Top Originator: Brian Jessen is a master of adaptation

Don't call him an old dog, but this $80 million industry veteran has learned some new tricks

Top Originator: Brian Jessen is a master of adaptation

There’s a calm that descends upon achieving the elusive Inbox Zero. Just knowing there aren’t any more emails that require attention, that every enquiry and request for communication has been addressed, arouses a feeling of peace and contentment.

Brian Jessen doesn’t know that feeling.

Even when he’s done with his email, he’s not really done. Every Saturday morning, he delves back into his inbox and rereads every email from that morning back through the previous Friday.

“I’m going back to make sure I didn’t miss anything, any promised follow up I did, just going back and easing my mind that everything from over the last week and the previous weekend were 100% covered.”

In other words, he’s meticulous when it comes to follow up and following through.

It something that Jessen has learned over his more than 30 years in the business, and of course, it’s not the only thing. Jessen is a senior vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate in Deerfield, Illinois, and over the years he's become very adept at is understanding the bigger picture. Whether it’s the economy and interest rates or the motivations behind the actions of the Federal Reserve, he’s “generally conversant on what’s going on in the financial markets and the financial world, and I think most originators don’t really have a sense for that at all.”

There are obviously some areas where he’s had to adjust. Twenty years ago, he said, about 70% of his time was spent on the phone with the remaining 30% of the time on email.  Now that division is about 20% on the phone, about 40% on email, and about 40% on text.

“The way of communicating with clients has changed rapidly. Most people, after that initial conversation, really don’t want to talk to you on the phone; they want everything in email, they want everything in a spreadsheet, they want everything in a text. They really don’t want to hear from you, generally speaking, with a lot of verbal communication,” he said.

And so, like any survivor, he has learned how to adapt. He’s learned to adjust to client requests (like recently, when a number of his clients requested spreadsheets in left-to-right orientation, as opposed to having to scroll down vertically). He’s also learning to adjust to the new ways of building connections, and in 2019, that’s going to mean one thing: video. He’s looking to embed video not just into his informational communications, but for any event-related communication as well, in hopes of creating an enhanced personal connection.

One of the things that Jessen has implemented and that’s stuck are his weekly pipeline reviews with his team to discuss what’s worked and didn’t work in the past week. But just like Jessen doesn’t rest when every email in his inbox has been read, he doesn’t rest when loans are closed either. His weekly pipeline reviews also cover any loans that have closed in the past week.

“[For] the files that have closed, what really worked well, what was a problem, what have we learned, what could we have done better on that particular issue, what we will do in the future so that issue doesn’t come up again. So in this industry, supposedly the Net Promoter Score is a 60%, so that means that 60% of people would use the same company or the same loan originator again. I think my NPS is like 98%. So that’s the biggest teller that people feel like you have advised them well and your staff’s engaged and they’re following up.”

Everyone’s keen on hearing tips and tricks of the trade for those who seem to have figured it all. In all honesty, a lot of strategies are going to work for some originators and not others because each originator is different. Jessen knows this, and doesn’t offer any tips, tricks, or secrets to success. Instead, he suggests shadowing really good originators for a while to see their best practices, how they do business, how they talk to clients and how they interact with their staff.

In fact, if a company and the higher-producing originators are amenable to it, he suggests shadowing several different originators to figure out how they do their business, and incorporate some of their best practices into their own business. This is something that works for inexperienced originators as well as those who may have stagnated in their careers and aren’t growing as much as they’d like.

If there’s one particular tell about how Jessen does business, it’s how he sees referral partners. He thinks that some originators understand just how serious that partnership is, and that’s a big mistake. Huge.

“If this this what you want to do for a living, you’d better be darn serious about it and darn committed to it, and realize when someone’s giving you a referral, this is basically their livelihood they’re handing to you and saying, ‘take care of it,’ whether that’s you doing the loan or not doing the loan,” he said. “Anybody that hopefully works with me feels like when they interact with me, that I cared about them first and foremost and I cared about giving them the best advice and the rest of it evolves over your career by following through, being honest, and giving the best advice.”

The biggest compliment, he said, is when clients send him their children, or their parents, or their best friend, because they don’t have to say anything, and that’s a big compliment when that happens. If the next decade of his career is anything like the previous three, he’ll be seeing many more of those in the future.