With the current market today, investing in hiring trainees is a good idea. Diversifying the market creates a more significant opportunity to bring new talents to the business. In this episode, the founder of QFS Sales Solutions, Pat Sherlock, and Scott Johnson, from Homebridge, discuss hiring and developing rookies. As Pat explains, when looking at a loan file, there’s more to the customer than just the debt to income or the loan to value. You are producing better rookies by taking a different approach through live training instead of virtual training. Tune in to this episode as the duo shares their insights on how you can hire and develop new trainees!
Hiring And Developing Rookies With Pat Sherlock Of QFS Sales Consulting And Scott Johnson Of Homebridge
Folks, I have a real treat for you in this episode. I have one of my dear friends, Pat Sherlock, who is the Founder and President of QFS Sales Solutions. She is brilliant. She’s a student of the industry. Pat, we’re so excited to have you here. You have invited a guest. Let’s have you introduce your guest.
Thanks, David. I’m thrilled to be with you, especially on this important topic. I’m thrilled to have Scott Johnson with me. He’s also a long-time friend of mine in mortgage banking. Scott is the Divisional Executive at Homebridge. Scott, why don’t you talk a little bit about all your years in mortgage banking?
It’s been a long time. I have many years of mortgage banking, mostly all retail, leadership, and management. I love this topic about hiring and developing rookies.
That’s a great topic, and I can’t wait to get into it. When you look at what is going on, everyone’s trying to recruit. You guys do a great job over there at Homebridge. I’m interested in getting your perspective. Pat, let’s start with you. Why is now a good time to invest in hiring trainees, those that have never been in the business before, especially those that may be part of a particular group that has probably not had some of the advantages in the industry to get access to this industry? Talk about that, please.
We’re all veterans of this industry. Topic number one has always been about the age of the sales force. The projected age is somewhere around 54 years old. We’ve known this issue for a very long time that we need to bring new people in. When you’re bringing new people in, unfortunately, they don’t have a book of business. Number one is the age of the sales force. You couple that with the fact that the United States population is changing dramatically. When you look at the percentage of loan officers that are White, it’s at 73%, whereas the population is at 61%. We have a lot of dynamics that are in play that certainly have been around for a while, but it’s coming to the top now.
It’s so true. Scott, I’d love to get your thoughts on why this is a good time to invest in a diverse type of new entrances. Someone call them newbies, rookies, and trainees. What would you say is the reason is a good time to invest?
I like to call them rookies. I’m a sports nut, so we’ll keep it in that vein. The population, as Pat was talking about, is the average age of a loan officer debatable is from 52 to 55. We have an industry that’s going to die if we don’t bring in new talent. We were all rookies. We all, at one point in time, in our careers started. I remember I was a rookie. I had a rookie training program. It was an amazing opportunity and a great career for me. We have a diverse population now, and we have markets that are diverse. We want to serve those markets with people that can speak the language, talk the talk, and understand the culture.
I’ll use Queen’s as an example because it’s a melting pot. My manager there, Kennedy Mike, who does a great job, got six rookies on his team now and a hugely diverse population, Bangladeshi, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, African-American, and Spanish-speaking. It’s a great opportunity to serve those markets. Those borrowers or consumers want to do business with people they know, trust, and feel comfortable with so they can speak the language. That’s important. That’s why we’re looking at those markets. Even in Middle America, we need to bring rookies on. We need this young talent to come in, learn the business, and carry the torch as we go forward.
You’re raising a good point. Pat, you started it, and Scott, you commented on it, especially talking about that particular part of the country is there are melting pots. One of the MBA presidents said, “Male, pale, and stale.” We’ve got a wonderful number of women who joined the origination ranks. Frankly, they are some of the most successful out there.
“Guys, come on. Let’s step up our game. We can’t let the women beat us all the time.” There’s a little competition there. Pat, you’re a top consultant to the mortgage industry in this particular area. You certainly have seen mistakes lenders have made when hiring new people and bringing them into the program. Talk a little bit about some of the mistakes you’ve seen.
As you well know, this has been a topic for many years about how to bring people in. The way our industry is set up is that it is essentially decentralized. A lot of that onus is left to the local manager. The local manager typically is a producing manager. Because of all of that, we are talking about, “Do they have time to recruit in diverse markets? Do they have time to train?”
A lot of times, the hesitation that mortgage bankers have is tied together with the issue that the local branch manager has a lot on their plate and is left with this issue of training and coaching, which does take time. It is certainly a big issue that has prevented the industry from being able to recruit and train diverse groupings. When you couple with that, part of what some of the dynamics are now is, as I mentioned about the Trident Mortgage case, we are seeing where these redlining issues are a big deal.
Dive into that. For those who are not familiar with the lawsuit, could you give us a little color and background to that?
The Department of Justice, in addition to the Consumer Finance Board, made the topic of redlining. It’s a big issue for the present administration. They came out with the first time where they’ve made a settlement with an independent mortgage banker. The redlining was predicated on hiring, marketing, and sales approaches that the lender was doing.We have very diverse markets and want to serve those markets with people who can speak the language, talk the talk, and understand the culture. Click To Tweet
In that individual case, which was Trident Mortgage, they had roughly 68 loan officers, and 94% of them were White. That was cited as one of the issues of why they received the penalty. It’s a large penalty. It was somewhere around $25 million. It does bring this issue that it’s not just nice to do, but we have to recognize that the ramifications, if we don’t do it, are financial.
The ramifications being significantly financial will seek a lot of independent mortgage bankers and find it that much. Scott, what are your thoughts on why more lenders have not been successful in the program of bringing in people that are new or rookies, as you refer to?
We have an industry-wide challenge. The producing branch managers, the lifeblood of the business, are loan officers. Without loans, we don’t have jobs. Producing branch managers’ focus is on their personal production primarily and growing their business with veterans who are experienced and don’t take a lot of maintenance. Bringing a rookie on is a challenge in and of itself. What I’ve tried to do working with Pat is we want to make sure all of our rookies go through an analysis process, where they take a study or survey.
Pat has a great one where we can analyze their skillset based on answering questions. It’s to see where they fit and put them into a rookie training program. I happen to like Pat’s program. She does a great job because she teaches the class, and she’s experienced as a veteran loan officer. She understands rather than just a trainer teaching the class. We put everyone through a rookie training program, so they’ve got to go through the training. They’ve got to make sure they do a good job in training and get feedback.
We are working with our local branch managers to make sure they do not so much have to micromanage them, but we make sure, at least at Homebridge, that there are enough tools around them and people to support them, whether it’s a product desk or underwriting desk. They can go to places where producing managers are out. We do a lot of different things in training and coaching as a leadership team with them as well. We’re going to dive into that a little bit later. For the producing manager, it’s tough to put this on them because the return on investment and return on time is not going to be there.
You are either a good recruiter or a good manager. Sometimes those two don’t coexist. There are a few wonderful exceptions to that, but oftentimes, those do not exist. I want to go back to the Trident lawsuit because this should get everyone’s attention on that. This was because of the number of White males that were working in this particular company. That’s a lot of the foundation for this lawsuit. Expand on that a little bit more. What would you recommend to anyone reading this? Do we need to go out and hire a bunch of minorities? What’s your recommendation?
It certainly is an interesting case from the standpoint that it is the typical redlining case. That has to do with where the lenders market was in addition to what the MSA demographics were looking like. Where the issue came up with how they justified the fine was tied together with how the mortgage company marketed, which was also coupled with the issue of where they have branch locations. Also, on top of all of that was the number of minority loan officers they had, which was very small.
It is a redlining case that you typically see in the world of banks. This is the first time it was done against an independent mortgage banker. I would suggest all the mortgage bankers reading this, look at that information because it does tell you that they’re not just looking at how many loans you had in a certain market. They are looking at the selling effort and also the loan officers delivering that selling effort.
It’s also interesting that this company had already closed. There is a fine on a closed company, which seems crazy. What was the purpose of that? It sends the message out to the rest of us that are still in the industry. We need to be cognizant of how we’re hiring, who we’re hiring, and what diversity is in there. There’s a significant amount of attention on the topic of diversity. We all embrace it. We all see the need for that, but I’d love to get your thoughts. Has there been a resistance to this or just a lack of awareness? What are your thoughts?
What’s hard to find are talented people in the industry in general. We’ve got a lot of loan officers that don’t perform at the level or standard that we want them to. We then go in and bring rookies in to try to get rookies onboarded and find a diverse population. Where do you find that? It’s by going out and trying to find people who want to be in the industry from diverse backgrounds.
To me, this whole Trident thing doesn’t make sense because they’re a loan officer to me. A loan is a loan. I never looked at color, skin, or race. Even when people bring it up now, a commission loan officer doesn’t care. Apparently, they do, or some people do, but it doesn’t make sense to me. I thought redlining was long gone, and people do business because we’re trying to make a profit, make some money, and help people with the dream of home ownership.
There’s certainly a level of politics in this, too. It seems like that. Especially when you look at an RAI underwriting machine, it could be sued because of the rules they have in there that it adversely selected, but it was based on other criteria, like credit criteria, for example. This is a complex topic. When you have machines underwriting in such a way that would suggest that there’s an issue, maybe we need to look deeper into this. We’re staying on the topic of hiring. Pat, you have one of the best programs out there. I want to find out from you. Scott, please reply to this as one of her customers who believe in her product as I do. What are some hiring and training tips that you have other than just saying, “Buy my products?”
Thanks, David, for all the kind words, and Scott, too. As an ex-head of sales, I have known this issue of hiring quite personally over many years. When I started my consulting business, I came to the conclusion that training only works if you have the right talent sets. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000, I partnered with an industrial psychologist. We looked at loan officers. There’s somewhat the stereotype. I remember when I did the first study with the Mortgage Bankers Association, where we looked at the top salesperson at the top 100 mortgage bankers in the country. The stereotype is that they’re outgoing, this, that, and so forth.
When you look at their actual personality traits, this idea of outgoingness isn’t necessarily what you see in top producers. The point is that we know, just like when we look at a loan file, that there’s more to the customer than the debt-to-income or the loan-to-value. Likewise, at the originator level, you have to look at what are these early formed traits that the person has. You have to evaluate that in the interview process. In mortgage banking, what ends up happening is that we look at their production report and think it tells us all about that person, which is not the case.You have to be a good sales guy and relationship guy, but you must also be technically savvy to put the deals together if you survive. Click To Tweet
As Scott mentioned, before we train, we have to make sure that we have the right talent set for a loan officer. Whether you’re White or non-White, we’re looking for a set of fourteen personality traits that are grouped. How do we figure that out? We figure it out by looking at production numbers and then doing correlations with them. It’s similar to the analysis. It’s similar to loan-to-value or any of those types of analytics that we do in mortgage banking. What did these traits end up being? If I had to tell you, it got into two groupings. One of them is the relationship component. That’s composed of sociability and things like that. We then have the other side.
In mortgage banking, you can’t just be nice and personable. You have to be a hard worker. The other end of it is the drive side. You can evaluate for that. That’s certainly what we do on the assessment side of it. A lot of the tools some mortgage bankers use are communication tools and don’t tie together with the production side of it.
The first step is to evaluate, “Does that person have what is required in mortgage banking from a sales standpoint?” We then move into the training side of it. As Scott mentioned, my approach is different from other companies from the standpoint that salespeople need live training. Don’t you agree? Salespeople don’t want to sit in front of a screen all day. They want to have live training. They’re no different than we are.
More so of that group than anything else. They’re more kinesthetic. They’re more of the listener. They’re good listeners anyway. Typically, salespeople are that. Scott, jump on that. What are some of the characteristics you take Pat’s list of fourteen items as criteria and use as your sights pretty consistently? What’s the success you’re having with that?
It was interesting. When I first saw the assessment, I asked Pat to take my son-in-law. He was thinking about getting into the mortgage business. I said, “Pat, can you run this? Can you do your analysis on Brian?” He came back. He was right at that range to move forward with the interview process type of thing. I think about baseball. I wanted to be a pro baseball player. It was my first dream. An injury ended my career in college.
When you think about a baseball scout, they look at the different tools a baseball player has. Now they’ve added all these analytics. What Pat’s done is she’s taken a look at a baseball scout or a baseball organization and said, “We know what the tools are that people need.” To be a good loan officer, you have to be a good sales guy and relationship guy, but you also have to be technically savvy to put the deal together if you’re going to survive.
Pat knows those tools and has broken it down deeper with her analysis to dive in to say, “Is this person a good candidate?” It doesn’t mean they’re going to make it, but it means to keep going forward with them. If you want to hire them, they’ll have at least a shot because they’ve got the skillset and tools to move forward with their career. We never know what’s in here, the hard work ethic. We don’t know that. We all know being in this business that if you’re going to start as a rookie, you’re going to be working hard for the first few years to try to build those relationships and get business.
Scott, you’re a baseball fan. When you talk about baseball and recruiting, it goes to the famous movie Moneyball. I love that movie because that reinvented how they look at their industry, how they’re recruiting, who they’re looking for, and the data. The numbers don’t lie. What we’re going to get is going to be in the data. If they do not have experience, we have to need to find all the data points that might emulate the characteristics. Talk about that, Pat. Give us some indication. We don’t have time to go through all fourteen, but just some of the top ones.
There’s no surprise at what the assessment does. What industrial psychologists have certainly analyzed is relationship skills. During interview processes, people can identify the sociability of the candidate and so forth. As Scott already mentioned, it’s this other side that is difficult for interviewers. Especially when you are focused on trying to recruit someone, you end up being a salesperson. You don’t get the opportunity to listen to what that actual candidate is talking about.
Where assessment tools help you is that in the interview process, this component not only does it analyze the relationship side but also tells you the work intensity end of it. Our business is a difficult business. It’s commission-based. It’s 100% commission, and it’s not for the faint of heart. It gives you this other insight. I would tell you that it’s not just for rookies.
It’s also for analyzing when you’re interviewing other originators coming into your business. For instance, if you just depend on your production report and all the analytics there, that tells you the past. That tells you they were in a refi market, and they may not make it in a purchase money market. It’s analytics that applies to rookies, but also other originators, especially in our business that is looking to be difficult not this 2022 but even going forward. You need this extra tool. Otherwise, you’re basing decisions on how well the interview goes. As we all know, people can fake it during an interview.
That’s so true. Scott, add to that, please.
One of the things that I like to do when I’m interviewing a rookie is to ask them to pick up a pen and sell me the pen. It’s simple. I want to hear how they can try to think quickly on their feet and come up with an idea. Selling a pen isn’t that hard. People sit there and look like deer in the headlights. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to make it in the mortgage business.
As we said earlier, sales ability and technical ability, those two things usually don’t work well together. Being a good loan officer, you got to have both skills. If you’re going to be a top producer, you got to mean what you say, say what you mean, and get the deal done. Number one, I got to get the deal done, but you got to build confidence with the borrower and the realtor to get you those referrals in the beginning.If you're going to start as a rookie, you will be working really hard for the first few years to build those relationships and get business. Click To Tweet
You have to have that skill set. We look for that. Pat’s analysis can help break that down. Once they get into the training process, it’s showing it to class on time, participating, answering the questions, and doing the homework. We want all of our rookies to get licensed prior to taking Pat’s training. Most of them don’t know how to spell mortgage. To have them get licensed is going to be hard, but that takes work, effort, and study. If they can do that, then we know they’re invested. They went through this on their own, got licensed, and are ready for Pat’s class. That’s our goal, a licensed rookie going into the training.
When they’ve gone through the class and are starting to perform, what should be the realistic expectations? What does it look like?
You need a company to support you in this, David. At Homebridge, we’re giving these rookies a salary for a period of time, let’s say up to six months, and we’ll evaluate it. We’re giving them some income, and at the same time, there’s got to be accountability along the way. Expectations are, number one, they’re going to be out every day working and building relationships.
I’m not worried about loans right away. I’m not worried about pre-quals. We do a Monday morning accountability call with a training call combined. It’s about an hour’s call. We go around the horn. We have seventeen rookies right now in my program in my division. We have seventeen rookies around a call. We go around the horn and see what they did for the week.
They’re all accountable for completing a sales activity report every week. They’ve got to fill out the sales activity report. If they’re not doing all the tasks they’re supposed to be doing, we’re going to be on them. If they’re not going to continue to do that, we’re going to move on. I’m not going to pay somebody not to work. We are dealing with a generation of young adults that were different growing up than we grew up. A lot of them have an entitled attitude. They grew up with a lot more than we grew up with. We got to peel back that onion and constantly make sure they’re working, outselling every day, and building relationships.
They let us know, “I got a pre-qual.” Great. “I got a loan,” even better. They start networking with realtors and building relationships with realtors. Here’s one thing I want to mention that is also an opportunity for young people. The average age of a realtor is 57 or something like that. When you guys were rookies, I was 25 years old. I’m going on the road. I’m like the son or the grandson of some of these realtors. I was able to engage with them because they wanted to talk to me. I came in with a good attitude. I was wanting to talk to them about life, not necessarily about mortgages, to get to know them a little bit.
I say to our rookies, “People are going to want to talk to you. You’re a new face, fresh, and young. Do your homework before you talk to a realtor,” which nowadays is probably social media homework. Go out and look at their LinkedIn or Facebook and see what is important about them. We used to look at their desk. If I can see your picture, David, I know what you’re about because I can see those pictures and know what’s important to you. You don’t have a desk necessarily anymore. It’s Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram. I said, “Do your homework before you pick up the phone. Do your homework before you visit a realtor at an open house. Find out what they’re about.” You then have some conversation starters.
To share a little bit of what Scott’s saying, in our training program, we’re live for the purpose because we are sharing our many years of experience with the students. Here’s the advantage of live versus previously recorded training. We have them do phone calls right away, talking to realtors. We have them do the social media side of it. We’re training them on social media. You have to be able to go. You get one shot at somebody, so you need to have your A game with it. We try to make it as real as they will find in their day-to-day life as an experienced loan officer.
Training nowadays needs to tie together, not just with the credit component. Also, the big job of the originator is the sales side and getting people to give you referrals. We’re having them do that in the class. It’s quite common in the class where they’re making ten calls a day where they’re doing pre-quals during the class and closing loans during the class. Training needs to be real, not just the theory of mortgage.
A lot of programs are way too much on theory. You’re the practical solution. Pat, we got to wrap this up. Tell us how people can learn more about your program. Scott, I’ll give you a chance to talk a little bit about what you’re doing there at Homebridge quickly, and we’ll put a close or put a bow on this interview.
David, thanks for inviting me. Thanks for inviting Scott, also. You can reach me at +18008750222. My email is [email protected]. I love to hear from you and talk to you about how to make this all work.
What about you, Scott?
I will plug Pat again. If you are a leader in the industry and want to hire rookies, I would talk to Pat. That would be my plug. We’re enjoying the opportunity. It’s refreshing on Monday mornings to have a 9:00 call with seventeen rookies on camera and talking to them. My regional guys are on. We’re all energized because this is the new blood. This is what we need to do as an industry. We need to find and hire rookies and diverse loan officers and serve the communities. If we all do that, in the long run, we will win.
Scott, if someone wants to reach you, what’s the best way for them to do so?
You can reach me at [email protected], or they can call my cell at (860) 559-6423.
Scott, thank you so much for being here. Pat, thank you so much for bringing Scott on. It’s always good to have you on to share your wisdom and experience on this important topic. We need to get out and recruit more new rookies, as Scott refers to them as being the baseball guy he is, bringing them into this industry. Pass this show on to others that need to read it and get a hold of Pat. It’s a great program. Thank you so much, both of you.
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About Pat Sherlock
Pat Sherlock is the founder and president of QFS Sales Solutions, a sales training and consulting company specializing in improving sales results at the top of the sales funnel. Her career included leadership roles in origination, capital markets & operations. Her firm has conducted a rookie program since 2001 and she is passionate about bringing a new generation into mortgage banking.
About Scott Johnson
Scott joined Homebridge in 2016 when Homebridge acquired Prospect Mortgage. He has won many awards during his career but is most proud of the team he has built. He started his career as a Loan Officer and quickly became one of the Top Producers in the Country. His goals for the Homebridge Northeast/Midwest Division include creating high-trust relationships with our business partners and our customers and building a world-class team with the best people who are focused on best practices and performance with the goal of making the dream of homeownership a reality for our customers.