Brokers – how to recession proof your business

Find out how from one company president who has been there and done that

Brokers – how to recession proof your business

It’s one thing to hear of industry veterans surviving the Great Recession. It’s quite another to hear of someone deftly avoiding it to emerge unscathed.

Such is the case with Kurt Strandson (pictured), president of New Hampshire-based Pinnacle Mortgage Corp. As a freshly minted business school graduate, he was poised for a career in the finance industry, having gained early experience during college with venerable firms Merrill Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney and Fidelity.

By 2003, he had a change of heart: “Because I liked the aspect of helping people obtain the American Dream of homeownership,” he explained during a telephone interview with Mortgage Professional America. “Whereas in the financial services industry, you’re selling people something they might need but not necessarily want. When you get into mortgages, everyone needs housing but also wants a house. I became passionate about the industry ever since.”

The meteoric rise begins its ascent

He began his mortgage career working at a mortgage banker/broker – a correspondent lender that also brokered loans. From there came something of a meteoric rise: By six or seven months, he was promoted to branch manager; less than two years in, he was made senior vice president; and three years later, he opened his own brokerage firm called Radiant Mortgage which merged with a larger company in 2011.

In 2015, he opened Pinnacle Mortgage. The company has nearly 60 employees, and is licensed in 15 states – with planned expansion into three more. Strandson also touted the experience of key members of his staff, including three processors with more than 30 years’ worth of experience. The company’s vice president of compliance has 20 years.

He advocates for his industry

Early in his career, Strandson developed a keen interest in legislative advocacy, and has been legislative chairman of the Mortgage Bankers and Brokers Association since 2008. He has held legislative advocacy positions at other trade groups, and is a New Hampshire state captain for the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME).

So how did he avoid being impacted by the Great Recession?

“Our business model has always been relationship-driven,” he said. “When you’re running a relationship-driven business – whether it be with your clients, borrowers, business partners or realtors – it’s not transaction-driven, it’s not market-driven. It’s relationship driven. People will come to you when they have a need. You’re not chasing new clients all the time but servicing referrals.”

The business model helps insulate the company from the most corrosive effects of market downturns, he suggested: “I look at it as recession-proofing your business. “We offer good customer service, provide a good client experience and offer the lowest rates and fees in the country, So long as you deliver on those, you’re going to stay busy despite the changes in the market.”

Relative newcomers to the field are, by and large, ill-equipped to roll with the current punches, he suggested. “A lot of people entered the marketplace with rates dropping to historic lows and never experienced what it takes to grind and to work hard and actually prospect and run a business. For lack of a better word, a lot of loan officers became order takers. Some folks that had relationships stopped servicing them because they were chasing refinances.”

Strandson somehow finds time to participate in various trade groups, including AIME from which he derives many benefits, he said. “The collaboration with the broker owners and members of our community has been a huge asset. They have ‘brokers are better’ and online chat areas where you can go in and get tips and recommendations.”

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