ability to effectively deal with those suffering from “we’ve never done it that way before” syndrome. By asking the right questions and measuring the appropriate metrics, you will make your management job a lot easier.

by Bill Evans

Superstar Secrets

There are many secrets to becoming a top producer, including a number of strategic systems and other elements that superstars use to reach the highest levels of origination. The following comments highlight the business secrets from several of the nation’s top producing originators.

“The primary reason I have been able to grow my business over the years has been the laser focus on developing, maintaining, and marketing to my database of closed loan clients. As the market has shifted from Realtors controlling 65 percent of the purchase business, to the present number of 25 percent, I have been able to maintain a high production level because of constant contact with the database. We touch our client database a minimum of 15 times a year through postcards, newsletters, annual reviews and phone calls. This system buys our clients “brain cells” so whenever they have a mortgage need, they will think of us. On average 70 percent of my production will come directly from my closed loan clients. Approximately 15 percent of my database will either personally close a loan with me in any given year, or refer me a closed loan in that year creating an annuity business. If I am marketing to 2,000 people, I should be able to close 300 loans a year by doing nothing but staying in contact with my database.”

David Jaffe
Chase Manhattan Mortgage
Westlake Village, Calif.

_________________________

“All successful LOs know how to uncover their customer’s goals before giving advice, but the super producer needs to take it a few steps further in order to maximize their referral stream. I call this step determining the customer’s center of influence. I first determine who referred the client, and that provides a context for me. From there I ask about their profession, their affiliations with civic organizations, how long they have lived in the community and other questions to determine the breadth and nature of their influence among others. This helps me identify ‘super referral’ sources. We provide extra value to these folks. It may be referrals back to them, if we are in a position to generate referrals. If not, we make sure that our super referral sources always receive special attention as VIP clients.”

Jeff Lake
American Home Mortgage
Mt. Prospect, Ill.

_________________________

“It’s hard to name one specific ‘secret’ to define success in the ever-changing mortgage industry. Over the years, the importance of recruiting and teaching individuals who are able to function as a team has become more and more important. Players on my team are all superstars in the positions they fulfill. They are positive thinkers and doers. They are loyal to me and to each individual team member.
“Each team member shares my philosophy of ‘under promising and over delivering’ and they never miss an opportunity to spread this philosophy throughout the Realtor community. I share in the pride the team members experience with the close of every loan, no matter the difficulty or ease involved in assisting our clients with their mortgage needs. I feel very fortunate to have such a group of individuals who work with and beside me.”

Jon D. Volpe
Nova Home Loans
Tucson, Ariz.

_________________________

“In building a career as a mortgage originator—or in any other career for that matter—the key is to remember the end game. As one builds their business, you have to always keep the final goal in sight. I have always operated under two basic guidelines; one that you are only as good as your last mortgage and secondly that many smaller pieces of pie will add up to more pies. This means treat each borrower as your most important one no matter how small or large the deal is, a satisfied customer is your best referral source and there is no cost to good will. Second, no matter what put your best offer on the table first, even if it means working for less than you would like to. Especially in today’s tighter market with savvy borrowers, the best first offer is generally the one that gets the deal and a slightly lesser fee is much better than no fee at all. To sum it up do what you have to get as many deals as you can and know that they will help to create a foundation that will keep the business coming in the door; good market or bad. The key is to build a base of satisfied clients who will become your ongoing source of business. Remember, our clients either move, trade up, trade down or refi. If you do a great job with them the first time, you are sure to have them as customers for life.”

Melissa Cohn
The Manhattan Mortgage Company
New York, N.Y.

_________________________

“Unlimited energy, enthusiasm, intense drive and a genuine passion for the mortgage business—these are the ingredients for a superstar loan officer. I have consistently been one of the company’s top producers and ranked among the top loan originators nationwide. So what’s the secret to being a top performer year in and year out? A few superstar tips:

  1. Maintain a Database—I learned this very early on. Start with a program like ACT and keep track of as many parties to a transaction as you can. In a purchase transaction, your contacts should include the buyer and seller as well as both the listing and selling agents. I try and add 150 names to my database each year and take out 150 names each year. If you haven’t heard from someone in the past 24 months, chances are you can delete them from your database.
  2. Direct Marketing—I market at least six times a year to people who know me from my database. My marketing materials have a consistent look and feel; the only thing that changes is the message. By having your name in front of your clients on a consistent basis, you are always kept in the client’s presence. Whether or not they have a need for mortgage services, they will have you in mind when the right time comes.
  3. Saying Thanks—I always send a thank-you gift or note at the close of every transaction. It sounds corny and takes time as well as money, but I believe it is really worth the expense. It helps you stand out from the other loan officers and clients truly appreciate it.
  4. Honesty and Responsibility—I take full responsibility for every part of the mortgage process. Being responsible also means being accessible. My clients all know they can always reach me anytime, weekdays or weekends. At the end of the day, the client remembers you and the how smooth the process was, so it’s important to assume full responsibility. If there’s a problem or an issue, be honest and upfront about it with everyone involved. No one likes surprises in this business.”

Janna Kohl
First Financial
Los Angeles, Calif.

_________________________

“Clients don’t want a mortgage, they want money. The sooner you realize that your product is money, the easier it is to transition from a salesperson to a Mortgage Planner. A Trusted Advisor, who can monitor the market, builds relationships that create wealth for their clients and take rate out of the equation. A scripted and trained mortgage planner never sells; they teach, coach and assist their clients and referral partners.

This has helped me grow my business in hot and cool markets over the past 20+ years. I am confident that I am the best qualified professional in my market to help my clients manage their mortgage as a financial tool as well as offer market advice. I think the best mortgage professionals push themselves to gain the knowledge and training that helps them feel that they are the most educated and qualified mortgage planner in their market. It isn’t a secret, but most fail to do so.”

Barry Habib
Mortgage Market Guide
Holmdel, N.J.

_________________________

“I strongly believe in the importance of turning all of your past clients into clients for life. However, many people simply mail or market to their clients for life throughout the year. This is what I call a customer retention strategy. In this market, it is critical to adopt a customer engagement strategy. One of the engaging strategies I have developed for my clients for life is a “Family Day at the Movies.” Each year during the winter holiday season my team buys out a movie theater and invites all of our clients to bring their families to see that year’s winter-themed family movie. Each year, as a team we discuss the movies available, determine a date and make arrangements with a local movie theater. We then mail out an invitation to all of our clients for life, informing them of the event and ask that they RSVP to our office. For our VIP and Raving Fan clients we make personal phone calls inviting them to join us for the movie. Of our database of nearly 1500 clients, we usually fill the event with 400 – 450 people in attendance. After the event, it is essential for everyone on my team to make outbound phone calls to their clients to further engage in that relationship. We have been hosting this event for eight years and have experienced great success in cementing relationships with our past clients. We truly believe in targeting relationships, this is just one of the many strategies we use to continue targeting and building relationships.”

Tom Bass
Targeting Relationships Inc.
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

_________________________

“The basics of making a personal connection with our clients are the veritable foundation for which the entire relationship will be built. These relationships are key to the longevity and fruitfulness of this customer. I truly believe that the stronger the connection I have with the client, the more referrals I am likely to see during the course of our relationship.

During the initial phase of meeting someone new (either in person or over the phone), I look for areas in which I can connect with this person without being gratuitous or over-the-top—what people do we have in common, what interests do we share, where are they from originally, and such. For example, if their Social Security number starts with a ‘0’, I know that they are probably from the East coast. If it starts with a ‘5’ I know that the Northwest is (or was at some point) their home. Every now and then a client’s accent will provide the necessary ice-breaker for me to connect with the person on a level deeper than the standard ‘what interest rate I am able to offer that particular day.’

I truly believe that the more of your personality you are able to inject into the process, the more probable this new ‘prospect’ is likely to become a long-term ‘referring client’. Often times I find ways to weave elements of my personality – for example, my love of classical music – into my conversations with the client. I try to be very intuitive as to the areas in which I feel the client and I are connecting then I exploit this connection to establish long-term rapport.

In a time in our business when we have enough software and outsourcing to never actually have to get out of bed in the morning, I find it refreshing to come back to the basics of success and the prolific impact of a handwritten thank you note.”

Matt Elerding
Chase Home Finance
Vancouver, Wash.

_________________________

“My mom was a Realtor, so I grew up among them and learned first-hand that it was poor communication from their lenders that frustrated them to no end. I learned that they chose to do business with those loan originators who did a good job of keeping them informed. So, I decided early on to make “Communication the Lubrication in my Mortgage Operation.” I designed my ACTion Marketing system as a step-by-step method to communicate with the listing agent and selling agent from the initiation of my contact with their referred client, at 12 key points during the loan process, followed by an announcement of our loan approval, culminating with a copy of their referred client’s closing survey. I announced my successes on every transaction. This aggressive system of communicating was unique when I began my mortgage practice in 1985 and remains so today. My team and I separate ourselves from our competition every month, by providing exceptional communication at every step of the loan process. As a result, our business is over 90 percent Realtor referred, purchase business. I just finished reading client and Realtor surveys on 46 recent closings. Almost every one of them had a penned notation that mentioned their appreciation for our professional communication.”

Greg Frost
Frost Mortgage Banking Group
Albuquerque, N.M.

Scanners: Image or Text?

Dear Thor,
What is the difference between an image scanner and a text scanner?

An image scanner allows you to scan a document and read it later, but you can’t edit it. On the other hand, if your saved file is a text document, then you can change it. Even more important, you can do a word search. Let’s say you have all your files stored the traditional way. A prior client wants you to pull his note and see if there is a prepayment penalty. If you have your closed loans stored as text documents, then you can do a search for the client’s name and scan his note electronically, instead of going to the storage bin and looking through boxes.

Much the same as a copy machine, the more you are willing to spend, the more speed and flexibility you get. An example of the super high speed is the Kodak i840 that lists for over $50,000. For something mid range, you can get a text scanner for about $800. This would be a commercial rated flatbed scanner, versus the handheld pen style word scanners that sell for about $50. You can also buy software that can convert a saved image file to a text file for $100 to $200 dollars. This software is analogous to speech recognition software that converts voice to text.

__________

Dear Thor,
What is open-source software?

You might think of open-source software as the next generation of freeware. It is free in the sense that not only the software itself, but also the source code that makes the software tick is openly available. This means that not only can you get a free copy of the software, but you can take the existing source code and build on it before passing it on to other users. Because everybody in the world has access to the code and the ability to expand and refine it, even if you’re not a programmer yourself, the software is destined to constantly improve. The software can be downloadable to operate on a computer or it can be an online program.

The open source model is proven to work: it spawned the operating system now called Linux. Another great example of how open-source software works is Wikipedia, the Internet-based encyclopedia. There are rules and procedures to follow, but anyone can add new information to the program. Or, when using the knowledge source, if you see something that is inaccurate or obsolete, you can edit or update the data. Not only does it keep growing, but it keeps getting better. And like open-source software, you’re free to copy and distribute Wikipedia articles if you include a copy of the license.

Much open source software available today is a workable alternative to expensive software. A prime example is the OpenOffice.org office suite. It has programs very similar to those in Microsoft Office. For instance, OpenOffice.org Writer is a word processing program and would be a counterpart to Microsoft Word. While they are similar, Writer has one distinct advantage: it can save documents in the Microsoft Word “.doc” format and in a generic format called OpenDocument. Word documents, on the other hand, can be saved only in the “.doc” file format, which might not be readable without a copy of Word. Other open source software programs available are Mozilla Firefox, which is a Web browser like Internet Explorer, and the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), which can replace Adobe Photoshop.

__________

Dear Thor,
Why does my computer sometimes reboot itself?

If your computer is working normally, there are only two reasons for a reboot. One is when you initiate the reboot. This can be for several reasons. Some software installations require a reboot and part of the install routine will offer an option to reboot. This can be automatic if you have opted for automatic updates from Microsoft.

You might reboot simply because want to refresh your RAM (random access memory) by closing out partially running programs. Sometimes a program design flaw will cause what’s called a “memory leak,” where a program claims some of your computer’s memory for itself and then doesn’t give it back after it’s closed. Rebooting resets your memory, fixing the “leak.” Or, there could be a time when your computer freezes and a reboot is required. If it is so jammed that a normal restart won’t work, try holding down the on/off button.

The second reason for a reboot could be a result of a setting in your Control Panel that will automatically reboot your system any time your computer encounters an error. This is not a default setting and if it is turned on, I would turn it back off. Go to System, then Advanced. In the Startup and Recovery Settings you will see an option for Automatically Restart in the Recovery Settings. If it is checked, try deselecting it.

Superstar of the Month – Preet Kalirai

M.O.M.— How did you get started?
Kalirai—I began as a teller at Security Pacific Bank right after high school. I was there (which became Bank of America) for 9 ½ years, eventually working as assistant manager, underwriter and loan officer. I was recruited by my mentor Sean Safholm to Countrywide.

M.O.M.—What was your initial marketing activity as an originator?
Kalirai—I was working at a small branch and started calling on existing clients. I introduced myself and explained the types of services and products we offered. Of course, some of them needed attention—a refinance or other loan. Once I got an initial customer, the referrals came. I’ve never really made cold calls.

M.O.M.How did you get started with CalPERS?
Kalirai—CalPERS is a financing program designed for members of the California Public Employees Retirement System. CalPERS (offers special interest rate and closing cost advantages. I got involved about four years ago when I got a call from a state employee. I currently handle CalPERS-based loans in California, Oregon, Arizona, Washington, Nevada and Hawaii. This accounts for about 20 percent of my total production.

M.O.M.—How did you market to these clients?
Kalirai—It started with referrals, with one state employee referring another to me. CalPERS has a number of loan officers throughout the state, but they rely on a few of us more than others. Once you close a certain number of loans with them, they put you into their lead program, whereby they will send you leads that come in when state employees call for more information. I’m also listed on the CalPERS Web site, which leads to a number of calls.

I have a billboard in downtown Sacramento, the site of many state government buildings. The billboard has my picture and the CalPERS logo, along with contact information. I’ve had good success with that. In addition, a couple of times a year I send my customer/contact list a flier that highlights the benefits of a CalPERS loan.

Much of the CalPERS business is now referral-based, as one employee tells another about the program. CalPERS monitors the lead to conversion rate very closely, so it’s important that I close as many of these loans as possible.

M.O.M.—What do you recommend to orginators in other markets?
Kalirai—I believe that many markets have something resembling CalPERS. You need to evaluate your state and local programs and get to know the guidelines. Introduce yourself to the contacts and explain why your expertise and customer service approach will benefit employees. Once you get a loan or two from a state or county employee, you should begin seeing a steady stream of referrals. Of course, you can also advertise this specialty on your Web site, fliers and other marketing materials.

M.O.M.—What other marketing have you done?
Kalirai—I’ve had a small ad in Sacramento Magazine, which is aimed at businesses in the area. I actually got more calls from past customers telling me they saw it and asking for help with a loan, than from businesses.

M.O.M.—How do you stay in touch with past customers?
Kalirai—I send something to them almost every month. This includes, thank-you notes, holiday cards, seasonal cards, and tax season postcards. These are simple mailers, but help to ensure that my customers don’t forget me.

M.O.M.—How often do you ask for referrals?
Kalirai—I ask for referrals every time I speak to a customer or other contact. Even during the application process, when I’m explaining the various deadlines and other information, I will say “Please share my name and number with anyone you know who might need my assistance.” This works better than mailing postcards or newsletters.

M.O.M.—Do you have a specific niche market?
Kalirai—In addition to state employees, we also assist Spanish speaking and Indian customers. I speak Punjabi and Hindi and one of my assistants speaks Spanish. Just having one of us use their language makes them more comfortable, even though most of them speak English as well. We also offer the 1003 in Spanish.

M.O.M.—How does your Web site benefit your success?
Kalirai—My Web site notes that I specialize in CalPERS loans. It has links that give my clients the opportunity to fill out an application and fax or e-mail it to us. My site also breaks down a few financing options for our clients. They seem to appreciate the Web site because it gives them a more hands-on approach to the loan transaction. I always inform clients that they can visit my Web site and read more about the process.

M.O.M.—What is key to customer service?
Kalirai—My perspective is that it’s always what’s best for the customer. We strive to have the best customer service experience possible throughout the whole loan process. For those people who do visit the office, we have a very friendly atmosphere so clients feel comfortable. On the phone, we always thank customers for taking the time to talk with us or to gather their documents.

Throughout the process my team is in contact with customers to inform them of their loan status. That way we don’t have clients calling to ask about the status. They always have a good understanding of what’s going on and when they’re going to close.

M.O.M.—Who is on your support team?
Kalirai—I couldn’t do this without them. My two assistants are Craig Clegg and Kameka Grant. They are my right and left hands; responsible for a variety of different areas.

M.O.M.—What process do you have to handle the volume?
Kalirai—It’s fairly simple, but effective. After I first talk to the client, I pass the introductory information to one of my assistants and they complete the application. (I’ll take about 80 percent of the apps.) They pull the credit report and complete the 1003 and give that to me so that I can review it and the loan recommendation with our customer. Then I’ll give it back to one of them to complete the file for submission to our underwriter.

M.O.M.—What do you consider a key characteristic of superstar originators?
Kalirai—You have to take extra steps to impress your customers. I like to make every person feel special. When a client calls me, I still stop what I’m doing and take the application on the spot. I don’t transfer them to assistants or act like I am too busy to talk with them. If I’m driving, I will even pull my car over and take an application on the side of the road. Whatever it takes.

M.O.M.—How do you balance work with your personal life?
Kalirai—During the last few years it was difficult to have a balance. However, lately I have been scheduling more time for my family and personal life. I take more vacations and make sure to spend time watching my children’s activities. Balance is good.

Rookie Superstar – Paul Cargal

Favorite Book:
“How to Master Your Time,” by Brian Tracy

“My first loan couldn’t have been more than $200,000,” recalls Paul Cargal, 26-year-old loan officer/mortgage consultant with Metro Broker’s Financial, Atlanta, Ga., “But completing it was definitely nerve wracking because I wanted to make sure every little thing was done perfectly. I knew my performance would leave an important first impression.” A perfectionist by nature, Cargal sets lofty aspirations and says his main goal for his second year was to increase business by “providing one of the highest levels of service known in the industry.”

His ambition has certainly paid off in his second year, Cargal’s personal loan volume reached $27,000,000 with 210 closed loans. “He is one of our star originators and is very dedicated to his customers and to constantly finding ways to work smarter and help more people get into a home of their own,” remarked Judy Jones, vice president of Metro Brokers Financial.

Growing up in what he calls a “real estate family,” Cargal has always been interested in the industry but admits he wasn’t sure if he would ever make a career out of it. However, after graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in Business Management, Cargal landed a job as a pricing coordinator in the Secondary Marketing department at Banc Mortgage. The experience was invaluable to Cargal as a new originator and taught him a great deal about different product options and pricing out loans. “I ended up liking the mortgage business so much that I decided I wanted to try to become a loan officer myself,” says Cargal.

The opportunity came when Cargal’s father, a local real estate agent, introduced him to Lloyd Carver of Metro Broker’s Financial, one of the most successful loan officers in his state. The meeting evolved into a fruitful relationship as Cargal trained for eight months as his junior loan officer. “It’s important to have a mentor and I learned a lot from him [Carver],” said Cargal. “He taught me what programs to place borrowers in, how to market myself to agents and lend loans by beating other lender’s prices.”

Of his rookie year Cargal reflects back and says, “There is not one most memorable loan that I can remember in my rookie year. Anytime I can obtain a loan for a buyer who was previously denied a loan by other lenders is memorable. Meeting any buyer’s need for a loan is also memorable.” Today, the breakdown of his business consists of approximately 40 percent new construction, 40 percent re-sales, 15 percent investor and five percent refinances. However, Cargal is quick to mention that he does not market himself to any one group of customers. “My specialty is whatever matches my customer’s portfolio, whether that is an FHA/VA, Jumbo, First-Time Homebuyer, Sub-prime, C/P or investor loan,” he remarked.

Since his training with Carver, Cargal has gone on to originate for three of Metro Broker’s offices in Georgia—located in the cities of Buckhead, Stockbridge and Peachtree City. “It was difficult at first to manage my time between all three offices,” admits Cargal, “since I obviously can’t be in all three locations at once. But once I got all of the agents on a routine, letting them know what days I would be in each office and making myself readily available on the phone, it became a lot easier.”

Along with spreading his time evenly between three offices throughout his typical 50-hour work week, Cargal also helped his business grow by implementing a few of his own marketing strategies, the first of which includes speaking in front of agent caravan meetings. “I’ll speak about different loan programs at these events,” said Cargal. At the meetings Cargal also hands out V.I.P. gift certificates for a free appraisal or to Home Depot and says he garners a good response from this. Besides public speaking, Cargal also kept his name visible throughout his second year as an originator by sending out fliers for new listings/re-sales and calling agents/builders to see if there was anything he could do for them. “I currently also send out annual mailers to my past clients and letters with pre-qualification forms attached to them. Out of 200 solicitations I receive anywhere from two to three responses.”  

Cargal credits his success to hard work, persistence, having a great processor and assistant and most importantly, the agents that put their trust in Cargal by giving him the opportunity to do business with them. He leaves the following advice for new originators. “Probably the most important thing I learned is better methods for moving loans through the loan process, for faster closings without delays,” commented Cargal. “These methods include quickly returning calls and getting pre-approvals as fast as possible to ensure nothing goes wrong.”

Processors Discuss Best Work Strategies

This month M.O.M. asked five originators to share their strategies for creating an effective originator/processor relationship.

I believe creating an effective originator/processor relationship requires three things: excellent communication, a pre-established process that keeps both parties accountable for their tasks and giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Excellent communication comes in many forms, from a set-up page outlining the file in summary to catch any nuances that may not be obvious; to calling the borrower to introduce yourself, review expectations and program; and a call or short meeting with the LO to ensure accuracy and confirm assumptions.

With a pre-established process, the file is put together the same way every time, the LO is expected to provide this file as complete as possible. Processing steps have a timeline associated with it, and in the event the LO must step in, a timeline is established to ensure the loan closes on time and accurately. Giving each other the benefit of the doubt is also important. Processors don’t dawdle to make the LO look bad, they are hustling at every moment of the day to keep things on schedule and on time. Loan officers don’t give a “pile of poop” to processors if they are lazy or they don’t know what they are doing. If both sides give each other the benefit of the doubt, it goes a long way to a good working relationship.

Crystal Holler
The Allen Mortgage & Real Estate Group
Minnetonka, Minn.
___________________________________________________

The system that I have implemented and designed with my originator is I believe the only way to run our business of $100 million annual production. The originator is the life blood of the system and it is my job to ensure that we always exceed the expectations of our clients. I need to shelter him from all the trivialities that can bog him down and prevent him from taking on additional business and offering enhanced customer service. When he has taken the application and suggested where we place the loan, his part is done. I facilitate all the communication with the borrower for imformation, appraisal, title, payoff work, locking the loan, shopping for the best product and such. I have to work the hours necessary to ensure we get our loan docs to title five to eight days early. That’s how we impress our Realtor partners. We communicate constantly using proprietary software to ensure no one is out of the loop including the listing agent and that we rarely have any last minute surprises. We were blessed to do the volume of purchases we did last year with my LO, his assistant and myself.

Mutual respect, hard work and dedication lead to all great things. A processor must be willing to accept any challenge. You have work until it is all done; there are no set hours, no five o’clock punch out.

Ryan McDonough
Security Mortgage Corporation
Scottsdale, Ariz.
_________________________________________________________

It seems like a simple concept, but in a busy office communication is the most effective strategy. When I began processing for my current loan officer, I approached her and made an appointment to discuss our working relationship. I process for four other LOs as well and each has different expectations. So openly discussing her expectations and how we could build a system that would work for each of us was key. Luckily, trial and error are great things! Over time we have discovered what works and what doesn’t.

The one factor that remained true in each and every loan that was originated and processed was communication. We speak daily and are constantly e-mailing or voice mailing one another. Even though we are both busy, we take the time to return calls and e-mails promptly. Over time we have developed our relationship to be a “team.” Agents have seemed to notice this teamwork and like what they see. Not only do they send us their clients, but have become ours as well. We have many agents that utilize us for their own personal loans, which is a true compliment to how she and I have built a working relationship!

Leslie Champion
B.F. Saul Mortgage Company
Newport News, Va.
__________________________________________________________

I think the most important factor in the relationship between an originator and their processor is teamwork. Both have to want to achieve the same goal and do what it takes to get there. If you have one without the other, it does not work as well as it would if both were on the same page. By working as a team, the process will be more streamlined and there will be less room for oversights. A level of comfort between the two also helps, knowing both sides can depend on one another to be responsible for certain tasks. The processor will need to take a more proactive role than maybe they have before and accept a few more responsibilities in their daily role, but the end result will be what both sides want, which is better productivity and closed loans.

Jennifer Taisey
Chase Home Finance
Vancouver, Wash.

The EMortgage Transition

Major effort coordination will soon result in eMortgage transactions as the industry’s normal operating process. An eMortgage is done with as little paper as possible, ideally none at all. This requires major technology coordination, but many changes have already been put in place. The eMortgage is a growing and viable loan transaction method. Fannie Mae announced purchasing its 1,000th eMortgage.

When you can originate a loan, process a loan, underwrite a loan, and do all the other needed steps to market, record, ship, insure and store mortgage instruments without transferring paper from one place to another, the eMortgage will be upon you. Many hundreds have already been done. The eMortgage is no longer hung up on “if” questions. The only remaining question is “when?”

You can find critical technical information on the Internet at www.mismo.org. The eMortgage technical specifications and implementation guides provide a framework for implementing paperless mortgages with electronic signatures.  They provide links to all of the documents and work products of the MISMO eMortgage Workgroup, including:

  • SMART Doc(TM) Implementation Guide
  • SMART Doc(TM) Specification, DTDs and supporting information
  • ePackaging DTD, Specification and Implementation Guide
  • eMessaging DTD and Implementation Guide
  • Background information on eRecording, eMortgage Vaulting and the National eNote Registry concept (now the MERS eRegistry).

You may not be the technical wizard of your company, but you still need to read the eMortgage Guide final document for version 2.0. In fact, if you intend to remain in the mortgage origination business, you must read this 96 page document. It is available free as a PDF download from the above site. What will you learn?

You will discover what an eMortgage really is. You will learn what is involved with this process and will discover the benefits and cost savings you should expect to flow from the eMortgage process, all important points. As the eMortgage becomes the industry standard, you and your company must adapt to these changes or you will need to find a new career. How close is this transition? Best estimate is more than a few months, but not many more years. Adapting your technology, your work flow, staffing requirements and all the rest of the changes needed for an eMortgage environment will require time. It is not too late to do the needed planning, but it is getting late to start your planning if you are still just doing business as usual.

Page 7 of the eMortgage Guide identifies many of the expected benefits that will flow from using this technology. These include significant reductions in cycle time for all processes, increased data integrity, cost savings for system integration and increased value of eMortgage assets. Opportunities exist in many areas such as compliance, disclosure, closing, delivery, recording and servicing.

The current legal framework surrounding mortgage transactions must also evolve, and already has in many areas including passage of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN). The details of these laws and the requirements to be met therein require review by your legal staff. However, understanding and correctly implementing these laws with your eMortgage process is absolutely critical.

Another important area is notarization of documents. While the foregoing acts each address this issue, the laws of each state currently set the regulations for notarization. These will need to be modified to enable electronic notary services. Many states are already working on the needed changes; however, enabling legislation will require some time to complete. You need to determine the situation in each state where you conduct business. Additional information can be found through state and national notary associations.

eRecording is another area with conflicting positions between federal and state laws. At present, you need to clarify the rules in your county and state as to whether eDocuments are eligible for recording. This is another area of change as the various states and counties move to enact appropriate legal support for the process. Legislation in the form of the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act (URPERA), has already been adopted by some states, and provides for recording of electronic documents as originals and eliminates the need for a physical or visual image of the notary’s seal.

The American Land Title Association (ALTA) has a 16-page draft of a new loan policy available. The draft contains a number of references to electronic loan obligations designed to emphasize coverage that already exists in the current ALTA policy. Obviously title insurance is a critical part of every mortgage transaction. Therefore, you must become familiar with these requirements to ensure you will have the protection you need for each eLoan.

Consumer disclosure delivery via electronic means is also subject to regulation. You must obtain prior consumer consent to receive such disclosures. Also, some notices are not eligible for electronic delivery such as any notice of acceleration, repossession, foreclosure, eviction or right to cure relating to a credit contract secured by the consumer’s primary residence. The general laws concerning disclosure requirements are included with Regulation B and Regulation Z and in advisory letters from the Comptroller of the Currency. You will find more details beginning on page 17 of the eMortgage Guide.

Once clear of the legal hurdle sections, you get to the structure concepts of eMortgages. Standards for SMART™ documents are important to understand; not the technical aspects for managers and production staff, but the concepts. SMART is the acronym for Securable, Manageable, Archivable, Retrievable and Transferable electronic documents. In general, the document contains information describing the document, a visual representation of the document, data embedded in the document, transparent linking of the data and visual representation, electronic signatures in the document, tamper-evident security in the document and an audit trail of changes in the document. These are features not available with paper documents as there is no way to know or discover skillful changes to paper documents. In this instance, a SMART document provides superior security for each transaction.

The eMortgage guide starts with a high level overview of the general process. It then provides greater detail about specific critical topics necessary with the eMortgage concept, such as eDocs, eSignatures, ePackages, eRegistry, eDoc Delivery and the Electronic Vault. Section six reviews information concerning eDisclosure, eCredit Reports, eAppraisal and much more.

Like it or not, the eMortgage process is descending upon you. Your choice is to be prepared to adapt to these changes or to be crushed by them. What is absolutely certain is that the business is changing again. The benefits in time saved, superior service, superior transaction security, fraud defense and general efficiencies will drive these changes. Change is not new but constant. Be ready for it or join the dinosaurs.

By Bruce Forge

All I Want For Christmas

The Wish List Of Lending Professionals

‘Tis the season to be wary. It’s easy this time of year for things to fall through the cracks. While true that some things do slow down a bit in December, it is also true that the month-end is upon you faster than you can say, “Can I return this if she/he doesn’t like it?” It’s a time to celebrate the season with family and friends, but it’s also the time we take our collective eye off the ball until after the New Year.

So this year, when you ponder deeply about the things you would like to have for Christmas, consider some things that might not normally appear on your list. Sure, you probably want a zippier car and a sexier physique, but we at M.O.M. can only do so much. Something we can do is think a little more globally and strategically than you might be thinking at this time of the year, with all the distractions you are dealing with for the holidays. Here are five things that are probably on your wish list, even if you haven’t had a lot of time to think of them:

  • Have another big refinance market.
  • Be more efficient and reduce expenses.
  • Find profitable new products.
  • Have better relationships with lenders.
  • Attract and retain top talent.

These are all good things, but how realistic are they? Looking at them individually, we have good news to report – they are all achievable, if to varying degrees. Better yet, none of them will break your Christmas Club account (if anyone remembers those.)

Have another big refinance market. It may be on the way, at least to an extent. Projected adjustments represent as much as 40 percent in payment increases, which economists have cited as a chief indicator of an economic slowdown ahead. Consumers can’t spend what they are paying lenders to keep their first mortgages current. But it’s about the bond market, after all, and the bond market has been kind, lowering the yield on the 10-year Treasuries, in turn reducing the 30-year fixed-rates more than a half a point since summer. And a number of experts feel that we haven’t seen the bottom of the market yet. Back in September, the MBA saw an almost 10 percent increase in refinances and it’s a trend that should continue.

Jim Jubak, senior markets editor for MSN Money, said on TheStreet.com, “All this means that 2017 could be a very different year than many of us— myself included—were expecting just a few months ago. Consumer spending could well be stronger than expected, due to lower interest rates and lower gas and oil prices. The economy as a whole could suffer less of a drag from a slowing housing market thanks to a wave of mortgage refinancings that prevent the housing correction from turning into a bust.”

This, of course, means good things for the mortgage origination sector. Things might be getting a lot busier in the new year, bringing tidings of comfort, joy and new opportunities just in time for Christmas.

Be more efficient and reduce expenses. If the business does in fact take off again for the new year, you’ll want to find ways to do more business for less. Fortunately, there are a number of folks out there who want to help you do just that. Among them are net branch companies who want you to join their networks in order to take advantage of economies of scale and enjoy greater income. At the same time, many of them will take some of the processing and technology burden off your shoulders in an effort to get more loans funded with less effort on your part.

This is a hot topic at industry meetings and one you will want to explore fully. Each branch network has strengths, and a number of them have weaknesses to evaluate as you consider them. The best due diligence you can perform is to talk to some of the branch managers personally, as they were formerly in your size twelves. Regardless of all the hype and representations made by net branch companies, the single most important indicator of their true nature are the responses you will glean from talking to people who have actually made the leap. If a network is reluctant to give you names and numbers, there is probably a reason. Before you ask if there is a “magic bullet” study that compares the pros and cons of all the branch networking opportunities out there, it is not making itself known. So do a good amount of Googling, visit the websites and most importantly, ask questions of branch managers.

Technology that can help you become more efficient is rapidly advancing as well. Hottest among these are paperless processing systems that are catching on with lenders. These advances are up there with the original LOS software offerings that have meant so much to originators over the last 10-15 years, easing the pain of repetitive document creation.

Paperless systems allow you to process loans on your office PC’s instead of using paper files, and the best among them make getting loans to lenders as simple as using email. Some of them also allow multiple people to view loans at the same time via the Internet, meaning that loan officers in the field can check status and workflow, and respond to customers immediately, without playing phone tag with the office. The office people can do the same with lenders without phone calls, a major time saver for origination offices and lenders alike. They are typically low in per loan cost and enable processors to handle more loans in the same amount of time required to process fewer hard-copy files.

Find profitable new products. The days of the 125 percent loan may be over, and the payment option ARMs may have gone out of fashion, but rest assured, there will be new products coming on the scene. Among these are the small commercial loans you may have been hearing about; they represent a significant income opportunity, though they require a somewhat different skill set among originators.

Small commercial loans are generally considered to run from $500,000 to $2,000,000. While this doesn’t get you much in markets like New York or California, they are still meaningful amounts in many parts of the country. The benefits of this market can be considerable, with several compelling reasons to get into small balance commercial lending. As Jeff Lucas, sales director of Silver Hill Financial points out, “First, there is considerably less competition for these borrowers. Additionally, the revenue opportunity is significant, with many originators earning two to four points. Further, you will enhance your perceived value to your customers when they learn that you offer both residential and commercial loans.” This sector is not without its learning curve. Jeff explains, “While these commercial loans require some additional knowledge, they are not difficult. Certainly, the appraisal differs from residential as do some other aspects.” He quickly adds, “However, learning the difference is not unlike learning non-prime, FHA, or other niche programs. Thousands of conforming originators have made the transition.”

Alt-A lending, once considered a specialty, has become mainstream. They are different borrower types from traditional refinance or purchase customers, and the niche requires some research and understanding. Still, many originators are finding Alt-A an important new direction toward rounding out their product offerings, allowing them to serve a wider base of customers. Big wholesalers like Argent have recently moved into the Alt-A arena, bringing a new level of competitive service to the sector. Sam Marzouk, Argent’s president illustrates this with, “Brokers receive an answer on their loan requests in 24 hours, or our fee is cut in half.” If you’re not doing Alt-A currently, you probably will be in the new year, and you may be looking at its cousins, Alt-A minus and Alt-B.

Have better relationships with lenders. This is probably the easiest thing to accomplish. Lenders understand your requirement for quick turnaround time and limited loan conditions. What they don’t understand is why so many brokers are less mindful of relationships over the long haul.

Industry leaders like Don Henig, president of American Brokers Conduit in Melville, New York, are eager to help create a lender/broker partnership with training and marketing assistance. “There are many ways to build relationships with brokers, but we believe at our core that we must help the broker build their business,” he says. His and other like-minded companies are cognizant that strong working relationships are built over time, and they are willing to invest in that.

Lenders are unanimous when talking about things brokers can avoid doing that harm their relationships. They don’t like spending time getting loans approved just to lose them to another company that responded 15 minutes earlier, they don’t like getting loans that go into EPD (early payment default), they don’t like having recent fundings churned and they don’t like fraud. All of these are easy to avoid, but a few of them tend to be “baked in” at some origination shops, such as small frauds—like pressuring appraisers to pad a value or switching borrowers into stated income programs because their W-2 came up a bit short. They may win the battle by getting a particular loan funded somewhere, but they don’t do much to advance the war. Greg Frost put it well when he said, “There is no free lunch. Our loan rates and costs will rise proportionately with the lost revenue of our lenders.”

Attract and retain top talent. Attracting top talent is a lot easier than keeping it. For promising newcomers, training and income opportunities float their boats, along with advancement potential. As they fulfill their potential, particularly among LO’s, they tend to be hired away, or at least prospected by other companies. According to Rainmaker Thinking, a management consulting think tank, the key to keeping people is good management. If a healthy, challenging and rewarding environment is created, people tend to stay. If not, they are more easily hired away by your competition. Rainmaker believes that most people are under-managed, not over-managed, which comes as a surprise to many. Companies that take five proactive steps in managing their people have the most success, they say:

  1. Provide clear performance standards and procedures;
  2. Make sure employees understand what they are accountable for;
  3. Monitor their work so you can evaluate them properly;
  4. Provide clear feedback on how they’re doing and on fixing problems;
  5. Distribute rewards, praise and detriments fairly.

These seem pretty common sense, but research has shown that companies of all sizes tend to lose sight of these simple steps, causing in-office politics and the loss of valuable team members who become dissatisfied.

A major satisfier for employees is training–making them better at what they do, which helps set up their future positions and advancement. M.O.M. comes to the rescue here with its seminar series, featuring some of the brightest minds in the business. Speakers have real-world, practical experience and share their insights at day-long seminars held all over the country. Seminars like these are extremely powerful tools to help your people become more successful and retain them.

As you celebrate the season this year, let visions of new opportunities dance through your head along with the sugarplums and other holiday goodies. There are pretty good chances for your wish list, and there may be other delectables on the horizon as well, such as federal preemptions and new, interesting loan instruments.

As always, M.O.M. will bring them to you as they develop, delivered to your mailbox more easily than St. Nick ever found his way down a chimney. For now, best wishes for a memorable holiday season, and “to all a good-night.”

By James Hennessy