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NMP’s Most Loved Mortgage Employers, 2021
Everything good about a company comes down to its culture: how it treats its employees, what its commitment is to its customers, what’s its vision of service is all about. But how do you quantify that?
Early this year, NMP reached out to mortgage employers across the country. We invited them to apply to participate in an exercise in which their employees voted on how well they were doing. Once a company was accepted into the program, they were given a unique code to distribute to their employee base. That code, and a special link, allowed employees to rate their companies on various aspects, without those employers having any ability to see what the voting was like.
We asked about benefits and corporate culture; about community involvement and social interaction; about commitments to diversity and racial justice, and much more.
We received hundreds and hundreds of replies. And then, from those votes, we tallied the results for each company in each category.
The result is this listing. These companies did not purchase their slot here. They voluntarily submitted to the judgment of their workforce. And in the end, each of them takes a place on the podium of excellence. These are, without question, the Most Loved Employers in the mortgage industry.
- Simplist: Gold
- RCN: Gold
- Angel Oak: Silver
- Total Quality Lending: Gold
- Christensen Financial: Silver
- DML: Gold
- Mountain West Financial: Silver
- USA Mortgage: Gold
- Homebridge: Silver
- CMG Financial: Bronze
- Homebridge: Gold
- American Pacific: Silver
- Waterstone: Bronze
- Supreme: Bronze
- USA Mortgage: Bronze
- Homebridge: Gold
- CMG Financial: Silver
- American Pacific: Bronze
- FGMC: Most Nominated
- Planet Home Lending: Charity
- New American Funding: Diversity
- AFN: Culture
Based on Participation
As explained on its company blog in 2019, using advanced technology, a sprinkling of industry know-how and a number of partnerships with great lenders, Simplist created a one-stop shop for mortgage shopping that aims to process from start to finish.
It’s a young company, which means it faced the challenges of growing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Allie Kamin, its director of people said, “For a small startup, they're thinking long term to ensure scalability and that we become a top employer to work at! Everyone is super friendly despite many of us being hired remote during COVID-19. I have very high hopes for the success of Simplist and everyone on the team!”
That’s a sentiment echoed by Randy Sutton, vice president of engineering. “The company is well capitalized and positioned to grow and I love that. I feel leadership does a great job including its employees with overall company objectives,” he said.
Simplist is led by Chris de la Motte, co-founder and president, and Anthony Sherman, co-founder and CEO. Joyce Souto dos Santos, a loan processor, said, “I love that we are able to contact our bosses and have open conversations. They are always very friendly and attentive to our personal problems.”
RCN Capital was established in 2010 to provide time-sensitive, bridge financing to real estate investors to fund the purchase of non-owner occupied residential and commercial properties, provide bridge loans, and offer real estate-backed lines of credit.
As RCN has grown to become the nation’s premier direct private lender, it hasn’t lost its sense of community among its workers: a fact attested to repeatedly by its employees. Alan Johnson, a loan officer, said, “The team and family culture … has been built over the years. There is never a time that you are not heard.”
RCN, which is headed by CEO Jeffrey Tesch, has built on its success by valuing team member feedback. Loan officer Peter Rusconi said, “The culture that's been built here was created out of a passion for mutual success. Everyone wants everyone to succeed at their positions and grow into new ones. The level of understanding and compassion held by management is a huge contributor to all of our success as a company.”
The company also receives praise for its inclusivity. “The company is inclusive, and I don't believe it is intentional, and I believe that that speaks volumes about the character of the leadership of the company. The company is focused on growth and it believes that the company's growth comes from its employees and that is refreshing,” said Adlai Richards, a loan officer.
Angel Oak: Silver
Angel Oak Mortgage Solutions offers non-QM and specialized mortgage solutions for brokers and correspondents throughout the country. Currently, Angel Oak is the largest non-bank originator of non-QM and provides innovative programs and services in 44 states.
Account executive Angel Perez said the company’s success is attained through many factors, including a “constant pursuit of improvement, whether in technology, process, culture, products, etc. Also there is a sense of wholeheartedness that management truly cares about our well-being. Starts from the top and trickles down; ownership and management do a great job.”
Employees quickly catch on to the Angel Oak Culture. “I am fairly new to Angel Oak Mortgage Solutions, however, at my limited time here I feel included, listened to, and motivated. I have learned so much already and I love the people who I work with. Angel Oak has a wonderful corporate environment,” said Lanier McMullen, a compliance specialist with less than a year with the company.
Total Quality Lending: Gold
Total Quality Lending, based in Irvine, California, puts its company values on its website for the world to see. Among them are family, creating a positive impact and leading by example. TQL, as the firm is more commonly known, is led by its president Chris Paliska. In his bio, Paliska emphasizes he likes to lead with humility, integrity, respect and kindness.
“TQL provides a family culture and a supportive system in a industry that is largely based on competition. This greatly increases the opportunity for success among its employees,” said Lucas Garispe, a loan mentee who has worked for the company a short time.
Bryan Bowman, a loan officer, has effusive praise for the company leadership for committing to its values. “Upper management leads from the front and they are motivated by the success of others. Family comes first and it just so happens that everyone is treated as family,” he said.
Shane Gilmore, a senior loan officer, says TQL truly values its employees. “Every employer I've ever had gives the same song and dance about being ‘one big family.’ This company truly, very sincerely lives it every day. The culture is more that of a non-profit charity when it comes to the overall ethos, while still affording all employees the opportunity to prosper financially.”
Christensen Financial: Silver
In 2001, Carol, David, Clint and Sara Christensen took their combined years of mortgage industry experience to build Christensen Financial. Twenty years later, CFI is licensed in 20 states and the District of Columbia and operates nearly 20 branches.
Michael Flinchum, who works in sales, says the company keeps that family feel two decades in. More importantly, though, the company also embraces professional practices. “CFI created a family culture. They go out of their way to make sure the employees are well taken care of. CFI promotes and rewards for performance not seniority. They listen and use your opinion to make a better work environment,” he said.
In addition to its family-like atmosphere, employees also believe CFI provides a diverse culture. Among the employees participating in our survey, all said CFI would appeal to employees of all demographics. “This is the most diverse company I have ever been employed with,” said Lane Voshell, a mortgage help specialist.
When co-founders Mike Naylor and Ashley Mills started Direct Mortgage Loans in 2007, they wanted to create a company on the values of accountability, transparency, and teamwork. Today, DML stretches across 24 states, and has funded over 10,000 loans for more than $2.5 billion in volume since 2012.
Kelly Curran, who works in digital marketing, said the DML philosophy serves both customers and employees alike. “DML truly values their employees and makes sure that we are always set up for success. There is a big open door policy and there is always open communication. Happy employees equals happy customers!” she said.
Adam Siegelbaum, a loan officer, praised the company for instilling its values during the COVID-19 shutdown. “Great culture. Due to [the] pandemic I have not met some of my co-workers in person but feel that I know them well anyway,” he explained
Samantha Coombes, a DML accountant, has an anecdote that best exemplifies the company’s commitment to teamwork. “They gave me an opportunity when most wouldn't because my husband is career military. I am 1000 miles away from our [corporate] office and they didn't bat an eye at still hiring me! Giving me an opportunity to take my job with my next job change for my husband,” she said.
Mountain West Financial: Silver
On its website, Mountain West Financial says since 1990 its success has derived from its goal of offering sustainable homeownership solutions, doing right by its team, clients, and referral partners, and continuously expanding program offerings, systems and tools. Its employees would agree.
“I love the amazing work ethic of different departments. Each department works with one another cohesively even amidst a pandemic. The ways this company has adapted to the pandemic says a lot about this company. I love the culture and that we involve everyone in the company in virtual events!” said Shelby Ruelas, a brand specialist.
Employees also welcome the constant positive feedback. Andrea Morgan, who works in loan operations, said, “My company ALWAYS makes us feel appreciated! MWF goes above and beyond to make the employees feel special whether it's by sending cards, gifts, bonuses or just a little email to let us know that we're doing a great job. I've never worked for a better company.”
USA Mortgage: Gold
On its website, USA Mortgage highlights, “We have over 1,000 owners. That’s because each and every employee at USA Mortgage has an ownership stake. This is not common… in fact, only 1 in every 200 companies in the US are employee-owned.”
That helps explains the employees’ enthusiasm for the company, which is headed by Douglas A. Schukar, chairman and CEO of DAS Acquisition Company, LLC aka USA Mortgage. “I love that everyone is connected, everyone helps each other with a lending hand, and we are all about team work,” said Britany Tudor, a loan officer assistant.
Another employee cited how the company’s leadership gets out of the way and lets people get to work. Linnea Wilson, a pipeline coordinator, said, “They don't micromanage and they really go above and beyond to help you be successful.”
That philosophy appears to be paying off. USA Mortgage has been recognized on Inc. 5000’s list of the fastest-growing private companies in America for 2021. The company said in announcing the news, companies that made the list, on average, have grown sixfold since 2016 during a stretch when the economy grew just 15 percent. As regional manager Sean Zalamnoff said, “We have grown an awesome company that rivals what the big dogs offer and more with our ESOP without losing our entrepreneurial spirit!”
Homebridge Financial Services, Inc. is one of the top privately held, non-bank mortgage lending firms in the U.S. Among its core values, as outlined on its website, are empowering and inspiring its employees through a commitment to excellence.
Lisa Sconzo, a processor, said she noticed that commitment quickly. “I am new to the Homebridge family BUT have been in the industry 20+ years and I have never felt so much love and support from another mortgage company,” she said. Eryn Rubin, a senior marketing manager, added, “I am also thrilled to have a new Office of Diversity & Inclusion that continues to push Homebridge toward a sense of belonging and a friendly workplace for all.”
Praise is abundant in different ways for the leadership team, headed by CEO Peter Norden and President Joel Katz. “I love that management supports you and upper management is informative about the direction of the company and very open. No one asks like they are better than you. Everyone is down to earth,” said John Bannister, a manager in the organization.
CMG Financial: Bronze
Christopher M. George established CMG Mortgage Inc. in July 1993 in Pleasanton, California, and in 1995, the company opened a Wholesale Lending division. In 2012, CMG launched a new business channel, Correspondent Lending, which allowed the company to partner with other organizations as an investor by purchasing closed loan volume.
Courtney Cooke, CMG’s Eastern operations manager, said it’s impressive George is still actively involved in his privately held company. “Mr. George himself is always present, that is not something you see often. I feel appreciated by management and that is huge!” she said.
Kylie Goldschmidt said, more importantly, CMG truly cares about its employees. “I have worked at CMG for five years now; without this company I would not be where I am today. They have supported me through the best of times and hardest of times. They have helped me grow in my career more than ever.”
Highest Number Of Senior Employees (10 Years+)
Homebridge Financial Services is profiled more in-depth above. Communication is an important factor in the company’s ability to retain employees for over a decade and longer. “Senior management's transparency is very helpful to making decisions at lower levels because we don't have to guess what the company policy and direction is,” said Anne Tramble, director, national affordable lending.
Douglas Cernek, a branch manager who also have over 10 years with the company, added, “It is run like a small family company but yet has a couple of thousand employees. You always feel included in all aspects of the business. Your opinion is valued!”
American Pacific: Silver
American Pacific Mortgage has helped people achieve their homeownership goals since 1996. It has nearly 200 branches throughout the U.S. and more than 1,400 loan advisors. It has ranked in the top 10 among best mortgage companies to work for.
Kim Windham, director of mortgage banking operations, has worked for APM for over a decade. She said, “Even with the size that the company is, I still feel connected to the owners and executive team.”
Michele Doran, a closer, with over 10 years at APM, explained a true sense of teamwork drives the company. She said, “Everyone (team leads managers, leadership) works to make sure the whole company thrives, excels and grows as one. If one person, team, or department is falling behind, even on just one file, another team is ready and willing to help out.”
Karen McIntyre, a veteran loan officer, also praised APM for its commitment to issues outside the office, citing, “Diversity is important; social justice is important.”
Waterstone Mortgage was founded in 2000 in suburban Milwaukee. Its first office space was only 350 square feet. Fast-forward 13 years and it was operating out of a 56,000-square-foot facility. Success has come, in part, because of the company’s view of its employees. As Waterstone touts on its website, “Our employees are some of the best in the business, and we enjoy a family-like culture that allows us to have fun, be creative, and enjoy the important work that we do each day.”
Amy Stierwalt, vice president-national branch operations, is a veteran employee of over a decade. She explained what sets the company apart. “The feeling as though we are all family. We can come together and work through different aspects of company projects as one team, no division,” she said.
Supreme * Bronze
Supreme Lending is a full-service mortgage lender founded by Scott Everett in 1999. Based in Dallas, the company has been recognized as a Top 20 company for overall volume and retail mortgages.
Marc Portugal, a Supreme Lending branch manager, has been with the company over 10 years. He said Supreme thrives because it lets employees do their jobs. He said, “[There is a] great corporate culture and we are given the ability to work fairly autonomously.”
Laurie Lucia, a regional ops manager, has been there less than a year but it seems like she might hit the 10-year mark. “I love that it's not a giant institutionalized company - where people actually matter and are recognized for their accomplishments. The owner and senior management are caring dedicated people - I feel like I'm working with family!”
USA Mortgage is profiled more in-depth above, but what continues to see it apart for its long-term employees is employee ownership. As regional manager Sean Zalmanoff observed, “We have grown an awesome company that rivals what the big dogs offer and more with our ESOP without losing our entrepreneurial spirit!”
Dani Ploch, VP secondary, who has also passed the 10-year mark, added, “Regardless of position, everyone's voice is heard. There is so much opportunity to advance in the company as well.”
Highest Number Of Responses
Homebridge, profiled above, had over 430 responses. Typical among them was this sentiment shared by Christine Regalbuto, a production FHA underwriter. She said, “You are valued, respected and appreciated!! Upper management and management are extraordinary!”
Tiffany Tolle, a loan processor, added, “I love the welcome feeling that there is for all employees. I love that my superiors actually take my opinion into account and that they actively work to make sure all employees are heard and feel appreciated.”
CMG, which is profiled above, had over 320 employees respond. Lindsey Kuhlne has been with the company for less than a year but beats the drum loudly for how CMG treats its employees. She said, “I came to CMG after being with another company for almost 13 years. When CMG brags about their culture, it's not just words; it's reality. The company as a whole works as a team and remains respectful of one another. They promote positivity in and amongst their employees.”
American Pacific Mortgage: Bronze
American Pacific Mortgage, profiled above, had almost 250 responses. Cindy Thompson, a closing agent specialist, has been with the company less than a year. She said, “Many companies make you feel that your are just an employee. This company makes you feel like a part of a family, and your voice actually matters. The company gives back to it's employees constantly as well as to the community. This is a company that you could call home!”
FGMC: Most Nominated
Licensed in 48 states + D.C. and celebrating almost 35 years in the mortgage business, First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation is headed by CEO Aaron Samples. It was the most nominated of the mortgage companies in our survey.
Among the kudos from its employees were these thoughts shared by Dani Oakes, a senior graphic designer. She said, “Great company to work for. Everyone is very supportive, encouraging, and open. Goals are clearly communicated. [It is a] positive atmosphere where everyone wants each other to succeed. Just a great place.”
“FGMC has established a culture where employee voices are heard, we are an organization where opportunity is endless in one is willing to put in the effort. Executives encourage employee development and growth and when it starts at the top it is easy for the process to trickle down,” added Jesus Gomez, senior vice president, post closing operations.
Planet Home Lending: Charity
Based in Indiana, Planet Home Lending is a national mortgage lender and servicer, offering home loans backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA, FHA, USDA and private funders, in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It was recognized by nominators for its charitable works.
One example is Planet Home Lending supporting a healthy environment through a tree-planting partnership with the National Forest Foundation. In 2021, the company has sponsored the planting of up to 100,000 trees to help restore national forests.
“Planet Home Lending has great leadership and continues to grow. I love that PHL recognizes employees and promotes within. PHL also plants three trees for every loan originated and supports the Farmlink Project to connect farmers with local food banks. I'm going on my 8th year and I am honored to be part of PHL,” said Nicole Berg, VP, national underwriting manager.
Adam Gonzalez, vice president of retention production, praised the company for its culture. ”It’s got heart, it’s a large company with the feel and care of a smaller mom and pop organization. [It is a] great place to work.”
New American Funding: Diversity
New American Funding is one of the largest privately owned direct mortgage lenders in the nation. Headquartered in Orange County, California, New American was founded by Rick and Patty Arvielo. The Arvielos proudly state on their website that New American has become a leader through employee diversity. “The workforce has grown to 4,800+ based on the tremendous growth of the organization as a diverse workforce comprised of 60% women, 45% minorities, and 38% Millennials,” the duo said.
“The culture, diversity and support throughout the company is unlike anything I have ever seen.
Amazing!” said Jerry Hensley, a sales manager with New American Funding for over three years.
Dominik Hekking, an area production manager, added, “I love this company because I feel we make a difference in the community. We have such diverse employees who are knowledgeable and work well as a team to accomplish goals.”
American Financial Network is a Brea, California-based mortgage bank licensed in all 50 states. A family-owned company, it was co-founded in 2001 by Jack Sherman and its CEO is now John Sherman.
Christina Maine, a senior production manager, praises the company’s commitment to employees by truly treating them like family. She said, “The family aspect. The respect and fun that we have is like no other. I have worked other places that promise the same things and they do not keep their word like AFN does.”
In addition to its family qualities, AFN also provides its employees with a culture that rewards improvement and advancement. “Working at AFN makes me feel valued, respected and that I make a significant contribution to the world. I love how much we all care about the company success but most especially, how we care about each other. I have been given every opportunity for training and to seek advancement,” said Sherri Pembleton, a loan processor who joined the company less than a year ago.