Shane Siniard, senior loan officer at SWBC, closed $83 million in loan volume last year—but he doesn’t focus on the $83 million, or the $87 million he closed the year before. Instead, he zeroes in on the units, which in recent years has been between 460 and 499.
The sheer number of units is “exhausting,” and his team was working so many hours in 2017 that they brought on another assistant last year to help shoulder the load. Working with his wife and two other assistants to help take applications, they’ve figured out how to move forward in a more balanced fashion, being able to take a vacation and still have people back in the office that can handle business. Apart from that, Siniard hasn’t changed much about his approach; he’s found what works and they just keep doing it over and over again.
“You can’t build your business behind a desk. You’ve got to get out and let people know who you are and what you do and how you can help them, and that’s never going to change. Even doing what I do today, I’ve still got to go out and meet with realtors, and meet with brokers, and meet with builders, and continually work the business.”
Siniard, who is also a Georgia Residential Mortgage Licensee, started originating mortgages in 2003. He had dabbled in property investing, but when the money and time he investing didn’t bear any fruit, he decided to put his properties up for sale. He gave his business to a highly-recommended mortgage originator, who set not one, not two, but three closing dates, all of which came and went without a loan package or any communication—after Siniard had traveled hours to sign the docs. Ultimately, the buyer walked away from the deal, and Siniard knew he could do better.
“I told my wife at that time: ‘If they’re that successful and that incompetent, that’s the business I need to be in.’ So I left an engineering management position to go 100% commission into the mortgage business. It was a very bold move on my part. That part of my life was just lining up to do something different.”
He got licensed as a mortgage broker and learned the business on his own. After a couple of years, Wachovia Mortgage made him an offer and he worked there as a producing manager, staying on with Wells Fargo for a couple of years after the takeover. He enjoyed origination, but he found working for a big box lender to be very frustrating; the majority of his closings didn’t happen on time, and he didn’t have much control of other people, his files or the speed at which those files went through processing and underwriting.
“I just couldn’t control the process. It was just a broken system,” Siniard said.
He knew he didn’t want to go to another big bank and he didn’t want to become a mortgage broker, because, he said, brokers can’t really control the process either. Instead, he decided to go to SWBC Mortgage Corporation, a direct lender where all the processing, underwriting and closing is done in the same place. Now, he says, he has much more control without the added burden of managing other people.
Today, a vast majority of his clients come from realtors, with a smaller segment coming from past clients and past client referrals. It was a big change from his previous client base.
“When I left the big bank, I had to reinvent myself, so to speak, because most of my business walked through one of the banking locations,” Siniard said. He began marketing directly to realtors through realtor luncheons, home buyer seminars, face-to-face meetings, and a lot of open houses. Social media marketing wasn’t on his radar back then—and if he’s being honest, it isn’t really on his radar now. What he has, he’s built on face-to-face relationships.
“I’ve spent the bulk of my time trying to figure out how I can help the realtors close more deals and what kind of problems they were having. We were able to take and close deals a lot faster and with a lot smoother process than most of my competitors,” Siniard said.
He also meets about half of his clients face to face. They remember that personal interaction, he says, along with your location, and they’re able to pass that information to other people in their sphere. In fact, Siniard’s location gives him something of an advantage over his competitors in general. He’s based in his hometown, so many people in the community have known him long before he went into the mortgage business. They come to him from the surrounding counties as well as his own. He also said that there are a lot of newer originators in his market that are—well, they’re just new, and experience counts for a lot.
“Experience is a great teacher. I’ve been doing this a long time, so we have a lot of experience in a wide variety of loans,” he said. “I do USDA, a ton of FHA, conventional, renovation, a lot of rehab loans, VA loans, we just do a wide variety and not everybody does that type of product mix.”
Experience has taught him the importance of having a database, which he didn’t have early in his career; now he has a system, Top of Mind, that automatically syncs up with their loan origination system, Encompass. Experience has also taught him that in order to stay relevant, originators always have to go where the referral sources are, and not to be afraid of self-promotion.
“You’ve got to be out. People have to know you’re in the business, and so you have to promote yourself to every realtor, every builder, every financial planner, every potential referral source and close friend that you know,” Siniard said.
Experienced or not, there’s just no substitute for that.