Best practices for managing high mortgage volume while still capturing new business and serving your members.
Every mortgage boom that has hit seems to have come out of nowhere. Loan officers and the origination team quickly become overwhelmed with overflowing pipelines, so keeping them highly engaged and encouraged only lasts so long as weeks turn into months of long hours.
When your mortgage team is overwhelmed, the best relief you can provide is to staff up. This can become a bigger challenge when every lender is busy and competition is fierce to hire the best, qualified loan officers and processors. If past experience holds true, you will likely end up with candidates that aren’t quite what you want, but are still adequate enough to move forward. Here are a few suggested best practices to help your credit union manage the stresses of being incredibly busy, while still capturing new business and serving your members.
Best Practice: Hire Supporting Staff to Take the Load Off
Hiring such supporting staff as junior loan officers and processing assistants, to ease the load for your existing team can make a world of difference. These staff members would be skilled admins that can do simple tasks, such as calling members for documents or following up on requests. Forget trying to train them on the whole job, instead train them to do key time-sucking components. The training time will be reduced and they can add value quickly. This will also allow your more knowledgeable staff to handle more challenging tasks and manage their workload effectively.
This also allows you to hire a range of employees with big benefits to the credit union. These employees will be a great opportunity to build teams from the ground up that fit your culture. It also begins to create career or job paths to allow you to retain the talent you bring onboard. In all, these new roles become a wise investment in future staffing.
Temporary employees can be vetted and hired quickly for those desperate times when you need someone in-house quick to help. They may be a bit more expensive in the short term, but they have the added benefit that if they don’t work out, you can simply no longer require their services. Having temp employees also allows you to make decisions quickly about an associate’s viability. Don’t allow non-performing contract employees to linger; you can’t afford the resource drain in the middle of a crunch time. For candidates that show potential, you can consider long-term employment. This option helps you save time and money on training only the candidates you feel show potential from the beginning.
Interns are also a great opportunity for the credit union to hire someone that’s just beginning their career. Often right out of college, they can add a new level of excitement and have a low starting expense. They are typically interested in learning new industries to see if it’s the right fit and are looking for someone to invest in their career growth. Keep in mind that you must have the infrastructure and team to train and build up these candidates or they’ll just move on to something bigger and better. Your small focused investment with them could pay well-earned dividends in the future.
By hiring up, you always run the risk of needing to lay people off in the future when the pipeline dries up, no matter who you hire. Hopefully, you’ve acquired some quality staff who have versatility and can be a good fit in other departments should you have the need in other areas.
Best Practice: Partnership
Most credit unions like to keep things internal to control the service and message of their products. In some cases, this is doable. Staffing up and down is common in mortgage lending and can bring some challenges and excessive overhead expenses. It can become difficult to keep the level of expertise needed internally for compliance, secondary marketing and servicing, not to mention managing the risk involved.
Whether or not you keep mortgage lending in-house, a partner can still be a good idea. A reputable and experienced mortgage partner can provide all your mortgage needs, regardless the size of your credit union, and assist you with the challenges you face. While you may find your pipeline healthy and thriving at the moment, keeping a lending partner on deck for your ongoing needs gives you an opportunity to grow or retract whenever you need to do so.
If you wait to find a partner in the middle of a mortgage boom, it might prove difficult to find a partner with the capacity to take on new clients. Most partners will be using their existing capacity and new capacity to support existing clients and maintain service levels. It is better to have a plan ahead of time and an existing relationship. Finding a service provider with excess capacity in the middle of a boom market certainly would elicit the need for additional due diligence on why they have extra capacity when the rest of the industry is struggling to gain and retain talent.
If you find your credit union struggling to keep up with regulatory changes, you should be able to lean on your lending partner for expertise and direction. If you are stressed with overhead expenses, a mortgage partner can hold up the service levels and product line, providing income opportunities as well. A mortgage partner can also help your credit union provide a wide range of product options you might not be able to offer otherwise. Government products are challenging to originate and require special approvals. A nationwide mortgage partner can make these products more possible for your credit union and make more product options available for your members.
Mortgage lending is a fluid industry and requires flexibility and perseverance—particularly when there are shifts in the pipeline. Embrace the evolving industry and the opportunities available with provision for the future.
Steve Hewins is SVP/CU members at CUESolutions provider CU Members Mortgage, Dallas.