Patty Brown has spent her career helping teach the intricacies of mortgage lending
Patty Brown and her husband Chris in Cozumel.
This month I had the pleasure of speaking with Patty Brown. She is the senior vice president of underwriting at Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group.
Patty lives and works in Chesapeake, Virginia, and is originally from Emerson, New Jersey. She has a Bachelor of Management and Marketing from Monmouth University.
How did you get your start in the mortgage industry? Patty Brown: I was working in customer service at a mortgage company when an account executive (loan officer) position came open. I decided to take the opportunity and worked in that role for a short time.
What I discovered in that time was that I was not comfortable with the kind of loans being offered. The loans were the type that were mostly paying down interest and I felt that they were not something I felt good selling to clients. One elderly couple in particular made me realize this was not for me and I decided to move to another firm.
I learned that a former boss of mine was opening their own firm and I was offered my first underwriting position at the company. It was all manual and everything was researched and typed up by hand. But I felt like I was in the right place and enjoyed the work.
I have been in the industry for over 20 years and have continued to advance to the position I hold today. I really am committed to doing the best for our clients and to make success a priority for my team.
What does being a trailblazer mean to you? PB: To me, being a trailblazer means having the true desire to help others achieve their goals and be willing to take a risk yourself to help them find the best path to success.
I was always a shy person, but as I have progressed in my career, I have learned to step out of my comfort zone and try new things even if my confidence in a successful outcome wasn’t at full throttle before I took the first step.
I am hopeful that my willingness to risk a misstep and still forge ahead will inspire another young woman to follow the trail I have left and make the successes she finds her own with less trepidation because of my example.
One of my prouder accomplishments is that every time I leave a role to move up, I make sure that I have left the team in the hands of a capable woman who will ensure the continued success of the department and its staff. I have always made certain to provide the support and mentorship needed to leave my team in the best possible hands. And I am also assured that, when the time comes for the next change in management, the next leader in that role will be someone who has been mentored and supported in the same way.
“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Where do you see yourself and women in general in the industry over the next five years? PB: I see myself learning and growing in whatever role I take on. When I started in this industry over 20 years ago, I had no idea of the complexities of the mortgage process. There is so much that goes into the successful closing of a loan application it cannot possibly be learned in a short period of time.
Technological and policy changes are constant, so the willingness to continuously learn is an absolute necessity. I am fully engaged in learning as much as I can every time I set foot in my office door. I also am passionate about sharing what I learn with my colleagues and team members at every opportunity.
I firmly believe that women will continue to take on more and more leadership roles and that they will become amazing mentors to those coming behind them. The way forward for women in leadership is to provide as much support and encouragement as we can. Building confidence and expanding networks and relationships will be the key to ensuring we continue to provide women with the opportunities they have earned and fully deserve.
What is your professional superpower? PB: My professional superpower is my flexibility. I think my name would be Elastic Girl.
When you reach a certain level in this industry, being flexible and willing to pivot on a dime based on whatever situation arises is critical. I find I am pulled in many different directions each day. With each challenge comes the necessity of being able to focus on more than one issue at a time and provide the guidance and leadership needed in a calm and logical manner.
I may be “stretched thin” on any given day, but I make it work by always having a reasonable and effective plan of attack and surrounding myself with a great team of managers who can help me work it through to a successful conclusion or solution.
Tell us something about your career in the mortgage industry that was pivotal to your achievements today? PB: At the beginning of my career, I underwrote loans and had a small team to supervise.
When I came to Atlantic Bay, I was offered a huge new world of opportunities to learn and grow. I have a supportive chief operations officer who encourages me to use my imagination and intuition to move outside of my comfort zone and find solutions that I might otherwise have overlooked if I was narrow in my focus.
She has offered me the chance to take classes and learn so much more about our industry. She has also inspired me to take a leap of faith in myself and try speaking at events. That is something I never imagined I would be able to do but look at me now!
The first time I spoke it was at an “Ask the Underwriter” luncheon. It was the perfect venue because it allowed me to speak about what I love doing and the audience was receptive and engaged.
Even so, I used to shake like a leaf having to stand up and speak at our Friday meetings, but as time went by and I was supported and encouraged, my confidence grew. I still get nervous but now I know what I can do and I know I can stand up without the paper in my hands rattling like it was caught in a hurricane.
The pivotal part of my career has been learning to step out of my comfort zone, take on challenges and I have come to understand that I truly am braver than I believe.
What advice would you give to a woman entering or trying to move up in their mortgage career? PB: The first thing I would tell them is to buckle up for a fun and crazy ride. This industry moves quickly and shifts at the whims of the financial markets. I would say be flexible and be ready for anything whether it involves the day to day work or broad policy or process changes in the business as a whole.
Next I would let them know that they have to be ready and willing to ask questions. Lots of them. Never be afraid to speak up if you have an idea you think might benefit your team or your organization.
Ask for help if you need it. There is no valor in being overwhelmed and making mistakes because you are in over your head. Ask for assistance, speak to a mentor or your manager, and get that ship righted before it’s too late.
What does success mean to you? PB: Success is seeing progress. It means setting a goal and reaching it. Every goal requires movement forward to achieve.
Of equal importance to me is the notion that success means having brought your team to a new level of achievement. Personal success is great, but success realized for yourself and your team is sweeter still.
I feel successful when I see my managers and staff move up in their careers and crush their professional and personal goals with my help and support. That is the absolute pinnacle of success for me.
Technological and policy changes are constant, so the willingness to continuously learn is an absolute necessity.
What do you enjoy outside of the office? PB: In my time away from the office I enjoy working out, running, walking, and lifting weights.
I am also a reader and whether it is a mystery novel by the pool or a book about the mortgage industry, reading is a lifelong passion for me.
My family is spread out across a few states but when we get together we make the most of that time. We love to play board games and participate in an air hockey tournament. That can get a bit heated but it is all healthy competition and that family time is something I treasure.
How do you recommend navigating change in an industry that is always changing and growing? PB: I would say be flexible and strive to always be 10 steps ahead. This industry changes fast, whether it be embracing new technologies or changes in legislation at the state or federal levels.
You need to be prepared and expect change rather than just react to it when it appears. Keeping abreast of market conditions and taking classes, attending conferences(,) and networking with colleagues are all ways to be as proactive as possible and make having to shift gears easier and less stressful.
Do you think it’s important to have a mentor? PB: Having a mentor, or more than one, is an absolute necessity to advancing in your career in the mortgage business or any industry.
A mentor, by definition, is an experienced and trusted advisor. They are also a coach, a confidante, and a friend. A person who you can speak to with candor and use as a sounding board for anything you need to work through is worth their weight in gold.
None of us is completely able to handle every situation we find ourselves in. Those who believe that they can are not being honest with themselves.
I cannot emphasize enough my belief that having a person who can guide you through difficulty by virtue of their experience and having your best interests at heart is invaluable.
The best mentor won’t tell you what to do but they will help you come to the answers you seek by providing you with a sound and balanced opinion and then allowing you the space to work through the solution to find the best option for you.
When you reach a certain level in this industry, being flexible and willing to pivot on a dime based on whatever situation arises is critical.
How do you find your voice? PB: Finding your voice means being willing to challenge yourself and speak up even when you are afraid to do so. In my years of learning to be more confident, I have come to realize that I am not the only person in the room who may be too afraid to speak out and share my ideas and opinions. And that maybe, if I can be brave and do it, that will give someone else the courage to speak up as well.
That is motivating and has helped me to find my voice even when I wasn’t so sure I would be heard or what I had to say would be appreciated.
What’s your favorite book or podcast that you would recommend and why? PB: One of my favorite books is “Difficult Conversations: Just for Women” by Sofia Santiago.
The book talks about how most self-help books are written by and for men and focus more on how a man would handle difficult situations. Ms. Santiago’s work is focused on a female approach which is going to be from a differing point of view.
The stories and scenarios in the book are taken from real life situations and emphasize remaining calm and assertive and the key ingredients to a successful resolution that benefits all parties involved in the issue.
I have personally found this book helpful in developing my approach to handling difficulties in a professional, measured manner.
How do we propel more women into leadership roles within our industry? PB: We must support each other along the way. Instead of stepping over each other in a bid to advance, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder and offer our strength to each other.
If we want more women at the leadership table, we need to be willing to offer our hand to pull each other up. The more help you offer, the more you will get in return when your turn comes to make the climb.
I also want to say that having a good support network and a work/life balance has been one of the things most crucial to my success. The constant support of my husband Chris has allowed me the freedom to pursue a career that I love and thrive in that freedom.
My colleagues and mentors at Atlantic Bay have given me the tools, guidance, and encouragement I needed to further my career over my years there.
Whether your support network is friends, family, partner, or fur babies, lean on them when you need to and you will be able to navigate any challenges that life and a busy career can throw your way.
This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine September 2023 issue.