Ed F. Wallace Jr., Ph.D. has been in the mortgage business for 29 years, holding executive positions in both the retail and wholesale venues. In his career, he has worked for regional, national and global corporations assisting in the overall development of the companies, while surpassing production and profit objectives. He holds a BA as well as a MBA and Ph.D. in marketing, and has served on a number of mortgage-related committees on a local, regional and national level.
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?
Ed F. Wallace Jr.: People - I know it seems to be a cliche, but people really make a company strong. The executive management really cares about what their employees think about the direction of the company and are extremely open to input from any level. We have made changes from suggestions that have come from the receptionist all the way through every management level. This company does not leave anything on the table and works everyday to strengthen the ties from top to bottom.
TMP: First Magnus' wholesale division has more than 40
offices across the U.S. and the retail division has more than 200
branches around the nation. Can you tell us about the company's
organization/hierarchical structure? How has the
organization/hierarchical structure aided First Magnus'
EW: First Magnus has a somewhat flat structure, which eliminates the bureaucracy many companies experience. This allows open communication from the street level all the way through the organization giving us feedback, which we constantly use to improve our process.
TMP: Can you tell us about new product development at
First Magnus? How does the information that there is a need for new
products passed through the organization; does it start at the
branch level and is then passed upwards, or does it come from the
EW: We pass information both ways in the company. If someone in the branch hears of a new product, they obtain information and pass it up the ladder. However, when top management hears of something, they too pass the information to all levels to ensure it is a product we really want or need in our markets.
TMP: Can you tell us about how First Magnus trains its
staff? Is training mandatory for all employees?
EW: Training is on a national as well as regional and branch level. We always want our people to understand the overall corporate philosophy, so they begin by going to our corporate office in Tucson to meet everyone from the executive management team to the department heads they will deal with on a day to day basis. Then, when they return to their branch, training is continued to focus on the operational procedures of the office and the ways that particular market would like First Magnus to function. The key in training is we allow each area the ability to adjust the "process" to fit their market needs.
TMP: How does First Magnus manages its customer
relationships? Does the company have specific policies in place
regarding CRM (i.e. Argent has a "no voicemail" policy,
EW: Each area of the company is very different in the ways they like to deal with mortgage companies. Some like the "high tech" side of the business, while others like face to face contact. Therefore, we allow each market to focus on what their specific market likes. This avoids customer frustration [caused] by using one policy across the country.
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?
EW: Since we are privately held, we look at the brokers as our "stockholders," which allows us to focus on their needs. Our technology is very broker-friendly and has many functions which the brokers have requested, such as Product Finder which allows a broker to view every possible loan type a specific scenario may have. This allows the broker and their borrowers the ability to make a very informed decision about which specific loan they may want.
TMP: Of course, the big news in 2006 was the end of the
refi boom and the contraction of the mortgage marketplace. How has
the end of the refi boom impacted the services that First Magnus
provides? What other adjustments have you had to make?
EW: Our service levels have actually improved over time. We strive to provide the best service at all levels no matter what the market conditions are. As the markets change, we change with them to add value for our customers. With the downturn in the market, we have actually expanded our operations to provide a strong marketplace management in every part of the country.
TMP: What direction do you see the mortgage marketplace
heading in during the next few years?
EW: I feel the market will continue to be what I would call "a normal mortgage market" for the next few years. The refinance cycles have been closer together in recent times, but with a stable economy, the market should continue on a good pace, but nothing out of control like we have seen in the recent past.
TMP: Where do you see First Magnus in the next few
EW: I see First Magnus continuing to grow and develop as a stronger company over the next few years. We still have a large untapped market that will allow us to continue to focus on becoming a "Top Five" company and concentrate on each market.