This month, we are interviewing Shawn Williams, president of Fortis Mortgage in College Park, Md.
Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
I’ve been in the industry for more than 15 years and have overseen more than $2.5 billion in loans.
Prior to founding Fortis Mortgage, I held key leadership positions in regional and national companies, where I was responsible for overseeing mortgage banking activities for the company’s network of retail branches. I began my career as a mortgage loan officer, where my passion for helping clients was first ignited.
I believe in giving back to my community, and I’m an active volunteer with several non-profit organizations, serving on numerous boards and committees. I’ve coached basketball for several schools and club teams, and enjoy golfing, reading and spending quality time with my wife and children.
I attended central Virginia and hold a BA, in communications from George Mason University.
I understand you are a mortgage broker now after previously working as a mortgage banker. What motivated you to make the change?
Shawn Williams: I had been wondering (sort of dreaming) what it would take to start and own a mortgage company. Honestly, I thought it required raising millions of dollars to start. After parting ways with my last employer, I wanted to take my time and make the best decision for my family and career. I was uninterested in staying in retail management and growing branches. I had been out of the day-to-day loan origination for a couple years, and was a little uneasy about getting back into loan origination.
During this time, I saw a colleague’s LinkedIn announcement as “president” of a mortgage company. I reached out to congratulate him for climbing the ladder and he informed me that it is “my company.” We then spent a good bit of time discussing what it took for him to get started along with the pros and cons. I put a P&L together and realized that it was within reach as it relates to startup capital.
I was then introduced to Mat Ishbia, president and chief executive officer of United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM). Mat introduced me to his Wholesale Development team, and two conference calls later, I had the playbook to becoming a mortgage broker.
This also happened to be right around the time of AIME Fuse 2018 in Las Vegas. I registered and attended the conference to seek validation. After getting an opportunity to see the technology, interact with other brokers and meet various lenders, it was time to move forward.
What would you say so far are the biggest differences you’ve experienced coming from the retail side?
Shawn Williams: There are a number of differences I have experienced so far:
►Pricing transparency: In my retail experience, many resources were given to making pricing exceptions for LO’s in competitive situations.
►We are experiencing little to no overlays.
►A faster turnaround in underwriting and quicker closings without even having to escalate.
►It took me awhile to understand the borrower-paid compensation and explaining it to borrowers.
How would you compare pricing when compared to the mortgage banker world?
Shawn Williams: Since we have the ability to shop competitive rates and fees with multiple lenders, I have found the pricing to be more competitive in most cases. I find that government loans, specifically VA loans, are priced much better than retail, and it turns out to be the best option for the consumer.
What are you seeing in your local market in terms of trends, inventory and consumer/real estate agent mortgage education?
Shawn Williams: In the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, including the Northern Virginia region, we are seeing low inventory with no real spike in pricing. Low rates are keeping buyers interested in the market though. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to look at and it’s taking buyers longer to realize and they miss the opportunity. This makes things very competitive.
We have also seen seller price reductions and some lower appraised values. According to some of my real estate agents, sellers are pricing based on where the market was over the past couple years versus where it is and where it is going.
In regards to education, we are seeing a ton of content from real estate agents and loan officers. However, we are not doing the best job of explaining it in “Real World” terms so that it’s relatable for the consumer to win in real estate and financially. This leads to the consumer being unsure whether they should make a decision leading to missed opportunities.
I know the myth of losing control as a mortgage broker is finally being exposed to the market and quite the opposite. What are your experiences on controlling the process?
Shawn Williams: I spent 14 years supporting that myth. It was a huge fear of mine prior to joining the wholesale channel. I found that it couldn’t be more from the truth. Right now, Fortis Mortgage has 15 lender relationships. This means that we have multiple sets of rates, product options and sales/operations support. More advocates for the consumer because we are the lender’s customer! Because of this, we have not had to escalate too much, as many of the lending systems are set up for the loan to flow smoothly.
Many loans today are underwritten to the AUS findings and our lenders have little to no overlays. Access to cutting-edge technology is allowing us to be more efficient and submit a quality loan package. We receive constant milestone updates and can follow the loan every step of the way.
I was blown away the first time an underwriter called to review a conditional approval. It’s normal now. There is no requirement to go through an account executive or ops manager to interact with any member of the team (loan setup/processing, underwriting and closing). We can go straight to the source as if we are in the same company to solve any problem.
The wholesale lenders/partners realize the importance of servicing the broker to retain the relationship. They compete for our business on every loan. This is great for the consumer as this competition to earn our business gets passed along in the form of better rates, lower fees and better service. They want to close our loans fast and on time every time.
What would you say are your best forms of marketing today to generate new business?
Shawn Williams: For me, it’s pretty simple. I think the best form of marketing is branding (personal and corporate). Who are you and what do you do for people? I think those that are winning are leveraging their platforms: Database; social media; texting; public speaking/podcasts; and hosting events–meetups and Webinars, to tell stories and teach.
Of all the technology that we use, BombBomb and Zoom are my favorites as they allow us have virtual face-to-face communication with the clients and referral sources. We use BombBomb to deliver video updates and send personal messages. We use Zoom to do Webinars and/or record computer screens with loan analysis and deliver “how-to” content to clients and referral sources. We’ve picked up testimonials (Google) and business from new referral sources because they like the communication.
Andy W. Harris, CRMS is president and owner of Lake Oswego, Ore.-based Vantage Mortgage Group Inc. and past president of the Oregon Association of Mortgage Professionals. He may be reached by phone at (877) 496-0431, e-mail [email protected] or visit VantageMortgageGroup.com.
This article originally appeared in the December 2019 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.