MPA Elite Women 2021

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MPA celebrates the women who level the playing field for the next generation of female leaders in the mortgage industry



Feature article ..............................................


Methodology ................................................


Elite Women 2021 ........................................


Profiles ..........................................................





BREAKING BARRIERS TO EQUALITY IN MANY ways, the mortgage playing field has evolved into something far more inclusive and empowering for women. This special report explores how MPA’s Elite Women have pushed the boundaries in diversifying the traditionally maledominated mortgage sector. Despite the internal conflicts and unintentional bias that can still affect even seasoned professionals, the 59 winners continue to create environments where people have equal opportunities to do their best and be recognized for their work. And they will keep breaking barriers until confident female leaders become the norm and not the exception.

Overcoming impostor syndrome By most standards, Tracie Schmidt, producing branch manager at Supreme Lending and one of this year’s Elite Women, has proven herself a strong and competent leader. When under pressure, she is not afraid to jump on the front lines with her team to ensure that the job gets done – and done right. Despite her accomplishments, Schmidt still gets riddled with self-doubt and the nagging feeling that her efforts are never enough. “I can’t say that I ever feel like I’m misrepresenting myself; however, doubt of getting results can creep in,” Schmidt tells MPA.


Senior leaders Projected growth in 2020-2030

35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10%



















Source: Deloitte Center for Financial Services analysis of Boardex LLC data


“The business I’m in is commissionbased, and the clients I work with are referrals from other clients and referral partners. If you and your team don’t do a good job, it can have a direct impact on your future business. The mortgage industry has had many ups and downs in my 20-year plus career, and there were times that I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to pay my bills.” It may come as no surprise that highachieving women like Schmidt tend to experience impostor syndrome – feeling like a fraud and often questioning one’s achievements and merit. For Elizabeth Morales, chief marketing officer at Applied Business Software and another Elite Woman, one of the toughest challenges has been learning to advocate for herself. “I always felt if I was doing a good job, someone would notice and recognize me, but that may or may not happen,” she says. In a 2011 Journal of Behavioral Science study exploring impostor syndrome, clinical psychologist Jaruwan Sakulku found that an estimated 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this syndrome in their lives. Data from the 2019 Impostor Syndrome Study revealed that a shocking 67% of female senior business leaders have not asked for a salary increase or aimed for a promotion they knew deserved in the past few years – all because of impostor syndrome. Another Elite Woman who had fallen prey to this condition is Jane Mason, CEO of Clarifire. She confessed to having moments of fear and lack of confidence as

a young leader until she paused to look back and examine what she had accomplished. “I had become an entrepreneur, which was my dream. I brought together a loyal team, and we invented a software that offers a new way of doing business. I realized that I was a success — I used my values, integrity, and passion for doing what was right to get where I am today. “This concept of ‘impostor syndrome’ that affects some leaders is easy to overcome when you look long and hard at yourself, remind yourself of your accomplishments, and surround yourself with mentors, peers, and others who reinforce your values and successes,” Mason says.

The only woman at the table In her 24 years in the mortgage space, Schmidt says she had been overlooked by her male counterparts, hindering her career advancement.

organization, but instead, I would continue to be a manager. “This was about 10 years ago, and I still think about it every day. The positive outcome from this experience is that it made me smarter in business. I won’t be taken advantage of again and have been able to speak my mind, asking for transparency with upper management, ever since.” Like Schmidt, Mason has also experienced some underestimation of her abilities and lack of respect rooted in unintentional biases. “There have been times I walked into a meeting, and someone asked me where the president of Clarifire was, but this doesn’t happen as much as it used to,” she says. “It only motivates me to keep pushing forward and deliver the best service for my clients because that’s the bottom line.” Mason believes that underestimating unintentional bias is one of the biggest challenges women face. There’s no avoiding it,

“This concept of ‘impostor syndrome’ is easy to overcome when you remind yourself of your accomplishments, and surround yourself with mentors, peers, and others who reinforce your values and successes” Jane Mason, Clarifire “I was supposed to become a partner within a new company with my male supervisor at the time. I thought I was finally going to take my career to that next level and be part owner of a branch. He asked me to motivate the team that built trust in me and ensure they followed me as a leader – and that I did,” Schmidt says. “However, once the move was made, I was shortly told thereafter that I could not be a partner and share in the profits of the

she tells MPA, but it can be overcome by always being gracious, doing one’s homework, and being willing to work harder than others. “Women are much more included and respected than we were five years ago. I do think diversity initiatives within our industry have increased awareness, and male executives are playing a major role in turning it into the future state,” Mason points out.

METHODOLOGY In September, Mortgage Professional America invited industry professionals from across the country to nominate exceptional female leaders for the 5th annual Elite Women list. Nominees had to be working in a role that related to, interacted with, or in some way impacted the industry and should have demonstrated an evident passion for their work. Nominators were asked to describe the nominees’ standout professional achievements over the past 12 months, along with their contributions to diversity and inclusion in the industry and how they’ve given back through volunteer roles and charity work. Recommendations from managers and senior industry professionals were also taken into account. After a thorough review of all the nominations, the MPA team narrowed down the list to the final 59 Elite Women who have made their mark in the industry.

5th year of MPA’s Elite Women list

59 Elite Women awardees

120+ nominations received




No need to ‘fake it’




















































“If we learn to document and share what we do, we are better suited for promotion. The data is irrefutable” Elizabeth Morales, Applied Business Software


In an industry where determined and talented female leaders thrive amid obstacles, the Elite Women show how one can defeat impostor syndrome and unconscious biases – and that it does not have to be done alone. “Regardless of what project you’re working on, do it better than others and do more than what people expect of you,” Mason says. “Be true to yourself and don’t get caught up in your own role biases. Have other women mentors and run your ideas by them and cultivate a network of peers who make introductions for you and help you along the way. Also, there are several women-oriented organizations that create cultures of sharing, learning, and helping each other. Use them.” In addition to having focus and reaching out to other women, Morales encourages others to record their work accomplishments and use them to their advantage. “If we learn to document and share what we do, we are better suited for a promotion,” she says. “The data is irrefutable. We need to be equally represented in every field. We need to support women coming into the workforce. I am a mentor for those who want to move up in their career and love doing so. Find a mentor and become a mentor someday.” “Understand your competition. Work smarter, not harder, and be creative in getting results so you stand out,” Schmidt says. “Don’t try and reinvent the wheel – find someone within the organization you belong to that is successful, regardless of male or female, and call them. Ask them what they do and how they do it. Successful people love to share, and it will then be up to you to take action. “As time passes, the path for female leaders hopefully will get wider instead of smaller. I think female leaders need to find a way to come together, and hopefully, this article will help stir that up. We need a platform to be able to share our stories with the younger generation to help them avoid the same mistakes.”

Chrissy Zotzmann Brown COO Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group

Michelle Wilde Divisional VP Orion Lending

Phone: 757 213 1660 Email: Website:

Phone: 714 266 3013 Email: Website:

Jodi Hall President Nationwide Mortgage Bankers

Tai Pherribo Christensen DEI officer/Director of government affairs CBC Mortgage Agency/Chenoa Fund

Phone: 516 693 9570 Email: Website:

Phone: 866 563 3507 Email: Website:

Amanda Landers Branch manager Gateway Mortgage

Christine DePaepe Renovation divisional manager/ VP of mortgage lending Guaranteed Rate

Elisha Werner Chief compliance officer Promontory MortgagePath

Amanda Phillips Executive VP of compliance ACES Quality Management

Christy Soukhamneut SVP, chief of staff/Director of mortgage strategic initiatives Flagstar

Elizabeth Morales Chief marketing officer Applied Business Software

Amberlynn Boyle Sales manager Network Capital Funding

Cristen Talbert Chief Process Officer Gold Star Mortgage Financial Group

Erika Macias Co-founder and COO HighTechLending

Andrea Trovato Senior mortgage originator AZ Mortgage Broker

Danyel Shipley Senior regional sales director - West Mortgage Capital Trading

Erin Carvelli Originator and team leader Greenway Mortgage

Anne Jablonski Executive managing director, head of commercial real estate SitusAMC

Darcy Bastarache Branch manager Mortgage Network

Giselle Bonzi President Washington Capital Partners

Aren Anderton Senior director of residential new origination services SitusAMC

Debbie Foley Vice president, client group CFBank

Irene Amato CEO and owner A.S.A.P. Mortgage

Carina Johnson Senior vice president Walker & Dunlop

Efstathia Booras President and CEO Alpha Mortgage & Financial Services

Jane Floyd Branch Manager NFM Lending




Jane Mason Chief executive officer Clarifire Jeanine Thomas Licensed loan originator Kroboth & Helm Mortgage Jemma Pachiano Chief operating officer Mid America Mortgage Jennifer Katz Vice president The Federal Savings Bank Jennifer Lomanno Senior vice president, national underwriting Newrez Jess Rodas Sales manager Academy Mortgage Judith Ryan Executive vice president, corporate sales Credit Plus Karrie M Boyer Loan officer Finance of America Katie Sweeney Chief executive officer Association of Independent Mortgage Experts Kathy Olsen Director of customer support OpenClose Kim M Krick 1st vice president, SE regional manager Freedom Mortgage Corporation Krysta Rangel Vice president, operations ReverseAmerica Advisors


Laura Brandao President American Financial Resources

Patty Arvielo Co-founder and president New American Funding

Lisa Lund President Lund Mortgage Team

Pinky Shah Loan officer Fairway Mortgage

Lisa Mathews Loan originator, branch manager Gateway Mortgage

Shannon Reedy Account executive Orion Lending (DBA of American Financial Network)

Lizy Hoeffer Chief experience officer CrossCountry Mortgage

Sharon Reichhardt Executive VP of operations ACES Quality Management

Lorie Helms Chief technology officer Cherry Creek Mortgage

Sheri Anderson Underwriter Kind Lending

Lori Johnson Director of Client Services DocMagic

Sue Woodard Independent consultant Sue Woodard

Luisa Bedoya Vice president/Senior loan originator MSA Mortgage

Susan Mello SVP and group head of capital markets Walker & Dunlop

Mary Ann McGarry Chief executive officer Guild Mortgage

Tammy Wittren Branch manager NFM Lending

Martina Schubert Chief technology officer LenderClose

Tara Healy Chief compliance officer Cherry Creek Mortgage

Michelle Bruto da Costa Mortgage originator Homebridge

Tracie Schmidt Producing branch manager Supreme Lending

Mya Tran-Harter Senior vice president Intercoastal Mortgage

Twyla Hankins Executive VP of operations American Financial Network

CHRISSY ZOTZMANN BROWN COO Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group


hen Chrissy Zotzmann Brown joined Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group about 11 years ago, she set two priorities straight: create a healthy worklife balance and be the boss she always wanted. As Brown explained, she loves mortgage and wants her team members to enjoy their work. “I want my team to feel supported and not afraid to approach me. I want to be the best resource for them to grow and succeed,” she says. The Atlantic Bay COO and MPA Elite Woman leads by example by spending quality time with her family and encouraging her employees to do the same when they’re off duty. At some point in her career, Brown went through a sudden divorce and found herself as a single parent to her then ninemonth-old son. “I remember wondering how I could ever manage it all,” she tells MPA. “Through that experience and many others, I learned to be an empathetic leader. We are all human and need support and understanding. I was forced to learn work-

life balance firsthand, which in turn has helped emphasize the importance of that to my team. My most important ‘why’ is my son – I’ve never had a choice but to succeed for him, for us.” Brown’s journey as a career mom has been overwhelming, but she has remained rooted in a growth mindset that pushes her to constantly seek healthy challenges and learning experiences. One aspect that has helped shape her career, she says, was obtaining her Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB) designation. “It’s pretty unique on the operations side to also have a CMB, and it really allowed me to get comfortable with all aspects of the mortgage business,” Brown says. “Not only did it round out my skill set as a leader within Atlantic Bay and the industry, but it has also given me added confidence to pour into others and help them learn and grow.” But growth, Brown admits, has also been a threat to her values. “Being that culture is the most valuable thing to Atlantic Bay, I would have to say

that growth would be a threat to that,” she says. “Too often, growth has been the death of a great culture. Some companies grow at such a rapid rate that they can’t ensure that their people are adequately cared for and supported. You cannot compensate company culture for growth. It’s very important to our executive leadership team to make conscious growth decisions (even some hard ones) that keep our culture and core values top of mind.” The second threat would be market instability, she says: “As we all know, 2020 and beyond has presented us and the real estate finance markets with many challenges and threats. I think we have learned how to prepare for the unknown and pivot quickly at Atlantic Bay.” Now 25 years into a career that has taught her to face problems head-on, Brown continues to grow as a leader who stays grounded and true to herself. “Know who you are, and do not secondguess yourself. I was once told, ‘most people are imposters, but very few are honest and authentic.’ So be real and be genuine.”





hen she entered the industry 30 years ago, Michelle Wilde had a mentor that helped her navigate her career, which led to executive sales roles. “I have always been thankful for the knowledge she shared with me and the belief she had in me,” she says of Teresa Kooi of Bear River Mortgage. Now, Wilde pays the favor forward by mentoring others: “I have spent my career doing the same for individuals who want to learn and succeed in the industry.” As divisional vice president of Orion Lending, Wilde nurtures promising talent and builds solid sales leaders so she can blaze a trail for other women to march with her toward top-earner status. “When I first got in this industry, it was unheard of for a woman to have a leadership role in a national mortgage company,” she says. “I didn’t let that stop me. By working diligently every day, I was able to achieve success both financially and professionally.” Adaptability is the key characteristic that complemented Wilde’s valuable experience in an ever-evolving industry. “I would say I capitalized on the changes by embracing them. Since we had no choice in many of the changes, I mastered the new rules and found ways to help others succeed.”

TAI PHERRIBO CHRISTENSEN DEI officer/Director of government affairs CBC Mortgage Agency/Chenoa Fund


truly care about the clients we service, the partnerships we maintain, and the initiatives we actively engage with,” says Tai Pherribo Christensen, diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at CBC Mortgage Agency (CBCMA). “Each relationship is different, but I consistently try and make a connection with every person I meet. Viewing each client as a unique soul has truly transformed the way I interact with each individual person in my life.” At CBCMA, Christensen serves as the liaison between the Chenoa Fund – CBCMA’s DPA program – and the UHOUSI Initiative, which aims to increase homeownership rates among Black, minority, and millennial communities through counseling and education. Christensen also manages CBCMA’s Kani Urban Indian Housing Initiative to promote homeownership among the Alaska Native and urban Native American communities. “Seeing each loan as a person, and not just a transaction, has been a great gift in my professional career as well as personal life,” she says. Christensen has also helped build an inclusive workforce in which 58% of employees are women and one quarter are minorities. “My priority was to create a culture of inclusion where everyone felt heard, accepted, and embraced for their personal uniqueness. Our work family truly feels like family now, and that, I hope, will continue for many years to come,” she says.


JODI HALL President Nationwide Mortgage Bankers


ike many others in the industry, the mortgage business found me,” says Jodi Hall, president of Nationwide Mortgage Bankers. Hall was working as a graduate assistant when she was recruited at a job fair by a subprime mortgage lender in 1999. Two weeks later, she was hired and received a thick binder of training documents and a phone book, marking the start of her successful 20-year mortgage career. The path forward wasn’t easy. Hall tells MPA how adversity shaped her as a young mortgage professional moving up from entrylevel positions at the bottom of the ladder to upper-level management. “Early in my career, I climbed from processor to underwriter, operation supervisor to regional ops manager,” she recalls. “As the subprime market started to unravel, corporate leadership decided to remove the regional layer of management. After years of

building my career forward, I found myself needing to take a few steps back and interviewing for an operations supervisor position, which I didn’t get. The Monday following, I shook myself off and underwrote loans. I asked to cross-train as an account executive, they agreed, and a year later I was the Sales Rookie of the Year.” Asked if women in mortgage have a hard time getting promoted, Hall refuses to accept that this difficulty exists. “I don’t see it. I feel if I let that in my mind, I’m allowing doubt to enter, and it could become self-fulfilling. I have beat many men out for promotions and have also been threatened by those I was chosen over. So, from that perspective, it was difficult,” she says. Hall adds: “The number one influence was my family and community I grew up in. My parents and grandmother were the hardest working individuals I have known, and my father was extremely entrepreneurial. My

family showed me that passion and perseverance will outshine intelligence, skill, and socioeconomic status any day. That applies to the mortgage industry, where the hardest workers are rewarded, regardless of their education and background.” In the few times Hall worked someplace that didn’t feel right for her, she simply followed her gut and left. By making such decisions, she has ended up in a much better position and found a home at Nationwide Mortgage Bankers – at least until retirement. “It feels right,” Hall says. “Ultimately, I am driven to grow the careers of leaders who will carry the industry well beyond my time. Working on technology solutions that will revolutionize the decades-long mortgage process so employees get to have more purposeful interactions with each other, and loan officers get to have more purposeful interactions with their clients and referral partners.”


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