LeaderOne Financial, a Kansas City area-based mortgage banker with offices in several regions of the country, has experienced strong growth even though the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) expects the mortgage market to dive 36 percent in 2011, from $1.5 trillion in 2010 to an expected $996 billion in 2011. LeaderOne Financial seems unconcerned that this will be the smallest national market for mortgages since 1997, which is not overly surprising when considering that the company experienced a 200 percent increase in mortgage production last year. According to LeaderOne Financial’s founder and Chief Executive Officer A.W. Pickel III, there is cause for optimism for three important reasons.
“First, there are a lot fewer originators and origination companies in the market than there were just a few years ago,” Pickel said. “Figures from the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) confirm that even with the reduced market size, there are plenty of loans available for those who remain committed to the business. Secondly, we find that leveraging technology gives us efficiencies that were only dreamed of before,” he said, citing that LeaderOne’s great increase in production in 2011 was accomplished with only 17 percent in additional headcount. “Thirdly, we are only growing where we know good people, thanks to the personal networks of the well-established professionals who make up the LeaderOne team.”
LeaderOne Chief Production Officer Brent Duhaime, a 20-year mortgage veteran with deep roots in the Midwest banking and mortgage community, says that those three factors are indeed fueling LeaderOne’s growth as the company forecasts a 25 percent increase in mortgage production for 2011.
“Lenders exiting the market often leave behind highly qualified and well-regarded loan origination staffs who are looking for homes,” said Duhaime. “They contact other good people they know in the industry and that often leads to someone at LeaderOne. When you put people first, a core principle with our firm, it means you do right by customers and team members. The word gets around and people want to come work with you.” Duhaime says this sort of opportunistic growth is leading not only to an expansion of LeaderOne Financial’s footprint in the middle third of the country, but also to an increased presence in other parts of the nation where they have found good people.
“We opened offices in Colorado, Washington, Pennsylvania and Maryland in 2010, and we increased our presence in Texas, Iowa and Illinois,” said Duhaime. “In 2011, we’re expecting to add teams in Georgia, Alabama and the Washington D.C. metro area. We go where the good people are. You get high quality loans when you have high quality people originating them, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
LeaderOne Financial also expects to continue to utilize their current array of government loan programs, which collectively represented 63 percent of the company’s $500 million in 2010 production.
“That percentage will likely decrease a bit as we grow in areas that are traditionally stronger in conventional categories,” said Pickel, a former president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB). “But we have always been an FHA, USDA and other government program lender, and that won’t change.”
Pickel also notes that the best growth strategy is one focused, once again, on the people factor. “It’s a people business,” said Pickel. “Despite the importance of advertising, the best way to get the word out is through referrals from people who have been your customers or have done business with you. The most important business development tool we have is our own reputation.”
For more information, visit www.LeaderOneFinancial.com.