The ending of the refinance boom may be the trigger point for mortgage loan officers who have been considering jumping ship to finally make that break. But more money may not necessarily be what they’re after.
Usually, loan officers with a lot of unclosed loans in the pipeline—and therefore commissions at stake—are hesitant to make a move. Now, however, with the refi boom all but over and fewer loans in the pipeline, many are deciding that this is the time to look for a new job.
“We’re getting a number of calls from originators from all over the country who have seen their pipelines shrink in half and are looking to gain efficiencies for their business to help them capture more purchase originations,” says Drew Waterhouse, managing director and chief executive officer at Hammerhouse LLC, amortgage sales recruiting firm in Mission Viejo, Calif.
Leslie Moore, national recruiting team leader at Envoy Mortgage in Houston, said other industry issues are also making this the right time to make a change, including uncertainty about impending regulatory changes by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau on loan officer compensation.
“They’re not really sure what their existing organization is going to do,” she says. “If their organization does make changes, they want to know what their options are.’”
It also has a lot to do with the calendar, with the year drawing to a close. “At this time of the year they start more conversations, look at other organizations,” she says. “People looking to make a change usually want to make it towards the beginning of the year and start the new year fresh at a new organization.”
Donald Henig, managing director of national sales at Mortgage Master in Walpole, Mass., agrees that “this is a great time for recruiting loan officers.” He says the company is going to have its biggest recruiting class ever this month, adding more than 20 new loan officers.
The company is looking to add people primarily in the mid-Atlantic states, Chicago and the Midwest and California.
Envoy Mortgage, which is currently in 48 states, is looking to expand its footprint nationwide. But Dana Gompers, executive vice president of national recruiting at the company, says Envoy is more interested in hiring the right people rather than hire in any specific place.
“We go to people, not location. It’s all about finding the right people,” he says. “Our focus is looking for the right people to go in our existing branches and open up in new markets. Sometime it’s in a small town, sometimes it’s right here in our backyard in Houston.”
But it’s only “quality” loan officers who are in demand, Waterhouse says, those who have their own book of transferable customer relationships. Those who have relied on refis walking in the door the past few years will have a harder time landing a new job.
“Those who spent the last year focusing on refinances and have no pipeline right now and no transferable relationships are not in high demand,” he says. “Those who didn’t maintain relationships are finding themselves in a difficult position.”
Interestingly, more money and better compensation doesn’t appear to be the primary motivating force for loan officers looking to switch this time. A lot of that, of course, has to do with today’s shrinking mortgage market, but it also has to do with originators looking for an employer who can help them make their businesses grow, which should lead to greater compensation down the road.
“There’s no extra dollars going into this right now. Nobody’s being paid premiums,” says Waterhouse, the headhunter. “It’s not about price or compensation. It’s about the bigger picture: culture, leadership, business type, operations, technology, geography. All those things are coming into play right now.”
“It’s about creating efficiencies for their business to be sustainable in a purchase market,” he says. “It’s not about making 10 more basis points on your commission. If you don’t have the loan, there’s no 10 basis points to worry about.”
“When I started recruiting it was always ‘money, money, money. What are you going to pay me?’” Moore says. “I noticed more of a trend toward working at an organization where they matter. I’m noticing people want more of that personal touch rather than just being a robot making the organization money.”
Loan officers want the right products, know that the company is closing loans on time, and the opportunity for upward mobility, she says. “It’s the little things that make a big difference.”
George Yacik has been covering the residential mortgage business for more than 20 years and writes frequently for industry publications. He can be reached at email@example.com.