What's top of mind for lender in current mortgage market?

Chief lending officer talks company’s priorities, product suite

What's top of mind for lender in current mortgage market?

Mortgage lenders have seen a constant need to innovate amid an ever-changing market in recent years – and for Orion Lending’s chief lending officer Curtis Edwards (pictured), especially top of mind over the past 24 months has been putting together products that meet the evolving needs of borrowers and brokers alike.

He told Mortgage Professional America that developing a varied and dynamic suite of products had helped the company stay ahead and continue to thrive even in a challenging market.

“One of the things that we’ve focused on since the beginning of 2022 is finding products that are relevant to the market,” he said.

“There’s a lot of lenders out there that still depend on just agency loans – and that may work for some if you’re doing tons of volume or you have a huge servicing portfolio and you can bring the revenue back in. But we’ve focused on the products that will really impact the borrowers in a purchase market.”

Among those has been a proprietary DPA called Boost that Orion rolled out just over a year ago – a product Edwards described as an “amazing success” that’s generated plenty of volume.

The company’s non-agency production has also seen a significant increase, helping it build brand recognition in the space and serving as an effective complement to existing competitive agency rates and products it’s offered for the last decade.

Company marks a decade in business

This year marks Orion’s 10th in business – and Edwards’ journey with the company is one he looks back on with a distinct sense of satisfaction.

“When you think of the last few years being challenging, the reality of mortgage lending is there’s always a challenge to overcome,” he said. “And I think that’s why I love it so much – because every day is different. There’s always a problem to solve, whether it be overwhelming volume like we saw in 2020 and 2021, compressed margins – how you cut costs to maintain profitability – or operational scalability.

“You name it, there’s always a challenge. There’s always something to do. And I think that’s what makes mortgage professionals unique: we’re constantly overcoming these obstacles and finding a way to make your market and thrive in it.”

Strong broker relationships as important as ever

When it comes to brokers, the company is doubling down on what’s always been its main focus: “more and more customer service,” Edwards said. Soliciting feedback from broker partners on how their experience can be improved has been especially important in recent times, with its STAR Marketing Studio – a portal brokers can use to design branded flyers – having received a strong positive reception from brokers since its launch.

Education, too, is paramount, with training and other courses accessible through that broker portal. “Since we built it from scratch, there’s no limits for us,” Edwards said. “We don’t have to stay within a box. If we want to do something cool with it, we absolutely can. And we haven’t cut back on it.

“We’re constantly investing in our technology to make that broker experience smooth, efficient, and get the loan to closing as quickly as possible.”

It’s important for brokers to get to know a lender and their system when they partner with them, he added, taking the time to understand the process and their technology.

“That’s one of the reasons why we do training on demand – so brokers can use the technology to the fullest extent and really understand how Orion works, and what our processes are,” he said. “You’ve got so many different lenders that have so many different processes and that can be a real challenge for brokers when you’re trying to work with multiple lenders because of different product offerings.

“It can be frustrating at times for brokers as well because of the different file flows and how they treat things. So my advice is get to know who you’re partnering with and really build those relationships.”

It’s an approach that Edwards has taken in his own role, he said, and one that’s served him well. “When I work with my secondary investors, Wall Street, whatever it may be, I really focus on those relationships,” he said.

“And I keep them small. I work with only a handful of folks – and those folks I work with, I’ve got very deep relationships with. It’s good because if you ever need help with something, you know to pick up the phone and call. So be very surgical in your relationships and strategic on who you partner with.”

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