Is a branch network right for you?

by Ryan Smith01 Aug 2014
The mortgage industry has come a long way since the days right after the financial meltdown. But today’s stricter regulatory environment presents challenges of its own – challenges that are convincing many mortgage pros that they need to change the way they do business to survive.

Stricter regulations mean a lot of smaller shops are being squeezed right out of the business, said industry veteran Glenn LaMattina.
“I’ve been in the business 27 years, so I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I think the business is coming back – back to where it should have been before the height of the crash,” said LaMattina, manager of United Northern Mortgage Bankers’ Secaucus, N.J., branch.

LaMattina, like many branch managers, started out as an independent broker. Today’s regulations, he said, are making it harder and harder for brokers to do business.

“I owned my own mortgage company for 23 years, but if I had it to do over again today I probably wouldn’t,” he said. “But I have no issue being a branch manager with a company like United Northern. I think in the regulatory climate today, the smaller shops are fighting to survive. Unless you’re a big player or a one-man show – the middle group is slowly being squeezed out.”

That’s why joining a branch network can be a smart choice, LaMattina said.

“I think in today’s environment, you need a department just for compliance and keeping up with the rules and regs,” he said. “…The smaller shops just do not have the manpower or the financial wherewithal to be able to do that. I know that my shop could not have survived in this climate today.”

Joining a branch not only helps relieve an originator’s compliance burden – it gives him access to the marketing and CRM capabilities of a big company.

“There’s a lot of smaller shops looking to become branches,” LaMattina said. “They get to do what they do best, which is market and sell, and the company that they’re working with does everything on the back end, which makes it a very easy and seamless process.

“Now, a company like United Northern, they have a phenomenal marketing department. They give you the tools to grow your business. I know before, when you needed a marketing piece, you sat down and did a cut and paste. Here, it’s at your fingertips. Before, you were worried about marketing, compliance – every other factor. It takes away from getting new business. Running a branch, your main concern is going out and getting new business. In this environment, it’s all about building relationships.”

If you are looking to make the transition to a branch, LaMattina recommends doing your homework.

“I looked at other branches – I mean, you want a financially stable company. The two most important factors with United Northern were, one, the owner. Don (Giorgio) and I were very much of the same mindset. We both agreed that the most important part of a business was the people. … Everybody works in unison. No one person is an island. We’re all about the team.

“The other factor that made me join the team was (VP of marketing and business development) Heidi Frigano and her marketing department,” he added. “I was blown away by what they had to offer. … You get the support to brand and build your business. It’s just a very good company. I think it’s one of the top companies I’ve seen out there today. I’ve been with other companies, and no other company gives you the back-end support that United Northern does.”