Honoring The Mortgage Industry's 2023 Diversity Leaders

Recognizing the companies leading the way for the mortgage industry to become more inclusive and reflective of the communities that they serve

Diversity Leaders 2023

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or as they are commonly known, DEI, has become an essential part of the discussion in the mortgage industry. There’s a need to diversify the workforce and reach out to a more diverse marketplace.

That’s why now is an important time to look for and honor leaders in diversity. The Diversity Leader Awards aim to recognize the companies leading the way for the mortgage industry to become more inclusive and reflective of the communities that they serve.

See how these companies have addressed the root causes of discrimination and sought to be more inclusive and equitable.

American Financial Network

American Financial Network Inc.

Brea, CA
Company CEO: John Sherman

Company mission statement:
Our mission is to be the best, most trusted, and admired mortgage lender with unique, affordable, and convenient products while maintaining a close, family-oriented culture.

– Susie Sensenbach, EVP of Human Resources, American Financial Network Inc.

American Financial Network Inc. is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. The privately held company has employees from dozens of countries of origin. It is the company’s practice to recruit team members through referrals and frequently promote from within.

The company’s executive team and leadership personnel are a colorful mix of men and women of ethnicities and races from around the globe. A recent survey revealed that AFN personnel collectively are fluent in at least 37 languages.

AFN values, embraces, and employs people from all walks of life and fosters an atmosphere of work-life balance that allows flexible schedules and remote work opportunities whenever it makes sense, according to Susie Sensenbach, EVP of Human Resources. “Key members of our leadership teams are women and people of color. We know that diversity and varied life experiences serve to enrich the company at all levels, and we welcome the balance it brings to our business as a whole,” she said.

AFN, licensed in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., has relied on neighborhood brick-and-mortar branches, and partnerships with local Realtors for over 20 years.

A recent initiative, still in development, is offering loan documents in additional languages; Spanish and Arabic to start with additional languages to follow.

AFN takes extra initiatives to get people in homes. Included in its mortgage product offerings are more than 225 down payment assistance programs, which are designed to expand opportunities for homeownership to more people within all communities.

“Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is not just a concept at AFN, it’s a practice,” said Lisa Petras, director of corporate communications.

All employees in every position are required to take annual courses on the importance of treating consumers equitably, she said.

Achieving DEI is a perpetual goal at AFN.

“Our goal is for the entire culture of the company to continue to shine its beacon of inclusivity brightly as we attract and retain talent from all walks of life that bring a diverse perspective to the workplace, how we interact as a cohesive team, and how we interact with our clientele in diverse communities across the country,” Petras said.

Central Group Mortgage

Central Group Mortgage LLC

Overland Park, KS
Company CEO: Monica Zhang

Company Mission Statement
To create positive financing experiences by putting people and innovation at the heart of everything we do.

– Monica Zhang, CEO, Central Group Mortgage

Central Group Mortgage, a fast-growing mortgage broker headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas, has promoted diversity since the day it started in 2019, through its customer service, its hiring practices, and community outreach.

CGM’s mission is to create a positive financing experience for minority families, and it seeks every opportunity to educate clients on financing and leverage to help them to scale to the next level financially through real estate investment opportunities.

It is a female owned, minority owned company founded by Monica Zhang, now the CEO. CGM operates in eight states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. It offers an impressive range of mortgage options for its customers.

“Diversity is a word that has been thrown around a lot lately, but the truth is that it’s not just something you can say or do, it’s an attitude that you carry with you every day,” Zhang said.

Understanding that many first-generation families are not familiar with the lending practices in the United States, CGM’s diverse team of bilingual home loan advisors leverage their extensive skill-sets to help clients find the home-lending solutions that are a perfect fit.

Highly experienced and well trained, CCM’s mortgage advisors not only have credit expertise, they also are fluent with multiple languages and dialects and can provide customers the best experience in “the language you’re most comfortable with,” according to Shwetha Gupta, CCM’s marketing specialist.

The company’s commitment to diversity starts with its application portal, which offers three different languages as options to make the process easier and more convenient for prospective buyers. CGM’s marketing materials are in multiple languages as well to help clients better understand the financing options.

Central Group Mortgage has been committed to promote diversity in its employment. More than half of its loan officers, including branch managers and managers, are minority, and 100% of its operations staff is fluent/native in a second language other than English. Over 72% of our funded loan volumes were for clients who are a minority, according to Gupta.

Central Group Mortgage has been sponsoring local community events that promote diversity since its founding. Each year CGM donates to the Kansas City Chinese Association and The Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association. And some of CGM’s employees have performed at international festivals in their local markets.


Enact Mortgage Insurance

Raleigh, NC
Company CEO: Rohit Gupta

Company mission statement:
We help people buy a house and keep it their home.

Enact celebrates diversity of ideas and people by embedding diversity as a core tenet of who we are, and what we value as a company. Our values are excellence, improvement, and connection, and the company has language that describes how employees display each value. In the values language for improvement and connection, it specifically states:

  • “We seek out diverse perspectives,”
  • “We learn about the experiences of others,” and
  • “We use our resources to support a better, more equitable community.”

The importance of this goes beyond signaling our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The company’s rewards and recognition program and the performance review process are tied to our values; employees are held accountable for supporting DEI in how they perform. In addition to the quarterly values awards, Enact also has an annual award (which includes a spot on our President’s Club trip) specifically to recognize employees who are committed to DEI and community service.

In 2021, Enact transitioned from six employee resource groups (ERGs) to one Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Council. This change combined resources to enable more programming and leveled the playing field for all groups and communities and created more equity across the organization. The D&I Council is responsible for sharing the culture and highlighting the talents and contributions of diverse populations within Enact to foster a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging while promoting education, continuous improvement, and a commitment to enhance the communities we serve. In addition, the D&I Council is responsible for the creation of new DEI initiatives and workstreams that will support diversity, equity, and inclusion within Enact, the industry, and our community.

Enact has made significant strides, but we still feel there is much we can do to make the industry more inclusive and to help close the minority homeownership gap. One aim is to increase student participation in our award-winning Mortgage Industry Development Program, introducing the mortgage industry to students of color and helping diversify the industry’s talent pipeline.

Other diversity goals for 2023 are closer to home. One goal is to identify and execute the next generation of diversity workstreams. Through them, we hope to develop additional initiatives that will foster diversity within Enact, the industry, and our community.

Fairway Independent Mortgage

Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp.

Madison, WI
Company CEO: Steve Jacobson

Company mission statement:
Our focus at Fairway is Faith, Family and Work, in that order, and we do try to live by those values. You will often hear our employees say Family First. The culture of family plays a part in all we do.

– Steve Jacobson, CEO and founder, Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp.

Although Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp.’s diversity and Inclusion program is in its infancy stage, having been formed two years ago, the company always has had a big heart with strong inclusive values, views, and philosophy.

Steve Jacobson, CEO and founder, often emphasizes this philosophy: “Fairway serves our community beyond just loans. We find a need and fill it. If it helps one person, it’s worth it.”

Fairway, a retail lender licensed in all 50 states, is committed to the ongoing development of a work environment built on the premise of diversity and equity that encourages/enforces respectful communication and cooperation among all employees.

The company strives to offer a work-life balance through flex scheduling and other wellness initiatives to accommodate the varying needs of employees.

Fairway’s diversity and inclusion and fair lending teams have formed a strong partnership. The mission is to advance Fairway’s “Fair Lending Initiative” in the areas of fair and diverse lending through relationship cultivation and community collaboration.

The Fair Lending team educates Fairway’s employees on ways to engage with the community through volunteer work, affiliations to partner with, and how to do business to help lessen the racial and ethnic homeownership gap.

Kathy Bultman, the company’s vice president corporate communication, said that Fairway’s leadership has been making strong strides to create a more gender inclusive workplace. Currently in place are a Fairway Pride group with 100-plus members and a Women’s Empowerment Group, which has 650-plus members and whose mission is to serve as a safe place where women can come for support, inspiration, learn, and share personal stories.

She said Fairway is committed to evaluating existing programs and adapting as diversity and inclusion goals evolve.

Fairway’s commitment reaches deep into the communities it serves to promote greater understanding and respect for diversity. A program called #FairwayJOY promotes and encourages Fairway employees to give back to their communities, according to Bultman.

Through the company’s nonprofits, Fairway Cares and American Warrior Initiative, Fairway is able to bring comfort, hope, and support to people within its community and beyond.

Home Loans Inc.

Home Loans Inc.

Charleston, SC
Company Broker/Owner: Jason Sharon

Company mission statement:
We question the status quo. We think outside the box. We study mortgages more than anyone else. Want a mortgage?

– Jason Sharon, Broker/owner, Home Loans Inc.

Home Loans Inc. is a company that intentionally hires for diversity. The proof of this approach is the company’s lineup of employees.

Broker/owner Jason Sharon provided the breakdown: two disabled vets, including himself, three Hispanic women, three white men, two Black men, two Black women, two white women, two Asian women, two Asian men and one Hispanic man.

Sharon recalled speaking at the same event as Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith.

“Emmitt said something profound,” said Sharon, whose company is licensed in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. “Emmitt stated, ‘If you do not have diversity in your company, it’s not a company, it is a club.’”

The company’s commitment to diversity goes far beyond its hiring.

“We strive to teach that home ownership is the single best tool to bridge the wealth inequality gap,” Sharon said. “We never tell a prospective borrower ‘no.’ We tell them with the right coaching, we can say ‘yes.’ That is the sweetest thing the client can hear.”

Home Loans hold seminars for prospective first-time homebuyers. Its marketing results in attendance of 90% Black females.

“These seminars empower minority women with the path to their dream of home ownership,” Sharon said.

The company also teaches at the Father to Father program, which helps time-served convicts on their journey to regain their parental rights following their release from prison.

“A stable home is the second step following employment,” Sharon said.

Sharon is on the board of directors for the Lowcountry Homeless Veterans Shelter in Charleston. The shelter helps veterans who live in the woods by providing a drug- and alcohol-free bedroom in a home for 120 days while it assists with mental health, dental and doctor visits, employment, and housing. Seventy-five percent of the enrollees are black.

Home Loans donated a 16-passenger van to the shelter.

Sharon was recognized by an eight-judge panel from Furman University as being the number one leader in diversity among all small businesses in the Charleston, S.C., area in 2022. The results were published in the Charleston Regional Business Journal. He points out that this was a peer-elected award.

Homebridge Financial Services

Homebridge Financial Services

Iselin, NJ
Company CEO: Peter Norden

Company mission statement:
To make the dream of homeownership a reality for all customers everyday. Supporting that mission statement includes our commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion internally at Homebridge with our associates and externally with our customers and partners.

– Brian “Woody” White, senior vice president and chief diversity & inclusion officer, Homebridge Financial Services

At Homebridge Financial Services, Brian “Woody” White, a senior vice president and chief diversity & inclusion officer, has years of experience working with diversity programs. He tries to ignore “the box” and create new experiences.

“While we do all the standards with D&I training, online classes, etc., we also created some new paths of communication for employees,” he said. “First, we have no (employee resource) groups. Instead, we opted for a live TV show-like program where all employees can participate nationally and share info, ask questions, etc. Far more inclusive.”

The retail lender does business in all 50 states, and each branch reaches out in different ways depending on the community and its culture, White said. At the corporate level, Homebridge is working on a program called “Finally Home,” which is designed to connect with Black and brown communities through local organizations for education focused on personal finance and homeownership. The expected launch is the first quarter of 2023.

White touts Homebridge’s openness about its diversity and inclusion journey, saying the company’s employee demographics by race, sex, etc., are available on the community page at Homebridge.com/about/Diversity.

“At Homebridge we realize we must play a role in the mortgage industry’s journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We can help change the historical limited diversity DNA of the lending community and strive to be a leader in this area,” White said. “With minority homeownership levels being at its lowest levels in decades, our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts need to be more direct, innovative, and dynamic to create improved results.”

White acknowledged that 2022 was a difficult year for the mortgage and housing industry, but said Homebridge did not slow down its DE&I efforts.

“We believe DE&I education is critical for continued progress and our efforts concerning Diversity, Equity and Inclusion cannot only be based on projects and programs that may be canceled as the market goes through its natural cyclical process,” he said. “At Homebridge, our mission and commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are part of the continued Homebridge journey.”

Howard Hanna Mortgage Services

Howard Hanna Mortgage Services

Pittsburgh, PA
Company President: Duffy Hanna

Company mission statement:
We are a family-owned, full-service real estate services company, committed to professionalism for our colleagues, our clients, and our communities. We are inspired every day to bring solutions to navigate the complex real estate transaction.

Howard Hanna Mortgage Services understands that increasing homeownership in underserved communities is one of the biggest challenges confronting the mortgage industry today.

A series of initiatives are ongoing to help meet that challenge

The retail lender, which operates in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, began work in 2021 with the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America (NAMMBA) to better understand the past, how to make lasting changes in the present, and what it would take to create a more robust and diverse lending strategy for the future.

Hanna started on the path to becoming the first lender in the United States to earn the NAMMBA Accredited Social Impact Lender (ASIL) certification.

Through its work under the NAMMBA partnership and the ASIL certification process, Hanna established its goal of becoming the hometown lender of choice for underserved populations.

Additionally, LaMarcus Thurman was hired for the newly created role as vice president and community relationship manager. A team of diverse mortgage professionals is being built to help underserved communities. Hanna also is creating cultural initiative committees at its corporate and regional offices to enhance diversity and inclusion resources at all levels.

Hanna is starting a Community Lending Department and has committed a minimum of $120,000 annually to offer mortgage financing to low- and moderate-income borrowers.

Thurmann and his team are working with community organizations throughout the Howard Hanna footprint to establish outreach programs that educate underserved homebuyers and borrowers in financial matters. This team is sponsoring workshops focusing on homeownership, credit, economic awareness, and, ultimately, the availability of affordable lending opportunities.

Hanna is partnering with financial institutions and charitable organizations to provide attractive financing options to bring mortgage products to underserved communities. Plans are in place to extend credit and closing cost assistance to first-time homebuyers. During the last two years, Hanna has assisted more than 1,500 buyers in achieving the dream of homeownership by providing loans that offer down payment assistance, grants, and subsidies.

Hanna has also developed loan products and advertising campaigns focused on individuals and families living in majority-minority census tracts and underserved populations.



Westlake Village, CA
Company CEO: David Spector

Company mission statement:
Building the foundation of homeownership by enabling Americans to achieve and sustain their aspirations of home.

Pennymac’s long-term success depends on its ability to maintain a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace representing a broad spectrum of backgrounds, ideas, and perspectives. The company proactively builds a high-potential candidate pipeline designed to meet current and future workforce needs.

Pennymac, a retail lender licensed in all 50 states, has established a leadership and key performance indicator goal to increase the year-over-year representation of women and underrepresented minorities in management positions. This is critical to Pennymac’s strategy of attracting and developing an increasingly diverse workforce and building a pipeline for executive leadership.

Through the Pennymac Corporate University Rotational Program, 77.4% of the 2021 participants were women and/or underrepresented minorities. Additionally, six company-supported and employee-led Business Resource Groups are essential to engaging the workforce.

Pennymac promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in the communities where it lives and works. We are committed to accelerating the advancement of women into leadership through our partnership with nonprofit Catalyst, according to Kisha Parker Croom, Penymac’s managing director or corporate sustainability, external communications & media relations. We are a strong supporter of the National Urban League, which is dedicated to advancing economic empowerment to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities, Parker Croom said.

Pennymac supports Community Partners, a nonprofit intermediary in Los Angeles that fosters, grows, and launches solutions to community challenges, Parker Croom said. Finally, she said, Pennymac is proud of its support of Accion Opportunity Fund, a financial support system that provides small business owners in the U.S. with access to capital, networks, and coaching.

Pennymac joined the Home for All Pledge, a Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) member company action pledge, as part of its commitment to promoting and ensuring greater racial equity and inclusion in housing.

Pennymac also has established memberships and/or affiliations with a number of organizations focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the mortgage community. One such partnership is the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America (NAMMBA), which is dedicated to the betterment of women and minorities working in the mortgage industry.

In 2021, Pennymac launched its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. David Spector, Pennymac chairman and CEO, is the executive sponsor of the DEI Council and is charged with driving accountability of the council.

Veros Real Estate Solutions

Veros Real Estate Solutions

Santa Ana, CA
Company President/CEO: Darius Bozorgi

Company mission statement:
Veros is committed to providing the valuation and collateral risk management solutions to help our clients meet the demands of complex industry regulations, as well as quickly and successfully adapt to the evolving mortgage landscape for profitable business results. The entire Veros team works to provide innovative solutions to address the modern, evolving needs in the real estate and mortgage industries.

The most important contribution that Veros Real Estate Solutions has made to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion is by addressing potentially undervalued home appraisals in minority communities.

Through research, Veros confirmed that its Automated Valuation Model has shown no evidence of potential racial bias in the appraisal process, according to Gracie Gay, account agent, William Mills Agency. The research used valuation data from minority communities in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Veros encourages the housing market to leverage technology that assists in identifying potential bias in appraisals so that buyers and sellers have a fair chance of homeownership and the building of wealth that comes with it. A service provider that operates in all 50 states, Veros provides property valuation insights, real estate analytics, and collateral management services for lenders.

Veros leads by pushing for an increase in diversity and education for appraisers entering the industry. Its appraiser training program works with the Biden Administration’s PAVE (Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity) initiative and the Appraiser Diversity Initiative (ADI). Not many appraisers are young, women, or people of color. The program’s goal is training 100 new, diverse appraisers in a year, matching supervisors to recruits so the newcomers can complete their education and experience and get full benefits as they learn.

Veros promotes initiatives focused on celebrating diversity within its offices. Training is held throughout the year to foster a more inclusive workplace. An effort has been made to include more diversity on its executive committee so that everyone’s voice is heard during meetings.

Its human resources team works with Veterans Affairs and other organizations to recruit veterans.

Veros has a checklist when hiring vendors to ensure it is working with and supporting businesses that are promoting diversity.

The company celebrates a wide range of holidays in the office and holds international potluck days to showcase various cultures, create awareness of them, and help employees bond across cultural divides.

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine February 2023 issue.
Published on
Jan 30, 2023
More from NMP Magazine
Live Or Die On Day One

The first day is the most important day to reduce turnover

Dave Hershman
Marketers: Bot In To AI

Embrace the opportunities that artificial intelligence creates for content creation

Erica LaCentra
Where Are We Going? ‘Follow The Money’

Or at the very least, follow the moving trucks to see where the money is going

Lew Sichelman
How To Better Serve Latino Homebuyers In 2023 — And Beyond

In next five years, affluent Hispanic households will grow 36% annually

Alejandra Denda
You Be The Judge

Learn the lessons of good judgment for better career results

Harvey Mackay
Tips For Success With Self-Employed Borrowers

Know a business’ viability with a thorough financial review for success

Mary Kay Scully

Become a subscriber.

Discover the story of your success. Subscribe to the nation’s longest running mortgage magazine.