How one wholesale mortgage executive reached the top

Now senior managing director, she began her career making photocopies

How one wholesale mortgage executive reached the top

Come July, Kim Nichols (pictured) will have served a dozen years at Pennymac TPO. The milestone comes after a storied career in the mortgage industry in which she’s witnessed the best of times and the worst of times.

“I started as a part-time temp while I was in college and I worked in the shipping department of a mortgage company, photocopying loans out all day long,” she said. Not exciting work, and yet she capitalized on the opportunity: “As it turns out, it was fortuitous for me because I was on the executive floor in that mortgage company and just started asking questions of people,” she said. “I became very curious about what this business was, what they did, and I became friendly with the people who ran capital markets.”

That’s when the seed was planted that would blossom into a successful career. “So early on in my career, I gained a wealth of technical knowledge around the area of secondary marketing, capital markets and that became my passion. I became obsessed with trying to figure out how everything works with respect to how interest rates are set, how mortgages are securitized, and then that knowledge of really understanding capital markets, secondary marketing was foundational to understanding the economics of this industry and that has really propelled my success in other dimensions of this business.”

Acquiring knowledge from the mundane

In those early years, she recalled soaking up knowledge “It was all about mentorship and taking opportunities with people who wanted to share their knowledge with me,” she said. “I would learn something and that would just open up a whole other aspect of the business to me.”

And even the mundane routine of photocopying gave rise to further inquiry in cutting through abstraction to secure a firmer grasp of the industry. Her intellectual curiosity led her to follow the money represented in those photocopies, in a manner of speaking.

“I understood, OK I’m photocopying loan files to go to an investor. So who’s the investor? And what are they investing in? Why did that make sense to them, and what is their business model? So there are just so many layers to this business that just captured my interest. Putting all those pieces together was like doing a fun puzzle.”

Nichols would take on roles of increasing responsibility at a veritable who’s who of industry players – senior negotiator at Fannie Mae; director of sales at PMI Mortgage Insurance Co.; director of institutional sales at GMAC; manager positions at Bank of America. Along the way, she bore witness to a post-Great Recession landscape. “I was at Countrywide maybe three or four months before they were acquired by Bank of America,” she said. “I was senior vice president of national accounts there and built a really good book of business.”

It was during this time that she met Doug Jones, president and chief mortgage banking officer of Pennymac, she said. “He brought me on as leader when he first started out the correspondent segment at Pennymac. He brought in five key leaders at the time and he tapped me to be one of those. Abbie Tidmore [senior managing director, chief revenue officer] and I built the foundation for the revenue side of correspondents together, and then in 2017, I was tapped to start our wholesale division.”

Today, she serves as senior managing director at Pennymac Loan Services LLC. overseeing a team of 70. “The broker and non-delegated correspondents segments is what we call our TPO [third party originations],” she said in describing her role. “I drive channel strategy on revenue for that.”

In her role, she drives solutions for brokers and non-delegated correspondent clients, helping them grow their business while ensuring a “great client experience,” she said. “And just create more revenue for the customers in that segment,” she added.

Establishing a business in the midst of a pandemic

It may sound like an easy trajectory, but her path was met with challenges – something to be expected of a business that was hatched just prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve definitely seen some challenges in building the TPO business,” she said. “We launched in 2018 and were still a nascent business at the time of the pandemic. So we were still building systems and building our team and there were some interesting moments in the market surrounding risk and volatility. We were dealing with all this while we’re still building and other companies were moving in and out of the market daily.”

That relentless drive would yield dividends: “The broker community really leaned on us at the time as a stable source of liquidity for the channel,” she said. “And then with that came the responsibility of optimizing capacity and maintaining that day to day. It was really a growth experience navigating through that being a young business, navigating a global pandemic and everything that was going on in the financial markets at the time.”

The hard work has paid off: By some measures, Pennymac TPO is now the nation’s third-largest wholesale lender – a status Nichols played an instrumental role in reaching. She’s come a long, long way from making copies.

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