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TPO or TOP Originator?

Eric Weinstein
Oct 19, 2018
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When I first started in the industry, I thought “TPO” was a typo for “TOP Originator.” In case you don’t know, it stands for “Third-Party Originator.” I am assuming a First-Party Originator is a Loan Officer that works for a bank who lends and services their own loans. These are the “popular” kids that get invited to all the American Bankers Association parties. I guess that makes Second-Party Originators the slightly uglier kids that hang around the A-Listers and wheedle their way into the party … call them mini-correspondents. But, I have always been a TPO from middle school and throughout high school. The awkward pimple faced teenage boy wearing a pocket protector, in the chess club and with my jeans pulled up so high my white socks show. Envision anyone named Poindexter and your mind’s eye has taken a snapshot of me. The lonely, lowly Third-Party type, never a part of the show, never invited to the Prom. As proof, I never drank a beer in high school and never smoked pot. Not that I was morally against it, I just never got the invitation.
Still, being alone is not so bad. I have my books and poetry to protect me, because a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries. So, I poured myself into learning and became the best originator I could be. Then Gramm, Leach and Bliley hurled the meteor that killed off us dinosaur Mortgage Brokers and the TPOs had an extinction level event. But, from every massacre there are survivors to tell the story (witness the alligator, unchanged since the dinosaur age). Don’t get me wrong, I do very well, thank you very much, and have all that I want. Here is the secret to that: “Don’t want a lot.”
Despite the trend and pressure from my peers, I still love being a Mortgage Broker. Let me give you an example. I was doing a loan for a poor (translate that into low-moderate income) borrower. She was a single African-American mother so excited to be buying her first home. But, closing costs were more than expected and she just couldn’t come up with the funds. As a Mortgage Broker, I was able to reduce my fees and give her a lender credit to solve the problem. I did not make any money on that deal, and I doubt any of the “cool” Big Box Banker First-Party Loan Officers types would ever be allowed to do the same. I never told her what I did, and to her, it was nothing short of a miracle. We give not for our own self-aggrandizement, we give because it is our OBLIGATION to give. The Bible tells us, when we give for our own self pride, for that warm feeling we get from helping someone, or building a wing on a hospital with our name on it, it is nothing but “ashes in a dog’s mouth.” It means nothing.
A parable …
A rich man goes to a Great Rabbi looking for redemption. The Rabbi tells him he must give to the poor to seek salvation. The rich man soon gives so much, he himself becomes poor. He then goes back to the Great Rabbi complaining this only happened to him once he followed his advice. The Rabbi explains that, “The Sages say, ‘He who wants to be wise goes south. But, he who wants to be rich goes north.’”
So the now poor man asks, “What shall one do who wants to grow both wise and rich?”
The Rabbi answers, “He who thinks nothing of himself, and makes himself nothing, grows in spirit and soul. And since a spirit and soul do not occupy space, he can go both north and south at the same time.”
I have found this to be too true. It is only when I give that my blessings come back to me tenfold. “You get more sand from an open hand, then a closed fist.”
Being a TOP Originator is not scored by how much wealth you accumulate nor how much fame you earn. It is tallied on how many good deeds you accomplish in your life. And, after you die, you take all these good deeds, bundle them up into a tight ball, and throw it at the devil on your Judgment Day. It is a mighty weapon.
To me, that is the true blessing of being a TPO. The leeway it gives you to help people that just don’t fit the cramped box of a big bank’s underwriting criteria. If it means being the ugly duckling and not being invited to sit at the cool kids’ lunch table, I can live with that.
I guess TPO wasn’t a typo for “TOP” after all.

Eric Weinstein worked in banking, on the commercial real estate side until 1991, when he fell in love with residential lending. In 1995, he started a small mortgage company in his basement called Carteret Mortgage Corporation, which in 2003, grew to one of the largest mortgage broker companies in the United States. Eric is semi-retired, doing mortgages by referral only. He may be reached by phone at (703) 505-8692 or e-mail [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

“Being a TOP Originator is not scored by how much wealth you accumulate nor how much fame you earn. It is tallied on how many good deeds you accomplish in your life.”
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