Beyond the cookie-cutter approach: Changing the recipe for 2005 could be just what your business needsJohn Courson and Kevin Sextonsuccess tips, mortgage banker, transition, profitability The beginning of another new year is a good time to evaluate the direction your business is going. Are you in position to remain competitive in this challenging and evolving industry? As we look to the future, it's clear that taking the same old approach is not the answer anymore. It's time to go beyond the old cookie-cutter way of doing business. In 2005, flexibility and adaptability will be the key ingredients for success as the industry looks for new options. For example, many brokers and other mortgage professionals have begun to discover the advantages of one of these options: making the change from broker to mortgage banker as a way to increase origination volume and profitability. There are several avenues for achieving this change. One of the most beneficial is to operate as a retail origination office aligned with an established mortgage banking company. Another, open to those who have experience in the wholesale arena, may be the opportunity to operate as a wholesale branch office for one of these companies. In either case, working with the right company--a strong, experienced partner that encourages entrepreneurship and has established a proven process for supporting its branch offices--is essential for making a simple, smooth transition to mortgage banking. Just as importantly, working with a company that offers flexibility and adaptability is critical to providing the most beneficial business structure, and one should seek out a firm that provides: •Unique solutions for each office; •The autonomy for offices to remain in control of their own operations, office structure and profitability; •Access to banking expertise; •Comprehensive support services, including administrative, sales, marketing and human resources support; •Advanced technology; and •A diversified product menu. Another important factor is to work with a company whose management structure provides the ability to react quickly to changing market needs and adapt to new ideas. It is vital to consider all of these details, because many mortgage banking companies have an established, "cookie cutter" set of rules to implement for every office, dictating office size and administrative procedures, loan programs, etc. Working with a company that's not bound by rigid corporate bureaucracy allows more flexibility in almost every aspect of the business. For instance, in our operations, if a broker is committed to doing as many loans as possible, in an ethical, professional and responsible manner, we can be adaptable in just about everything else, providing unique, flexible solutions for each individual office. Branches can be set up based on how the manager wants to position the branch, from the number of staff members and their compensation, to the product menu and managing profitability. Retail offices can operate using a d/b/a identity, and wholesale offices control their own loan programs, rate-sheet pricing, in-office underwriting and closing, staffing and compensation packages. Our responsibility is to provide administrative and marketing support, to ensure stability and compliance with laws and regulations. It's time to throw out the cookie cutters, change the recipe and think creatively to meet the challenges of 2005. Making the change to mortgage banker status will be the right move for mortgage professionals who join a company that offers the flexibility and adaptability to ensure a win-win partnership. John Courson is president and CEO of Central Pacific Mortgage Company, 2003 chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association, and has more than 40 years of mortgage banking experience. He may be reached at [email protected]. Kevin Sexton is executive vice president of production at Central Pacific Mortgage Company and has more than 18 years of industry experience. He may be reached at [email protected]. Both may be contacted at (916) 353-1616.