Broker out to prove blondes have more funds

Fun podcast and social media are important cogs to broker's business

Broker out to prove blondes have more funds

An untold number of folks got creative while practicing the tactics of isolation at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them was Michelle Dugan (pictured), owner of Mississippi-based MS Lending, who created a podcast with a colleague and friend titled “Blondes Have More Funds.”

In a recent episode, Dugan’s friend, Ashley Miller, used herself as a cautionary tale in relating the importance of monitoring one’s credit after she realized someone had used her credit card numbers to make purchases. Both managed to laugh at the situation while imparting an important message, with Miller describing Dugan as her “Amazon mule,” making transactions on her behalf while her account was frozen amid the bank’s fraud examination.

“We are as close of friends as we can ever be while living miles apart in Mississippi, and California,” the podcast description reads. “We mom hard, we mortgage hard, we collaborate and communicate through belly laughs and wild ideas, and we’re fluent in hefty pours of Cabernet, chocolate, and sparkly things.” The episode then segued into the topic of the day, an hour-long chat on women’s empowerment.

“My best friend and I started it during COVID because everyone was at home and we had all this time,” Dugan told Mortgage Professional America in a recent interview. “We had this great idea years ago that it’d be awesome to have a podcast. Of course, we’re both in the mortgage business, so we were, like, we’ll make it about mortgages. But nobody wants to sit and just talk about mortgages all the time, so we decided we’d make it more lifestyle, but also mixed in with mortgage and financial information. So that’s what we did, but we made it fun.”

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The goal was to make mortgage brokers in general more accessible, she suggested. “We wanted to make it where they [listeners] could see a side of mortgage brokers that was a little bit more fun,” she said. “I think most people when they deal with mortgage brokers think about stuffy bankers sitting in an office. For the most part, mortgage brokers are not that. We can still have fun with our clients in a way that banks might not necessarily encourage their originators to do.”

It’s fun to listen to, both co-hosts displaying healthy doses of self-deprecation sprinkled with solid insights on mortgages and related subjects. Yet for all its fun, the podcast is a serious component of her profession in staying in front of her clients and prospective homebuyers, she suggested. Along with the podcast, Dugan is active on social media. Particularly amid current challenges exacerbated by higher rates and inflation, Dugan pointed to her social media activities as something other brokers should emulate to keep communication going with customers.

“Social media is a big part of my business,” she said. “The majority of my business is repeat referrals from past customers, database, some realtors, and social media. I’ll get on social media, and I’ll stay in front of people. They may be thinking of purchasing and obviously many people aren’t thinking of refinancing right now, but when they do I want them to think of me. I want to do it without sending an email that’s going to go into their junk folder. I’m going to communicate with them on their page. It’s a family event, or somebody’s birthday or somebody in their family wins an award – I’m going to comment on that. Their son’s playing football and made a touchdown – I’m going to comment on that. The see my ace and see my posts consistently enough, they’ll remember me.”

Dugan initially took a circuitous way to find her fit, as she explained to MPA, spending a year apiece in retail and banking before entering the broker channel. “I worked for a broker who sold his company to another broker and she ended up selling to a bank, so after six months I said this is not going to work, this is not the thing for me. So then I got lured into the whole retail space. I did that for 365 days. As soon as I hit my one year, I was out of there. I didn’t really know where I was going to go. I didn’t want to go to another broker; I didn’t really have a connection with other brokerages in the area where I thought I thought it would be a good fit.”

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She ended up going to a local bank where she had established relationships, she continued. “When I was working at the bank, I realized the broker channel is the thing for me. I feel I can best represent my borrowers and give them the best terms and know I’m doing the best job for them as a broker because I have choices and options and don’t have to worry I’m not meeting the requirements that my boss who signs my paychecks wants me to meet. I can just do the best job for my customers and not have to worry about shareholders and management.

“I say these things knowing that I have employees, and I am the boss for a lot of them,” she said. “But I let all of them run their businesses independently. I’m not putting quotas on them. I’m not telling them how much to originate. If they want to do a ton, I’m going to support them and allow them to do that. But at the end of the day, I don’t have to worry: Am I giving these borrowers the best rates, am I giving them the best terms and the best product I can find for them? Or am I just putting them into a box that the bank or this retail organization gives them the option of having?”

She offered hope to her fellow brokers having to endure higher rates: “I think the growth of the broker channel over the last several years is going to help. We’re all leaning in as a community. Business may be down right now, but as it starts to go back up, we have only been getting stronger month after month. Once things flip back in place, we’re going to be in the best position we’ve ever been in. It’s always cyclical. The market always goes up and down. It might be a little different now, but it will go back up. It’s just the nature of things.”