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Embracing Change Has Changed Her Life

Trailblazer Brooke Anderson-Tompkins wants people to reach their full potential, personally and professionally

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Laura Brandao
Trailblazer Brooke Anderson-Tompkins

This month I had the pleasure of speaking with Brooke Anderson-Tompkins, the president of 1st Priority Mortgage, Inc. She and her family live in Buffalo, N.Y.

How did you get your start in the mortgage industry?

A. I started my career after receiving an associate degree in paralegal studies. My initial plan was to use it as a stepping stone to law school as I was responsible for my tuition. You could say I got sidetracked with mortgages.

I applied to a local law firm for an open position. While waiting for a response, however, I was offered a position as a loan processor in a small mortgage brokerage company, one of the first in New York State. I accepted that job and worked directly with the owner of the company. He was a great mentor, not only in teaching me the business, but also providing introductions within both the banking and real estate industries. I found the work challenging. I loved learning the ins and outs of the business.

I then took a position with one of the investors with whom we did business. A short time after the owner of the brokerage company came to me and offered me an opportunity to do a buyout of the company. Fast forward 20 years, and I merged my company with 1st Priority Mortgage to take on my current role.

– Mahatma Gandhi

What does being a trailblazer mean to you?

A. I see a trailblazer as someone who is driven to succeed and embraces the mantra “We never give up; we always find a way.” They would be someone open to learning as well as willing to share their knowledge gained with others, and chart new ways to solve challenges.

I can’t say as I thought of myself as a trailblazer. Although, when I look back at having acquired a mortgage company in my early twenties and continuing in the industry to have a successful and rewarding career, I can see how it may fit. I am committed to working with people in our business to help them reach their full potential, personally and professionally. If they see me as an example of what inspires them, I am happy to be called a trailblazer.

Trailblazer Brooke Anderson-Tompkins 2

Where do you see yourself and women in the mortgage industry in the next 5 years?

A. In the next five years, I expect the waves of positive momentum to continue. This comes in the form of working toward personal goals, successfully navigating industry shifts and working in communities to foster progress, I foresee a bright future.

We will need to embrace new technologies as they continue to evolve and utilize tools that simplify the loan manufacturing process to the benefit of those we serve.

We will work to bridge the homeownership gap regardless of market conditions. It is important to note that this goes beyond direct industry challenges. It speaks to the real collaboration that will be required to truly address systemic change and make a meaningful difference in the generational wealth continuum.

We need to continue to pay close attention, as a business community, to trends and changes that will move our industry to greater awareness and be a positive force in the greater community. We can achieve this through building relationships with our clients in their communities, continual listening, learning and intentional action.

What is your professional superpower?

A. I am a highly organized, actively engaged listener.

More than just physically organized, I thrive on taking vague or seemingly disconnected thoughts and arranging them into a clearer, more precise picture. This is beneficial in an industry that has so many tentacles with a constant cascade of guideline, legislative, and regulatory changes.

Being an organized thinker gives me the ability to maintain a more flexible train of thought as changes occur, then to pivot should the need arise. Being an active and engaged listener provides the ability to make connections that lead to better, innovative solutions.

Tell us something about your career in the industry that was pivotal to you achieving your level of success?

A. I have been very fortunate to have a village of support. Family, friends, and colleagues who have answered my questions, supported me and were willing to invest in my potential.

One of the most critical parts of my success is having an amazing mentor, Joe Gianni (2Logical). Joe has been both a coach and a mentor to me for over 20 years. This guidance has been instrumental in my ability to achieve my personal and career goals.

He helped shape my existing practices into best practices while also teaching fundamental success principles. These success principles have continued to be the guideposts of my personal story and of 1st Priority.

An important part of having a mentor is finding someone you can trust. I was taught that you can listen to what anyone says, but you should only act on the advice of someone with subject matter expertise that you know cares. I have taken that to heart and would pass that advice on to anyone looking for a mentor.

One way of finding a mentor is by attending events geared to making connections in the mortgage business or any specific field of interest. I would highly recommend attending events and to spend time meeting and talking with well-rounded knowledgeable people.

You may find that you connect with someone who has great experience and a willingness to share their story. It’s also been said that the teacher far out learns the student … when willing to listen.

What advice would you give a woman entering the business today or trying to move forward in their mortgage industry career?

A. Be curious. Be a lifelong learner. Work hard. Ask questions. Also, as noted, seek out advisors and or a mentor to help you sort through issues in a pragmatic and rational way. Surround yourself with those that speak candidly and support you at the same time.

What does success mean to you?

A. For me, success means achieving my goals and continuing to work toward achieving what matters most to me. Having a roadmap (plan) helps along the way but the journey is just as important, whether it be long, short, perfectly straight or filled with curves and hills. The roadmap is the key when things don’t go according to plan — it provides you a reference to aid in navigating a new route to the desired destination.

I set a goal for myself early on to have my organization recognized as a leader in our industry. Meeting financial goals is important for any company, and having your firm be held as a standard for excellence within your industry is something I will continue to work toward.

Within the company, I feel it is important to share identified goals and to reach them as a team. Our organization follows a five-stage process with an objective of helping our clients attain their dream of homeownership. Feedback is provided by stakeholders at the end of our Delivering the Home Loan Experience. This feedback is critical. It allows us to learn and to create raving fans.

I believe the very definition of success is setting goals, working toward them, continuously learning, and accepting and applying feedback from clients and colleagues. Ultimately, to make a difference.

What do you do for fun outside of work?

A. Outside of work, my family and I love to travel. One of my favorite trips was to Portugal. My husband, daughter and I went on the trip together for a milestone birthday. It was magical. The food, the people and the scenery were breathtaking. Time together as a family is priceless to me.

Trailblazer Brooke Anderson-Tompkins 3

How do you recommend navigating the changes occurring in our industry?

A. I am a big believer in embracing change and learning from it. I also understand that change can be daunting and overwhelming, especially in an industry like ours. This work has significant pressures which can drive wide swings in the flow of business.

One of the most difficult things to navigate in the mortgage industry is the constancy of change. Add the unexpected challenge of the pandemic, which dramatically altered the way many of us conducted business. It forced us to learn new ways to connect and carry on in a new normal that continues to evolve.

Our industry did not slow down during the pandemic as some others did, but, rather, our pace picked up and there was an unprecedented upsurge in the needs of our clients, while simultaneously with our employees addressing the personal pandemic cascade. We were not the cause (COVID was), but it was an enormous challenge. We learned to manage expectations in ways that we could not have dreamed!

As tough as it was, we did it. While now having a valuable lesson in learning to adapt, adjust and still achieve our goals directly and for our clientele. It was both a terrifying and gratifying ride.

How do you find your voice?

A. I have never really had trouble with this one, those who know me are laughing as they read this! I learned early to speak up, being mindful of doing so in a respectful way. It is important to listen to our inner voice, then speak.

Few would disagree that there is injustice and inequality in our world. While we may see signs of hope in given arenas, there remains a great need for us to stand up and speak when recognizing that the cause is greater than a fear of being corrected or chastised for it.

I have been involved with delegations that travel to Washington regularly to speak about mortgage industry regulations and legislation. Now more than ever to address what can be done to bring about better equality and accessibility for everyone. The very fabric of our industry is providing people with the opportunity to own a home. The reality that some remain left out of that process due to a gap in affordability and availability is something I feel passionately about. I want to help find effective, long-term solutions.

I feel strongly about having a seat at the table. I go because I have learned my voice has value. Yes, schedules are difficult for most of us, and each time I go, I am glad I made the effort. As much to share my perspective as to learn from others in the room. We can affect positive outcomes. We already are.

Do you have a favorite book and why would you recommend it to others?

A. I have many favorites. One is Words to Live By written by Eknath Easwaran. It is a collection of daily affirmations. I no longer read it daily, but I have opened it often over the many years since I was given my now well-thumbed copy.

I find the lessons contained in the short passages resonate and I have always found comfort, validation, and inspiration within them.

When I want to read something mindless for fun, I have an electronic reader but this book I have in the original paper form. There is something more substantive and timeless about a physical book. Yes, I still love a great bookstore.

If there was one message, you would like to be remembered for what would it be?

A. Kindness is so vital. It is especially important in these troubled times that we remember to think of others more than ourselves.

Never underestimate the power we each have to make a difference.

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine September 2022 issue.
Headshot of Laura Brandao
Laura Brandao

Laura Brandao is president at American Financial Resources, Inc.

Published on
Sep 13, 2022
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