Top Originator: Dan Stevens

Wells Fargo's Dan Stevens is nimble, ready to change, and ready to learn

Top Originator: Dan Stevens

Over the past 17 years, Dan Stevens has learned a thing or two about origination. Number one, there are lot of missed opportunities when an originator neglects his or her database. Number two, a workplace should not only be a good fit on a personal level, but also for the needs of an originator's client base.

Stevens is a private mortgage banker with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage who works primarily with non-conforming loans—probably 75-85%. To put it simply, Stevens said that Wells is good at the non-conforming business in terms of getting it through the system. In spite of the uh, difficulties Wells has had in recent months, he said there’s really nowhere he’d rather be.

“The reality is that I’m happy to have Wells Fargo behind me despite all those challenges because we do offer a great solution for those clients, we can get the loan done efficiently, we can get loans done that other people can’t get done, and we can do it at a really fair and reasonable rate and cost and so forth that help them save potentially hundreds of dollars a month,” Stevens said.

Some originators who work for retail lenders or big banks say that access to technology and marketing is why these lenders are a better fit for them, but Stevens said nothing of the sort. (In fact, he said, 100% of his business comes from referrals.) Not only that, but he said it’s not true that originators don’t compete on price for non-conforming loans, and Wells is “consistently” solid and competitive on pricing for non-conforming.

Being at a big bank may have disadvantages for originators when it comes to autonomy and the ability to change their branding, their image, and Stevens has certainly run into that; for better or worse, as long as he stays with the company, he’s tied to the company. That being said, what’s proven to be stronger than anything else is his relationships with his referral partners, and their recommendation to clients.

“I’ve had realtors tell me, ‘I referred you and they were hesitant at first because you’re with Wells Fargo, but I explained to them how you were . . . a really good guy, and I’m referring them because you do a great job, not because of Wells Fargo.’”

Stevens benefits from sharing best practices with other originators, something that, in his “limited” experience, has increased recently. Rather than originators operating in silos and holding their successes and secrets close to their chests, peers are opening up and sharing what it is that’s working—and not working—for them. Although certain practices aren’t relevant or applicable from one market or workplace to the next, originators are better able to serve their clients when they can implement the “little nuggets” here and there that will work for their individual business, style, or system.

“I do love to learn from other people, from their successes and failures wherever I can. It’s hard to have to learn on your own all the time when there’s other, smarter people out there that have the figured it out for you,” Stevens laughed. “I’m wise enough to know that that’s the good way to go, you just try to learn from other people as best you can.”

Sharing successes and failures also paves the way for partnerships between originators themselves.

Not everyone has the same specialties or products available to them, and there are always certain clients that an originator can’t help on their own. Rather than turning people away, however, originators who have close connections with others are able to send those clients to people who can help them. Although Stevens has a very limited perspective, he says that from what he’s seen, newer originators are more open to this type of relationship than other originators he’s seen in the past.  

“If I can’t do [a deal], I’m happy to run it by them and vice versa. So although we do compete with each other, for sure, we respect each other, we know we have the same mindset for our clients, we know that we want to do the best possible job for our client and we also know that we would never encourage our clients to do something that’s not in their interest. So we feel confident referring to each other, and we know that none of us can do everything and that there’s some things that one can do and not the other,” he said.

This current shift in origination is the biggest one that he’s experienced since he started in the business. But there’s nothing magic in transforming a business model to handle it; it requires a deep reflection on existing referral sources. Stevens doesn’t expect to be able to make up all of the loss in refi business, but he does expect to make up some of it by digging deep into his database of both clients and realtors, cleaning it up and touching everyone more meaningfully so that he doesn’t miss opportunities.

When he has a conversation with a client and hears that they refinanced or bought a home with someone else, and didn’t have a good experience during the process, it’s tough to take.

“It’s like salt in the wound. Not only did I not do the deal and lose them from my database for the most part, they didn’t get as well-served as they would have if I had done a better job of staying in touch. That’s probably my biggest regret is that I do a pretty good job, and I pay a lot of money up with it and [spend] a lot of time, but not enough. I could still do a better job.”

Stevens also plans to take advantage of economic and forecasting tools that are available to him at Wells that he hasn’t used to their full potential in the past. It’s the ability to take the tools and advice available and translate it into what works best for your particular model is what’s going to get the best originators through a rising rate market.

“You have to work hard and then you have to make sure the activities that you’re doing are the right activities. Especially if you’re new to the business . . . you might have 100 people in your database, so the activities have to be much more focused on lead generation, and then measuring that,” he said. “The top producers all do the right activities.”