If you’re a loan originator and don’t want to own your own company, deciding where to work can make a huge difference when it comes to your personal success. Luckily, lenders are always searching for good people to add to their ranks.
So what are lenders looking for in a loan originator?
Brian Koss is executive vice president of Mortgage Network, one of the largest independent mortgage lenders in the eastern U.S. Koss’ mission is to help mortgage sales professionals identify their strengths and empower them to achieve their goals, all within the current climate where rising interest rates have considerably slowed refinancing activity and turned the field into a purchase market.
As much as the field is a numbers game, recruiting top loan officers isn’t simply about looking at the sales volume and number of loans on an originator’s books.
“It’s a combination of things,” Koss said. “Our job is to build the brands of our loan officers. We look for people who are good and confident at selling themselves. You look for that confidence and autonomy, that entrepreneurialism.”
Koss said that they look for people who haven’t relied on a brand, waiting for business to come to them.
“We look for people who are ready to build their brand and they want to be the best resource to the people that they are selling themselves to, who would value those services. We give them an extremely wide menu, so we want people who are smart, who are curious, who are persistent, and have a deep passion for helping people.”
The industry itself is an aging one, and it’s a fine line between investing the time and energy in inexperienced originators and having a team whose members are experienced in securing loans but not as willing to adapt to a changing environment. Technical skills can be taught, but there are some things that come from life experience that can prove to be an asset to any originator.
“We look for also younger people, new people to the business, where they have had the experience of dealing with rejection, dealing with, putting themselves out there,” Koss said. Many seemingly unrelated positions actually provide good training for being a mortgage broker, anything from being a bartender to working retail, depending on a person’s initiative. “Sometimes just being in a service industry where you have to make quick decisions, put yourself out there, put a smiling face on, balance multiple worlds, that’s something you’re looking for. The ability to speak, present, and write, and be able to analyze, to figure, to handle data and understand that, is what we’re ideally looking for.”
It could be a couple of years to get a new loan officer up and running, Koss says, which is party of the reason why it’s so hard to revamp the industry, which is “struggling.” For the past few decades it was easier for new originators jumping into the industry; there were plenty of refi opportunities on which they could cut their teeth, so to speak, and they were somewhat less of a risk than purchase deals. Friends and family were often guinea pigs for new originators, and there was enough business to get the experience that they needed.
“Now there’s very, very few refis, they really can’t make it rain, and they have to go win purchase business right away, which is a real struggle,” Koss said. “It’s sort of like throwing a first-year med student into surgery. It’s a little scary, and who wants to be that person being operated on, or referring a person?”
Because of this, older referral partners might go ahead and do deals with people who they’ve known for decades – even though they’re not as hungry for the business, even if they’re complacent.
But looking at the loan officer as a stand-alone entity isn’t a surefire recipe for success, either. As the saying goes, no originator is an island, and Koss said that the lender has to take all other personalities into account as well.
A typical successful loan officer often has certain personality traits, such as being competitive, ambitious, and aggressive. These are the people Koss likes to put in the mentor and manager role, as opposed to someone who needs a lot of direction.
“These are captains on the field playing the game, they are not coaches on the sidelines in our model. Other models, if you were inside a big bank or whatever, usually, a lot of banks don’t want you to be a producing manager. They want coaches who’ve maybe never played the game or played a long time ago and they spend half their time managing up and managing the corporate goals. Ours are captains playing the game and saying, ‘if you want to see how to play this, I’m gonna tell you once, you’d better take notes, and you’d better watch me and do what I do.”