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Like Attracts Like: How Technology Translates Into Leadership Opportunities for LOs

Jeff Bode
May 17, 2016

“Leadership is the capacity to transform vision into reality.”—Warren G. Bennis, Founding Chairman, Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California

It’s no secret that top loan originators are in high demand, and the market for recruiting these top producers is extremely competitive, with lenders jockeying to provide the most attractive inducements to convince loan originators to jump ship. However, anyone can put together a decent compensation and benefits package, and while those things are certainly relevant to a loan originator’s decision on where to ply their trade, there are other factors that must be taken into account.

For loan originators seeking to establish themselves as leaders in this industry, it is critical to consider the vision of your current organization and determine if that division matches your personal goals. In today’s mortgage lending environment, those organizations that have embraced technology as a means to reduce costs, improve loan quality, maintain compliance and provide a competitive differentiator are the kinds of organizations that are going to naturally breed leaders.

As the Law of Attraction states, “Like attracts like.” Therefore, when evaluating an organization’s leadership development potential, loan originators must consider the organization’s vision for technology adoption, the origination technology that currently exists and how the organization has incorporated technology into other facets of the company.

An overall vision for technology
The mortgage industry’s vision of a fully electronic process from origination through note delivery is rapidly transforming into reality, thanks to recent advances in technology. Forward-thinking mortgage lenders have already begun to adopt these new systems in order to reduce both the cost and the time to close, meet regulatory requirements and provide borrowers with unparalleled customer service.

“e-Whatever” is the direction that the mortgage industry is heading towards, and a lender’s attitude towards these initiatives can be quite telling in terms of its overall view of technology. An organization that rejects these initiatives immediately out of hand is probably short-sighted in other areas of their business and, as such, may not be as nurturing of leadership in its loan originator ranks.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, an over-reliance on technology can indicate a lack of faith in the ability of human resources to get the job done right. This kind of environment can be equally as stifling for loan originators with leadership aspirations.

The sweet spot, as they say, is an organization that values ALL of its resources—both people and technology—and views technology a tool to enhance the efficacy of its workforce. When evaluating an organization’s overall view of technology, here are some key questions to consider:

►What strides has this organization made in moving towards a fully electronic process?

How often do executives talk about their vision for technology within the organization?

Is technology mentioned as part of the company’s mission and/or values?

Has technology been made a priority in terms of budget?

What kind of training does the organization provide on its technology?

Origination technology
In addition to overall technology philosophy, loan originators should also consider the line-of-business technology already in use. At the very least, most lenders will have a loan origination system (LOS) in place. The configuration of this system can provide insight into how well the lender has incorporated technology into the organization and tailored technology to fit its unique processes.

Very rarely does an out-of-the-box LOS configuration meet 100 percent of a lender’s needs so usually, some level of customization is required. Lenders that have not taken the time and expense to customize their LOS configurations to harness its total potential are unlikely to do the same in regards to employees.

Furthermore, a lender may have many other systems in place as well for underwriting, quality control/risk management, lead generation, compliance, document preparation/management and so on. The ability of these systems to work cohesively with each other is a direct reflection of the organization’s ability to see the bigger picture and organize itself accordingly. Lenders with discordant systems are often unorganized in general, and if management’s focus is directed towards chaos management, opportunities for growth and leadership are going to be few and far between.

Tech-savvy lenders, on the other hand, will have spent a great deal of time and money creating an electronic origination ecosystem in which all systems work in concert to create a nearly seamless flow of information, documents and data. When there is harmony in an organization’s operations, executives have the time and energy to devote to employee satisfaction and development. Consider the following regarding a lender’s current technology usage:

What systems is the lender currently using?

How much of the origination process is being conducted manually and why?

How much customization has the lender done with its current configuration?

How well do the lender’s line-of-business systems work with each other?

Ancillary technology
No matter the industry, there are key functions that are universal to all businesses—finance/accounting, marketing, etc. For loan originators, marketing is a huge area of concern, as this directly affects the ability to bring in new business.

Digital forms of communication (e-mail, Web, social media, etc.) has become a far more prevent and preferred means of marketing to consumers. If a lender cannot support its loan originators’ digital marketing efforts, that speaks volumes about that lender’s ability and desire to support its workforce in general.

Additionally, the kind of access to approved marketing materials a lender provides to its loan originators can be indicative as well. If a lender has made a significant investment in line-of-business technology but has to ship hard copies of marketing materials to its loan originators, there is something amiss. That kind of disconnect speaks to larger gaps in the lender’s overall operations and undermines confidence in the lender’s ability to adequately support growth as a whole.

Again, cohesion in a lender’s technology strategy, even in non-line-of-business areas, is a key indicator of the lender’s overall approach to it business. Lenders that ensure their loan originators are given every tool possible to succeed are going to be far more likely to nurture and support leadership growth within the organization. Loan originators should consider the following in regards to a lender’s ancillary technology efforts:

Does the lender support digital marketing alongside more traditional methods?

What kind of access does the lender provide to its approved marketing materials?

Does the lender incorporate technology into its approved marketing messages?

As the opening quote from Warren Bennis illustrates, there is a direct correlation between leadership and vision. Visionary organizations are far more likely to support the professional development and growth of employees.

The mortgage industry’s future is one that incorporates e-Signature, e-Closing, e-Note and e-Vault technology to transform the mortgage origination process, and the forward-thinking mortgage lender has not only accepted this change in direction, but embraced it. Thus, for loan originators seeking to develop within their profession and grow into leadership roles, they must consider their current organization’s attitude towards technology and align themselves with a lender that prepared for the future.



Jeff Bode is owner and chief executive officer of Addison, Texas-based lender Mid America Mortgage Inc. He can be reached by e-mail at Jeff.Bode@MidAmericaMortgage.com.



This article originally appeared in the April 2016 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

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