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REMN Wholesale prides itself in bringing superior customer service to mortgage brokers, with same-day turn times being its trademark offering. National Mortgage Professional Magazine ventured to the company’s headquarters in Iselin, N.J., to speak with Carl Markman, REMN’s director of national sales, and Noel Chapman, executive vice president, to discuss the company’s distinctive approach to business.
It’s no secret that REMN Wholesale is known for its same-day turn times. How have you been able to maintain that commitment through the ups and downs of the recent years?
Carl Markman: It’s a commitment to being overstaffed. We have to be overstaffed all the time. We can’t have the excuse that we can provide same-day turn times one day, and not have them the next day. It is our commitment to our partnerships with our brokers and bankers to maintain the same-day turn times every day, which we’ve been offering from the beginning.
Noel Chapman: There is a huge difference between offering same-day turn times some of the time and offering same day turn-times all of the time, because our brokers need to be able to count on same turn time every day, on every file.
Markman: REMN’s turn-times include the opening process, as well as the initial underwrite, where most competitors separate the two to make it appear as if their underwriting turn-times are better than what they really are.
Chapman: Our turn-times are defined from the time it is received here to the time the broker receives an underwriting answer. As long as it meets minimum standards, the broker will receive a written disposition within 24 hours.
What makes REMN so committed to the mortgage broker?
Chapman: I spent the first 10 years in this industry as a broker, where I had to deal with wholesalers. That experience gave me good insight as to what brokers need from a relationship with a wholesaler. Some wholesalers don’t have the experience as a broker, so they lack the same special insight, empathy and commitment to broker community. They don’t understand that it’s a partnership.
Markman: Many of us at REMN have worked as loan officers and understand what our broker partners are going through each day. Even our underwriting manager, at one time, was a loan officer. We understand that our broker partners are under extreme pressure from all parties in every transaction. Providing them access to timely answers on a consistent basis empowers them to comfortably originate and manage a larger pipeline than would have been possible otherwise. We understand that our role is to make our broker partners look good every day, which helps them increase their market share.
What are some of the unique advantages that REMN has in the secondary market?
Chapman: We are large enough to enjoy economies of scale, and fortunate enough to have a seasoned and expert secondary market management team that enables us to confidently navigate the market turmoil that has been fairly constant over the last few years.
What do you see as the near-term future of the secondary market? Is the private label market going to come back anytime soon?
Chapman: I think the new private label marketplace is still in its infancy. It hasn’t gained as much traction as it could have over the last couple of years due to the low-rate environment keeping the industry so close to capacity.
Markman: I see a lot of private equity getting back into the market. It is positive, but I think it will take a while to take effect.
Chapman: Non-QM requires heightened compliance diligence compared to securitized qualified mortgage (QM)-type products. As a result, the interest rates on those products are significantly higher. REMN will be rolling out a non-QM product over the next few months to round out our already extensive product menu.
Markman: While there is certainly a segment of the market that requires a non-QM loan, I don’t expect it to be a significant amount of our overall business.
What impact has TRID had on your business?
Chapman: Many of TRID’s requirements and language don’t apply well to wholesale transactions. The workflow presents particular challenges for TPO business. There are still so many issues subject to interpretation that it seems likely that TRID will go into effect prior to necessary clarification, which is undeniably problematic. Additionally, it should be noted that the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) has recently released data which confirms that the average cost to produce a loan has increased by over 50 percent ($2,500) over the last few years, nearly all of which can be attributed to compliance costs … and that’s before TRID.
REMN has been very active in educating mortgage professionals through Webinars. How did you decide to pursue that strategy?
Markman: We can reach more people through Webinars than we can in person or over the phone. Our Webinars have anywhere between 400 and 1,000 attendees, and it would be impossible to reach that many people all at once. We typically do about a half-dozen Webinars annually. We are now also offering weekly training Webinars pertaining to renovation products, and we have about 100 participants on those Webinars. The feedback that we receive is overwhelmingly positive.
What is unique about your relationship with mortgage brokers that other wholesalers have not been able to duplicate?
Markman: Our account executives are more knowledgeable and empowered than any other in the industry. Plus, our partners have many other resources at REMN to assist them, including our online Helpdesk which is accessible through ticketing and live chat. However, it’s still our turn-times that set us apart.
What do you look for when seeking recruits to become part of your team?
Chapman: Any team member who touches a file or has any customer contact has to share our passion for customer service. Customer service is actually a cliché … it is really customer experience. What exactly are we selling here? We are selling the customer experience. There really is no other way to differentiate yourself these days, because the products are almost all the same. In order to ensure a positive experience there has to be a consistent service philosophy among all team members.
Where do you see REMN in the next five years?
Chapman: It seems to me that the pendulum, since around 2008, has done nothing but swing one way. The industry has become increasingly risk-averse, there’s more and more over-regulation and I would be shocked if this continued in that direction. Historically, there is a cycle, and we should start to see access to credit return to normal, with regulations being eased. Five years from now, the lending environment might be more conducive to mortgage companies prospering. Given our commitment to the customer experience, I believe REMN is well-positioned to take advantage of that type of environment.
Phil Hall is managing editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].