How the Best Mortgage Companies Work To calm fears in a difficult market

Many mortgage professionals stuck in the worst housing market for over a decade are having difficult conversations with their employers. Some claim that companies broke promises they would weather the downturn and others are accused of failing to warn affected employees. RELATED: 2023’s Best Mortgage Companies to Work For. In interviews in January and February, leaders of some of the top-ranked Best Mortgage Companies to Work For stated that they were addressing concerns through constant communication and acknowledging the hard truths about today’s market and its effects. Presidents and CEOs should be open about the possibility of layoffs or pay cuts if necessary. In a National Mortgage News survey, mortgage lenders were rated lowest on how well they communicated their finances and how satisfied staff felt about their jobs. Respondents were more satisfied with benefits and other corporate offerings than that. This suggests less transparency about one of the most important aspects in work. Dean Harrington, Shamrock Home Loans CEO, stated that if you don’t disclose where we stand financially, people will make it up in their heads and it’s going be giving them fear. Fear is the antithesis of confidence. I want to instill confidence in people. I must be open with them. Private lenders are not required to release their quarterly performance, but leading companies have a common practice of conducting companywide reviews. Although the frequency of meetings can vary between lenders, the main topics are the same: production, income goals, and market conditions. Susan Naftulin (president of Rehab Financial Group), a fix-and flip lender, said, “With liquidity problems as much as they are all around the board, we discuss that on Mondays.” “We discuss why we might be refusing certain loans. We discuss why we make certain policy and strategic decisions. Harrington stated that Shamrock holds quarterly meetings and discusses the number of units closed, revenue, profit per loans, loan size, and profit per loan. In January, the CEO thanked his employees for their loyalty and stated that the firm’s payroll fell $2.9 million in 2022. Leaders suggested that employees may be reluctant to talk about money. This is similar to asking a colleague how much they earn. An employee asking about finances in a boom market could be asking for a raise. However, if the question is asked in a down market, it may indicate that an employer might make payroll. Alex Rosenblum, CEO of Axia Home Loans, stated that the primary responsibility of the leadership is to keep the share price fair for employees and maintain transparency. Rosenblum answers participants’ questions on an “ask-me-anything” call that is held approximately every six weeks. He said that an ESOP is technically a retirement plan. “So we have a fiduciary obligation to maximize retirement benefits for our employees. Federal and state law obligate companies to notify workers about impending layoffs. However, many don’t file the required 60-day Worker Adjustment or Retraining Notifications in their states. Some professionals feel disregarded by their workplaces. In some cases, they allegedly broke promises to have substantial war chests to help them in the market downturn. Their approach to terminations is what set them apart from the rest. Their workers were aware of the impending actions, despite the backdrop of falling originations and rising mortgage rates that have forced many to trim their budgets. President Estelle Norvell stated that Mattamy Home Funding, a joint venture between a lender and home builder, had a round in September and is being transparent with its employees about another possible cut. The company, which has seen a net increase in employees over the past year, regularly talks to its staff about its monthly volume. She stated that “We can’t expect you to trust us, and then not be transparent about what’s happening.” “So I believe that a lot people feel better about transparency in that, regardless of whether it’s good or bad news. Rosenbum stated that leaders must be “extremely sympathetic” when cuts are made. These cuts may be inevitable, but lenders can mitigate the damage by taking shrewd steps. Harrington offered honest advice to mortgage companies facing the difficult decision of laying off employees. He advised them to fire those who are not necessary to be fired so they don’t have the burden of laying off the rest. He said, “That’s the way I see it if someone’s failing to perform.” You are in dereliction or duty as an owner if you don’t call it out. While some firms have been able to keep their workers employed, it has not allowed leaders to relax. Naftulin stated that Rehab Financial Group has never had to lay off employees. This is due to conservative business management. Communication is still essential with the market expected to drop further this season before it recovers. Naftulin stated, “I believe that my greatest responsibility as an owner and founder of a business is to keep my employees support their families.” They support themselves. It’s how they feed themselves. It’s how their children go to college. I take this responsibility very seriously. Keep calm and keep going. A steady, experienced hand helps many of these Best Mortgage Companies to Work For get through the worst time in their industry in over a decade. This means that many of them were already in place at the time of financial crisis. Don Giorgio, UNMB Home Loans’ CEO and president, said, “It’s certainly not our first rodeo. It’s a unique challenge but a terrible challenge at the same.” Giorgio began his career at the company that his father ran in 1989. He rose to the top in 1995. Giorgio stated that “we’re all in this together”, and that it was not an industry-wide problem. “It’s not about if this ever ends. It’s a question of when it will end. And I’ve been lucky enough to have been through many cycle, and the sun will rise tomorrow,” said Giorgio. Chaos provides an opportunity for growth, even during difficult times, according to Kevin Pezzani chief operating officer of Supreme Lending, which is headquartered in Dallas. Pezzani, who has been with Supreme Lending since September 2021 is only three decades old, has extensive industry experience. “Several lessons I have learned from the past have helped us today. Accept where you are and don’t be afraid to act; Redefine success and be honest with yourself, no matter what; Have a plan, execute it, reassess, adjust and re-execute. Supreme’s leadership believes transparency is important. Pezzani stated that the company created a safe environment for its employees to talk about industry news. Developer’s Mortgage of Columbus, Ohio also keeps staff informed. Linda Heaston is the company’s president. They meet face-to-face at least once a week. Developer’s offers tools to loan officers to keep them engaged and “feel like there’s still hope even though they’re hearing so much negativity,” Heaston explained. Heaston stated, “I believe in a family atmosphere.” “We want to interact with them, care about their families, and care about the well-being of their children, so we try to do as many activities as possible to engage with them. Heaston has been in the mortgage industry since 1986, and at Developer’s for over 33 years. The company is a purchase-oriented shop. Average employee tenure is four-plus years. This is a good sign in a business where employees can change jobs at any time. Heaston stated that employees see the strength of the company and that they have been reinforced that it wasn’t the first time that the company has faced hard times. However, during busy times, they might have to work long hours. She said that even though times are slow, employees still have a job at UNMB. Anyone can cut company expenses and UNMB has made adjustments where necessary. Giorgio said, “But at the end of the day, I’m very clear that we aren’t planning for failure.” Mills Landon, chief strategist, has more than 20 years of business experience. We also created a concierge team to plan fun and engagement at Supreme events. Giorgio stated that these difficult times are an opportunity to grow and to hire talented staffers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. There is a lot of opportunity. We know that left and right companies are closing their doors. I am doing what I can to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Giorgio stated that all of my colleagues need to understand and respect the fact that the mortgage industry, along with our Realtor partners leads the country. “It’s up us, not Congress, or the president, to set the tone and make this country a better place economically. Heaston stated that the cycle affects the mortgage sector every five to six years. “Unfortunately, maybe not as affected from all sides as we’re in now.” “But at the exact same time, they’re still moving. They still see people out here.”