Which branch network is right for you?

With new regulatory hurdles being thrown up all the time, the support of a branch network is looking better and better to many originators. But how do you know which one is right for you?

Which branch network is right for you?
With new regulatory hurdles being thrown up all the time, it’s getting tougher for originators to go it alone. Independent originators have to worry about much more than just writing loans; they have to develop marketing strategies, fulfill continuing education requirements, and somehow remain compliant in an industry where that’s getting more and more complicated.

Facing all of those challenges, many independent mortgage professionals find the idea of joining a branch network increasingly seductive. And while being a lone wolf is appealing, branch network membership has its advantages.

The support of a major corporate entity can mitigate a lot of the everyday headaches an originator would otherwise have to deal with and free him to do what he does best: make loans. And whether you’re coming from a tiny brokerage or a giant bank, joining a branch network can be just what the doctor ordered, says Paul Anastos, president of Mortgage Master.

“It’s a really compelling argument whether you’re coming from a small broker or a large bank – we can offer the best of both worlds,” he says. “People coming from small brokers often find they can’t be very price competitive. They also have challenges like keeping up with compliance and marketing. Whatever it is that they need, they generally lack because they don’t have the scale or the size to avail themselves of what’s out there. You have a different problem at these large banks, where you almost get swallowed up by the system. We provide that perfect middle ground. It really meets the demands of a wide area. To me it’s not a question of who fits. It’s really a question of who doesn’t fit.”

While branch networks offer many benefits, not every network is for every originator. So, if you decide to go the branch route, how do you choose the right network for you?

“Everybody’s pain point is going to be different,” Anastos says. “A lot of what it comes down to is understanding what they need – what they’re missing. What about their business would they not want to change, and what about their business is not working?”


TIm Duvall, district manager for Academy Mortgage, says originators should do their homework before choosing a branch network.

“The temptation is to focus on compensation, and I think that’s a mistake,” Duvall says. “I’m just reaching back to four and a half years ago when I had this journey. We were smart enough not just to look at comp. I’m looking for value: What amount of support do I have? What’s the operational system I’m looking at? I’m looking at marketing: what’s covered for me? Some organizations will pay you a high compensation, but then charge you 10 cents a copy for marketing material and charge you for every marketing project.

“The other piece of the value puzzle that’s huge is, are my rates competitive? What Academy does very well is find that sweet spot between aggressive compensation and low interest rates. I did an analysis of the top 10 competitors here in our market. I compared interest rates and comp, and there was only one other in the top 10 that even came close to having the same setup of great compensation with low interest rates.”

But you shouldn’t just look at what a branch network can do for you right now, Duvall says; you should also consider how the network will shepherd your career in the future.

“I started as a loan officer here,” he says. “I’d been in the business for seven years when I came to Academy. They literally came to me six months in and said, ‘Hey, we think you’ve got the right stuff. Would you think about becoming a manager?’ They’ve set forth a very clear path to continue to support me and my growth – whatever I want that to be.

“If I’m a broker, I want somewhere I can still be entrepreneurial and be rewarded for that, somewhere that’s going to give me that great value of good comp with good interest rates, great support, great marketing, and somewhere that’s going to let me grow – where I’ll look back five years from now and say, ‘I’m where I want to be.’”