Getting to know ... Ramaj L. Balley, senior vice president, First Magnus Financial CorporationMortgagepress.comkey elements of success, motivation, training, customer relationships, broker-centric philosophy
Ramaj L. Balley is senior vice president of First Magnus Financial
Corporation's Southeast Division. He was born in Brawley,
Calif. One of eight children, he was the first member of his family
to earn a college degree. Balley graduated from Northern Arizona University with a
BSBA in finance. Upon graduation, he joined General Dynamics. Prior
to joining First Magnus Financial Corporation in 1999, he served as
a branch manager with Countrywide Financial
Corporation. Balley's background includes more than 14 years in
mortgage banking, holding various management positions. He
participated in creating Southeast Region of First Magnus Financial
Balley is an active member in the Lake Travis Youth Association as a
Youth Sports Executive member and coach. He is treasurer of the Lake Travis
Educational Foundation, is a Lake Travis Youth Soccer
Association Soccer Commissioner, is a teacher at St. Michael's
Sunday School and sits on the Lake Travis Middle School Advisory
Board. Balley has three children - Jacob, Kaylin and Nick - with
his wife, Meredith, with whom he will soon celebrate 20 years of
The Mortgage Press: First Magnus Financial Corporation
is one of the largest privately-held mortgage bankers in the United
States, has branch offices across the nation and ranks among the
top lenders in the country. What do you see as the key elements of
First Magnus' success?
Ramaj L. Balley: First and foremost, the most integral ingredient
to our success is our people. We have a group of highly motivated
mortgage banking professionals who love the company they work for
and the environment they work in. This is a direct result of the
First Magnus leadership team pushing the power to the people in
each particular market, allowing decisions to be made at the
frontline. This includes giving our regional managers the ability
to properly staff their branch operations so that we can
consistently provide the best service levels in the industry. This
is part of our deliberate act of putting our clients at the "top of
the org chart."
TMP: Aside from being a privately held company, what
distinguishes First Magnus from its competitors?
RB: First Magnus is different than its competitors because we
provide the ideal mortgage solution, balancing a broad product
offering with an innovative technology platform that is intuitive
and broker friendly. In addition, First Magnus provides a
family-like environment and culture where professional development
and employee retention is a priority, especially considering the
industry's reputation for high turnover. This is clearly one of our
keys to success.
At First Magnus, we look for mortgage professionals who are
looking for their last job, not their next one. This approach has
led to more consistency in branch staffing and, consequently, more
consistent execution in the branch. We realize our broker clients
prefer dealing with familiar faces. We also understand the need for
our broker clients to set expectations for their referral sources.
This requires consistent execution on our part. Consistency in
staff equals consistency in execution.
TMP: Can you tell us about how First Magnus trains its
staff? Is training mandatory for all employees?
RB: We view our employees as our number one asset. Reinvesting in
the growth and development of our staff is one of our core values.
This investment begins with training. We offer specialized training
for every position in our office: From account executives, regional
sales managers and regional managers, to underwriters and closers.
We also offer leadership training to any employee who leads a team.
This training focuses on leadership strategies, conflict
resolution, time management, human resources, business
communications and motivational strategies.
TMP: How does First Magnus manage its customer
relationships? Does the company have specific policies in place
regarding customer relationship management (i.e., Argent's "no
RB: We take a team approach to managing our client relationships.
Our account executives are the hardest working in the industry.
They are responsible for providing product, pricing and
technological expertise, which empowers our brokers to utilize our
mortgage solution platform, allowing our broker clients to function
as much on their own as possible. The account executive is a
powerful resource, providing vast product knowledge to loan
scenarios, allowing for proper placement in programs that ensure
approvals once the loan is submitted to underwriting.
Now, here is the difference-maker that lends itself to the team
approach. The account manager position in the branch is really a
partnership between the account executive, account manager and the
client. The account manager handles the internal functions that
surround the loan file. The account manager provides file status,
pricing and product information, and expedition of the loan files
through the pipeline all the way to funding. Essentially, the
account manager is the inside liaison and is crucial to providing
communication to our broker clients. Additionally, we allow brokers
access to our underwriting staff to drill down on underwriting
scenarios or to discuss specifics for a loan that is in the
underwriting process. Finally, we expect every member of the branch
team to adhere to exceptional customer service standards.
TMP: Would you say that First Magnus has a
broker-centric philosophy? Can you be specific about how First
Magnus operates in a broker-centric fashion?
RB: "Broker-centric" means serving our client, the mortgage
broker. Because we rely so heavily on the service component of our
business, by virtue of this focus, our branch production centers
are adequately staffed to serve our broker clients. We often will
operate below the industry standard in terms of the branch
operations staff headcount in relation to volume, but as a
privately held corporation, we are at liberty to make this business
decision, which allows us to continue to provide consistently
A publicly traded company will oftentimes have to reduce
headcount to ensure a reasonable return to shareholders. This can
lead to a short-term outlook that is counter to the needs of our
broker clients. We are not bound to these requirements; therefore,
we can afford to weather a storm and keep our people on staff,
knowing that seasonal ebbs and flows often provide for volume
levels that justify headcount.