Gateway Mortgage offers insights into growth strategy

Expansion into new territories begins with vetted loan originators

Gateway Mortgage offers insights into growth strategy

In a time of shrinking housing inventory and high interest rates, virtually every mortgage lender and broker is seeking to gain market share. Gateway Mortgage is no different, having recently announced its expansion into three additional markets as potential fertile ground across a changed mortgage landscape.

The company has expanded into Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee, bringing the number of states in which it’s licensed to 43. Mortgage Professional America reached out to Steven Plaisance (pictured), Gateway’s president of mortgage banking, for additional insights into its growth strategy against the backdrop of a softened market.

“We’re in a very interesting mortgage market,” Plaisance began during a telephone interview with MPA. “Business is down considerably year-over-year. But business is still going on as we continue to battle the survival of the fittest, if you will.”

Gateway’s been through tough markets before

Despite market downturns, Gateway is poised to compete, he added: “Gateway’s been in the mortgage business for 23-plus years and been through different cycles – been through the mortgage meltdown, been through other rate ebbs and flows, ups and downs. This is very unique; we are dealing with a transition from two of the best years ever probably in my lifetime – in most of our lifetimes – to all of a sudden a massive decline in business due to rates and housing inventory – all the things we all know.”

And yet, the market is hardly at a full standstill: “With that being said, there’s still business being done,” Plaisance said. “A company like Gateway, we fancy ourselves to be nimble enough to still look for opportunity whether it’s in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas – it can be in Timbuktu. We’re not married to ‘we wanna be here, here or here.’ To be frank, we’re a business; we will go where we have opportunity to run a good mortgage business. Obviously, right now you need to be a little extra careful in your due diligence as to what that means.”

The key is in securing trusted, tested people

What it means to Gateway is securing trusted people to mine the new territories: “And that may mean you connect with people you’ve worked with before – people you know, people you’ve vetted – obviously with good track records, good sources of where they get their business from, strong referral partners whether it’s builders or realtors, whatever it might be.”

Such vetted individuals were found in each of the states to which Gateway has expanded, he said. “We had various degrees of known individuals that were part of those add-ons for us, so that certainly fits some of those criteria. You do have a fair number of people looking to move around right now, maybe kicking tires, but you also have people who aren’t going to move around as well.”

The selected folks to work those markets is something of a sign of the times in terms of broker migration in a mercurial market, as Plaisance described it: “It’s not uncommon in our business to see people change companies, to come back to companies,” he said. “In one of our cases, it was a rehire out in Tennessee. He worked for us, went to another company for a year, and came back. We’ve had our share of that as well, just like other companies. If you were to line up resumes of 50 mortgage loan originators, there’s a good chance – if they’ve worked in the independent mortgage space – maybe they’ve hopped around a little bit. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see them work for the same company a couple of different times.”

Gateway has also expanded in its home state of Oklahoma

In addition to extending its reach into the three additional states, expansion-minded Gateway in May announced its plans to buy a branch of Regent Bank in the Oklahoma city of Bartlesville – within a state where it already had a presence given it’s headquartered there. The county seat of Washington County, Bartlesville is a city with a population just short of 40,000 people, located 47 miles north of Tulsa and 18 miles south of the Kansas border.

Chris Revard, Bartlesville market president for Gateway First Bank, spoke to the company’s existing ties to the Oklahoma community: “It’s exciting to be a part of the growth in Bartlesville,” he said in a prepared statement at the time. “Gateway is a strong community bank – one of the largest banks in Oklahoma – and one of the largest mortgage companies in the country. To have the depth and breadth of this company behind me to positively affect the local community is an honor.”

With headquarters in Jenks, Okla., Gateway is one of the largest financial institutions in the state, with assets totaling more than $2 billion. In addition to its nine banking centers in Oklahoma, Gateway has a strong mortgage presence nationally, with more than 115 mortgage locations and nearly 1,000 employees.

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