■ n Plan, plan and plan again.
■ n Realize people make the company.
■ n Are courageous even as things get choppy.
■ n Don’t keep secrets or hide from conflict.
■ n Must be developed.
J. Tony Thompson is founder and CEO of the National
Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America,
an organization dedicated to increasing the engagement of
women and minorities with the Mortgage Bankers
Association. The organization is launching the NAMMBA
Leadership Academy this fall to help mortgage professionals
develop their leadership skills. Enroll at nammba.org.
Thompson also is vice president of growth and strategy
for Silverton Mortgage, based in Atlanta. Reach him at
Leaders for Turbulent Times
The mortgage industry is crying out for direction,
but leadership needs to be developed
By J. Tony Thompson
Leaders, take note. The seismic shifts in the mortgage industry won’t slow down any- time soon. Talented originators longing for the chance to serve homebuyers won’t keep
waiting for leaders adhering to the old way of mortgage lending to get with the times.
Over the next year, real estate financing will continue changing at a frenetic pace. Consumers’ habits and
preferences will continue evolving. And the influx of financial technology will continue overhauling an entire
industry’s way of doing business.
Originators are closely monitoring the changing
landscape and hope to withstand its tide. They want
to adapt by serving borrowers with top-level customer
service and the latest technology to make homebuying simple and convenient. And they want to remain
in business, build their brands and forge fulfilling and
rewarding careers in a dynamic industry.
What is the key to keeping them inspired? Developing leaders who are strong, courageous and
forward-thinking. But there’s a problem. Effective
leadership in the mortgage industry is hard to find
these days. Few leaders are visionary. Many shy away
from transparency. Not enough are courageous.
The very qualities that top mortgage talent seeks to
emulate are missing from the leadership ranks. Should
the dearth of competent and adaptive leadership go
unaddressed at a mortgage company, it ultimately will
slip into relative obscurity and fail to compete with
newer companies that understand what the industry
Not all is lost, however. There is a solution, but it
must come from the top and permeate throughout an
organization — from people to process. If mortgage
industry leaders want to recruit and retain top talent
and remain relevant, they must practice and hone
those three qualities mentioned previously: vision,
courage and transparency.
Leaders take the lead because they see ahead. They
have vision and know exactly where their organization
is headed. A leader with vision will plan, plan and plan
again. They’ll think about the contingencies and prepare
for the inevitable. They’ll know how to create a cushion
for the hard times and encourage their teams — take
note of the word “teams” and not “employees” — to
weather the storms.
They don’t only manage or oversee. They understand how to communicate and execute their vision.
And they’re proficient at recruiting others who align
with it. They have immeasurable influence, can transform environments and know how to build workplace
cultures that inspire their teams to perform their best.
That’s great, but how does this apply to mortgage
lending? Every transaction is a person. Mortgage
companies are made of people, not robots (despite
the wave of automation sweeping the industry), and
they respond to the needs of other people.
A lender may surpass volume records year after
year, but none of it’s possible without the customer
and the mortgage originator. Both are vital to keeping
the mortgage process churning. The leader who keeps
that in mind will maintain his perspective and focus on
caring for the customer and his teammates, not just
the bottom line.
The mortgage industry has endured tough times. The
Great Recession sent the housing market to its knees,
creating the need for stricter regulations that ensure
consumers remain protected from predatory lenders. While the current administration has peeled back
some of the toughest rules, the industry remains under a microscope.
Leaders must display immense courage — and ingenuity — to lead their organizations through these
turbulent times. That means making hard strategic
decisions to ensure their companies’ survival for the
next 10, 15 and 20 years. It also means learning how
to overcome the challenges apparent in the industry.
What are some of those challenges? Although pending home sales continue to rise month over month, affordability remains the most persistent problem in the
housing market, according to data from the National
Association of Realtors.
The average price of an existing home is upward
of $250,000, and mortgage rates keep climbing.
Citing research from Arch Mortgage Insurance, CNBC
recently reported that housing affordability is on
pace to weaken at its fastest rate in 25 years. Housing demand is reaching all-time highs, but available
inventory is shrinking to all-time lows. A report from
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