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How to Ensure Lasting Partnerships When Hiring Branch Managers

Criste Linkletter
Apr 08, 2014

Hiring within the mortgage industry is challenging, given that every company is in competition to set itself apart. Hiring branch managers in many ways presents more of a challenge, given that branch management positions require employees who can both maintain autonomy and act as successful brand representatives. The process for hiring such a complicated position, then, cannot simply be about a basic search and initial training. Instead, the hiring process can be broken down into three stages, all of which are crucial when hiring branch managers: preparation, selection, and maintenance. The hiring process is exactly that—a process—and involves more than interviews and employee searches, in fact encompassing the span of the relationship between a parent company and its branch. Prior to beginning an employee search, it is essential for a company to prepare by defining, in clear and final terms, its corporate culture. Knowing what it offers, its roots, its vision for the future, and what it is not willing to compromise on will allow a company to staff its branches appropriately and efficiently. While defining these parameters may also narrow a company’s employee and customer pools, capitalizing on its unique elements will go a long way in solidifying corporate culture and will ultimately allow for more thoughtful expansion and better client service. Having the confidence to let its differences set it apart, rather than trying to be everything to everyone, builds a company on an unshakeable base of authenticity. Potential employees will value the 10 percent that makes a company different above the 90 percent we all have in common. Establishing and declaring what sets a company apart determines who will be a good match when the process of seeking out potential candidates begins. For example, a small company ranked number one in customer service five years in a row will market towards a branch manager that has been building a business platform on service. If a branch manager uses social media tutorials to gain referrals from real estate agents, a company recruiting that manager needs to highlight its top ranked Facebook page in early conversations. Once corporate culture is clear and branch manager selection begins, it is essential to ensure that all parties are fully aware of the others’ expectations. There are myriad reasons employees end up leaving one company for the other, and many of those are unavoidable; however, companies can and should ensure their employees are not leaving due to undelivered promises. Withholding or denying a company’s culture in these talks for the sole purpose of signing on new business is only a disservice to both parties in the long run. Though it is sometimes tempting to onboard a branch solely for immediate loans, there are more factors to consider, and a company must be able to walk away if the fit is not right. After fairly and diligently going through all documentation of a branch application, a hiring committee that cannot get past one aspect of a manager’s personality or business model must say "No" in the best interest of the company as a whole. These hires affect the daily work environment of large portions of a company, and it is imperative to hire in a way that makes it possible to maintain the atmosphere a company has carefully crafted. Furthermore, new hires take on the company name, and protecting brand image is a primary concern. A company must weigh in realistic terms the value of bringing on a branch, and if it is not the right fit, move on; the next person might be the right fit and will be worth the time investment in the contribution he or she makes. Remaining dedicated to the level of transparency presented up front ensures the ability to make an honest decision about a candidate. Longevity and sustainability are goals for all involved in the mortgage industry. No one wants to be part of a company that fades out and cannot survive. In turn, a company should work for its branch managers to support them for the long-term. An employee will stick around when they see promises from the hiring stage come to fruition meaning the parent company is dedicated to its vision and promises. Once the perfect match is on board, the process of maintaining their happiness is just as crucial as finding the right candidate. Keeping everybody happy is complicated work, and the first step is recognizing each employee or branch manager as a unique individual. Trying to manage branches by holding them all to the same set of expectations and guidelines will not work. Branches come in all shapes and sizes, some with 18 employees and others with just two, some with producing branch managers and some with none, and some with their own processors and marketing support and some that rely heavily on headquarter staff. Given so many possible variations, determining the level of support each branch needs is a necessary first step. All branch managers have one thing in common: They want to maintain their business with the best support possible. It is crucial, therefore, to keep the lines of communication open to allow branches to seek support as needed, in lieu of forcing standardized communication procedures where they may not necessarily work. Regardless of its individual needs, a branch is under its parent company’s brand name. A company must have a presence within each branch and have an accurate idea of what it is doing, while maintaining a healthy respect for the branch manager’s responsibilities and capabilities. Emphasizing communication breeds trust; should any issues occur along the way, the branch manager can be confident that assistance from headquarters is simply a phone call away. Additionally, making the effort to periodically visit each branch, rather than requiring its staff visit the home office, shows the company is invested in the branch’s success and is committed to supporting it in practical, as well as theoretical, ways. A collaborative environment is another element that maintains employee satisfaction. Should an employee make a suggestion on how to improve operations, the company needs to be flexible enough to at least consider it. If the idea compromises corporate culture, it does not necessarily have to put it into action, but listening to the idea and discussing it with the branch demonstrates the company’s investment and respect for its branches’ contributions. For example, Norcom Mortgage has had roundtable meetings with all of our branch managers in one room. Some of them could be originating in completely different markets, but having them come together to discuss ideas on how the company works as a whole has proven to be mutually beneficial. If their ideas are heard, and implemented, branch managers become more invested in their companies, and in turn the relationship between both parties has more potential for longevity. Offering opportunities for collaboration, and sending the signal that a branch’s valuable input and perspective are welcome, ensures all branches will feel comfortable communicating with corporate management about any number of things. A branch may be thousands of miles away but still feel like part of the team. This can be a very powerful business tool and can augment the success of both branches and the parent company. The mortgage industry, though a volatile business, is rewarding and exciting. With so many available options for business partnerships, defining exactly the right type of branch manager allows a company to successfully seek out those that will be a good fit for its corporate culture. Establishing a standard of transparency and communication will allow both employee and employer to adapt to changes together, creating a lasting partnership that will not falter and setting a foundation for mutual success. Criste Linkletter is the corporate recruitment officer for Norcom Mortgage in Avon, Conn. She has been in the mortgage industry for over a year after previously serving in a recruiting role as assistant director of admissions for Canterbury School, one of the top independent boarding schools in New England. She may be reached by phone at (860) 606-2796 or e-mail [email protected]
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