Superstar of the Month-Top Processor-Shelby Seaman

Key Responsibilities: Ordering docs, clearing conditions and other processing tasks; underwriting majority of loans

Everyday Challenges: Time management, balancing work and family life

Marketing Contribution: Ongoing contact with customers provides opportunity to “wow” them.

Other Team Members: Loan officer (Linda Davidson), marketing coordinator, operations manager, mortgage planner and team assistant

Workweek: 5 days, 45 hours

Favorite Book: “The Traveler’s Gift,” By Andy Andrews

Favorite Quote: “To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.” –Anatole France (author)

Shelby Seaman got her first exposure to the mortgage lending industry as a college student, working as a marketing assistant on Linda Davidson’s team at Service First Mortgage, Dallas, Texas. When she graduated with a psychology degree from Southern Methodist University in 2002, Seaman carefully evaluated her career options, which also included early childhood counseling. “I loved working for the Davidson Team and learned a lot as a marketing assistant,” she said. “I had the option of training as a processor, which was appealing to me.”

Seaman determined that the mortgage industry offered good long-term opportunities and she began her full-time career at Service First. Davidson was certainly happy with the decision; Seaman handled approximately 200 loans last year and was a key reason for the team’s success. “She has been such an asset,” stressed Davidson.

Seaman’s professional development has been somewhat different than what other processors experience. She initially trained as a processor, knowing that she would most likely assume underwriting responsibilities as well. Service First encourages the dual role and provides extensive training that leads to the Direct Endorsement (DE) designation. “We start as a processor and learn various test cases with our corporate underwriter,” said Seaman. “We progress through several stages to underwrite different levels of loans, based on their complexity. I started processing in 2002 and after two years additional training, was ready to underwrite also.”

As a loan specialist/underwriter, Seaman, 27, follows the loan from contract through funding. “I handle the majority of the loans from beginning to end, without anyone else touching the file,” she said. “This includes ordering docs, clearing conditions and confirming the availability of funds. There is seldom any need for me to meet with Linda or involve her in the closing process, since the upfront systems are set to ensure that all goes smoothly and the structure of the loan has already been clearly communicated.”

Seaman and other processors follow a comprehensive checklist to ensure that all steps are carefully followed. “It’s all pretty straightforward,” she said. “It guarantees that new processors would be able to adhere to the same proven system.” A company-wide mantra is that loans “don’t close late and don’t close ugly.” The latter term refers to the problem areas they want to avoid. “Essentially, that means there are no surprises and no unforeseen problems,” she said. “We make sure that all the information is obtained up-front, that everything is thoroughly explained to customers and that the loan is as flawless as possible.”

Seaman noted that frequent status reports are a primary reason for trouble-free transactions. She sends e-mail updates to customers, agents and others. “I’ve found it’s the preferred method of communication for most borrowers and agents.”

Seaman has become increasingly comfortable with her underwriting responsibilities as well. “I underwrite and approve a majority of my loans,” she explained. “However, depending on the risk factor of the mortgager, I may need our corporate underwriter’s second signature or we may broker out the loan if it is not an in-house product. I always look at a loan from both the processor’s and underwriter’s viewpoint; the additional activity really doesn’t involve that much more time on my part.”

She also embraces what some may consider an atypical processor task—marketing. Seaman strives to make sure that Davidson Team customers receive the “wow” factor throughout the loan transaction, so that they will have a positive experience and want to share referrals. “I have ongoing phone and e-mail contact, as well as specific touch points, that gives me an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge, enthusiasm and an interest in their welfare,” she said.

“Shelby is the last person that all parties involved speak to before closing and she always leaves everyone feeling that they are important and confident that the closing will be as promised,” added Davidson. “She understands that everyone on the team is in marketing.”

Of course, Seaman makes a point to help educate everyone about the nuances of a processor’s day-to-day role. “We have weekly meetings that provide me with a chance to voice what I’m seeing and where I need help to make the process smooth. I think it’s an ongoing education. If processors and loan originators understand each other’s jobs better, it makes for easier and smoother transactions. Loan officers and processors must continually communicate to be sure we’re on the same page, to understand what’s expected from the other.”

Early on, Seaman learned that time management is an inevitable challenge. “If we have an exceptional number of loans in a week or month and I want to meet our goal of reviewing all files within 24 hours, I need to structure my day so that we get started and don’t close late,” said Seaman. “The team will pitch in and help when necessary. I get a lot of support from everyone.”

Of course, procrastination is one of the common obstacles to effective time management. “Processors have to keep the pipeline running smoothly, in part by getting through the files quickly,” she said. “There is a temptation to deal with all of the easier loans first and put off the harder ones until later. But that can create bottlenecks when you encounter major problems with such loans. While our main priority is dealing with loans as they come in, I often find it most effective to deal with some of the more difficult loans first so they don’t create challenges later on.”

Balancing work with her personal life is another crucial goal. “It is really important for me to get home to my family (husband and two young children) at a reasonable time. I try to leave the office by 5:00 p.m., and usually don’t bring work home. But while I’m at the office, I want to make certain that I have given the service that every buyer deserves.”

Last year, a special situation required extra attention to the work-family balance; Seaman took two months maternity leave after the birth of her son. “There were files waiting for me when I returned,” she said. “However, it seemed like I just picked up where we left off. I didn’t skip a beat.”

From Seaman’s perspective, successful processors share a couple of key characteristics. “They need to be focused, with good attention to detail, and not be easily distracted,” she noted. “You’ll often have customers who want to talk a little longer than usual. We have to answer their questions and be friendly, but not get caught up in extended conversations.”

Processors also must be able to maintain working relationships with a diverse group of people, including title and insurance reps, and appraisers. “We have to realize that there are team members other than the originator and processor,” she said. “We need to treat the other participants as essential members of the team. It’s not only the right thing to do, but can be beneficial later when we need their support for various requests.”

She added that as a processor-underwriter, she must also be an “out of the box” thinker. “For example, if we see loans that may not fit the normal parameters, we need to look for a more creative approach.”

Seaman is confident that she made a wise choice to make lending a career and is enthusiastic about her future. “I’m glad I decided to go into this profession,” she said. “I want to stay in the mortgage lending business. I’m more of an office-oriented person; more comfortable behind a desk and on the phone than out originating loans.”