Rob Wishnick doesn’t believe in failure.
“I've never bought into the model of you have to fail to move forward. Failure is not an option for me. Failure for me is not closing a loan, and that's never good. So I don't buy into that. I think you can make sure that you always have happy clients, you never burn anybody,” he said.
That’s not to say that he’s perfect, or that he always has been. But his entire team strives to build as optimal of a customer experience as possible, getting everything through the pipeline as quickly as possible so that it’s not a stressful process for anyone involved.
And, he says, given all of the technology available, the loan process shouldn’t be all that stressful anymore. Wishnick, vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate, has built his team around operations, and they’re constantly figuring how can they can continue their growth while maintaining efficiency on the ops side.
There are hundreds of mortgage originators who close more than $50 million each year and when Wishnick thinks of the elements of his business that make him different, he admits that there might not be that many. Among the hundreds of top producers and the hundreds of individual businesses at his company, many similarities exist. It’s the little nuances, however, that make the difference.
“I'm not a pitch guy, I'm not a script guy. I lead with trust,” Wishnick said. “I am adamant about [being] a local lending expert, and can really hone in on the numbers that are actually going to happen. When I send out an estimate, there's no cutting corners; I'm really laying it all out there.”
Wishnick closed $80 million in 2018. His core business is from realtor relationships, although he wasn’t initially too keen on that dynamic. It wasn’t that he tried to fight it, exactly, but he wasn’t fully aware of how strong the relationship between a borrower and their realtor could be, and how much he could benefit from it. He had a strong network and sphere of influence, and as his business was doing very well from that, he thought that he could continue in that manner. Eventually, though, he needed a boost to take his production to the next level, and over time he discovered that no matter how warm a lead was, it was much more likely that he’d get a serious crack at a deal if it came from a realtor. So finally, he caved.
“Time and time again, [the realtor relationship has] proven to be more powerful than the accountant relationship and, often, the family relationship, and the financial advisor relationship,” Wishnick said. “There's a lot of trust placed in that realtor and people really do follow their lead. It just became sort of natural; this is this is really how it is, as much as I tried initially to think that that's not the case.”
Wishnick got into the industry after receiving his MBA. He learned the business by processing, repeatedly “getting other loan officers’ deals to the closing table.” Slowly he began to build a network and a book of business, and after a few years, once he felt that he could replicate that on his own, he made the switch from processing to origination.
Everything happens so much faster now than it did 15 years ago and technology has cut down on a lot of time and labor. Today, Wishnick stays in touch with his book relying heavily on Guaranteed Rate’s drip campaign, which is something he always wanted to employ prior to joining the company in 2015, but could never find the time to create on his own. The automated email campaign goes out to past clients as well as partners, and is a vital part of his marketing strategy. (Other parts, like social media, not so much.)
Wishnick has eagerly taken advantage of technological advances in the industry, especially as he was close to calling it quits a few years back.
“I was getting pretty bored of the business and even contemplating leaving it, because taking another application, disclosing, and doing everything pretty much on my own was becoming such a daunting and mundane task,” he said.
Some soul searching led him to Guaranteed Rate, where the infrastructure and management was the right fit for him. Ineffectual management can really obstruct an originator’s business. In tough moments, when it’s necessary to speak to an underwriter or get conditions cleared, having the right managers can pave the way. At larger lenders especially, there can be more red tape bogging down the process, and without managers and/or mentors who are able to help, Wishnick says, “you're going to drown.”
On the other hand, with the right company and the right balance of technology, origination is pretty great these days—if an originator knows their stuff. Times are good and there’s a lot of competition in the mortgage space, but Wishnick says that’s okay, because it means the best in the business can thrive.
“If you're not a good originator at the core, you're going to struggle. You have to deliver time in and time out, you have to know your way around the file and what you can do. Most of this business is knowing the capabilities: What can you do? What can you get through underwriting? Where are those red flags going to hit? And if you know that, then really, originating and should be pretty simple.”
Today, Wishnick is focused on maintaining efficiency while continuing to grow. While his peers have popped in and out of the business, he’s always viewed it as a career, not a job. Because of that, he wants to make sure that he’s very good at it, and not just looking at the next quick sale. Moving onto the next 'what's hot' venture has never been his mentality, he said, and
“I'm very happy with what I've done in my career, but I would be unhappy if this was it,” he said. “I want to keep the growth going.”