Is it time for mortgage professionals to batten down the hatches?

Jodi Hall, president of Nationwide Mortgage Bankers Inc., joins MPA TV to reflect on her own path the top, the challenges she’s faced and whether or not it’s time for mortgage professionals to batten down the hatches.


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Richard: [00:00:22] Hello everyone and welcome to MPA TV. I'm your host, Richard Torne once again having a chat with a leading mortgage professional to discuss their career and the industry at large. Today, we're going to be talking to Jodi Hall, president of independent mortgage lender Nationwide Mortgage Bankers. Named as one of MPA's elite women in 2021. Jodi is a mortgage veteran with more than 20 years experience. During her time at the NMB, she's been described as a thought leader for what is reputedly one of the fastest growing mortgage companies in the US, having also appeared in Fortune magazine's lists of best workplaces. She was recently appointed to the Seton Hall University Customer Experience Advisory Board and is a long standing, active member of the Mortgage Collaborative. In her words, her vision is to build a different type of mortgage company rooted in culture and powered by technology. Hello and welcome, Jodi. 

Jodi: [00:01:18] Thank you for having me. I'm glad to be here. 

Richard: [00:01:21] It's great to have you on the show today. Now, I understand you're more or less stumbled into the mortgage industry. You were a young, struggling graduate assistant at the time, and you were thrown in at the deep end from the start. In hindsight, do you think you benefited from that experience? 

Jodi: [00:01:37] Absolutely. I think it is the best way to enter an industry and I definitely think that it made me more successful, took a little bit longer because I didn't have the experience and the background, but what it did was make me learn every aspect of the business. So in order to be able to grow and to be able to further my career, I didn't know many different aspects. And that started day one when I was handed a phone book and a very large training manual. And I definitely think that it kicked off my career to shape me into the person that I am today. 

Richard: [00:02:15] Did you have a mentor who inspired and guided you? 

Jodi: [00:02:18] I really didn't. From a mentorship perspective and what we think as a mentor today, I had a number of leaders that I wanted to mimic in my career, but it was largely family members who had successful careers. And I wanted to be successful and I was driven with the desire for them to be proud of me. And I think that's largely where it came from, as opposed to having mentors who were pushing me in a direction in a specific career. 

Richard: [00:02:51] You've said that failure helped to shape much of your life and career. In fact, you've stated that one of your business principles is that in order to win, you must be afraid to fail fast. Can you explain that? 

Jodi: [00:03:05] Yeah, absolutely. Much of my career I've been able to get to the next level from failure and learning from those failures. At one point in my career, I said that I fell down the corporate ladder and hit my chin on every one, and that really allowed me to reflect on things that I could have done differently, to spend more time in on my personal growth as a leader and as a mentor so that I could use that as we move forward. When I was nine years old, I showed horses and it was the county fair and I go into the ring for a trail class. I'd been thrown off my horse one time previous. That day I go over the jump, the strap tightens on my horse's belly. He box sends me to the moon and I fell directly on my head. My father, much to my mother's dismay, came into the arena, threw me back up on the horse, and he was like, If you're not dead, you're finishing the class. I finished that class. I had a concussion. But when they say you fall off the horse, you have to get back on. The same thing has been true my entire life and my entire career. I also feel if you don't fail, you're not trying hard enough, right? So you have to be willing to explore and to take risks that other people aren't willing to take. If you fail, you learn from it and you try again because that's what's going to produce the best results. And I try to use that with my leaders at nationwide mortgage bankers and not get mad when we fail, but look for ways that we could do things differently. And I think that that makes us better as an organization and it also makes those managers better because they pass that on down the line. That failure is okay and failure is sometimes just the result of trying really hard. 

Richard: [00:05:03] Yeah, I'd like to explore that theme in a bit more detail in a moment. But two of your other core values are that it's better to adopt new practices over best practices, and that one should strive for excellence, not perfection. In many ways, that goes against perceived wisdom. Is it hard to instill those values or those so those attitudes in employees? 

Jodi: [00:05:24] Yeah, absolutely. Because as you said, it does go against what people have been taught. If you are perfect, then there's no room for improvement. And I don't think that we reach perfection in any aspect of our career or really any aspect of our life. But we can achieve excellence by learning from others. We talk about the with our teams, we talk about having the attitude of, I don't have all the answers, each individual doesn't have all the answers. But when you take the experience of 600 plus employees and you apply their best practices, you're going to reach near excellence. You're not going to reach perfection. And that's also about failing to being willing to try some of the things that other people suggest, even though you might think that there is no way that this is going to be successful. But what we find out from that is it might not be the exact way that we do things, but we learn things along the way. And we we achieve excellence. We don't achieve perfection. 

Richard: [00:06:37] I would like to focus the conversation a bit more on what's happening today. The mortgage industry is facing important challenges. Companies are shedding jobs. There's margin compression and rates are soaring. And of course, there's the ongoing war in Ukraine to add to the economic uncertainty. Now, during such times, I assume it often goes against a person's better judgment to take risks. But should mortgage professionals batten down the hatches, seek the security of what they know, or should they find new ways to attract clients? 

Jodi: [00:07:10] So I believe they need to find new ways to attract clients and be able to take calculated risk. We knew prior to the pandemic, going into the pandemic and having historically low interest rates as we were going through that and we were had more loans than we knew what to do with as an industry through refinance transactions, we were constantly keeping in the back of our minds. This isn't going to last forever. With being a seasoned veteran and having many seasoned veterans in the mortgage industry on our leadership team, we talked about what about tomorrow? So it isn't going to last forever, but you have to be willing to create a sustainable organization. One of the ways that we continue to focus on the future and always think about the what ifs is creating a sustainable model of primarily purchased business. So we did the refinance business when it came to us, but we've always been a purchase focused organization and that's what sustains companies in a rising rate environment because people are going to continue to buy homes. What we're challenged with today, with the increased interest rates and compression and margin, is doing loans more efficiently and also offering a wider product range so that we can gain more market share by offering a number of products to our clients and referral partners so that we can help them in a unique lending environment where they need to have different resources available and be creative in the way that we can help borrowers get the financing that they need and have the ability to win the bids when they do have the homes available. So I think it's a very strategic risk taking that has to take place. I also we continue to look at ways to be more efficient and to use technology so that we can do more production. We have taken the change in the market as a it really is a benefit to us. We have been recruiting heavily. We believe that we have created a very sustainable business model and we have been able to attract recruits and bring on new production from branches across the United States, even hiring nearly 100 employees in May when many other lenders were laying people off. So we we're going to be creative with offering additional products, but we're also recruiting and showing individuals that we have a sustainable business model and we attract them to join us. 

Richard: [00:10:01] Do you think demand for homes and home appreciation, home price appreciation will remain strong, or do you think a possible recession could trigger a correction in the market? 

Jodi: [00:10:13] Definitely a recession could trigger a correction in the market. However, we're in different territory. We have been in different territory and the typical triggers to cycles in mortgages have not been the same since the beginning of the pandemic. And many times when we think what is going to happen will happen, it doesn't. So I do think that the fear of recession can definitely create a market correction. We've already seen that in some states where home values have started to decline, but in many areas of the country, the demand is still so high that home values are staying at record highs. They may not be increasing month over month as fast, but we don't see the decrease. There's very few areas where there has been a decrease in home values and there's always going to be a market. People people relocate and buy homes. Rent is so expensive. I, I read that people are bidding on rent. Who is ever heard that you pay over what the rent ask is in order to secure a rental? So the the market is weird. I think that home values are going to even. The recession are going to remain relatively high. We may see some form of decrease, but with the lack of inventory, with the lack of building materials, with the lack of trained professionals to build homes, I think that we're going to continue to see a high demand for a low supply of new builds and for homes for individuals to purchase. 

Richard: [00:12:01] I'd like to move the conversation over to a separate topic, one you you've raised before. We hear a lot about diversity, inclusivity and equality at the workplace. Do you feel there's a lot that still needs to be done in that respect? 

Jodi: [00:12:17] Absolutely. And I do believe I challenge the mortgage industry because I think that the mortgage industry as a whole has lacked in diversity. And I would like to see to have continued discussions and I would like to see the mortgage industry to be a thought leader and a forerunner in diversity within their individual organizations. So from an employer perspective, but also in a home lending perspective, one of the ways, you know, diversity and lending and meeting people where they are and offering homeownership in all areas to all individuals as opposed to what we have historically seen in the market. So we have the mortgage industry has two things that they need to do from a diversity perspective. One is an employment and then the also also is access to lending to be more diverse than it is today. 

Richard: [00:13:17] What do you mean about having access to to mortgage lending in that sense, that you've said that it should be more diverse? In what sense? 

Jodi: [00:13:27] Well, we have seen many of the practices and home lending. We have seen the that Caucasian borrowers have have higher FICO scores, lower debt to income ratios, and qualify for loans at a higher pace with the change in the with moves that have been made with CFPB and FHFA. They are looking for ways to provide lending to more diverse groups and really flatten the divide between white homebuyers, black homebuyers and also Hispanic homebuyers, which is is predicted to be the largest home buying segment and by 2025. So we need to look for ways as lenders and as an industry to decrease the gap between disparity and lending. And that's what's getting loan officers in places, putting loan officers in places that they are able to offer those products. That's what we can do as as a mortgage lender is marketing and advertising to all demographics, but also adding loan officers to the industry who are working within diverse communities. 

Richard: [00:14:45] But those working inside the industry. Do you think the debates should perhaps intensify a shift more towards practical issues such as pay quality? We hear a lot about the top end jobs. Women don't get paid as much as as men. I don't know if that's the case in the US, but that's been discussed a lot and maybe even discuss such issues as paid maternity, maternity leave. Is that is that something that should be part of the debate? 

Jodi: [00:15:16] That is that's a difficult question for me, because I've never felt as though being a woman in the mortgage industry that I have faced pay inequality. I think that the I think that people perceive you because you are a female, that you would work in an operations role as opposed to a sales role which typically has lower compensation. So I think that it needs to be open mindedness more about the positions the individuals feel that fill within an organization. You think about cap markets and you think that that is a primarily male dominated segment of the mortgage industry. But we're seeing more and more every year seeing more cap more females in cap markets roles. So I think that it's it's open us to what someone's experiences and putting good people in roles that have that experience as opposed to worrying about what sex race ethnicity are of those individuals but from a pay. And I think that that takes care of your pay equality issue in the mortgage industry. 

Richard: [00:16:37] Finally, I'd like to ask you one final question. I always ask this question to my guests, and that is, if you could give a piece of advice to your younger self starting in the industry, what would it be? 

Jodi: [00:16:48] So my the greatest advice I would give to myself is that I need to surround people that can help me. I think that much of my beginning years in the industry, I was going to just bulldoze my way through growing my career as opposed to helping having others help me grow my career and the willingness to be open to others helping me grow my career. I was very independent that I could do it all by myself. So I think that my advice to myself would be let others help you grow. You don't have to do it by yourself. And I also think that as I have gotten to the position that I am now, I wish that I would have had that service leadership mindset much earlier in my career because my greatest satisfaction and joy is being able to help develop the leaders within our organization, but also to help the leaders that will drive the mortgage industry for decades to come long after I hang up my tennis shoes in the mortgage industry. So I think that those two things would would have not that I haven't had an amazing career. I might have had a little bit more fun in my career, earlier in my career, if I would realize those two things. 

Richard: [00:18:17] Well, that sounds like great advice to me. Well, Jodi, thank you so much for joining us today. You've been a great guest. 

Jodi: [00:18:24] All right. Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure. 

Richard: [00:18:27] Thank you to all of you. As for watching as well. I've been your host, Richard Torne, and we hope you'll join us again soon for another edition of MPA TV. May you all have a happy and successful week. Goodbye.