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When you walk through REMN Wholesale’s new offices in Iselin, N.J., it is difficult not to notice the rows of empty desks. But Carl Markman, the company’s director of national sales, offers a calm assurance that these empty desks were not the workspaces of previous employees that were let go. It is quite the opposite … these spaces are soon to be filled by new employees being hired to help the company keep up with its constantly percolating business.
At a time when many players in the mortgage world seem to be struggling, REMN Wholesale is growing. According to Markman, the company’s holistic approach to customer service and positive corporate environment has helped to spur REMN Wholesale to bigger and better goals. In this interview, our June 2014 Mortgage Professional of the Month Carl Markman will share the secrets to REMN Wholesale’s success, as well as his own odyssey through the mortgage industry.
So … how’s business?
Carl Markman: It’s funny you should ask that because I’ve been traveling across the country, speaking with customers AND competitors, and when we talk, most of my competitors tell me that they are either flat or slightly down. We are unique and fortunate in that we are quite busy. In fact, when you walked in, you saw some empty desks—those are all filled at this point in order to support all of the Account Executives we have hired - many of which are new underwriters.
Those aren’t some empty desks … those are a lot of empty desks!
We have about 20 or 25 out there right now. The only way we can grow is to hire new operations people, which are the underwriters. In fact, we just opened up a new sales and operations hub out in Newport Beach, Calif., that is primarily sales, but we also hired some underwriters out there.
Let’s turn the clock back a bit. How did you get started in this business?
It was well over a couple of decades ago, when I applied for a mortgage. The person with whom I applied for a mortgage was just horrendous. A month-and-a-half passed, and even I knew the process shouldn’t have taken that long without getting a decision, I went somewhere else and connected with a gentleman who got me interested in this industry. He said, “Carl, if you can do a better job, you should get into the business.” At the time, I happened to be working for a Wall Street firm and wanted a change, so, I got into the business as a loan officer for a bank. Within my first year, I became one of the top originators in the country … with no experience! I worked for the same company, Wachovia, for 15 years. I am fortunate that the day after I left my previous company, I started here with REMN and that was about six years ago.
How has the business changed since your days at Wachovia?
We sold portfolio products, so it is much different, but the regulatory oversight is significantly different. In the six years I have been here, we probably had one-third of the staff doing twice as much volume. You are sitting in our corporate headquarters here in Iselin, N.J., which is 52,000-square-feet, and that has grown significantly space-wise because we need to house departments that we never had before.
Many of those departments are connected to new regulatory requirements and oversight. Do you believe that these regulatory changes have made it a better industry?
Yes and no. It has protected the consumer in a lot of different ways. But I also believe that because of some of the regulatory issues that have come up, it makes it more difficult, not to mention more expensive, for the consumer to obtain financing.
How have the regulatory changes impacted the mortgage brokers?
Due to all of these changes, many of them aren’t in the business anymore. I remember in the beginning of my career that I used to drive up to large broker shops–they were more of the boiler room type operations. Outside in the lot were rows of beautiful cars, and you would walk inside and there were a bunch of twenty something’s talking on the phones, just selling, selling, selling. Today, many of those same people are now out of the business. I think the word “professional” has come back to the broker and banker business.
It is a different environment indeed. You have to know your products and services and the different lenders out there in order to help your customer get that loan best suited for their needs.
How does your company work with brokers, compared to how your competition works with brokers?
Well you can see on that board on my wall, which says, “Because We Care.” We still look at the broker as our partner. I don’t care if you are funding one loan every couple of months or funding $20 million in loans, every loan counts. Our promise to same day turn times since 2002, exemplifies our commitment to our broker and mini correspondent partners.
Actually, the board on your wall also says, “Activities=Submissions=Funding=$ucce$$” and underneath that is the quote that says, “Because We Care.” Where did that come from?
It’s something I believe in. The problem that managers have is that they tell their sales team what they want their end result to be, rather than focus on the tools they need to get them to their goal. So, the first process is that you need the activities as you cannot just e-mail a customer and expect them to respond with business.
You asked me how I got in the business. I came from Wall Street and was very analytical, so when I started, I drew a pie chart and wrote down real estate agents, attorneys, financial planners, accountants, builders and worked all the way around. I said to myself, “If I continually call on every single one of these resources, I will always be busy.” If you go through the process and you perform the activities all of the time and not just when things are slow, you will always be busy.
This sounds like a fascinating company to work for.
With REMN, it’s not about having someone join the company, do a great job for a year and then move on to another company. We really invest in our employees and work hard to motivate them to grow with REMN Wholesale. In fact, I have several account executives that have been here well over a decade.
On the sales end, we have minimal turnover. Our top producers are our top producers because they’ve been here for a long time. In the last six to nine months, we hired several new account executives because we wanted to target different regions across the country and concentrate on building out the West Coast to balance out the business nationally.
Speaking of jobs, what advice would you give to newly-minted college graduates considering the mortgage industry as a career path?
That’s a great question! I don’t think anyone has ever posed that to me before. We think about it all of the time. We go to trade shows and speak with our broker partners, and find that there aren’t many people in their 20s or 30s left in this business anymore. It’s mostly all of us in our 40s, 50s and 60s now since no one new is getting into the business.
This is a terrific business to get into, from a monetary standpoint, and it is a make-you-feel-good job because you get to help people get into the homes of their dreams. You get the best of both worlds.
Phil Hall is managing editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.