How one co-founder reaches and manages complex clients from across the globe
Damon Germanides (pictured) has built his business on key relationships and serious diligence. The co-founder of Insignia mortgage has built a business up and down the length of California that took his personal volume over the $200 million threshold in 2019. A child of the restaurant industry, Germanides built that volume with a characteristic work ethic, focus on quality and eye for opportunity in competitive markets.
Germanides told MPA that he serves a diversified clientele of self-employed individuals, real estate investors, foreign buyers, and retirees. He’s also built a strong non-QM pipeline by building direct partnerships with regional banks and credit unions, making Insignia the sole provider of jumbo mortgages to many of these institutions. In return, those credit unions have developed unique programs to meet Germanides’ client needs such as loans for foreign nationals without a US tax return, loans for investors with complex income streams, and full-dock loan programs. In making these partnerships, Germanides has built a business that serves the unique needs of a deeply complex clientele.
“We won those relationships by myself and my partner through our 40 years of combined experience in this business,” Germanides said. “In the years after the financial crisis we were able to meet with banks and lenders who wanted to put more of these loans on their books. They saw our years in the business and got comfortable with our clientele over time, these are relationships that have evolved.”
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Finding those complex clients is not without its challenges. In a pre-COVID world, Germanides marketed via publications for real estate investors, email marketing, and Google search and display ads. His messaging was about creating clarity in a complex system, and how Insignia can adequately manage that complexity. It’s a message that resonated domestically and internationally. Germanides has won clients from across Europe and beyond, especially in the UK, Japan, Australia, China, Singapore and the Middle East.
Post-COVID that marketing has shifted away from print towards social media and Google. Germanides’ team have stepped up their emailing efforts, too, but he stressed that they aim for specific, targeted emails rather than “burdening people’s inboxes” on a daily basis. Pre- and post-COVID, however, Germanides explained that the core message has been the same.
“We know what we do well, we’re clear about that and our people are trained to be clear about what we do well,” he said. “If it’s not a great fit we let the client know that there may be something better out there for them, but it may not be through us.”
What they do well, he stressed, is managing complexity. In managing the complexities of a foreign buyer, Germanides said he works especially closely with their financial team of advisors, chartered accountants, and attorneys to get a full picture of the client’s finances. Germanides explained that once the diligence is done, the end process is quite similar to that with a US borrower.
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It’s turning that complexity into consistency that Germanides believes has pushed him over the $200 million mark. He’s proud of delivering consistent performance by turning complex situations towards the “block and tackle” of the mortgage business. Having an efficient and well-trained team is crucial in that process, and Germanides is quick to praise his team’s work. Their efficiency and diligence, he said, can make the difference between a smooth deal or the sort of rocky process that can drive clients crazy.
Technology plays a key role in Germanides’ process - he stressed that only by staying up to date on tech can a small mortgage company like his reach clients halfway around the world. An organized database has helped him monetize the relationships he forges and target prospects with exactly what they need to hear. He can provide clients with the right information when they need to hear it and keep generating the sort of business he and his team manage so well.
“We built this business around harder to place loans,” Germanides said. “I don’t mean harder because of bad credit but harder in that they come with more complex, opaque loan structures that require my experience as an originator and my team behind me.”