Every year America is becoming more diverse. There needs to be greater flexibility within lending because not every consumer has a nine-to-five job, and some cultures have different family structures, different ways of saving money, earning income and doing business. We can begin to address these cultural nuances by implementing three changes, retain and recruit a diverse workforce, create opportunities for diverse leadership and be a voice of influence committed to the future.
Presently, minorities make up 24% of all homeowners and 69% of all new homeowners are Latinos. So the question is, do we adjust to the ever-changing demographic of America or do we demand for America to fit the current credit eligibility box? To responsibly serve the upcoming majority of borrowers, we must make a commitment to mirror the communities we serve.
By 2045, minorities are expected to be the majority. As minorities become the majority, we have the responsibility to understand their specific needs and embrace their cultural nuances.
A good place to start is by retaining and recruiting a diverse workforce. The average age of a loan originator is 54 and we have a massive generation of millennials in the beginning stages of home buying. Millennials, the largest generation since the baby boomers, are underrepresented in the mortgage industry. They operate very differently than previous generations; we call them the "Button Gen," because they desire to fulfill their needs with the click or touch of a button. Immediate responses to their questions are a must, and conducting business on their own time is preferred.
Retaining millennials in the workforce is essential. To attract millennial employees, lenders must have a crystal-clear plan for professional growth and be socially responsible, at the bare minimum. If there isn't already an association in place, lenders should consider aligning the principles of their company with those of community organizations. Appeal to millennials' sense of purpose by getting the staff involved in grassroots events and committing resources to create a better world.
Surveys are a good way to encourage staffers to express their opinions. By understanding what moves millennial employees, and what brings them to the company, lenders can work with them to develop initiatives around those interests. There are also opportunities to differentiate the business by hosting volunteer activities, and including senior leadership. Using social media to publicly acknowledge employees is a great way to showcase staff efforts and talent.
Only a small percentage of women and minorities are represented in the mortgage industry; and even fewer hold C-level positions. As diversity becomes the norm in our culture, it needs to be the norm in the mortgage industry. One of the most effective ways of keeping a pulse on the community is making sure the mortgage industry has diverse representation in key decision-making roles. As the mortgage industry continues to develop products it is necessary that such products effectively address the needs of current and future consumers.
For those who hold leadership positions in the industry, use them to be a catalyst of change. Let them be voices of influence committed to the future, and encourage them to voice their knowledge and share their experience, as this is the only way to shed light on the current state of the borrower. We are seeing firsthand the challenges and opportunities of the multicultural communities. Let's commit to becoming the voice of influence in the future of homeownership. The industry is already moving in the right direction by implementing change. In 2013, the Mortgage Bankers Association established the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which is dedicated to conducting research and analysis, and promoting awareness and education so that greater diversity is created within the mortgage industry's leadership, workforce and suppliers.
Being a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae's affordable lending panels and the Corporate Board of Governors for the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals has provided me a unique perspective into the industry. I know how important it is to continue diversifying, especially with the rise in minority and millennial homebuyers. This increase creates a tremendous opportunity for the mortgage industry to become more forward-thinking. We have the opportunity to influence who gets to fulfill their American dream. Let's commit to serving our current and future borrower, not only because is right for business but because it is the right thing to do.
Patty Arvielo is president of New American Funding in Orange County, Calif.