NMP Magazine’s 2020 40 Under 40

The Faces of Potential

NMP Staff

In every profession, the future is written by the young. They bring fresh perspectives, new energy, innovative approaches and fiery passion that are critical to keeping business thriving. While those with more years on them may bring wisdom borne of experience, the young bring perspective unhindered by dogma, unconstrained by convention.

That’s why features such as this one, that peek at the promise of so many, are important. We need to step back, even if only once a year, and appreciate that there are up-and-comers across the mortgage world who are actively scanning the profession with fresh eyes and making it better, with enthusiasm.

In this issue, we highlight forty individual mortgage professionals under 40 years old who bring something special to their job each day, and in doing so help to elevate this industry for all of us. This isn’t a definitive list, it’s an emblematic one: for each of these achievers, there are many more like them, also propelling us forward. But in these stories, in these 40, we capture this year’s spirit of triumph.

Shayna Arrington

Shayna Arrington headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Chief Compliance Officer

The Money Source Inc. (TMS)

Age: 35

How did you get into this field?

I had an internship with the FBI’s Financial Crimes Section in law school. I was supposed to be working in the National Bank Fraud Unit, but it morphed into the Mortgage Fraud Unit post-crisis in 2009. I didn’t know anything about mortgage fraud, but I read everything I could get my hands on. When I returned to law school, I wrote an article about prosecution strategies for mortgage fraud, which was published by my school’s Law Review, and ultimately landed me my first job out of law school at HUD.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

I’d like to see more support for diversity & inclusion. There is so much value in diversity of experience and I think our industry has a long way to go to reach where we need to be, especially when it comes to management, executive leadership, and board membership. Operationally, I’d like to see a smooth transition of borrowers from forbearance plans to post-forbearance relief options. I’d also like to see a continuation of the support and giving of our colleagues to those in need.

Tony Autullo

Tony Autullo headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Area Manager

AnnieMac Home Mortgage

Age: 39

How did you get into this field?

What keeps you motivated? At Miami University, I took a real estate class my senior year and I really enjoyed it. I also knew someone who was doing exceptionally well at a young age so I was confident I could, too. I didn't want to be at a place that determined when I could advance and by how much. Achieving goals and breaking records is what motivates me, and with that comes massive earning potential.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

I've adapted to the fact everyone doesn't need to be in the office to be productive. We've hit unit and volume records, and I've spent half the year in Florida. I've been able to get as much work done from home as I had in the past being in the office.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

I would like to see the consumer tax on refinances go away. It's not fair to have that passed on so they end up with an inflated interest rate because of federal regulations when the market dictates lower consumer rates.

April Cave

April Cave headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Integration Specialist

OpenClose

Age: 33

How did you get into this field?

I took a teller job at a credit union about a year out of college and quickly worked my way up to Lending. One day, my manager asked what other areas interested me and I mentioned mortgage. I did not know anything about the mortgage industry at that point, but it seemed like a mysteriously complex field and I like a challenge.

Have you had any great mentors?

My mother is my greatest mentor. When I was a child, she would take me to the office with her and teach me how to do tasks like copying and filing. She always took the time to answer my questions and encouraged me to learn more. Her professionalism has been instilled in me since early on and I am the woman I am today because of her continued guidance.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

Remote implementations are now the norm, yet for some lenders this process is causing apprehension in making a mortgage LOS switch. Ultimately, partnering with the LOS that best fits their business’ needs would improve their long-term efficiencies while lowering their costs per loan.

Lyndi Delisio

Lyndi Delisio headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

National Sales Executive

ServiceLink

Age: 34

How did you get into this field?

What keeps you motivated to stay? I started as a marketing director for a mortgage broker where I became so intrigued by the mortgage process. Eager to learn a new skillset and challenge myself, I eventually became a licensed loan officer. am continually motivated by the challenge of establishing and developing impactful relationships with other leaders in the industry and fostering those connections in a way that is mutually beneficial.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

Learning to adapt my sales technique to a remote environment, while still offering a personal touch, has been a great success. I worked really hard to realign my focus on what my prospects and partners needed, and learned how to deliver without physically being there. I was still able to produce meaningful results.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

During the pandemic, many aspects of the mortgage process, like self-serve appraisals and remote closings, were developed or deployed during this time and I feel that now is the time to take those digital solutions a step further and make them a more permanent fixture.

Sami DeMarco

Samia Demarco headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

National Sales Manager

Birchwood Credit Services Inc.

Age: 29

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I started on Birchwood’s operation team and transitioned over the years into different roles. I’m now on the sales side and my biggest motivation to stay is my growing network. It’s a great feeling walking into an event and being recognized by so many other industry professionals, and getting calls from people that need our services.

What is the importance of mentoring?

Starting this career at a young age and becoming so involved in mortgage banker associations throughout my region, I have met and learned from a number of professionals. It’s important to have someone you can reach out to for unbiased answers to questions you aren’t sure where else to ask or just lend an ear.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

This year I was named president of the Mortgage Bankers Association in New Hampshire. I was also inducted to the board of directors for MBAs in Rhode Island and Maine. On a personal note it was maintaining my mental health and keeping my household functioning during shelter-in-place orders with two kids and a new puppy.

Artin Fallahi

Artin Fallahi headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

COO | Managing Partner

Option One Lending, Inc.

Age: 37

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

The nonstop excitement of working on different loan scenarios everyday, helping excited first time home buyers and the challenge of structuring complicated loan scenarios.

Have you had any great mentors? What is the importance of mentoring and is this something that you focus on?

Yes, my current business partner and CEO of our company Marty Yeghishian has been a great mentor and friend from day one. Mentoring is very important if the correct mentor is selected. Make sure your goals are well aligned with your mentor's capabilities and their own success story.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

We outgrew our space and despite the challenges of COVID, we were able to secure a much larger and nicer office and we ended up actually hiring several new sales and operation team members.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

More transparency and honesty from industry professionals.

Sam Fannin

Sam Fannin headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

RMLO/Branch Manager

Premier Nationwide Lending

Age: 32

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

My mom and close family friends were real estate agents and it has always been a passion of mine since I was young and the mortgage side of the business felt like a rewarding challenge. Helping families into homes is what keeps me motivated. “It’s not about loans, it is about lives” has always been my focus.

Have you had any great mentors?

I have had a handful of great mentors. Murdock Richard, the owner of the company that I currently work for, took me under his wing the second I walked through the door. I have never had an owner drop everything he was doing to help. Murdock goes above and beyond and truly cares about his employees.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

In 2021 I would like to see continued growth in the mortgage industry. We have come a long way in regards to technology, but to continue to grow in that aspect to make the loan process more customer friendly is something I view as very valuable.

Matt Flores

Matt Flores headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

SVP, Digital Innovation

Civic Financial Services

Age: 38

How did you get into this field?

Finance, lending and mortgages were so foreign to me. At a young age I knew I wanted to learn more and work in any capacity that would fast track my knowledge to be able to purchase my first home. I wanted to work where I could be forced to learn that information. So at age 18 I started my mortgage career in marketing and fulfillment, and have been sponging information ever since.

Have you had any great mentors?

My parents, and Bill Tessar. I learned from my father to be the best at things that don’t require any talent - from energy, social skills and attitude, to being on time - he taught me to master those. Bill Tessar was my first boss in lending. We met in 2002, and I’m thankful to still be working with him. I’m grateful I get to learn from his every step.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

I want to take the confusion out of the lending process. To strip down and better control how the lending process takes place so everyone can understand it without any confusion.

George Gagishvili

George Gagishvili headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

SVP, Treasury and Finance

First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation

Age: 30

How did you get into this field?

I was always passionate about the mortgage business, especially on capital markets and finance side. One of my professors during my graduate studies was one of the senior directors and former chief risk management officer of Freddie Mac. I was amazed by the efficiency this market creates starting from easy access to home ownership to delivering final cash flows and subsequently return opportunities to final investors via securitization.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

Automation of processes and increased efficiency within my department. We created automated P&L reporting for all business units within company that could be run at any point of time, created important metrics, compared those metrics to various time periods and projections and were able to deliver those to the business units. It enabled business leaders to manager P&Ls more efficiently and be informed in a timely manner.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

There is room for improvement. High tech is yet to reveal itself and I am excited to see how that shapes out from bot underwriting to machine learning applications for marketing.

Thomas Gessner

Thomas Gessner headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Regional Sales Leader

Academy Mortgage Corporation

Age: 37

From his nomination:

In just seven years in the mortgage business, Thomas Gessner has flourished and developed a passion for delivering homeownership that is evident to all who work with him. As a regional sales leader for Academy Mortgage’s Arizona Region, Thomas loves to teach, train, and develop his people to reach their full potential. With a background in the military and auto finance industry, Thomas has deep experience in managing people and processes in different environments.

Since joining Academy Mortgage in 2013, Thomas has quickly moved up the ranks. In his first year, Thomas was named Academy's Rookie of the Year Loan Officer. Over the next six years, he escalated to sales manager, branch manager, and is now a regional sales leader.

He also serves as the branch manager of the Chandler Fashion Center branch, which is consistently one of the top three branches. Thomas also maintains a robust pipeline as an originator, annually producing more than $30 million in volume. His strong leadership and production performance qualify him annually for Academy’s President’s Club, which is composed of the company’s highest producers. Thomas is also a graduate of Academy’s Leadership Academy, an internal MBA-style program.

Jesus E. Gomez

Jesus E. Gomez headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

SVP Post Closing Operations

FGMC

Age: 39

How did you get into this field?

I was introduced to the industry through my parents. My mother was a loan officer and my father was a Realtor. As immigrants they wanted to help the Hispanic community accomplish the American dream of homeownership. It was their dedication and the reward of seeing families filled with joy and pride that inspired me.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

The pandemic forced us way out of our comfort zones to become more creative, innovative, and focused on our new normal. My team not only stepped up to the challenges, they helped each other to ensure our departmental goals and company expectations were met without a hitch, and had a little fun in the process.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

Innovation. If we learned anything from this pandemic is that we are behind the times with technology and our ability to quickly adapt. We can buy nearly anything online with minimal to no paperwork, and within a short timeline. While there have been many advances to the home financing process, there is still a ways to go.

Mark D. Gordon

Mark D. Gordon headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

National Sales Director

Princeton Mortgage

Age: 38

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I spent a year selling insurance when I first graduated college, and while I did OK, I knew it wasn't a long-term fit for me. I decided to try my luck working in a mortgage call center ... the rest is history! I stay because the industry has been very good to me and my family and I love the work.

Have you had any great mentors?

What is the importance of mentoring and is this something that you focus on? Rich, our CEO at Princeton Mortgage, has been an excellent mentor. The culture at Princeton is one of constant and neverending improvement, and Rich has introduced to me lots of new concepts and books that have made me better at my job here. I also spend time each week mentoring others. Nothing energizes me more than spending time helping other people get where they want to go.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

We need to keep improving the customer experience. The process for a qualified person to get the best mortgage should feel effortless.

Olga Gorodetsky

Olga Gorodetsky headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Capital Markets – Market Transactions - Principal

Fannie Mae

Age: 36

How did you get into this field?

My passion for the mortgage industry originated from my first job out of college - on the mortgage-backed securities desk at Lehman Brothers. I had a first-hand view of how essential the mortgage industry is to the American way of life and the potentially serious consequences of a poorly functioning housing finance system.

What is the importance of mentoring and is this something that you focus on?

After leaving Wall Street to join Treasury, I benefited from interacting with colleagues and industry stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds, each bringing a unique perspective.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

I led an expansion of our free online analytics platform, Data Dynamics, to provide insight into emerging performance trends. The enhanced functionality empowers investors to analyze the delinquency and prepayment behavior for our mortgage-backed securities, in addition to expanding resources for our credit risk transfer securities. We have seen usership roughly quadruple since the expansion of the platform.

Ryan Grant

Ryan Grant headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

SVP/Area Manager

Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation

Age: 38

How did you get into this field?

I got into the mortgage industry while I was waiting for law school to start. My brother-in-law told me about a company (where) he made great money in his first month. My two questions were, “What is a mortgage?” and “Is that company here in LA?”

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

One would be growing our mortgage group by over 30 employees in six months, all during COVID and working remotely. The other would be that we launched the Art of Homeownership platform at the beginning of the year and we have been able to make significant strides in helping others join our movement to (improve) the mortgage industry.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

I would like a radical overhaul in the knowledge and testing required to become a licensed mortgage professional. It’s too easy to get a license and the low barrier of entry attracts people looking to make money, not help families. Then, once you become a mortgage professional, you should be trained on how to add value to the lives of your clients.

Dan Habib

Dan Habib headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Executive Vice President

MBS Highway

Age: 34

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

Helping to save the mortgage industry. During the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and economic shutdown, the Fed tried to stimulate the economy and keep rates low by buying a massive amount of mortgage backed securities ... but there was an unintended consequence. The massive purchases caused prices to move precipitously higher and made mortgage companies extremely underwater on their hedged positions of locked loans.

As a result, companies were getting tens of millions of dollars in daily margin calls: something they could not withstand. Understanding this, we got in front of CNBC and ultimately the Fed and explained what was occurring. The Fed curtailed purchases and started buying a "Goldilocks" amount of MBS to stabilize the market.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

I would like to see another record year for both companies and individuals, but they will have to get better to make up for some decline in refinance volume. I would love to see originators aim high and better themselves each day so they can set new records, truly be advisors, and better serve their clients.

Shakria Hall

Shakria Hall headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Brand Manager

Calyx

Age: 37

How did you get into this field?

I was a real estate broker largely focused on broker price opinions, foreclosures, and short sales. It was fun but extremely demanding. So, while pursuing my MBA with a concentration in marketing, I landed a position at Citibank as a banker/loan officer. After completing my MBA, I was recruited as a real estate marketing consultant; After that, I was hired as the brand manager for Calyx where I’ve combined my experience and education into one role.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

Surviving it! Everyone hasn’t been as fortunate. I’ve also accomplished quite a bit this year. I launched a new business, made amazing connections, published several articles, created and led the go-to-market strategy for our new cloud-based origination platform, Zenly, was selected for the board of a nonprofit organization, and won a “40 Under 40 Award!”

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

My answer is two-fold. First, I’ve been excited by the industry’s adoption of technology and the accommodations made to keep borrowers safe during COVID. Second, finding more ways to automate or increase efficiencies across the origination process would lighten the load.

Jonathan Hallstead

Jonathan Hallstead headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

VP, Division Manager Retail Lending

Cardinal Financial

Age: 38

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I was in college working in luxury retail and had a client who owned a mortgage company. He said when I graduated, he’d like me to join him, and I took him up on his offer. I saw an opportunity to make a meaningful difference by offering financial guidance and a simplified approach to lending, and refining and improving that offering is what has kept me motivated.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

My approach at Cardinal in 2020 was to focus on innovation, and for it I was rewarded with a swift promotion to VP, division manager retail lending after less than six months with the company. I advanced from managing a single branch to the direct recruitment and training of 15 division branches that have already exceeded $1.1 billion in production.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

I would like to see our industry recognize the lack of financial security many customers feel. The absence of face-to-face interaction makes this challenging, but we can listen more effectively.

Alec Hanson

Alec Hanson headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

SVP, Retail Production

loanDepot

Age: 39

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I asked my dad for a job and ended up part-time shipping loan files in downtown Oakland! The mortgage industry is a hidden gem. It's one of the single greatest industries for entrepreneurial, selfmotivated, and solutions-oriented people. We, as an industry, have our own problems. But if you thrive in a fast-paced, competitive environment where effort, hard work and determination can lead to a huge upside in career growth and opportunity, there is no better industry than mortgage

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

I had an "Ah, ha!" moment early in 2020 and that was to go ALL IN on digital and social media. The results were enormous. I'm learning a ton and found a real passion for our industry. Not to mention my team will likely scratch the $6 billion mark this year in production.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

The full digital evolution of the mortgage processing and underwriting process. If we are all honest with ourselves the processing and fulfillment of a loan hasn't changed in Decades.

Cody Heard

Cody Heard headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

RMLO/Branch Manager

Premier Nationwide Lending

Age: 36

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

Some of the best things that happen in life are by mistake. I just graduated college with a finance degree. Not knowing what my next move was, a mortgage broker overheard my conversation about what I studied. He turned around and said, “Boy, have I got a deal for you.” Those words changed my life forever. We’ve been able to help over a thousand families purchase or refinance their home.

What is the importance of mentoring and is this something that you focus on?

I’m a huge advocate of having multiple mentors. An invaluable part of mentorship is hearing what pitfalls to avoid. Some of the greatest victories are those defeats that you never have to experience.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

My greatest success is surviving two major hurricanes that ripped through my community! We are resilient people in Southwest Louisiana. Many have lost everything. The only things that get stronger after a hurricane are relationships with your neighbor and a sense of community pride. Hurricanes Laura and Delta taught me what is truly important in life.

Ritesh Jhawar

Ritesh Jhawar headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Director, Fintech

Tavant

Age: 38

How did you get into this field?

I worked for Capital One Auto Finance setting up large data engineering and data stewardship programs. That’s when I first learnt about the life cycle of a loan and how it makes a material difference in the borrower’s life. Also, if each actor in the origination and servicing of the loan captures better data, it can lead to a significantly better experience for the lender, borrower, investors and regulators. That led me to start designing better systems. From auto loans I moved to home loans and repeated the whole process.

Have you had any great mentors?

When I first started business consulting, I found it near impossible to put my thoughts on paper. I would get cold feet creating presentations. The head of consulting at my previous organization showed me how to turn thoughts into tangible documents and share them in an easy-to-understand manner.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

Reeling from the pandemic, forest fires and hurricanes, a lot of home owners will face difficult circumstances. I would like more lenders to provide tools to them so that they can stay in their home.

Alex Kutsishin

Alex Kutsishin headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

CEO

Sales Boomerang

Age: 38

From his nomination:

Random marketing is a thing of the past in the mortgage industry due to Alex’s efforts. He likes to ask executives at lending companies, “What if you could always give your loan officers great opportunities? Grant yourself access to the most profitable and highest converting loans in existence?” That is because over 20% of a smart lender's volume comes from their own databases. He has improved the lending experience for both lender and borrower. Alex is an innovator and entrepreneur. His expertise is in people, marketing, digital communication and technology. In 2011 Alex launched the nation's first code-free mobile development software company, which he exited in 2014. After the buyout he consulted for one of the top business intelligence companies, which sold two years ago for over $100 million. He then consulted for one of the mortgage industry's best marketing companies which is where he got the idea for his new venture – Sales Boomerang, the first fully automated borrower intelligence software that tells lenders when a prospect or past customer is ready for a loan. Sales Boomerang won top tech firm in 2019 by Banking CIO Magazine and Top 100 Tech Firms 2020 revolutionizing the lending industry.

Travis LaLonde

Travis Lalonde headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

VP; Wholesale Operations

Angel Oak Mortgage Solutions

Age: 33

From his nomination:

At the age of 19, Travis LaLonde began his career in the mortgage industry as a funding assistant in Northern California. Roughly 18 months later, he made the move to North Texas where he joined Countrywide/Bank of America. He was there for over five years at which time his affinity for leading people came to the forefront. From getting his first shot as a QC Team Lead, to a manager, and eventually unit manager leading over 80 plus mortgage professionals, his management career was on the climb. In March 2018, Angel Oak Mortgage Solutions opened its first ever expansion of the operations team into Irving, Texas. Enter Travis, who began his most exciting opportunity to date, running this brand new operations center. In just 90 days, the new ops center was busting at the seams and in the market for more space. Fast forward two plus years to present day, Travis has teamed up with his wonderful counterpart Alysse Prosnick to vastly improve the overall efficiency and quality of the wholesale channel, through precise implementation of technology and process enhancements. All while setting and re-setting production records multiple times in 2018 and 2019.

Josh Lehr

Josh Lehr headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Director of Strategy, Consumer Direct

Total Expert

Age: 37

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I was working at a Top 10 Visa card issuer. One of my good friends and previous co-workers was working for a company across town (Mortech), that I had never heard of. At the time I was in the process of purchasing my first home and knew very little about mortgages so I found the technology intriguing. After meeting with the founders and learning about the opportunity to help build a product that could help make home buying easier, I was hooked.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

I think we’re in a great position to draft off of the tech acceleration due to COVID. It has been great to see tech providers, lenders, and government entities come together and provide innovative ways to keep originations going. If we take this dynamic into 2021, I think it will lead to incredible changes in the technology solutions used in mortgage. Specifically, I hope to see an increase transparency through automation, including the ability to test new solutions that make getting a mortgage less stressful.

Cristian Lopez

Cristian Lopez headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Single Family - Analytics and Modeling - Senior Director

Fannie Mae

Age: 35

How did you get into this field?

I entered the field immediately following my undergraduate studies. I knew very little about mortgages, the secondary mortgage market or even comprehending how large and important the industry was to the overall U.S. and global economy. But I was drawn by the opportunity that Fannie Mae provided me (and still offers to our entry-level analysts) to receive formalized technical training from experienced professionals and to quickly be deployed into projects that have significant impact in the broader housing market.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

The social upheaval that started this past summer has opened up opportunities to discuss the inequalities that exist in the mortgage industry in a way that never previously got as much broad attention. More and more industry players have spoken up and made commitments to address these issues. My hope for 2021 is that this energy results in true action that stays at the forefront of the industry goals for itself and is aligned across the industry so that change can occur in a well-organized and effective manner.

Nick Matko

Nick Matko headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Mortgage Loan Originator

DHI Mortgage

Age: 35

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I started as a loan processor on a chance opportunity. I learned the ropes for almost a year before becoming a loan originator. I find that mortgage originating is not a “one size fits all” venture.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

When the shutdowns began, I was not expecting such a strong demand for new construction and mortgage financing. My greatest success has been the ability to help my customers overcome the various roadblocks the pandemic produced to get them into their new homes. We’ve encountered many situations with customers who have faced significant adversity. The keys to overcoming these challenges have been staying positive, keeping up with ever changing mortgage guidelines, and maintaining focus on those things we can control.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

I would like to see continued improvements and flexibilities for customers to cut down on the tedious aspects of documentation preparation so that they can focus on more important decisions involved in choosing a mortgage.

Ariel Melendez

Ariel Melendez headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Regional Fulfillment Center Operations Manager

Paramount Residential Mortgage Company

Age: 37

How did you get into this field?

Truly a combination of luck and coincidence. I worked for a well known streaming/DVD delivery service back in its heyday (2006). I ran into an ex-coworker and he asked me if I wanted to stop stuffing envelopes. He got me an interview at First Magnus with Kevin Peranio and Brian Rishty. They took a chance on me, not knowing anything about the mortgage industry, and started me out in the scanning room.

Have you had any great mentors?

My parents first and foremost instilled in me the work ethic that has gotten me to the position I am in today. From no sick days allowed in school, to their loyalty, dedication, and commitment to working hard (both worked decades for the same company) to provide for our family is something that has stuck with me. My lending mentors would be Kevin Peranio and Brian Rishty. They have both been key players in my career.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

Continuing low rates to allow more Americans to live the American dream of homeownership!

Michael Middleman

Michael Middleman headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

EVP of Call Center

Freedom Mortgage

Age: 35

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I started in the mortgage business early since my father owned and founded Freedom Mortgage. Growing up with his influence in the mortgage sector of over 35 years, I was easily compelled to take on a similar role. However, I was encouraged to expand my skillset. As a teen, I learned by working in telemarketing, which quickly grew by college to opportunities in operations and sales. After college, I worked in public accounting and finance in hopes to learn the industry outside of the family business. These experiences introduced me to future key leadership in the mortgage industry, created a better level of business acumen for myself as well as skills and a clear understanding of the working field.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

After just hitting our peak volume growth during unprecedented times, I am proud of this significant growth over the last year. With about 12 times growth just in the call center alone, I am thrilled to have been part of this progress and the results we’ve incurred from all our hard work.

Michael Naylor

Michael Naylor headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Managing Partner

Direct Mortgage Loans

Age: 38

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

A friend helped me to get a job as a telemarketer for a mortgage company 16 years ago. I was lucky to meet my business partner on my first day of that job and we have pushed each other to be better every day since.

Have you had any great mentors?

My business partner, Ashley Mills, has had a profound influence on me professionally. He has found a way to get the most out of me and has helped me to grow in the mortgage industry. He knows when to be a coach, a peer, a hard ass, a most of all, a friend. Our relationship has taught us both so much about why it is necessary to have someone by your side as we grow.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

There are two things I would like to see. I want the mortgage pre-approval to continue to gain traction as the natural starting point for a home search. Most importantly, I want continued success for my DML family. Rates staying low wouldn't hurt either.

Austin Niemiec

Austin Niemic headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Executive Vice President

Rocket Pro TPO (formerly QLMS)

Age: 34

How did you get into this field?

I became a loan officer right out of college, and quickly fell in love with the business. A home has so much financial and emotional impact on a human, and to help make homeownership a reality for others is incredibly gratifying. Have you had any great mentors? My grandfather was a salesman and coach. He taught me the value and importance of sound communication.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

Supporting the broker community when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. At QLMS, now Rocket Pro TPO, we kept rates low, and hired and welcomed thousands of new mortgage brokers to our platform. We were able to do this because of our commitment to the broker community and having foresight and a strong foundation and infrastructure built over the last 35 years.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

Positivity. 2020 was an incredibly unique year full of change and adversity. We, the mortgage community, can bring extreme positivity to America.

Jim Paolino

Jim Paolino headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

CEO

LodeStar Software Solutions

Age: 34

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I have been involved in the real estate industry all my life. My parents own a title agency in the Northeast, so I learned from the ground up. Eventually, I saw a real need for process improvement in a quickly changing industry, so I started LodeStar to provide more transparency to the real estate transaction.

Have you had any great mentors? What is the importance of mentoring?

My biggest mentor has been my dad, who has run a successful business since 1994. He has been an invaluable resource. One benefit in a “mature” industry like ours is that there are a ton of experienced professionals eager to engage with the next generation. I encourage any young industry professional to seek them out.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

In a year when so many businesses have failed or struggled, I’m grateful my business managed to thrive and add nine employees.

Rajin Ramdeholl

Rajin Ramdeholl headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Senior Vice President

Meadowbrook Financial Mortgage Bankers Corp.

Age: 38

From his nomination:

Rajin is a true leader by example. He is always working to figure out ways to grow his business, assist his clients, and ensure his team is always on top of their game. Rajin manages a team of 8 -12 people who are always figuring out new ways to stay ahead of the curve with new technology and better ways to do business. His management style has allowed his team to excel in their business and grow as professionals.

There is so much more to the mortgage business than crunching numbers and calculating interest rates. It's about helping people realize their dreams. Rajin is a low-keyed guy, but because of his expertise has climbed the ladder of success. He is known as “Mr. Dynamic” and is an expert in his field. With his educational and financial background, Rajin is well liked and trusted by his clients.

He employs his organizational expertise to help his team run smoothly & successfully. As he says, “I know what underwriters are looking for & I understand the complicated situations; I look at it from a common-sense perspective & I figure out a way to get it to work.”

Lauren Reames

Lauren Reames headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

SVP, National Fulfillment

Planet Home Lending

Age: 33

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

Initially, I started as a mortgage loan originator and went on to work as a processor for a few well-known brands. Aside from the opportunities for upward mobility at Planet, another one of the reasons people stay is its culture is energizing and inspirational. We’re a multi-channel company that plays as one team.

Have you had any great mentors? What is the importance of mentoring?

I’m one of many people Planet Home Lending Chief Operating Officer Suzy Lindblom mentors. She’s an incredible motivator. She always looks first within the organization to fill openings and encourages people to take on new challenges. The entrylevel operations training program I run relies heavily on mentors. Mentoring works at Planet because company culture is inclusive.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

The pandemic threw a lot of mid-career people in the hospitality and service industries out of work. Creating a way for them to shift into mortgage operations has been rewarding. These folks have transferrable customer service skills. They just need to learn the operations system and mortgage guidelines.

Scott Roberts

Scott Roberts headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

SVP of Sales

Insellerate

Age: 40

How did you get into this field?

I started on the lending side. I was in mortgage for about 18 years. At that time I was working for Josh Friend, current CEO of Insellerate, but at that time he was running the mortgage business, and we started developing Insellerate, internally for our own mortgage operations. It ended up working really well, and our branch became highly profitable. Other friends in the industry wanted to know what we were doing that made us so successful. We started really having a dream to be able to do this as software as a service and go help a lot of folks.

Have you had any great mentors?

Josh Friend, he's like a big brother to me. I've learned a lot from Josh. I've learned a lot from Jack Friend. I glean a lot from them in my day to day, over the years, over a decade working together, different little tips and things that I've tried to model my sales effort after.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

One of the silver linings has been more time at home with my wife and three children.

Unikqua Shannon

Unikqua Shannon headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

MI Pricing Analyst

Genworth Mortgage Insurance

Age: 25

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

When I first learned about Genworth, I was looking for a role where I could marry my data analytics experience with finance. After settling into my role and learning more about the field, I was very happy with my choice. Three years later I continue to be motivated by the complexity of the business and that there’s always something new to learn.

Have you had any great mentors?

I have had some wonderful mentors in my life, both through formal programs at work and organic relationship building. Having a sounding board in your corner who can provide guidance, perspective and advice is invaluable.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

It would be amazing to see more initiatives targeted at reducing the racial disparities between homeowners in the conventional mortgage space. We are capable of so much more than the status quo. We have the know-how to develop innovative products and offerings to address these challenges. Using these skills to benefit a previously underserved market seems like a wonderful next step.

Michael Socha

Michael Socha headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

President/CEO, Mortgage Loan Originator

The Socha Lending Group

Age: 38

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I originally got into banking in 2004 at the urging of my mother, who told me I should get into a field that works with money and helping others. I don't say this often, but my mother was right. Being a strong advocate for the broker community, the LGBT community, and my clients has kept me motivated.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

One was helping multiple lenders with their policies/approach to lending to the LGBT community. There is still a long way to go to ensure that the needs are taken into consideration, but we made significant strides. We have also been able to grow The Socha Lending Group and fill a void in the lending community for LGBT lenders. We are now licensed in six states and growing!

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

I would like to see lenders give more concern to specific communities that need help. For instance, the Trans community needs more advocates to help get the full picture across to the lender in the lending package.

Leah Sommerville

Leah Sommerville headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Senior Account Executive

DocMagic

Age: 33

How did you get into this field?

I was fortunate to begin my journey in the mortgage industry during a time when lenders began recognizing the importance of modernizing outdated paper processes with technology to increase efficiency and improve the borrower experience. My experience as a digital transformation coach has been especially exciting because I truly enjoy helping organizations reap the benefits of these technological advances.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

I’m proud to have been involved in helping many organizations make the shift to hybrid and completely digital eClosings. By forging numerous partnerships and strategic relationships between lenders, settlement agents, notaries, warehouse lenders, and investors to further digital mortgage initiatives which impact the entire supply chain, I’ve consistently implemented scalable eClosing adoptions and best practices for the organizations that I’ve guided as a digital transformation shepherd.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

My goal is for organizations that may have been hesitant to initiate (or even discuss) eClosing processes will make the commitment to do so with the best approach and guidance possible.

Saisha Svoboda

Saisha Svoboda
 

Vice President

Zigzy

Age: 29

How did you get into this field?

I was new to the workforce and looking for any opportunity for stability. I didn’t expect it, but when I found my first position in the mortgage business at New American Funding, it sparked a passion. I dipped my feet into various areas until I found the part of that lets me live out my passion daily: technology. By building technology for the loan officer, real estate agent and homebuyer, I am able to help build solutions.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

Our Zigzy family just won the 2020 Regional Timmy Award for Best Tech Culture, which makes me extremely proud. Also, not only did our Zigzy family overcome the hurdles of 2020 with grace, but we have expanded our number of products, continued a wonderful culture remotely, and have not lost one bit of our passion. This is my greatest success of 2020.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

I would like to see the industry fully prepare itself for the millennial wave about to hit us and implement solutions that mirror the desire for click-of-a-button and instant gratification.

Alba Thurman

Alba Thurman headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Mortgage Advisor

Synergy One

Lending Age: 34

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I got into this business because I really love helping people. What really motivates me is helping those that don't think they can have the American Dream and owning a home. I really enjoy changing lives and giving them the proper guidance.

Have you had any great mentors?

I've had some amazing mentors. All of these individuals have given me an opportunity to be a part of their team and most important provided so much knowledge.

What do you consider your greatest success of 2020?

My greatest success in 2020 would be being able to pivot my business during the pandemic. Most importantly I was able to provide a different kind of service this year to my clients. Meaning a lot more guidance and education due to the consistent changes that were happening and still changing lives.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

What I would like to see in 2021 is a strong market, which will lead me into being able to help more families.

Matt Tully

Matt Tully headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Vice President, Agency Affairs and Compliance

Sagent Lending Technologies

Age: 37

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

My interest dates back to the early part of my career when I started as a staffer on Capitol Hill working on banking and financial services issues in 2006. By 2008 the financial crisis had begun and I had to learn a lot about how the housing industry works as well as the role of public policy in shaping the market. The complexity of our housing market is what keeps me motivated. No matter how much I think I know there is always more to learn.

Have you had any great mentors?

The one who sticks out the most for me is Adolfo Mazrol who recruited me off the Hill to my first mortgage industry job at Essent and imparted a fantastic amount of knowledge about our housing system.

What would you like to see from the mortgage industry in 2021?

The big challenge is how servicers move borrowers out of forbearance to performing status. If we do this right, we can deliver a superior customer experience, keep borrowers in their homes, and reduce the workload for servicers.

Scott Whittle

Scott Whittle headshot for NMP Magazine's 2020 40 Under 40.
 

Branch Manager/Vice President

Presidential Bank Mortgage

Age: 36

From his nomination:

Scott Whittle started in the mortgage business in 2003 when he was 19 years old. He started as a loan officer in a real estate office marketing to a captured audience. Since then, Scott worked his way up to be a top producer/manager in his market for the last 15 years. Since 2009, Scott has managed the Colonial Heights branch of Presidential Bank Mortgage. In April 2020 Scott was promoted to manage the Richmond, Virginia Region in addition to his Colonial Heights branch. With all of Scott’s managerial duties his production topped 240 units for over $41 million in 2019 and is on track to breaking this record for 2020. Scott has also been ranked in the Top 10 in Virginia for VHDA first-time homebuyer production for the past 10 years. During the past 10 years Scott received the Platinum and Gold Award for VHDA. Scott participates heavily with the local real estate association and has received the affiliate of the year award for the years 2009, 2012, and 2018. He specializes in conventional, FHA, VA, VHDA and Rural Development loans. He enjoys the outdoors, specifically watersports, skiing, fishing and spending time with family and friends.

 
This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine December 2020 issue.
NMP Staff
Published on
May 13, 2021
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