Top Originator: Creating a long-term career value

“For sustainability, it is important to limit the hours and save time for a personal life”

Top Originator: Creating a long-term career value

Lisa Gabbert’s mortgage career started as an experiment. Gabbert (pictured) entered the industry in the mid-1980s as a 25-year-old with no mortgage experience or even an idea of how the process goes.

“I stumbled into the mortgage world in 1985 with no knowledge,” she told MPS. “I was looking for a sales position in banking. My first interview was with the Indy Market Manager in the mortgage division of Tower Bank. With some reluctance, I accepted the job. The manager had to convince me that I could be successful. I am happy he did.”

Those were the days when you were handed a book on FNMA, FHA, and VA guidelines, and that’s it for training. Gabbert said this was far from helpful for a young loan officer who’s just learning the ropes. Computers weren’t also widely available, so she had to write applications by hand and drop off rate sheets in real estate offices. Despite a difficult start, Gabbert got through this steep learning curve with the help of her mentors.

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“I have had many mentors in my life. The first and foremost was my father. He was an incredible teacher. He took every phone call (turned off caller ID), answered every email and did his very best each day to support his employer,” she shared. “In 1986, I got lucky. Interest rates declined to under 10%. It was a boom year for refinancing and purchase transactions. There is no better way to learn than volume. I fell in love with mortgage at that time.”

Although Gabbert’s career took off that year, she found it almost impossible to balance this seven-days-a-week job with being a full-time mom.  So, she decided to leave the mortgage business in the early 1990s and became a full-time volunteer while her children were in elementary school.

More than 15 years later, Gabbert began originating again, and in 2013, she joined the Merchants Bank of Indiana, where she now serves as a vice president.

“For sustainability, it is important to limit the hours and save time for a personal life,” Gabbert said. “2020 and most of 2021 was an exhausting time. Most mortgage professionals worked every day without taking a vacation. I chose work over my family during that time.”

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Looking back, Gabbert admits she didn’t understand how purchasing a home can be a complicated and emotional transaction for an individual. Being supportive and calming are just some of the qualities she had to master as an originator. Time and experience also taught her to give her profession the respect it deserves.

“Mortgage is a complicated product, and it takes years to be a knowledgeable professional,” she said. “This is a profession to be proud of you. Treat it with respect and become an expert in your field. Today I concentrate on conventional financing. I am no longer an expert in FHA and VA, therefore, I will refer it to a co-worker that is better suited. In the end, the most important role is to provide the best service to the client.”

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Another lesson Gabbert learned in her career was to not rely solely on referrals from real estate agents. Today, her business mainly comes from her centers of influence: co-workers, financial advisors, past clients, and family friends.

“I enjoy interacting with my clients and learning about their life and business. I am thrilled when a client comes back to us for a new mortgage,” Gabbert said. “As a bank loan originator, we can offer mortgages in most states. I enjoy learning about the difference in real estate markets. I am a real estate junkie. As I speak with a client, I am looking up the property address. Living vicariously through other clients’ purchases is a lot of fun.”

Mortgage, an industry fraught with obstacles changing underwriting guidelines and low appraisals issues, can be exhausting. Still, it gives Gabbert a thrill – maybe now more than ever.

“I enjoy the process. Every loan is different and requires a thoughtful approach. It is similar to solving a complicated puzzle, it’s always rewarding,” she said.