Mortgage Master: A Next Generation Mortgage Banker with a 25-Year Track Record of Responsible Lending ... An Interview With Paul Anastos, President of Mortgage Master – NMP Skip to main content

Mortgage Master: A Next Generation Mortgage Banker with a 25-Year Track Record of Responsible Lending ... An Interview With Paul Anastos, President of Mortgage Master

NationalMortgageProfessional.com
Jun 12, 2012

Paul Anastos is the president of Mortgage Master, one of the country’s largest privately-owned mortgage companies headquartered in Walpole, Mass. The company, which was founded by Leif Thomsen in 1988, has been built on a simple, but powerful, strategy of a 360-degree focus on responsive service, responsible lending and performance. Through its low-cost model, Mortgage Master has been able to generate significant efficiencies in its origination and operational infrastructure, and deliver the cost and time savings on to borrowers in the form of the lowest rates on the majority of products in the industry and best in class service. Mortgage Master is in the process of expanding its responsible lending platform and lending team. But the company will not sacrifice quality for quantity. For example, even though the company has grown significantly during its 25 years of business, Mortgage Master has never had to repurchase a loan the company has originated. Mortgage Master has put together an impressive team of senior mortgage professionals led by President Anastos, to expand the business and continue to deliver the gold standard in mortgage lending. National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently sat down with Paul to get a progress briefing on Mortgage Master. NMP: Paul, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Could you start by giving our readers some background on Mortgage Master and its operations? Paul: Mortgage Master was founded by Leif Thomsen in 1988 in the basement of his home in Walpole, Mass. Today, Mortgage Master is one of the largest non-bank lenders in the country, annually assisting over 20,000 borrowers and funding over $5 billion per year in mortgage volume. We have more than 550 employees working out of 40 separate locations. Our original geographic focus was in New England, but we now operate in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The company has been built on a simple philosophy of offering our customers the best products at the best price with the best service. We have consistently delivered on this philosophy for almost 25 years. For 25 years, Mortgage Master has operated with the highest underwriting standards and operational controls to mitigate risk, even during the sub-prime era. Leif and, more importantly, Patty Raymo, made the strategic decision to uphold Mortgage Master’s underwriting standards and not pursue sub-prime opportunities, even while it became the trend with most mortgage lenders. Their choice became instead to grow the company in the most responsible manner. This strategy has delivered many tangible results, including significant organic growth and the rare outcome for a mortgage lender – never having to buy back a loan Mortgage Master originated. Is Mr. Thomsen still involved in the day-to-day operations? Yes, as the founder, Leif is still very active in the overall vision and growth of Mortgage Master. Many of the daily responsibilities are handled by Patty Raymo, our Chief Operating Officer, and I, as well as the rest of the senior management team. Leif continues to interact with us on a daily basis and provides his ongoing counsel. NMP: Can you walk us through Mortgage Master’s business model? From our perspective, our strategy is simple—we operate with a very efficient and low-cost model to offer high-quality borrowers the lowest interest rates in the mortgage industry on almost every product. This model allows us to give our loan officers the best products, pricing and internal service and support so they can deliver tangible value to borrowers day in and day out. We believe our model allows us to deliver the “Gold Standard” in mortgage lending. How big is the operation today? As I mentioned before, Mortgage Master is one of the largest non-bank lenders in the U.S. and we continue to expand. We have increased our number of national branches to 40 from eight in the last five years. In 2011, our total production volume was $5.3 billion and we are projecting $6.5 billion in volume in 2012. We currently employ approximately 550 high-quality mortgage professionals in total, including sales and operations, having hired about 75 new employees over the last six months. We are continuing to hire talented production and operations professionals that exceed our high performance standards and demonstrate the character and integrity on which this company was founded on. We were very impressed to see that you recently hired Don Henig as Mortgage Master’s new managing director of national sales. Why is Don the best person for this position at Mortgage Master? We are so happy Don agreed to join our company and management team. Like any exceptional leader, Don brings a significant amount of experience, knowledge and relationships to Mortgage Master. That said, the primary reasons Don is the best person for this role is because he brings fresh ideas, a great attitude and a new vision that we are very fortunate to have at this important time for our industry. Don and I have great chemistry, but what I value is that he challenges me to improve and think differently. In my opinion, he is not only the best person for our company; he is the best person for this important role in the mortgage industry. We are fortunate that he decided to team-up with Mortgage Master. In addition to Mr. Henig, you have put together a very impressive senior management team. Who are some key members of the senior team and what attributes and experience do they bring to the company? Mortgage Master has a very well-respected and trusted senior management team with a collective total of 150 years of mortgage industry experience. There is not a better team in any business as far as we are concerned. Let me mention a few of our outstanding senior team members. Patty Raymo, who I previously mentioned, heads our operational infrastructure as COO, is simply the best operations leader in the country and has been with Mortgage Master for more than 20 years. Patty, along with her operations and underwriting teams, make up the best-in-class support platform in the mortgage industry. They are the engine that keeps us running day in and day out. Our CFO David Harrington has a wealth of financial services experience and has brought us to a whole new level from a reporting and financial perspective. Charles Coletta handles our Capital Markets Group and given the volatility over the past several years, Charles has been instrumental in keeping us strong. Marie Gill manages our closing department and her group constantly exceeds our customers, loan officers and closing attorneys’ expectations. Kristen Colonna and John Connor manage the Mortgage Master lock desk and are responsible for locking-in customers’ loans while communicating the conditions of the market to all parties involved. What they do to support our sales team on a daily basis is beyond exceptional. Again, it is all departments and all employees that make Mortgage Master the company it has grown to be today and will be in the future. What is Mortgage Master’s current production volume? Let me start by saying that we are projecting 2012 mortgage production to be well in excess of $6.5 billion, versus $5.3 billion in 2011. To date, our current production is in excess of $650 million per month in new originations and the number has been growing month-over-month. We are able to generate and handle this type of production growth in the most responsible manner because of our people, who consider Mortgage Master one of the best places to work. We have a fantastic team of loan officers that work with borrowers every day to deliver them the best products, pricing and service. But there are so many others at Mortgage Master that help us deliver the gold standard of mortgage lending, including assistants, processors, underwriters, closers, post-closers, administrative staff, and managers. All of our people contribute daily to our production growth and success, while helping our business run smoothly in a very demanding environment. With 2012 expected to be a difficult year for overall mortgage originations, what does Mortgage Master expect to close and fund in 2012? We anticipate record originations in 2012. As you are aware, it was expected to be a difficult year in the mortgage industry, but we believe the low rates changed the current year’s outlook. In addition, Spring 2012 was the best purchase market we have seen in the last five years. Part of this is being driven by the beginnings of a recovery in the housing market, but more importantly our loan officers have worked hard to build new relationships and gain market share. We are extremely impressed with the success of our consultants every day. How many Loan Officers does Mortgage Master currently employ? We currently have 250 loan officers working with high-quality borrowers. Many of our loan officers have been with Mortgage Master for over seven years and have operated in various mortgage lending cycles. Our average loan officer closed more than $2 million per month in loan volume and in 2011 about 15 percent of our loan officers closed over $50 million in volume. In addition, 20 of our loan officers were recognized as one of the top 200 originators in the country in 2011, by dollar volume according to the Scotsman Guide Magazine’s List of the Top 200 Originators. One other key point I would like to make is that our loan officers’ compensation is significantly above industry averages. This helps us to attract the best loan officers in the industry with unsurpassed experience in meeting the ever changing financing needs of our customers. Do you anticipate that Mortgage Master will continue to hire production personnel in 2012? Absolutely. With volume continuing to grow along with all of the added responsibilities that have been put on our operations team through industry and regulatory changes, we continue to add talented production personnel. We do not see this trend changing. We believe we offer loan officers an exceptional opportunity to expand their business as well as maximize their earnings potential and personal growth. We also recently opened a new operations center in Maitland, Fla. that will add a great deal of additional support to our current production platform. We are looking forward to this center being fully operational by the end of Q2 2012. The team we have assembled to work out of this location is very talented, and I see this as a real game-changer for Mortgage Master. What differentiates your loan officers from those of your competitors? Talent. We have the best people in the industry. Our loan officers are extremely experienced and knowledgeable. To be great as a loan officer you have to be able to understand a customer’s needs and provide them with the best advice in terms of financial options. There are a lot of talented people in our industry; however, we have unbelievable depth across our teams. Mortgage Master has been very fortunate to recruit and retain the best people, and we work hard to equip them with the tools they need to do their job well. To that end, we have extremely experienced people to help with scenarios, assist with marketing, and provide operations support. In addition, our teams demonstrate peer support among loan officers, which is very impressive. They work together to find solutions to difficult scenarios. With that, every loan officer has access to people recognized as some of the best in the industry. Do you provide educational opportunities to improve the professionalism of the loan originator? Yes ... we have numerous educational programs available for our loan officers to expand their knowledge base. We are in the process of building additional resources online. At Mortgage Master, we work to provide comprehensive support, not only our loan officers, but all of our professionals. For example, we have been annually expanding our education support and we plan to launch a new program with additional tools by the end of Summer 2012. What are the top challenges that origination professionals need to be prepared for in 2012 and beyond? The biggest challenge facing the origination professional will most likely occur when interest rates begin to increase—and we all know at some point they will. In addition, ongoing regulatory and industry changes are ever-present challenges. In our constantly evolving business, origination professionals must work hard to remain educated on new regulations while adapting to any new industry standards. What lines of business is Mortgage Master currently focused on? Today, we are a retail channel-focused residential mortgage lender. This is Mortgage Master’s heritage, and we have been very successful at executing our retail strategy over the last 24 years. We also believe our people are the best in the retail channel. At this time we are not interested in diversifying into other production channels or business lines. We are focused 100 percent of the time on providing borrowers as many options as possible to address their financing needs whether for their primary residence, a second home or an investment property. What are Mortgage Master’s primary areas of geographic penetration? We are licensed in 22 states and the District of Columbia, with a significant presence in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Our goal is to move into new states on a selective and strategic basis. As a company with a great northeast presence, we are one of the top two largest lenders throughout New England, and we have successfully grown our business in New Jersey and New York. In addition, we are starting to see meaningful growth in the mid-Atlantic states supported by our very talented teams in Maryland and the Greater D.C. markets. How many retail branches does Mortgage Master operate? Mortgage Master currently operates from 40 retail branch locations with five to 10 potential new branches currently under consideration. Our retail branch platform is dedicated to supporting only the very best retail loan officers to help meet client demands in their respective markets. Can you talk to us about how you support your retail branch network? The primary way we support our retail branches is by having the very best branch managers and operational support professionals in place at every one of our offices. The leaders we have hired are exceptionally talented and qualified mortgage professionals. Patty, Leif and I work hard to support them when they need help and keep them informed of changes and issues that will impact them in their local markets. Ultimately our best support is hiring the right person to manage the location. As a management team, we believe that is something we have done exceptionally well. Personally, I could not work with a better group of managers, all who demonstrate the leadership skills and character needed in this important role. But we believe we can always do more to help our branches. We recently hired Don Henig to help make sure we are giving all our branch locations the support they need to expand and deliver best in class service. Additionally, we are always focused on improving our overall communication and making sure we are involving all of our managers and employees in the decisions we make as a company. There is no substitute for open communication. We believe our greatest strength comes from our people across all departments, who are working together every day. Many of our best ideas come from these people and we believe the more we communicate and listen to them, the better Mortgage Master will be as a lender and a company to work for. What is the breadth of your product offerings? There are really no limits to the products we offer at competitive rates when it comes to residential lending. We try to make sure we have competitive options for all products. What is your current average loan amount and FICO score? Today, our average loan amount is about $320,000 with an average loan to value of 65 percent. Our average FICO score is 750 and we are finding is that there is a lot of very good business to be written and our process is being well received by borrowers. Paul, on a personal note, what are some of your outside interests? I would like to be able to say I skydive for fun and/or I am climbing Mt. Everest this summer, but my interests are a bit simpler. I like spending time with friends and family particularly on a beach or possibly a golf course whenever possible. Nowadays, I try to spend every free minute outside of work with the people closest to me because there is nothing I would rather do. For more information on Mortgage Master, visit www.mortgagemasterinc.com.
Published
Jun 12, 2012
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