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ORIGINATORS ON BRANCH NETWORKS Is a network partnership right for you? See what top originators had to say about the pros and cons of joining

Mortgage Professional America is searching for 100 of the industry’s “hottest” mortgage professionals who made waves in 2017. Nominate a mover and shaker to be recognized in our Hot 100 2018 issue today.

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ORIGINATORS ON BRANCH NETWORKS Why go it alone when you could have the power of a network behind you? Mortgage Professional America explores the benefits and challenges of branch networks – including what originators want most from their networks

WHAT ASPECTS OF BRANCH NETWORKS ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO ORIGINATORS? MPA asked originators to rate nine key qualities of branch networks on a scale of 1 (not important) to 10 (very important). Here’s what they had to say – and how this year’s priorities compared to last year’s. 2017


Underwriting and turnaround time 9.28 9.51 Compensation 9.21 *Compensation was not included in the 2016 survey

Communication and support 8.93

FOLLOWING A turbulent year of continual regulatory changes and shifts, 2017 has been relatively calm for the American mortgage industry, despite much uncertainty about where things are heading under the current presidential administration. Originators have become masters of staying on top of industry changes and trends while helping Americans from coast to coast achieve their dreams of homeownership. One way many originators have risen to the myriad challenges is by joining a branch network to enjoy the benefits of corporate support without giving up the entrepreneurial spirit of owning their own branch office. “Becoming a branch manager gives you the ability to take a break from originating and still earn income,” says Frank Kuri, senior vice president of branch development at Residential Home Funding Corp. “You will have the opportunity to hire mortgage loan originators [MLOs] and earn override income from closed loan secondary market gains. Being a branch manager also enables you to hire and build a support team that will assist in the growth and success of your branch. You will be building a business within a business.” For originators who are interested in

joining a network, the question of which network to join can be a tough one to answer. Kuri offers some insight on what originators should look for when comparing networks: “You must choose a mortgage company with an efficiently organized and managed system, which is dedicated to onboarding new and existing branch office teams and MLOs,” he says. Emphasizing the importance of a formal process that includes a structured new hire orientation, Kuri says this will allow new employees to be fully informed about their support network and know who they can rely on for marketing, accounting, human resources, compliance, underwriting support and more. To discover what originators themselves value most in their network relationship, MPA surveyed readers, asking them to rate nine key qualities of a branch network from 1 (not important) to 10 (very important). Most originators agreed that underwriting support and turnaround time was the most important benefit they got from a network, although areas like compensation and onboarding also rated highly. What other features make network membership worth it? Read on to find out.

9.41 Technology 8.90 8.38 Loan programs 8.89 9.28 Culture 8.57 8.07 Onboarding, training and education 8.30 7.48 Compliance support 8.25 8.82 Marketing 8.01 7.56





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Importance to originators: 1st Score: 9.28 IT SHOULD come as no surprise that underwriting and turnaround time was the most appealing aspect of a branch network to originators – after all, it directly impacts the level of service a borrower receives. As one respondent put it: “In order to compete with the banks, you have to be fast.” In an industry saturated with competition, meeting a client’s timeline expectations can make a huge difference – one that can impact client reviews and referral opportunities down the line. “My ability to close loans on time is in direct proportion to my future business and referrals,” said one respondent. “You need to have turnaround times between 24 to 48 hours to stay competitive in today’s lending environment,” another said. “Underwriting teams need to have a can-do approach to loans submitted.” Realizing that their reputation is on the line here, originators emphasized the importance of the underwriter/branch relationship and how that plays into choosing a branch network. “[There] would be no point to be a branch over broker if [the branch] can’t provide [underwriting in] 24 to 48 hours,” one respondent said. And originators found few excuses for poor turnaround times in the digital age: “Turn times are very important in today’s automated environment,” said another respondent. Frank Kuri, senior vice president of branch development at Residential Home Funding Corp. [RHF] says his company “has an under-


writing support desk solely formed to help the originators understand guidelines and assist in evaluating complicated deals to help structure them correctly. The underwriting support desk also helps determine income on complicated self-employed tax returns.” Further emphasizing the importance of fast and efficient turnaround times, Kuri says RHF maintains 48-hour turn times for both new loan submissions and resubmissions for clearance. “RHF is committed to keeping these turn times by constantly monitoring our pipeline to

“We constantly monitor our pipeline to ensure that if we have an influx of loans, we can maintain turn times” Frank Kuri, Residential Home Funding Corp. ensure that if we have an influx of loans, we can maintain these turn times,” he says. “We proactively hire new underwriters to always keep up this high level of service.” Overall, the consensus among originators was clear: Underwriting efficiency is a key factor in their success. “This is our backbone to providing great service to our clients,” said one respondent. “This is how I get loans closed, take care of my clients and make money,” echoed another.




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Importance to originators: 2nd Score: 9.21 THIS YEAR, for the first time, originators were asked to evaluate the importance of compensation when choosing a branch network – and it turned out to be the second most important factor they take into consideration; respondents rated the category at 9.21 out of 10. It’s no shocker that compensation rated so highly – money is a big motivator for many originators. “We all work for compensations to advance our lifestyle and respond to life’s necessities,” said one respondent. “We need to get paid for e orts to service the borrowers who need financing,” said another. On the whole, respondents felt their networks offered fair, adequate pay. However, some originators pointed out that compensation alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor when choosing a network. “Just because a company pays you top-tier doesn’t mean it’s the ‘best’ company to work for,” one respondent said. “If you work for a well balanced company in the sense that the compensation is OK, but you have a fantastic operations support system, well, that’s a win-win situation.” Recognizing the importance of dependable income to originators, Loan Simple CEO Jason Dozois points to his company’s Share program, introduced earlier this year. “Obviously compensation is a highly regulated aspect of our industry; however, that doesn’t mean a company can’t still be innovative and create a


more progressive compensation model,” he says. “It is our goal to compensate our originators in a way that rewards them for doing the best for their borrowers. With our Share program, in addition to their regular origination income, our originators get paid every time the borrower makes a payment.”

“It is our goal to compensate our originators in a way that rewards them for doing the best for their borrowers” Jason Dozois, LoanSimple Dozois says the industry has adopted a “set it and forget attitude” towards compensation rather than evolving with the times. “There are better ways to structure compensation,” he says. “It might take some hard work, deep thought and sharing by the owners, but we can build a better model that benefits the borrower, loan originator, lender and the industry.” That kind of support makes a difference to originators who dedicate their time and efforts to servicing clients. “I work hard for my clients and feel that I should be compensated for my time,” said one respondent. “I believe I am worth what I earn, and although my main concern is my clients, money is a driving force and a sign of accomplishment.”




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Importance to originators: 3rd Score: 8.93 WHEN IT comes to the network/originator relationship, communication is vital; originators rated the category third in terms of importance when considering a branch network. “Communication is key, whether it is verbal, written or digital – it is a key component of the support process,” one respondent said. Originators agreed that nothing is possible without adequate communication; some even felt it was the most important quality to look for in a branch network. “There are too many moving parts to not know what they are all doing. Good communication needs to come from all levels,” one respondent said. “Without clear communication, you just do not have a direction,” said another. “If support and communication are not available, you might as well be self-employed. Why pay the extra fees if you are not being supported?” At Residential Home Funding Corp., communication has always been a pillar of the business. “We have several managers and staff in all departments that are responsible for making a smooth transition to RHF and for ongoing communication and support,” says Frank Kuri, RHF’s senior vice president of branch development. That kind of support is what can make or break the success of a loan, one respondent pointed out. “If there is a communication breakdown and support/fulfillment is lagging, then you cannot achieve appropriate turn


times and underwriting. This will lead to extended closing and loss of business and business relationships.” In short, originators want “clear communication and maximum

“RHF understands the importance of making sure new employees are given helpful guidance and training to ensure a successful career with us” Frank Kuri, Residential Home Funding Corp. support to make sure everyone is on the same page” when partnering with a network. However, Kuri points out that communication isn’t just about how the branch/corporate relationship affects clients, but also about what a network can offer branches throughout the entire relationship. From the start, RHF puts all new hires through orientation, after which employees have access to a plethora of training material, webinars and live classes to continue their education and knowledge. “RHF understands the importance of making sure new employees are given helpful guidance and training to ensure a successful career with us,” he says – and that kind of open communication can prevent headaches for originators down the road.



Mortgage veteran and Residential Home Funding branch manager Joseph Cutalo shares his perspective on the advantages of being a part of a branch network MPA: What factors did you take into consideration when looking for a network to partner with? Joseph Cutalo: I looked at the corporate structure, the workflow process and the support that the network would give a sales team. When looking at different branch networks, I wanted to know about the structure, how things work, what my responsibility would be in the transaction and what corporate’s responsibility would be in the transaction. I also looked at back-office support, such as accounting and marketing functions. When you put all those things together, really what matters at the end of the day is that you’re comfortable with the people you are going to work with, and I felt extremely comfortable with the owners and senior management team at Residential Home Funding.

MPA: How has RHF supported your branch? JC: They are such a great sales-centric company. They offer technology, recruitment and marketing support, in addition to much more. Their operations as an organization really stand out to me, as well as their open-door policy. We are always free to voice opinions and suggest changes at any time. MPA: How have you maintained autonomy as a branch? JC: I think it is really important when you have a branch that you have your own internal processor. So at our branch, we have our own processor on staff, and we also went a step further and put a marketing assistant on staff as well. We control the transaction from point of origination all the way to its submission to the underwriter, and then after that, we take it to closing. We utilize all the resources available and implement them internally in a way that

fits our workflow process and us. The autonomy really comes with the transaction and how we handle the process entirely, minus the underwriting and closing. MPA: What advice would you give an originator who may be on the fence about joining a branch network? JC: There are two different ways to look at it. There is the mortgage loan originator who is looking to become a part of an organization, but the question is, ‘Do I go to the corporate side or the branch network side?’ If that individual is an organic originator with their own book of business and professional contacts, they may be best suited in a world where it’s all organic. For someone who is looking to join a branch network, I would suggest they look for an organization that has diversity. For example, RHF has internal employees who work off leads and branches that work off leads, but then they have what they call affiliated branches, which are organic branches, and that’s what we are. So if you want to be in an environment that supports you 100% and that understands what your objectives are while giving you all the tools to become successful, then you want to be in a diversified environment where you can still maintain autonomy and grow your own business.




TECHNOLOGY Importance to originators: 4th Score: 8.90 WITHOUT A doubt, technology has changed the landscape for many industries, and the mortgage industry is no exception. This year, technology overtook loan programs and compliance support in terms of importance among survey respondents, taking fourth place. For originators looking to become part of a branch network, technology access is about tapping into the scale and infrastructure of a larger company. Originators recognize that it’s not just about getting the right solution to the client, but about getting it to them as soon as possible. “Faster is better,” one respondent said, because “customers today are looking for ease of getting a loan.” Many respondents mentioned one key word as the top driver of technology’s increasing importance: millennials. “[It’s about] efficiency, relatability … millennials don’t ‘do’ fax or paper; many don’t have printers, so you’d better be able to support e-commerce from end to end,” one respondent said. “Technology should make the process easier and keep everyone involved more up to speed on where the process is,” said another, “especially when dealing with millennials, since they love technology.” But originators aren’t just going to settle for any technology – they know that having the right tech tools can be a great boost,


while working with the wrong kind can be a huge setback. A couple of respondents pointed out that a network’s technology offerings should be “easy,” “not cumbersome,” and that there should be “seamless integration” to avoid “wasting time waiting for it to be fixed.” Ultimately, the role of technology goes back to communication and support; as one respondent put it: “[Technology] makes my life and loans easier, and allows for faster communication to all parties in the transac-

“It’s about efficiency, relatability ... millennials don’t ‘do’ fax or paper; many don’t have printers, so you’d better be able to support e-commerce from end to end” tion; it keeps better records and details, and there’s less chance of errors; it allows for more transactions, and thus more income.” Some even mentioned technology as the deciding factor that would tip them toward joining a branch network: “[Technology] must be strong in order to justify the branch over broker model, offering more resources at economies of scale.”

LOAN PROGRAMS Importance to originators: 5th Score: 8.89 THOUGH THIS category dipped slightly in terms of importance, the variety of loan programs offered by networks is still vitally important to originators – the majority of respondents gave it a score of 9 or 10. “Without the programs, you have a halfempty tool belt,” one respondent said. Another pointed out that having access to a particular product could prove to be the

is what is important,” one respondent said. Another added: “Because we are in the Midwest, we need to offer programs that will benefit our borrower base. I do not believe in a ‘one size fits all’ mentality when it comes to loan programs.” And one respondent pointed out that “having a well-rounded array of loan programs keeps the loan officer as the go-to person for their referral partners. I never

“Having a well-rounded array of loan programs keeps the loan officer as the go-to person for their referral partners. I never want to have to say, ‘Sorry, we can’t do that program here’” competitive edge originators need, saying, “[It’s] always good to have that extra niche product that others do not provide. A wider range of products allows for greater variety of clients.” One important consideration originators repeatedly highlighted is identifying lending needs specific to different areas/markets and making sure the programs offered by branch networks reflect these needs. “Not every lender will have the same products, but if you have what you need based on your area, that

want to have to say, ‘Sorry, we can’t do that program here.’” While many originators favored the idea of networks offering as much as possible and becoming a one-stop shop, one respondent offered some words of caution: “Being able to offer as much as possible to your clients and partners is vital to survival, but I’d trade a product or two if it means operations would be smoother, because we aren’t trying to do loans that would cut into productivity or that would give the company a ‘black eye.’”





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Importance to originators: 6th Score: 8.57 CULTURE IS one of those intangible qualities that can set one company apart from another, which is why many originators deemed it one of the top qualities to look for in a network. Despite ranking sixth in terms of importance with a score of 8.57 out of 10, many originators said culture plays a huge part in the long-term success of a branch network partnership. “Poor culture translates into poor results,” one respondent said. “A great culture allows your employees to be your ambassador,” added another. “Having a purpose-driven and peoplefocused culture impacts every aspect of a company,” says Mike Jensen, EVP of growth at Academy Mortgage. “It unifies employees nationwide and deepens loyalties, connections and beliefs in a company. It helps in establishing standardized best practices and brings consistency across an organization, ensuring customers have the same experience with a company, no matter in which branch location they’re doing business. A strong company culture is a key component of a company’s brand and reputation, which is important in attracting and retaining employees.” Originators agreed that culture is the glue that keeps a company together. “A solid culture will help build better employees to produce at a higher level,” one respondent said. “It’s better have a culture of appreciation


and positive energy if you want people to stay,” said another. According to Jensen, the most difficult part of building a culture can be identifying and articulating a vision that employees can stand behind. “Academy has built a successful company culture by focusing on our people,” he says. “Nearly all of our company initiatives are designed around helping people become their best, whether through our personal and

“Having a purpose-driven and people-focused culture impacts every aspect of a company” Mike Jensen, Academy Mortgage Corporation professional development programs, our loan solutions for attaining sustainable home­ ownership, or our worldwide efforts to give back to people in need.” “Academy’s leadership has a genuine desire to help originators overcome barriers to becoming industry leaders,” says branch manager Jake Mott. “A particularly motivating and skill-building event is the company’s annual Leadership Summit, which is known for its ‘bucket list’ speaker lineup. Academy’s significant investment in these events and its people pays huge dividends in production, loyalty and morale across the board.”



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Importance to originators: 7th Score: 8.30 JOINING A new company comes with a learning curve, and it’s no different with branch networks. Although originators ranked onboarding, training and education seventh in importance, with a score of 8.30 out of 10, many highlighted how crucial it is for originators to receive proper education and training from the start. “Onboarding is so important because it is the key to starting off your path to success,”

their current company, their pain points, their work style, etc. – and then you tell them how your company can alleviate those pain points and provide them with more efficient processes and systems. The expectation, then, is that you are going to be getting a top-quality producer while providing them with the tools and resources they need to succeed. Onboarding is the time for you to fulfill those expectations and ensure that they understand

“Onboarding is the key to starting off your path to success. This process is the most important step in building for the future” Chad Gomoll , Inlanta Mortgage says Chad Gomoll , senior vice president at Inlanta Mortgage. “In our opinion, this process is the most important step in building for the future.” Many respondents agreed with that sentiment. “We need to know what we are doing and how to do it better,” said one. “[It’s] highly important when changing companies, as each is different, and it takes some time to adjust to that,” said another. “There are many expectations that are set during the recruiting process,” Gomoll says. “The originator gives you insight into the environment they are coming from – the systems, processes, tools and staff available to them at


and adapt to the changes they are undoubtedly going to experience.” Especially in a business where time is money, initial training and education can prevent headaches down the road. “A solid onboarding experience can cut months off the learning curve when working with a new company,” one originator said. Respondents also emphasized the need for training and education to be “simple” and “direct” in order to get them up to speed without unnecessary downtime. “Accuracy is the best way to become efficient,” one respondent said. “We cannot be accurate if we are not fully trained in our jobs.”

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COMPLIANCE SUPPORT Importance to originators: 8th Score: 8.25 WHILE COMPLIANCE support was the fourth most important benefit of branch networks for originators last year, this year, the category came in second to last, although it still scored 8.25 out of 10. Although originators generally recognize the need to ensure compliance, there are a few who seem to perceive network involvement in compliance as more restrictive than helpful. One respondent commented that “compliance is only about compliance, not support,” while another remarked that “we don’t need to go overboard and restrict business.” But for many others, it’s crucial to have a network’s help with compliance to make sure all bases are covered. “We have a lot going on with sales, [and] we need support to ensure we are following the law,” said one respondent. Another said: “Sometimes deals can get tricky – staying compliant to protect yourself, your company and, most importantly, your client is necessary.” Change is constant in this industry, and with new rules being introduced all the time, many originators appreciated having a network to handle compliance so they could focus on more important aspects of the job. “Compliance is the last thing an LO wants to be doing,” one respondent said. “It’s an important part of what we do, but we need other professionals to keep us compliant.”


ORIGINATORS SPEAK OUT MPA asked originators for their suggestions on how branch networks can serve them better. Here’s what they had to say:

“More opportunity to help buyers in purchasing homes with more loan programs.” “Speedy turn times and on-time closings!” “Communication on every level is one of the most important things in our line of work.” “Technology can help make our lives easier with less paperwork.” “More programs to fit the needs of a changing landscape.” “Make sure that all the state and federal rules and regulations are followed and completed accordingly.”







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*Carrington will process any qualifying purchase loan from the time a loan file is submitted to underwriting, and meets the on-time closing date identified as the Close of Escrow date or the company will apply a closing cost credit of $1,500 to the loan at closing. Lender Credit may be restricted based on specific product guidelines. In order to receive the closing cost credit, any delay that causes a purchase loan to not meet the on-time closing date identified as the Close of Escrow date must be due to Carrington’s independent processes. If the delay is due to the broker, borrower, seller’s or any third party’s action or inaction or any other circumstances outside of Carrington’s control, the closing cost offer will be void. This offer excludes some purchase loan programs and property types including USDA loans, 203K Loans, Short Sales, New Construction loans, manufactured homes, loans requiring property repairs, engineers inspection, or re-inspection prior to closing, loans requiring condo approvals and flips. The minimum allowable time from a complete purchase loan file at loan approval to the Close of Escrow date is 25 calendar days. The Close of Escrow date is recorded in Pipeline Manager (aka BrokerIQ) for all qualifying purchase loans. Exclusions apply; contact your Account Executive for details. Offer is subject to revision or cancellation at any time. Applies to qualifying purchase loans submitted on or after March 20, 2017. **FHA Streamline refinance non credit qualifying program requires a tri-merge credit report reflecting only the FICO score and a 12-month mortgage history. Closing costs may not be financed into a non credit qualifying refinance. Verbal verification of income source is required. Applicable only for FHA Streamlines with no late payments within past 6 months and USDA Streamlined-Assist Programs with no late payments within past 12 months. ***Restrictions apply; contact your Account Executive for details. © Copyright 2007-2017 Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC headquartered at 1600 South Douglass Road, Suites 110 & 200A, Anaheim, CA 92806. 800-561-4567. NMLS ID #2600. Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) Consumer Access website: www. AZ: Mortgage Banker BK-0910745. CA: Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, File 413 0904. CO: Check license status of your mortgage loan originator at GA: Georgia Residential Mortgage Licensee 22721. IL: Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee. MN: This is not an offer to enter into an interest rate lock agreement under Minnesota Law. MO: Missouri Company Registration 14-1746. In-State Office: Missouri Residential Mortgage Loan Broker License 14-1746. 251 SW Noel, Lees Summit, MO 64063. NV: Mortgage Broker License 4068 (Residential Mortgage Origination/Lending). NJ: Licensed by the N.J. Department of Banking and Insurance. NY: Licensed Mortgage Banker—NYS Department of Financial Services. New York Mortgage Banker License B500980/107664. OH: Ohio Mortgage Loan Act Certificate of Registration SM.501517.000. RI: Rhode Island Licensed Lender, Lender License 20112809LL. VA: NMLS ID 2600 ( WA: Consumer Loan License CL2600. Also licensed in AL, AK, AR, CT, DE, DC, FL, HI, ID, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MI, MS, MT, NE, NH, NM, NC, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WV, WI and WY. NOTICE: All loans are subject to credit, underwriting and property approval guidelines. Offered loan products may vary by state. There is no guarantee that all borrowers will qualify. Restrictions may apply. This is not a commitment to lend. Terms, conditions and programs are subject to change without notice. This information is for industry professionals only and is not intended for distribution to consumers. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC is not acting on behalf of or at the direction of HUD/FHA or any government agency. All rights reserved.




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Importance to originators: 9th Score: 8.01 ALTHOUGH MARKETING was the least important factor among originators when choosing a branch network to join, several identified this area as one of the most critical support systems available through a network. “Competition is great, [so] how else do you get the message out?” said one respondent. Another added: “Having access to marketing tools is always great.” Laura Martell, marketing manager at Mountain West Financial, agrees “there’s a lot riding on a borrower or Realtor’s decision to do business with you. Today’s marketplace is extremely competitive … Marketing is the one

A few originators highlighted technology’s important role in marketing. “Marketing using the latest technology is what sells, whether it is mailers or videos,” one respondent said. “We must use these tools to market ourselves and to stand out among all others.” Martell echoes these statements, highlighting the importance of understanding “what mediums are out there and how to minimize the time commitment it takes to run them properly.” Martell says Mountain West Financial offers the full spectrum of marketing resources. “In today’s marketplace, it is difficult to do it all yourself. Our marketing team helps advertise

“Marketing is the one place we have control to tell our story: who we are, what we do and why we do it better than anybody else” Laura Martell, Mountain West Financial place we have control to tell our story: who we are, what we do and why we do it better than anybody else.” The originators who felt marketing wasn’t an important network benefit often pointed out its redundancy with their own systems. “This is somewhat less important in choosing a branch network, as we have our own marketing department,” one respondent said. “If one is running a referral-based business, marketing is not as critical,” said another.


and increase business by providing our originators with the tools to help stay in touch with past customers, communicate with current prospects and reach future leads. On-demand online systems are used to create marketing collateral, co-branded marketing, mobile apps, website, blogs, email campaigns, social media management, lead-generation tools, exclusive social networking offerings, newsletters, testimonial management and in-house agencygrade graphic design for custom marketing.”

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Marketing support is a core value at Mountain West Financial, Inc. We know that to compete in today’s marketplace you need the support and tools to help you stand out and create a memorable personal brand. Our marketing tools can help take your business to new levels. Whether further solidifying existing relationships or entering into new markets, our on-demand, easy to use, and innovative marketing solutions will help you stand apart from your competition and deliver results.


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Mortgage Professional America issue 10.04  

The magazine for mortgage professionals in America.