Refinance opportunities are waning and will account for only about a quarter of business next year. Then you have the fact that in some cases lenders are competing even before their prospect has considered buying a home.
High-performing loan officers (LOs) have been here before and have learned the lessons required for longevity. They’ve cracked the code on building a book of business with loyal borrowers. They know how to communicate market opportunities to their contacts in a personalized way, develop key referral partnerships that keep them top of mind, and maintain a diversified revenue stream to reduce the impacts from shifts in the market.
How you move up and through this market shift starts by understanding how your shop supports you. There are many small ways, but in the end, what’s most important is being able to rely on their ability to help you compete, get an opportunity locked in, and carry your application over the finish line in 5-star style.
The more galvanized your shop is on the back-end support required for a great borrower experience, the more you can focus on what you’re best at, building relationships and selling.
If you’re looking to build that foundation for growth, the first question you should be asking yourself is, ‘Am I with the right shop that is vested in me as a partner?’ So, here are 12 things to consider if you’re assessing your current shop or looking for a new opportunity.
1. Does Your Shop Help Build Your Referral Network?
There are two parts to building your referral network; even though they’re both important, one has a higher ROI.
Consumers: Building your book of business with borrowers is essential, and the goal is to stay top of mind when preparing for life changes. The bigger your business grows, the more you’ll need to rely on automation. After all, your most valuable asset is your time, and the highest use of your time is building relationships and selling. You nurture your customers through the customer relationship management (CRM) tool that your shop provides. With your messaging, maintain a focus on topics that reduce their homeownership cost and increase their asset value.
Realtor / Broker relationships: This is by far a stronger play. Strategic relationships extend your brand to a partner that is talking to many more end consumers. The consumer trusts them, and most rely on a recommendation from their realtor.
“The importance of building strategic relationships with realtors can’t be understated. Think about it, people go to realtors before buying a house. If people got their teeth cleaned before buying a house, we’d call on dentists. It’s that simple.” – Paul Sinnet, Regional Vice President
Diagnostic question: Is your shop providing you with marketing automation tools that help you nurture your list with great content on reducing their costs and increasing their asset value?
2. Is Leadership in Lock Step with Your Business and Growth Plan?
When you think of a hub and spoke business model, you are the hub, and everything you need to do to grow your business is a spoke. Your shop provides many tools when you’re a mid or low-tier producer, including marketing technology, social media resources, branding tools, information, education, and operational support. But a big part of the execution happens through alignment between you and your leadership. Their mandate is to transfer their wisdom, skills, knowledge, and experience to help you go from ‘here’ to ‘there.’
“Where are you now, and where do you want to be? If you’re not there, why not? Are you getting the support you need to get there? It’s my job to help you bridge that gap.” – Paul Sinnet, Regional Vice President
Diagnostic questions: How tapped into your growth strategy is your area or regional leadership? How would you rate the value they offer you in the execution of your plan?
3. Does Your Shop Offer a Comprehensive Benefits Package?
If the lender’s offer isn’t competitive in terms of salary and benefits, it will probably be a non-starter. A suitable lender knows how to craft an attractive offer to a good loan officer. A great lender will understand that compensation goes way beyond salary and will speak to all of the benefits of joining the team.
4. How Expansive is Your Lender’s Product Menu?
No loan officer wants to make a move that will make it harder for them to serve their customer base. The new lender must offer a full menu of mortgage loan products that can meet the needs of every borrower. Great lenders have the products your borrowers need.
5. Are Loan Products Competitively Priced?
Nothing is worse than being priced out of the market because your shop has underwriting overlays that push borrowers into more expensive products or that charge more for the same products other lenders are also selling. Top LOs are great salespeople, but great shops empower them with competitive products, pricing & terms that keep you in the game.
6. Does Your Lender Help with Personal Branding?
One of the most unappreciated aspects of being a top-performing LO is what they’ve done to develop their brand. A brand is much more than a logo and tagline; it’s how you’re perceived in the market. Has your shop helped you create your personal brand? For low and mid-tier performers, it may be the gap standing in your path to success.
7. Is Operational Excellence for Your Borrowers a Priority?
Nothing will destroy the LO-lender relationship faster than a back-office that can’t get the loan processed and to closing on time. You’re putting your reputation on the line every time you hand your borrower a pre-approval. You shouldn’t have to worry about what is happening behind the curtain with your borrower’s experience.
“Does your shop hit their dates? If you’re going to build a reputation in your market with realtors, the most important thing to them is that your shop closes the loan on time. Without that, all else is lost. All the effort you put into building partners will get destroyed in an instant.” – Sean Hutto, High Performing Mortgage Consultant
8. Is There a Good Appraisal Management Department?
The appraisal report is a critical risk management tool that every shop relies on, but it is also time-consuming and could derail the entire deal. A good leader knows how to manage a well-run appraisal department; a great lender has a professional panel of fee appraisers, experts in their market and conscientious business owners.
9. Is Your Lender Future Proofing Their Business?
E-Verification, E-Closing, and E-Sign are becoming increasingly important. Borrowers want to close loans on their schedule from wherever they happen to be. Leading lenders have made investments to offer their borrowers these benefits. While many borrowers are content to sit down at the same table to close, E-Closing is the tram to the future, and a great lender is already on board, with the right technology and partners to get every deal closed.
10. What Does the Level of Support Look Like?
Technology is essential, and the best lenders are offering their LOs tools to streamline their efforts, but great lenders go beyond this by providing trained assistants to round out the loan officer’s team. Dedicated transaction coordinators and administrative assistants can give a good loan officer the power of three. They also help vastly improve the borrower experience while allowing the LO to spend more time prospecting for new business. A great lender makes it possible for the LO to work from anywhere, at any time, on any device.
Does your shop have designated growth strategists focused on sales enablement, provide competitive analysis, and open gateways to realtor and builder partnerships?
11. Is Your Shop ‘Right Sized’ for Your Growing Business
Some lenders are enormous and getting to ‘yes’ can be more difficult. Other lenders are small and can give hyper-focused attention to your business but aren’t big enough to be relevant in their markets when it comes to the perfect lending home for a growing LO, size matters.
“Your shop should be able to give you personalized mentorship and accessibility to leadership while still nimble enough to make competitive decisions quickly and keep you relevant.” – Paul Sinnett, Regional Vice President
12. Do They Care for the People and Culture?
Ignored for so many years in the financial services industry, it is now clear to virtually everyone how important the company culture is to a great work experience and a happy life. A good leader understands the importance of a great corporate culture; a great lender does what it takes to make it a reality. When an LO finds a company that cares as much about their success and well-being as they does, it’s a big clue that it’s the right next work home.
Embracing a New Approach to Shape a Better Future
The past year and a half have poked holes in long-standing norms about how LOs operate. As we shift back to a purchase market, it’s time to look at your business and measure the foundation you’re standing on. Retreating to what you did before the refi market will be the stress test of your business as you go into this next cycle. While it will be tempting for you to retreat to what you know, the need is for a new path to light.
Top performers adjusted to this reality long ago in their careers, and the most successful LOs have become Experts at Change.
We know that the key to leveling up and future-proofing your business begins with the right partnership with the right shop. If you’re interested in starting your own search for clues, we invite you to investigate On Q Financial.