What led you to the mortgage industry?
I taught for a few years after I graduated from Bob Jones University, and during that time my wife and I were putting off having a family. Our goal was to have her stay at home with the children, but that was difficult to do on a teacher’s salary. I had an acquaintance who was in the mortgage business along with two of my brothers, so it seemed like it could be a good fit for my skill set.
I was looking for something that would be more conducive to supporting a family, and eventually, I found that but it wasn’t an easy road.
What were your responsibilities when you first got into the mortgage industry?
The first job in the mortgage industry had been as a loan originator for a small brokerage firm in South Carolina. I wasn’t given any direction or education, so I ended up having to teach myself everything I knew. Looking back, that first year was rough.
We talked to countless people every single day but only closed a few loans in that first year.
I wanted to be a good loan officer and focused on making this
my career instead of just making money. So I took it upon myself to find the information I needed and figure out the answers to the questions I had.
I spent the first ten years of my career always thinking that I didn’t know enough. To some extent you never do because the industry is forever changing and you’ll never become an expert. If you’re an expert on Friday, you could be an idiot on Monday.
What was the next step for you?
I landed at a community bank in Virginia, which turned out to be a great fit for me since I had less than two years of experience and not a lot of good training at that point.
It was a small bank with a small mortgage presence, but they had a good staff there.
That bank grew over time and at one point it became the largest Virginia-based institution. Within a year and a half of starting there, I was managing my own branch.
I’d probably be there today if the bank was still operating, but it was bought out and that’s when things started to change.
What wasn’t working with the new establishment?
I was losing relationships due to slow turnaround and it just wasn’t working out. I never considered leaving the mortgage business and I didn’t want to leave then, but I just knew it wasn’t a good fit.
For most of my mortgage career, I’d been primarily a construction lender. I developed a niche partly because I enjoyed that and partly because of the size of the bank where I worked.
People in the community knew to call me to get their projects done. However, this new bank was not performing well in construction loans, so the builders stopped calling when we couldn’t close on time. This bank just didn’t understand the commercial loan process versus the residential loan process.
This trend continued as underwriting became a challenge. This company wasn’t cheaper, better, or faster than any other bank, and then eventually shrank to about a third of the size it was at the time of acquisition.
By now I was the area manager there and though things were going great for me, I knew that in the long run, it would cost me.
How did you come across Assurance Financial?
Paul Peters reached out to me in March of 2016. They were looking to expand into the Virginia marketplace and someone he was talking to mentioned me. We started a dialogue over a few months which led to making the move to Assurance Financial at the beginning of 2017.
How did Paul convince you that this would be the right move for you?
I was looking for an environment where operations and sales understood that they were on the same team. That was the challenge at my previous employer, but at Assurance, it’s different.
At the end of the day if you aren’t making clients happy then no one has a job.
I firmly believe that when companies make policies based on operations, they set themselves up for failure. Assurance Financial does the complete opposite of that.
So, my first question to Paul Peters was about their culture.
I wanted to know if they were more interested in working with me or was I just there to work for them?
What is different with Assurance Financial and your previous companies?
I was very impressed with how they handled operations and how they compensated their team members. When I visited their corporate office, I talked to the leadership and was impressed that most of the people in management also had sales experience. They understood what it’s like to deal with clients and that was the number one selling point for me.
What is something unique that you have at AF that you haven’t had at the other companies you’ve worked at?
Assurance is fairly conservative which is probably why they’ve been able to grow.
However, the unique thing I feel I have is that I can call operations with a problem and they will help me get things done. They understand the client and what I need to get their loan done. Their goals align with mine.
It’s impossible to do your job adequately on the front end if you don’t know what is going to happen on the back end. Assurance is the first place I’ve worked where I feel I can call the operations department and ask questions and get real, productive answers. I feel like they’re on the same team as me even when we disagree.