SuperStar of the Month – Daniel G Rivera

Daniel G Rivera, Branch Manager/Originator
Allied Home Mortgage Capital Corporation
Rockville, Maryland

Most Effective Marketing: Direct Mail, Seminars, and Monthly mailings
Support Team: Two assistants and a processor
Applications Taken Personally: 70%

Favorite Book: First Things First: To Live, to Love, To Learn to Leave a Legacy, By Stephen R. Covey; Standing for Something, By Gordon B. Hinckley

Favorite Quote: “I am a great believer in luck and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it.” –Thomas Jefferson

There is no question that Daniel Rivera is an FHA lending expert. In addition to helping hundreds of borrowers achieve their dream of homeownership, this niche has made him a SuperStar loan originator. Last year, 100 percent of his $52.8 million and 285 loans volume was FHA business. (He was inadvertently left off M.O.M.’s 2003 Top Originator List, but he would have been number nine on the FHA list.)

Rivera took a circuitous route to become a top-performing originator and supporter of first-time, underserved borrowers. He had been a successful Businessman in his native Peru, before coming to the United States in 1988 to marry his sweetheart who had moved to Washington, D.C. several years earlier.

Rivera, 41, attended Columbia University to expand his business knowledge and to polish his English-speaking skills, while also working as a hotel bartender. He subsequently went to work for a major car dealership, where he advanced from salesman to finance manager, but realized that his future options were limited. “I had eventually planned to open my own dealership but saw that I had reached a top position and couldn’t go much further and couldn’t increase my income,” he said.

He became familiar with the residential lending industry while buying and selling several properties and observing his mortgage originator in action. “He was very good and aggressive,” said Rivera. “We talked about the business and I thought I could be successful at this.”

Although Rivera and his wife had some reservations about his switching to a commission-only career, he joined Crestar Mortgage in 1997. They soon agreed that he made the right decision; his first-year production was a healthy $8.5 million.

Rivera spent the first few rookie months training. “I was dedicated to learning the basics. I devoted three months to learning the guidelines and programs. Once I was sure I could answer most of their questions I began calling on agents and asked for an opportunity to do one of their loans. I explained that while I was new in the business, I was dedicated and aggressive, and available six days a week. They could call on me anytime.”

His approach paid off; agents began asked him to handle their customers’ more difficult loans. “Part of my message was that I would educate agents on real estate lending so that they could assist their clients,” he added.

One of Rivera’s initial marketing strategies was hosting seminars, many of them for the Hispanic community. He contacted homeowner and other associations, the Chamber of Commerce; and the embassies for Peru, Columbia, Salvador, and Mexico. “I introduced myself and said that I was available to assist people coming to this country with homeownership opportunities, as well as those who worked at the embassies. I suggested that I could relate my own homeownership experiences. They began calling me and I started to do some seminars.”

He continued to expand his Hispanic niche, with a goal of becoming a major force within the Hispanic community throughout the D.C./Virginia area. He contacted Spanish-owned companies and offered to host workshops for their employees “I made presentations and left information packages. After a while, people began calling and I was soon originating their loans.”

Rivera’s marketing program expanded to include a comprehensive direct mail program. He currently sends birthday, anniversary, and various holiday cards. “I sign every one of my cards and include personal messages in many of them. Based on the loan files I’ve kept, I have borrower details I can highlight. For example, I might mention the fact that a past customer wants to open his own business and I wish him luck with that. This is more personal and people appreciate it.”

He sends past customers a monthly newsletter as another way to maintain ongoing visibility. The company provides a quarterly version that includes information on interest rates, homeownership tips, and related news and Rivera sends a shorter Spanish edition during the other months. “I translate a variety of news developments on such topics as tax guidelines, immigration law changes, and other areas that Spanish-speaking people might not find in a single source. They love it and I receive very positive comments.”

Rivera personalizes the newsletter with his photo and news of his family. “I might talk about our vacation or about one of my children’s accomplishments. This helps to make our relationship more personal and longer lasting.”

He also has a regular voice-mail campaign, which involves calling past customers on a weekly basis. In addition to mentioning specific loan programs, his basic message is that he’s available to help with their ongoing financing needs. While some may consider weekly calls too frequent, he emphasized that the majority of his customers appreciate his attentiveness. He has outsourced this service to a company that ensures that the Do-Not-Call Registry guidelines are met.

Rivera does something else that most originators probably don’t—he visits must of his customers on an annual basis. He’ll arrive at their house with a healthy breakfast on a Saturday morning and spend a few minutes conversing about their home, family, future loan opportunities, and other topics. He noted that Hispanic customers are especially receptive to his spontaneous visits. “They’re happy to see me and it’s another great way to strengthen the relationship. My goal is to have them talk to me about anything–college funds, life insurance, or anything else. I’m very appreciative of the support of my past customers and this is one way I can continue to help them.”

From the beginning of his origination career, Rivera has focused on FHA business. At first it was a necessity, but has evolved into a dedication to help people. “When I began most of my first-time borrowers had situations—including credit issues—and that meant they could only qualify with FHA,” he said. “Since then, I’ve developed a real interest in assisting people who might not otherwise be able to get a loan.”

He conducts first-time borrower seminars where he explains the FHA guidelines and various options. “I explain that FHA is more flexible underwriting that will allow them to get into their new home.”

While last year’s volume was 100 percent FHA based, Rivera explained that this year he’s doing some conventional loans. “This year it seems that many people are changing their careers and became a self-employed an that make a little difficult to qualified to an FHA loan because one off the key requirement of FHA program is that they must be self-employed for at least two years. So, I may be doing fewer FHA loans overall and more in the subprime area when necessary.”

Rivera is currently the branch manager of Allied Home Mortgage in Rockville Md., a position he assumed this past February. As the sole originator he is supported by two employees: Cesar Gamarra, assistant manager and his “right hand,” and sales assistant, Stephanie Leon, as well as a processor Dina Flores. “I couldn’t do the volume without their support,” he stressed.

He takes the majority of the applications in his office, although one of his assistants will often complete the process, in addition to following up with customers to obtain additional documents. “I try to have the first contact with all customers,” he noted. “The team members will handle a variety of responsibilities, from arranging appointments to preparing marketing material.”

They make an effort to assist borrowers who aren’t ready to qualify. “We have a system that tracks customers on 60, 90, 120, and 180 days. If they have credit problems they’re likely to be in the 180-day cycle and we follow up and assist them in getting ready for the loan,” he said.

Rivera has also enlisted the help of his wife, Medalid, who does a post-closing phone survey. “She’s very good with people and able to get their opinion on how we can improve our service. My wife and children have been very supportive and made sacrifices while I have worked so hard over the last seven years.”

Rivera has observed many top originators to see what makes a SuperStar. He believes that teamwork is essential. “If you don’t have a good group, you won’t be successful at higher levels. I just consider myself part of our team. You have to compensate everyone well and provide other incentives.”

In order to become a top producer, customer service must be a priority, he added. “I always tell new loan originators that their prime motivation can’t be making money. They have to has the desire to serve and help people and the money will come alone.”

Another essential ingredient of Superstardom is “delivering on what you promise. If I can’t do a loan, I tell them right away. Most Realtors who have worked with me for a long time will say that they appreciate my honesty, I always tell them upfront.”

Rivera plans to continue combining teamwork, customer service, and an honest approach as he expands his volume in a more competitive market. Another future goal is to hire several loan officers for the office. “Loan officers frequently call me to ask for advice. I would like to hire at least four other originators and train them. I want them to be as successful and satisfied with this profession as I have been so far.”