Mortgage companies are becoming what banks were 30 years ago. If these companies don't shift quickly in the way they respond to the growing millennial consumer majority, they will become the institutions they once worked to replace, and something else will spring up in their wake.
Millennials aren't only a rapidly-growing consumer base, they're also the encroaching workforce. To recruit this group and sustain future growth, companies have to build a brand and culture that we want to join.
I recently spoke with an executive at an independent mortgage company. The executive, who wished to remain anonymous, observed that when they started their business, it was in response to banks' inability to respond to market demands for better, faster service and to have a job that was more flexible and less traditional — which is exactly what millennials look for in our work.
However, increasingly restrictive regulatory conditions on mortgage companies have erased much of that flexibility and now have capital and reporting requirements similar to depository institutions.
Add to this a rapidly-aging loan officer demographic perceived by its consumer base as out of touch. Many lenders are still marketing to the white-picket-fence buyer, and have become inflexible to market changes in company dynamics.
So, how do you create an environment attractive to millennials? To begin, start hiring for diversity at all levels of the company. From there, mortgage companies can take these five steps to further recruit and retain millennial talent.
Build a Culture of Inclusivity
Company culture is very important to millennials. If the culture isn't a good fit, or we don't like our job, we will find something else. We are opportunists, and will craft our own work environment — even cobble together freelance or side projects — before trying to mold ourselves too much to someone else's.
Millennials want to feel like we are a part of something bigger and that we are making an impact on the world. Companies successful in hiring and retaining millennials build a brand we represent with pride.
Pulte Mortgage has a program that makes a contribution to families in need through the MBA Opens Doors Foundation based upon the number of loan closings each month. At the end of every month, the company celebrates its involvement in contributing to this worthy social cause.
Debra Still, president and CEO of Pulte Mortgage, attributes part of their success in retaining young talent to a culture of inclusivity and relevance. Currently, 32% of their 500-member staff are millennials, and Still says they help attract and retain their generational peers. "They recruit their friends because they are happy in their jobs."
Millennials invest in their future (as seen through the incredible amount of student debt we have accrued). The availability of professional mentorship often plays a critical role in our attitudes towards employment. While many companies might not feel they have the time to invest in mentorship programs, it can pay off quickly. When surveying the top-producing millennial loan officers in mortgage companies, they attributed much of their production rates to mentorship, "team mentality" and flexibility.
Companies that leverage the skill sets of millennials and value their perspectives have been most successful in recruiting and retaining young talent.
Millennial employee Eric Smith said one of the reasons he loves working for MiMutual Mortgage, is that everyone can provide input to the company. "My ideas get heard, and once voted on, I can move quickly to implement them." Companies that do not employ this culture of empowerment and inclusivity experience poor retention rates and inhibit the value millennials can bring to the company.
Allow Space for Innovation
Millennials are raised to be innovators, taught to think outside of the box and that productivity "hacks" are the key to success. So when we are punished for wanting to work 10-to-7 instead of 8-to-5 or for using social media during our break, our greatest strengths (and values) for creativity and innovation are suppressed.
New American Funding credits this kind of flexibility for their success. Rick Arvielo, the company's CEO, says of their internal process, "We do more of what they like and less of what they don't, it's how we remove inefficiencies and stay current with our markets." Staying current means understanding how your employees will be most productive and where they can add the most value.
Many companies in the mortgage industry either wait for applicants to appear at their doorstep or they "recruit" from friends and other companies. Companies need to employ a different strategy, recruiting specifically for diversity in age, ethnicity and experience to become effective in today's marketplace. Bill Cosgrove, Mortgage Bankers Association chairman and CEO of Union Home Mortgage, says it well: "A diverse workforce does not show up at your door. You must have the strategies to get it, and it needs to be a long-term strategy."
Kristin Messerli is the founder of Cultural Outreach Solutions.