At 5 o’clock a.m., Matt Cole’s alarm goes off. He hits the gym, talking himself through the day and planning the execution of his tasks. He knows for a fact that the early bird gets the worm because he is that early bird.
“People always say, 'I wish there was more time in the day,' when there really is, if you think about it. . . If you start your day at 8, which is still pretty early, I'm already three hours ahead of you,” Cole said. “You’d be surprised just how much you get done before work even starts. If you know that there's things that have to be done, you could get all that stuff out of the way so that when people come into the office at 8 or 9, they're getting you the answers you need, instead of you sending the emails out at 8 or 9 and not getting those answers till noon. Starting your day early has such a big impact on how your day goes. I can guarantee you that.”
Matt Cole is a partner and branch manager with United Wholesale Lending, and he closed more than $65 million in 2018. He had a great year in spite of the disruption that comes along with moving a business, in this case moving from the retail channel to the broker channel. In fact, he says, making the move has done wonders for his career already.
Several months ago, Cole hired an operations manager that drives his loans from contract to close, making sure conditions are done, processors are staying on task, CDs are going out on time, dates are met—basically “bird dogging” loans through the finish line. This has removed a lot of work from Cole’s plate and allowed him to focus more on originations. Now, Cole said, there are no leads left behind, nothing’s getting forgotten, and all calls are getting returned.
“2019 has been one of the best years I've ever had my entire career, not because of rates getting better, but just because we've been able to smoothly execute loans from A to Z a lot better,” he said. “We've worked out all those little things that we didn't know about, going back to the broker side.”
Prior to joining United Wholesale Lending, Cole was originating loans with Guaranteed Rate. There, Cole frequently connected with and learned from some of the top lenders in the country, particularly on coaching calls. He’s never been a big “corporate-America-type person”, though, so some aspects of working with a large retail lender didn’t appeal to him. As he continued to grow and challenge himself, he felt confident enough in his knowledge as a mortgage originator to manage his own business and create his own ways, instead of creating them for somebody else; in other words, returning to the broker channel where he got his start.
Like so many other originators, Cole ended up in the mortgage industry by chance. He had always been attracted to varying environments and liked the aspect of origination that promised no two borrowers or circumstances would ever be the same. When he started, he was a true “Refi Warrior”, calling people when rates went down. When rates rose, however, he’d find himself SOL.
A talkative, personable guy, Cole frequently asked other people for business tips, and his approach to origination changed when a high-level executive from Countrywide gave him some sage advice: 'when rates get better—and eventually they will—don't just start chasing refis because that's what everybody is going to do. Start calling real estate agents and be there for them, because eventually, their loan officers are going to be chasing the refis, and they're going to lose their service level.’ In 2013, when rates improved, that’s exactly what Cole did.
“Instead of chasing refis and doing my normal thing of what I would normally do, I started calling every real estate agent I could call and earning opportunities through telling them what I could do. That eventually put me as one of the top loan officers in purchase in California,” Cole said.
Today his business is at least 95% purchase, referral business from real estate agent partners. His main marketing efforts, then, are geared toward helping those agents become more successful. He views realtors the same way he views stocks: how have they performed in the past? Are they meeting expectations? He invests his energy and resources into consistently performing agents who are meeting or exceeding expectations in the marketplace.
The energy and resources are primarily put into helping his partners execute their ideas. One thing Cole has learned from studying under some of the top loan officers in the country is the importance of having a high-preforming team, and he has a team member whose sole focus is client relations and business marketing. That role involves assisting Cole’s real estate partners with various aspects of their business, such as improving and maximizing their social media presence, planning and executing events, and generally holding them accountable to business building activities.
Cole is in the weeds each and every day, but at this point in his career he does more than manage higher loan volume. He’s creating employment for a team of people, and he’s gotten to the point where that team dynamic provides him the security to improve the quality of his own life with his wife and six children. Eventually, he wants to own his own sports stadiums, but for right now, he is focused on delegating and finding new ways to adding value to his partners.
A loan officer is a dime a dozen these days, he said, so the best originators have to get creative and have different selling points than anyone else.
It’s a far cry from his previous work in telecommunications, toiling outside in steel-toed boots.
“I feel like I became what I wanted,” Cole said.