How one broker started a new life after fleeing Cuba

He spent 20 years in banking before taking the plunge

How one broker started a new life after fleeing Cuba

Ronny Nuñez knows what it’s like to start over.

Brought to the US from Cuba by his parents, he remembers being housed in something of a camp before being allowed to enjoy a new life. Nuñez’s family traveled by boat to Florida from Cuba from which they were escaping the authoritarian rule of Fidel Castro.

“I just celebrated my 29th birthday in the United States,” he told Mortgage Professional America during a telephone interview. “I’m not 29, but a couple of days ago it was 29 years since my family and I came to this great country. I was one of the lucky ones that made it.”

Nuñez would go on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree before embarking on a career in the mortgage industry. Today, he is managing broker and market development director. He runs both commercial and residential mortgage with LLN Funding LLC and Exact Rate Mortgage, respectively.

But before that, he was in banking. “I spent over 20 years in banking, working for some of the nation’s largest banks – Wachovia which was absorbed by Wells Fargo, JP Morgan and most recently I spent time with an institution that was bought by PNC Bank. The thing that happens in banking that is a constant is change – one bank buys another bank, or a bank changes its credit appetite to the type of client that they want to focus on.”

At a career crossroads

After the last upheaval, he had a decision to make. “This last go-around about two years ago, the institution I was working for at the time was an international bank by the name of BBVA [Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria]. They decided to sell their US presence to PNC. I had a decision to make whether I wanted to stay in banking.”

Nuñez hinted at some of the constraints under which he had to work in his past banking career. “Regardless of the institution you work for, those institutions have a certain risk profile of clients they are looking for,” he said. “If it doesn’t fit into that institution’s risk profile, that transaction is not getting done. You could be my blood brother but if what you want doesn’t fit into a box, it’s not going to happen.”

After more than 20 years in banking, he found himself at a crossroads: “I had a decision to make whether to stay in banking and continue with the cycle that every two or three years I have to reinvent myself and try to adapt in terms of the new credit applications and new kinds of clients banks wanted to go after.”

He hinted further as to what he would do: “In banking, it’s a great steppingstone to learn about the financial service industry and all the products to be included,” he said in the way of a preface. He noted he had dabbled in real estate lending for several years.

And then, he revealed the bold step he undertook – in a down market with the haze of inflation hanging over it: “You don’t find very many people that in 2022 decide to start a mortgage company, and that’s what I did. From a timing perspective, it wasn’t necessarily the best time to start a mortgage company because rates started rising and for someone like me starting a business, you have to set up infrastructure, you have to set up relationships with lenders.”

One of the first lenders with which he started a relationship was United Wholesale Mortgage, he noted. The lender is among the biggest boosters of independent mortgage brokers, a status around which the company has built its business model.

The ability to say yes

“Let me share what I love most about being an independent mortgage broker,” Nuñez said. “What I love most is options. There are different ways to structure a mortgage, different was to help consumers or business owners obtain their dream of either homeownership or buying their own commercial space. If you work for a bank, the only way they’re going to look at things is looking at a fully documented loan that’s asking you for tax returns – the last two or three years of business or personal tax returns.”

And then there’s the FICO score: “Also, these banks have a certain credit profile of clients they’re looking for,” he said. “They don’t want to work with anyone who has a 700 credit score or under. They want to work with people who have a score of 740 and above.”

When he’s able to help someone beyond those banking parameters, he’s reminded of having made the right choice in becoming a broker. He recalled helping a client who was drowning in credit card debt and saw no end in sight. With his guidance, she was able to do a cash out refinance to consolidate all her existing credit card debt while lowering her mortgage rate and overall interest expense on a monthly basis.

“That’s what I love the most – options.” Nuñez said. “Having the ability to not say no to someone and having the ability to say yes.”

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