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Evolution of the Mortgage Industry

Remember when we could close loans without a paystub, bank statement or even a completed appraisal report? Mortgage companies were filled with twenty-something go-getters, resembling something off the stock exchange floor; anyone that could dial a phone could be hired to originate loans. Thankfully, those days came to a blissful end years ago. It seems that the after effects of the damage done by that period are slowly dissolving into history and what has emerged is a different looking industry.

Consider all the changes that have affected our industry during the past five years. Dodd-Frank, the CFPB, ATR, QM, NMLS licensing, and compensation requirements are just the beginning. We could spend hours discussing all of the challenges during this period, but why dwell on the past? Where would we be if not for the burst of the bubble? Right back where we were six years ago, continuing down a path of an inevitable, even greater, self-destruction. Mom always said “everything happens for a reason.”

Now what?

The mortgage headlines this last summer were of huge layoffs and multi-million dollar lawsuits from Uncle Sam: retribution for wrongdoing the country. Tens of thousands of mortgage industry participants no longer had a place in our business, the mortgage shop down the street either closed its doors, or was issued a cease and desist, and the decade-long refi boom abruptly dissipated. We were routed, a thorough “cleaning out” if you will, shaved down to the bones, and leveled to a pile of rubble. The machine was degreased, point made.

So, where does that leave us?

With a great opportunity – to rebuild, retool, and regroup, but to do it the right way by learning from our past transgressions. It’s a chance for us to look out at the horizon and see a sense of pride in our industry. It’s a chance to go back to our roots and consider the role we as Mortgage Professionals play in growing our society.

We hold an amazing responsibility in each of our communities providing what is now a growing central role in helping people achieve the dream of homeownership. We can all feel the effects of the changes above in regards to how our marketplace looks to us for assistance. Gone are the days of the professional Mortgage Loan Officer being a commodity. We are now specialists, experts in our field, and becoming increasingly relied upon by the real estate industry, home buyers and the general public to provide expertise. Let us not leave this opportunity by the wayside as we forge ahead, but remember our core responsibility as key holders of the American Dream.

The future of our industry is dependent upon the people that lead it and those who govern it, both from within and externally. Our industry’s horizon will be shaped by our perseverance and desire to build something that others can admire and respect. With a little luck it might become one of interest to highly competent newcomers that will continue to shape our industry. Our ability to attract and retain high quality, ethical, and motivated people seems to be diminishing due to the lack of perceived opportunities our industry provides.

Ask any educated, finance-focused, successful-to-be college graduate what their top 20 industries of choice are and you will not hear the mortgage industry. Graduates talk about corporate finance or financial consulting in the health care, energy, construction, communications, agriculture, banking and government sectors.

To outsiders, the mortgage industry seems to present too many barriers to entry, and aspect to which we as an industry should pay close attention. Some might say: why hire new people when there’s barely enough business to go around as it is? The simple reason is this: a service industry like ours that fails to attract high-quality talent is destined for a horizon of disappointment when we are once again represented by the boiler room call centers instead of the highly sought-after professionals that we have worked so hard to be.

Consider the requirements for entry into our business. Twenty hours of education, pass two tests and a background check and you’re in – well, almost. Next you need to find someone to train you, be willing to wait for a paycheck somewhere above minimum wage for two to three months, and manage the pressure of being told to either find business on your own or you’re out. Layer on top of that what our true role is: to help people with the most significant financial decision of their lives.

What qualifies a person to be in that role? And at what point do the barriers become too great, and yet stay high enough to keep our horizon looking the way we want it? Our industry has to maintain a fine balance to preserve the new requirements and yet still offer the realistic opportunity for newcomers to succeed.

So how do we as an industry attract new talent that is willing to overlook the challenges our industry presents and see the same horizon of opportunity? The age-old model of apprenticeships comes to mind. Take blacksmiths from the Renaissance period, for example. They taught their apprentices to craft fine horseshoes, which required a great deal of experience and understanding of how to work with the various elements, much like our industry. Using the wrong metal (selecting the wrong loan program) and you’re bound to have a bum horse. Overworking the elements (applying too much pressure to your support staff and rushing closings) and the shoe is likely to break. Spilling the molten metal on your boot (violating RESPA) will stop you from doing your work in a hurry. What a highly skilled blacksmith was back in those days is much like what a highly skilled Mortgage Loan Officer is today. We spend years learning our trade and constantly perfecting it while overcoming challenges and occasionally getting burned a little.

Perhaps the best way to learn our business is to observe it first-hand from the true professionals that remain in our industry today. We can take this opportunity to show newcomers all the wonderful opportunities our business offers, show them how to be successful and how to do the job the right way. Most of all – we can show them the difference they can make in peoples’ lives for the better, all the while building a career for themselves they wouldn’t have had working in some corporate finance job.

Steve Furlong, MBA
MN Mortgage Loan Originator, NMLS 275939