It wasn’t that long ago that $150 million in loan origination was a pretty good year for Amplify. Now it’s a threshold we cross every month. As we grow our real estate footprint and make strides towards being an important partner in this space, I spend a good amount of time ensuring our team avoids some of the mistakes I’ve seen from other mortgage companies.
To do this, my team has taken the time to document best practices – or rather, the “worst practices” we want to avoid. We call these warning signs our “mortgage myths,” and over the past two years, they have become a kind of guiding light for how we grow our team with an eye towards the future. And we strive to make sure our team members and customers know how different life at Amplify can be.
Myth #1: Money is the only measure of success.
If you know anything about credit unions, you’ve probably heard that we’re more focused on purpose than profits. That’s true. At Amplify, our entire organization – from our CEO on down – is dedicated to helping our members pursue important financial milestones. That means money is not the evidence of our success. Success at Amplify is knowing we’re making a difference for our borrowers.
“We want our real estate employees to help members find homes that make the most financial sense for them, not us.”
When your success is tied to your mission, it changes how you build a team. We want our real estate employees to help members find homes that make the most financial sense for them, not us. And while that might be a shift from the way a lot of lenders operate, our numbers show that not everything needs to be a zero-sum game.
Myth #2: Being a producer is the only thing that matters.
I’ve seen many mortgage companies – even some good ones – that operate on a two-class system. On the one hand, you have the loan originators serving as the face of the company. They’re the ones that collect awards and get recognized during every all-staff meeting. On the other hand, you have the back-office staff, who rarely get recognized by their peers.
Some of my most dedicated employees are the ones members will never see. That’s not to say we don’t have an incredible team of loan originators. They’re out in the community each day helping people navigate a complex market. Those originators would also be the first to point to our underwriters and support staff as the reason for their success. If your lending team doesn’t value them just as much as your origination staff, then your department is likely not built to last.
Myth #3: Mortgage companies take a churn-and-burn approach to hiring and firing.
I wish mortgage companies would be more prudent with their hiring. If the market is up, they’ll add dozens of new employees with promises of unbeatable salaries. When the market goes back down, those same hires are laid off and the cycle continues. That’s not dependable employment; that’s contract work in everything but name. It also makes it difficult to plan for the future or even think about your job as a career.
What we offer is sustainable employment through a balanced business model. Rather than be too reliant on any one mortgage model, we’ve built a viable, long-term real estate engine through a combination of loan origination, sales, and servicing.
“We offer sustainable employment through a balanced business model.”
This buffers us against the volatility of the real estate market. We still set ambitious goals; but we plan to have the same team in place on the other side of that success.
Myth #4: Mortgages companies want to hire superstars, not develop talent.
And speaking of careers: does your current team have a plan for career growth? These days, I hear a lot of horror stories from new Amplify employees about prior employers that never promote from within and only hire from outside of the organization. The unspoken idea is that managers should always be looking to trade up their talent rather than taking the time to develop people or create an environment that encourages them to stay is a distraction.
At Amplify, roughly one-third of our real estate lending team is comprised of internal transfers – people who started in other areas of our credit union – or people who decided to come back to Amplify after working elsewhere. We take great pride in our ability to launch mortgage careers, but I think our “boomerang” hires, as we like to call them, say the most about us. They feel like we truly value and invest in their success. That’s huge.
Myth #5: Managers only exist to boost production.
The final myth on this list – and the mortgage myth that is the most frustrating – is the idea that managers are only successful if they boost production. Great managers should be evaluated as much for the environment they create as the production they oversee.
“Hitting a monthly goal means nothing if you’ve worked your team to death to get there.”
It amazes me that we still have short-sighted managers in this industry; hitting a monthly goal means nothing if you’ve worked your team to death to get there. All you’ve done is made it a little harder for them to succeed in the months to come.
Our managers want to collaborate with the team, not only to point them towards their next goal. We put such an emphasis on values during the hiring process, we never hire anyone for a management role who is not willing and able to lend a helping hand when things get busy. Even our CEO has been known to dust off his underwriting skills and work elbow-to-elbow with our staff to ensure we hit our borrower deadlines.
In the end, none of these are ground-breaking concepts. Hire the right people, treat them well, and invest in their success. With our industry breaking records, that kind of money can sometimes override our best instincts as leaders. Sometimes, knowing what kind of organization you don’t want to be is just as important as knowing who you are.