The mortgage broker channel is growing, and mortgage originators from both sides of the retail-broker divide are interested in hearing from those who have made the transition. In this series, “From banker to broker,” Power Originator speaks to several brokers who have made the switch to the broker channel about the ups and downs of the transition, and what motivated them to make the move.
As the mortgage broker channel grows, transitioning brokers are finding support, camaraderie, and education from other brokers through both online and offline channels.
Through well-established connection opportunities, originators transitioning to the broker channel can learn from others who have made the banker-to-broker transition as well as from veteran brokers. Providing encouragement is key, as well as discussing the nitty gritty details that are impossible to know without having experienced the transition firsthand.
Watching other originators transition to the broker channel—and succeed in doing so—made Isabel Williams believe that it was a possibility for herself. A former military servicemember and real estate agent, Williams opened her own broker shop in the spring of 201 in order to have better control over her process. One of her colleagues had done the same thing, and she put Williams on to the Brokers are Better online community. There, Williams was able to get the encouragement to forge ahead.
“That was I think the thing that finally made me think, okay, I'm going to do this,” Williams said.
Often, Williams said, something sounds great but the reality is very different, and when moving to the broker channel she found it helpful to get different perspectives from different people. Those perspectives helped her to manage her expectations.
Jeremy Harridath, a broker who spends his time split between the mid-Atlantic region and Panama, agrees. He was used to fostering relationships with top originators, but he feels that they’ve taken on more significance this year, after switching to the broker channel.
“I get insights on compliance and what they're doing and we talked about different investors, certain pain points, what this investor's doing, that that account executive did, and it's allowing me to sit there and go 'Okay, what can I do differently? What can I do to be better? What can I do to help these guys?'” Harridath said. “I'm talking to different owners and learning their different insights and their own nuances . . . if I didn't have them or if I didn't put myself out there to sit with these guys as an equal, I wouldn't receive that type of information.”
That sharing and support of perspectives had previously been missing for Tony Davis, a broker who transitioned from the retail channel and started his company in the spring of 2018. It’s “scary” going from a big company to opening your own place, compounded by the fact that people can be quite negative about the move. Receiving positive energy can make or break a move for an independent originator, and groups such as the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME) have led the charge to educate brokers on being better business owners and facilitate the ways in which brokers support each other.
“AIME, to me, has been really helpful because it makes the world smaller. People that I never would have met, now I can call and bounce an idea off of or vice versa. That it makes it feel like you're working at a company again,” David said. “You maintain the benefits of having your own shop and you still get to maintain the benefits of having all these people that are doing things and a lot of people are doing it better [than you].”
Broker Brett Weiss is an Arizona-based branch manager with Nexa mortgage who got back into origination three years ago and moved to the broker channel in June of 2018. He says that AIME in particular has led the charge in making the broker channel a true community.
“We're all helping one another, where you couldn't really do that in the past. [It was] dog eat dog,” Weiss said. “Everybody was a broker then and there was no retail banking competition; all your competition was your fellow brokers.”
Whether or not the landscape ever returns to that level remains to be seen. Until then, brokers are finding that there’s more to be gained by propping up each other’s business than tearing each other down.
“I'll see it on a daily basis: folks referring people to one another because they're in a state where they're not licensed. We're sending business back and forth to one another, not expecting anything else in return,” Weiss said.
Originators don’t have to wait until they officially become a broker to get use out of the connections, either. Evan Einhorn is a mortgage broker who notes that a lot of mortgage brokers are coming via word of mouth. A broker can tout the benefits of the channel to the rooftops, he said, but it’s easily written off without deeper conversations with someone on the inside.
Without those personal connections that made it easier for conversations to take place, Einhorn wouldn’t have become a broker at all.
“If you're in a retail environment where everyone's telling you how awesome their company is because they're trying to recruit from other retail companies, you're not going to think that the grass is greener on the other side,” he said. “Most retail companies are the same, so that's what I thought about the broker side: that you're going to get a little better pricing but your service is going to be worse. I had to physically like see it with someone I knew and trusted in order to make the move.”
Some mortgage brokers operate within larger networks, but a lot of them run small shops, so informal support systems can bridge the gap for brokerages or companies that don’t have built-in support and troubleshooting capabilities. These support systems can also prevent independent brokers from becoming so isolated, or even be a great addition to companies where those formal systems do exist. Either way, these networks go a long way toward collective success.
“We can be so connected,” Williams said. “Being able to have access to that support and not feeling so lonely, wondering, ‘Am I crazy? Am I the only one that's feeling this way?’ It’s fantastic, seeing other people go through the same thing.”