LeaderOne Financial Eyes to Repeat 2010 Growth

Despite projections from the Mortgage Bankers Association that the industry will face a difficult 2011, LeaderOne Financial is hopeful to have similar success this year that it accomplished in 2010.

LeaderOne Financial, a mortgage banking firm specializing in conventional, FHA and other government-backed residential mortgages based in Overland Park, Kan., grew volume by 200% in 2010 with only an additional 17% headcount.

A.W. Pickel III, CEO and founder of LeaderOne Financial, said the first reason why he expects anticipated success is that there are fewer originators and origination companies in the market than a few years ago. According to the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System, loans are available for those who remain committed to the business.

Second, Pickel said leveraging technologies gives LeaderOne Financial opportunities it didn’t have before. LeaderOne Financial uses the Internet and “cloud” technology as a recruiting tool to have fast and responsive communication with people.

The third reason Pickel attributes his company’s success is the business decisions that are made.

“We are only growing where we know good people, thanks to the personal networks of the well-established professionals who make up the LeaderOne team,” Pickel said. “This is a people business. Despite the importance of advertising, the best way to get the word out is through referrals from people who have been your customers. The most important business development tool we have is our own reputation.”

Brent Duhaime, LeaderOne chief production officer and a 20-year mortgage veteran, agreed with Pickel that those three factors are pushing the company’s success, which is forecasting a 25% increase in mortgage production for 2011. The Mortgage Bankers Association expects the mortgage market to see a 36% decline in 2011, from $1.5 trillion in 2010 to an expected $996 billion this year, which would be the smallest national market for mortgages since 1997.

“Lenders exiting the market often leave behind highly qualified and well-regarded loan origination staffs who are looking for homes,” Duhaime said. “They contact other good people they know in the industry and that often leads to someone at LeaderOne. When you put people first, a core principal of our firm, it means you do right by customers and team members. The word gets around and people want to come work with you.”

LeaderOne Financial said it expects to continue to utilize its current selection of government loan programs, which represent 63% of the company’s $500 million of production in 2010.

“That percentage will likely decrease a bit as we grow in areas that are traditionally stronger in conventional categories,” said Pickel, a past president of the National Association of Mortgage Bankers. “But we have always been an FHA, USDA and other government program lender, and that won’t change.”

Duhaime said the opportunistic growth is not only allowing the Kansas office to flourish, but there has been increased presence in Texas, Iowa and Illinois. The company also opened other offices in Colorado, Washington, Pennsylvania and Maryland in 2010 and Duhaime anticipates starting new teams in Georgia, Alabama and the Washington, D.C., metro area in 2011.