What do female mortgage leaders have in common?

EVP reveals her number one piece of advice for the next generation of female leaders

What do female mortgage leaders have in common?

Great female leaders have a good sense of who they are and can make decisions confidently, reflected Julie Wink-Davis, executive vice president of client success at Xactus.

“They are also quick on their feet and constantly work with a sense of urgency,” she went on. “They are very team focused too, and eager to assume responsibility for its professional growth. It’s never about them – it’s about their team and the goal they are trying to accomplish.

“Great female leaders are also particularly good at listening to others and capable of keeping an open mind. I also find them motivated to become the best version of themselves. As a result, they are able to achieve a healthy balance in their personal and professional lives.”

Wink-Davis (pictured), an Elite Women 2022 awardee, joined Mortgage Professional America in an exclusive interview, sharing her take on feminine vs. masculine leadership styles and providing valuable advice to women who want to step up into leadership roles.

MPA: Can you tell us about your mortgage journey? How did you come into the industry?

Julie Wink-Davis: I started with Sears Credit Central and then moved to the collections department of a mortgage company when I was in college. After some management leadership training, I knew the role at the time was a perfect fit – even though I didn’t know much about the mortgage industry.

I eventually became an office manager and account executive for legacy DataFacts Lending Solutions in 1995. And as the company grew, my position grew. I moved from the Little Rock, Arkansas office to  Nashville to build the business in that area. In 2005, my partner and I took DataFacts over from a silent owner, with me owning 25% of the business and my partner owning 75%. At that time, technology was beginning to change the world – and we knew to continue to grow and accomplish all that we wanted, we needed to have control over our future.

DataFacts Lending Solutions instantly became a 100% women-owned background screening and lending solutions company. I eventually became president and led the lending solutions division. From 2005 to 2021, my main focus was on building the division for possible future acquisition. To accomplish this, I oversaw the purchase and subsequent integrations of two companies which, in turn, made DataFacts Lending Solutions a better acquisition candidate.

In July of 2021, DataFacts Lending Solutions and its appraisal management division were acquired by Xactus (formerly UniversalCIS | Credit Plus), and I joined the executive team as executive vice president. During the merger, I was focused on successfully integrating systems and operations with Xactus while retaining our clients and employees.

Gradually, over the past year, I have been working more on the sales side – growing existing accounts while quarterbacking the company’s growing relationship with two leading national lenders. In addition to that, I am now taking on and overseeing the newly created client success department. 

MPA: When you began your career many years ago, did you ever imagine that you would have a leadership role in this profession/organization?

JWD: I have always been a leader, not even knowing what a leader was – so I was not surprised to eventually assume a leadership role in my career. That said, I never thought the mortgage sector would have evolved to what it has become and that I’d be working in an industry of this magnitude. I think we can all admit that technology really enabled the steady progression and impressive trajectory of the mortgage lending business.

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MPA: Describe your leadership style and how you “lead” others. Is it different from your male counterparts?

JWD: I minored in psychology, and that has helped me to be very aware of the differences in those with whom I work. I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to understand my colleagues’ and staff members’ individual qualities – and what makes them “tick.” Ultimately, I know that to be effective and get the desired results from my team members, I must lead by example – no matter who I’m leading – regardless of whether they are female or male.

When working with my team members, I go to great lengths to be completely transparent and constantly look for ways to give constructive and positive feedback. If I see someone going about something the wrong way or if I do not agree with an assessment, I am open and direct about it to enable learning and course correction. I also take great care to be candid about business challenges, but, at the same time, I trust my people and the organization to succeed. And as soon as I recognize issues that can become roadblocks to any initiative or client success, I immediately reach out to my team and peers to expose the threat in an effort to gather facts, identify needed resources and discuss a solution.

My approach is to encourage every person on my team to put forth their best effort, and I always try to convey a sense of collective excellence when working on a project or client opportunity.

MPA: How do you balance the feminine and masculine in your leadership style?

JWD: I don’t view my leadership style as having a masculine or feminine side. I think if you’re a true leader, you work to become the master of all areas of people management – not just one area. For me, it’s more about getting to know my people – their personalities – and remembering that not everyone thinks like me, which is a good thing. It’s always smart to get different perspectives.

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MPA: What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

JWD: I think the most important piece of advice I could give is to pay attention to your own instincts first – your gut and intuition will tell you what you need to know. If you ignore those instincts and choose to stick your head in the sand, it will come back to haunt you later.

We work in an industry that is constantly changing. That’s why it is important to stay true to yourself – know what you like to do and what you don’t want to do. That should be the constant road you travel down. And while it’s important to pay attention to what makes you tick professionally, you should also be considerate of those in your personal circle. Sometimes you need to make sacrifices for others.

Keeping your head down while you grind away at work and invest long hours can sometimes lead to significant, long-term benefits. It truly does take a village. It takes more than one person or one way to get things done. You need all kinds of people and approaches to make things work. As they say, “teamwork makes the dream work.”

Finally, always be open to continuous improvement through learning. It’s an effective method of self-discovery that is important no matter how long you’ve been in a position or what phase of life you are in.

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