Top Originator: Brian Cooke makes every second count

by Kasi Johnston15 Apr 2020

Time is Brian Cooke’s single most valuable resource, and managing that time is one of his greatest strengths. You won’t be able to schedule a call with him since he doesn’t book appointments, but you can count on him picking up the phone at any time, as he prefers to tackle any issues as they come, whether it’s big or small.

Throughout his 17-year career in mortgage, he has always been diligent about finding efficiency in every part of the process. When faced with a new system or something unknown, his curiosity always gets the best of him and he will work with it until he knows it inside out. In keeping with his objective of ultimate efficiency, Cooke has chosen to close every loan from start to finish without a processor or any other person touching the file.

“The client is just dealing with me, rather than bouncing around between different people, which leads to a superior experience. When multiple people are working on a file, there will always be some drop off in communication,” he said. If a file is handed off to someone else so early in the process, Cooke says the client really misses out on his level of efficiency and expertise.

“My goal is for the client to wake up one day and realize that they’ve successfully obtained their mortgage without having to do much.”

Having just launched his own brokerage in 2018, Cooke still managed to close 511 loans totaling $173 million in volume last year. The key to accomplishing such a high volume on his own, he explains, is being religious about staying organized. Cooke says he usually has about 100 loans in progress at once and developed a detailed spreadsheet which helps him keep track of each loan simultaneously.

Cooke partnered with two long-time industry colleagues to open up SunnyHill Financial almost two years ago. All three have a combined 50 years of experience in the mortgage industry and together, felt like they had what it takes to successfully run their own brokerage.

“Ben Robinson's strength is in capital markets, finding and negotiating with lenders, Tyler Flora has experience scaling business for several other San Francisco FinTech startups and my strength is loan origination and creating the most efficient process,” he said.

On top of an experienced leadership team, Cooke says top priorities at SunnyHill Financial was keeping operational costs low, in order to offer competitive, low rates, as well as having speedy technology.  Consumers today are armed with more information and a greater understanding of the mortgage process, Cooke says, so he always approaches each client with an upfront, honest, and transparent attitude.

“When you have some of the lowest prices in the industry, you don't really need to sugar-coat things or steer the conversation away from rate to talk about value.” People don’t generally like shopping for mortgages and we live in a society that values instant gratification, he added, so having a fast response time, and being able to quickly build trust and rapport with clients will likely win you business.

Each client comes with a unique set of demands and needs, so Cooke always takes the time to listen to clients and ultimately let them lead the decision making. He says there are a lot of pushy people in the industry, but it’s important for loan originators to remember that every loan is going to be different.

With the coronavirus pandemic, the mortgage industry is in a place of uncertainty and volatility. Cooke says while originators should keep a close eye on the environment, it’s more important to focus on what we can control.

“This is different than the 2008 housing recession,” he said. “We are not the cause of the problem and now more than ever, loan originators need to do the right thing for the consumer. Being on the broker side, I couldn't be happier because I'm able to help extend some of the lowest rates to my clients to help them save the most money when they need it most.”