The pandemic turned the entire world into a vastly different ocean much more difficult to traverse. Businesses are now facing new market challenges that call for innovative solutions. Jesse Lopez of Mortgage Solutions Financial is here to share how they navigate today’s complicated waters. Joining David Lykken, he opens up about driving growth in a competitive market and differentiating themselves by building genuine connections. Jesse also explains how they approach people recruitment and retention, maximize the positive impact of current technology, and create a workplace culture that allows them to engage with LOs in a unique way.
LO Engagement / Tackling Current Market Challenges With Jesse Lopez Of Mortgage Solutions Financial
I am excited to have one of our sponsors on the show with one of their customers. Angela Higgins is here with me from TotalExpert. Angela, it’s so good to have you joining me on the show.
Thank you so much for having us. We’re super excited to have Jesse Lopez, one of our customers, joining you. I first met Jesse at Accelerate, our customer conference that we have every year. The best content comes from customers. Jesse shared some of the unique ways that he’s leveraging our platform to engage with employees and loan officers. He delivered such great content. People loved it. We thought he’d be a perfect guest for you to chat with.
First of all, welcome, Jesse Lopez, to the show. I can’t wait to learn a bit more about you. I’m so thrilled. By the way, Angela, that Accelerate 2022 Conference in Nashville was a success. I’ve been to a lot of these user conferences, and most of them are pretty good, but this one was over-the-top good. It’s because of the amount of involvement of your users. You had them actively participating in it. I’m thrilled.
Angela, I know they double-booked you. You’re going to have to go away, but I’m excited to have you here and joining us, at least on the front side of it. Jesse, I heard you speak at the conference, and you spoke with a passion about this product and, more importantly, how you’re utilizing this product. Bring our audience up to date on that little speech, and touch on the high points of what you were communicating at Accelerate 2022.
First of all, thanks for having me. I’m super excited. This is a great opportunity, so I do appreciate it. We talked about engagement. How do we spur engagement from employees all across the company? It’s not just sales. A lot of companies focus on a product like TotalExpert. It’s a marketing system/CRM, all of those things. The majority of customers focus on sales and pushing that out to consumers. We use it fully throughout the entire organization, all of our process updates, and things like that. That was the main point of the conversation at Accelerate. To echo you, it was a phenomenal conference.
It was excellent. You were one of the keynote sessions, and I love the passion with which you speak, which was why I ran up to you afterward and said, “I’ve got to have you on the show.” I was thrilled when TotalExpert said that they like to have you on this show. Tell our readers a little about yourself and your company before we get into some of the content. I want to cover a little bit about yourself and how long you have been in mortgage lending, and a little bit about your company.
I work at Mortgage Solutions Financial. We’re an independent mortgage banker out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The company’s been in business for several years. I’ve been here 12 years now in 2022. I’ve run our wholesale division and came up in sales. I ran the retail division for about four years. My current role is Vice President of Training and Development. I’m engaged in onboarding, training, and developing all employees. I also get to be the nerd. I get to architect all of our technology from mobile experience, point of sale through loan origination software, and tailing back around to the marketing platform, TotalExpert.
I love what your vision is and how you’re using this. A lot of people look at a product like TotalExpert and say, “It fits in this box.” You don’t think like that. You look at how you can bring this into all aspect and integrate it, which gets you a much better ROI, Return On Investment, and it’s a great system. Let’s get into some of the content. There are a lot of major dynamics that are driving change in our industry especially this year 2022. I’d love to get your perspective on that.
There is a lot of change. It’s an interesting time because, for those of us that have been in the industry a long time, we always have those ebbs and flows. You’ve got the peaks and valleys, the market is going to shift, rates go up, rates go down, refi, booms, and all of those things. Tailing off the pandemic, this is a much different ocean to charter, if you will. A lot of it honestly has contributed to the influx or the flood of new people coming into the industry during those dramatic times of success in 2020 and 2021. Right now, you’re seeing a lot of people struggle because they haven’t learned the industry yet.The market has become a much different ocean to charter due to the pandemic. It has contributed to the influx of new people coming into real estate after the industry’s dramatic times in 2020 and 2021. Click To Tweet
Especially on the sales side, all of these new, young, hungry loan officers, but they came in when loans were essentially falling out of the sky, and they have not been able to develop and learn what it takes to go out and generate business through relationships. You’re seeing a lot of people struggle, and then companies over-hire because of all of that business flooding through the door. It’s an interesting time in the industry.
It comes down to leadership and helping your people and leading them into what it takes to be successful. It’s about relationship building. There are a lot of pressures on the economy and the revenue streams. We’re seeing margins continue to compress. How are you driving growth? You said you are responsible for the wholesale channel. What are you seeing as the ways to best drive growth, not just growth in volume, but growth in this ever-competitive margin compression market?
It’s a little different for us. I say that because we are a core government lender. To be quite honest, we don’t compete out there on rate like so many others. The “margin compression” has not impacted us like it has most other companies. When we talk about growth, these are times when we, as a company, tend to grow. Being responsible for onboarding, we have roughly 46 loan officers in the hopper somewhere in that phase of onboarding. We’re in growth mode.
Are you hiring newbies or bringing in and training them, or are you finding experienced people? What are you finding to be the better route for your company?
Both. I’ll touch on both for you real quick. The folks that I mentioned in the onboarding hopper, those are all experienced individuals, people that are struggling in whatever environment they’re in, whether it’s from a product, from a rate, or from a support perspective. We’re drawing those folks in. We’ve always been a company of education. We have always prided ourselves in developing people. We bring in a lot of young, inexperienced individuals, and oftentimes, they start in other roles, post-closing entry-level positions, and then over time, we recognize them as leaders, and we cultivate them into salespeople.
There was this huge influx of people coming into the industry that didn’t get a lot of support or training because loans were falling out of the sky. We’re able to grab those folks, bring them in, and cultivate them. We have what we call our Success Academy. We work hard to train. At the end of the day, we’re all aging out of this industry. The average age of originators is still somewhere in the 50s, probably the high 50s. When you look at us as a company, we’re down to 42.
You’re chipping away at it. Keep going. I remember that’s how I started the industry as a management trainee program, and no knowledge right out of college. Years later, I’m still in this industry and more of an advisory capacity, but I’m passionate about it and what it can do. I love the mission of bringing new people in and getting turned onto this. It is one of the most exciting careers anyone could have in the industry, especially if you’re interested in making a difference in people’s lives.
Let’s stay on the theme of recruiting. Let’s talk a little bit about employee retention and recruiting. We’ve got to love the ones we’ve got. Let’s focus on the retention part of it. What are some of the strategies that you’re using that are making a difference in the retention part of this formula?
I love that you brought that up because that’s a big thing. Our number one recruits are the people that already work for us. It’s hugely important that we engage with those folks. I’ve been here for many years. We have 467 employees. Roughly 60 of us have been here for a decade or more. The average length of time we’ve had a branch of the company is 6.4 years. Retention is something that we’re pretty good at and we focus on, but I feel personally that it’s truly the engagement.
Our number one core value is connection. You need to be connected with people. You need to understand their pain. You need to have empathy. You need to understand all of those things. It’s interesting. I’ll shift a little bit, but I led a breakout session at a conference here on mental health for employees. What an amazing passionate topic as well.
The point there that I’m trying to make is that you need to be connected at a different level with your employees in this environment to get their attention. It’s not about how they perform. It’s not about how they check the boxes. It’s understanding all of the outside forces that are driving their emotions and truly their performance.
There are so many crazy things in our world like the economy, inflation, and all of these things that are bearing down on people. On top of that, you’re saying, “I need you to be a performer at your job as well and make sure that you’re doing things the best that you can.” That’s a tough row to hoe, especially for the single parents and all of the stuff that’s out there for folks.
When you’re relationship building, it goes so much more, and you catch on to some of those things. All your people are subject to the same temptation to get focused on the negative aspects of the industry. You talked about mental health and emotional health because a lot of people need maintenance. They go, “We don’t deal with that. You’re an employee. You’re here to perform. We expect that.” That’s wrong. We need to be reaching deeper into people’s lives to have a significant impact. It can be transformative. I want to get insights of how you’re doing that.
I’ll go back and say the word connection. When you look at it from the day-to-day and the boots on the ground drive, it’s truly engaging. I walk the entire corporate campus multiple times per day, not just walking around on my phone or those things, but stopping at every cubicle, making sure that I go to every single department every single day.
Our company president, Rob Clennan, makes phone calls every day on his drive into the office and every night on his way home. He’s calling employees all around the company, not just the top sales folks. He’s calling underwriters. He’s calling processors. I do the same. That’s the mantra from our executive team. It’s truly reaching out to people, not just saying, “Great job. You’ve got that loan CTC in record time.” No. “How’s the family? How are the kids? What’s going on in your life, and how can we help you?” It’s one of those cliché sayings, “Take care of the people, and the people take care of you.” It takes daily effort. It’s a part of our job and our responsibility as stewards of the company.
I love the fact that you’re getting around and talking to people. The biggest part of it is listening to people. Biggest part of communication is we’ve got 2 ears and 1 mouth. It’s the formula we should be following in connection with. A lot of people struggle with that. It’s surfacy, and it needs to be like, “What’s going on in your life? How are your kids?” and knowing where the kids are.
I’m always impressed with one particular leader I’m thinking of who has taken the time to memorize the spousal names and the kids’ names of everyone. He goes on their Facebooks and looks at things and comments, “I saw that your son played soccer or your daughter is playing volleyball,” or whatever the sport is or whatever the kids’ activity is, but showing interest and intentionality.
That’s one of the things I heard you speak at the user conference, Accelerate ‘22. I want to make sure that they learn your passion for that because what came clear to me was your passion to connect. Let’s move over connecting with the people you’re recruiting. How do you form that? How do you differentiate yourself as you’re connecting with them and bringing them into the company? It’s not just about the money. It’s about the relationship and the connection.
It’s along those same lines, and you said it earlier, it’s listening. It’s asking the right questions and then shutting up and listening. We have an intentional process from recruiting all the way through onboarding. We bring people here to Colorado Springs. They meet with every executive, our COO, VP of Ops, myself, company president, and we listen. We ask those questions, and then we share who we are.
When people see the tenure, not just with one individual, but when you see an executive team that averages a length of time in a company of ten years, there’s something there, especially in our industry. From that recruiting perspective, that’s it. It truly is as simple as connecting. It’s seeing them as human beings and people.
The way that I approach it personally is that I don’t care how much volume you’re doing. I don’t care how many loans you can do. That’s not what’s important to me. I care more about you as a person. I care whether or not you’re a jerk. If you’re going to treat people poorly and be a pain in the rear end every day, then you’re probably not a fit for our team. I don’t care how many loans you do. That’s a philosophy that’s shared by our ownership and our company president as well. It’s truly who are you as an individual. You can do $10 million every month? That’s great. Again, if you’re a drain and you treat people poorly and cost us other employees, then is that investment worth it? No.
It’s the whole organization and how people fit into that, which goes to culture. How would you describe the culture you have? You have already given us some insights into it. It sounds like you guys have created a bit of a unique culture, which also allows you to engage with LOs in a more unique way. Talk about that.
It’s Rob, our company president. I talk about this quite often. The length of time I’ve been at the company helps. Rob has been here since he was 18, so he’s been at the company for many years. We came from a time when I first joined this company when we were siloed. There was no communication, and the culture was not great. Over the last 6, 7, 8 years, we’ve worked incredibly hard to create the environment we have now. I take that approach that I’m the culmination of all the bad leaders I’ve had in my life. I strive not to be in their shoes. I take those lessons seriously, and I’m appreciative of all those things and the experiences that I’ve gone through. We try to drive that out to the people.
I do believe that it comes from that boots-on-the-ground connection and knowing that you do have a voice here, and it’s not just smoke. If you need something, you need to pick up the phone and call. We need to have a conversation. It starts at our onboarding journey, to be honest with you. We have a hands-on. We’ve developed a pretty unique onboarding experience. That’s where the journey begins.
As long as you hold true to that, create that accountability, and let people know that you are empowered to keep me accountable. If at any point in time I don’t do what I say I’m going to do, I say something that’s different than what I communicated to you, you have every right to call me out, and we will have that conversation.
People want to be held accountable. At least the right people we want to have to work in organizations want to be held accountable. How does the role of technology play in Mortgage Solutions Financial when it comes to the tech stack and supporting your organization and the values you’re espousing?
You can chase technology for your lifetime and probably never have the best of the best out there. I’m going to go to TotalExpert. Find a partner that works and that you can grow together, going back to your earlier statement of truly getting ROI on those platforms. Again, I’ll stay specific about the TotalExpert piece of it, but we use it for all our company communication, all process changes, and guideline changes.
We utilize the BombBomb integrations there so that if Rob wants to send a company message out on video, he can drop that video. He lets me know it’s ready to go. I jump in and impersonate him, and I can blast it out to the company, or we’ve got a group segmented by sales, processing, whatever the audience is. We can deploy those in a matter of minutes per se. That’s where the tech comes in.
It’s also going back to what you said earlier, listening. When you are out there recruiting, talking with people, and being engaged, you need to listen to what they’re using and how they’re using it. Is it a shiny object that they think they have to have because it’s cool and shiny? Is it something that truly drives business and ROI, and being able to take an objective approach and not say, “That’s not what I agree with, that’s not something I typically use?”
Hear what they’re saying and say, “That makes sense. Let’s build it that way.” The reality is that if everything we have to rely on for success is stuck between the six inches between this guy’s ears, we’re in trouble. If I’m the smartest guy in the room, that’s a problem. You take that approach and listen, then it all comes together.
There are some features that I like about TotalExpert that help employee engagement and recruiting. One of the things I took as a surprise when I came on is the sponsor of the show, but I was impressed with the employee engagement and the recruiting parts of it. Can you give us an example that someone reading this that may not be a TotalExpert user would say, “That is a neat feature, this is what we use, and this is what we’re getting as a result?”
I’ll go back to the BombBomb feature. If you’re not familiar with the BombBomb video platform, it’s a pretty deep integration. It’s something that’s phenomenal, and it’s used from sales on the LO side. We have originators that every one of their loan updates goes out as a BombBomb video. They don’t use generic email or text like everybody else. It’s a personalized video saying, “I want to let your loan is CTC. Congratulations,” or whatever that message is.
It is a personalized experience. Even though we’re using technology, it’s so much better, more connecting than that email or even a text. That video works. I love it. I love how you talk about how well it is integrated into the system. That was something that was also intentionally done that is a real strong feature.
We have an LO that did a screen share through BombBomb of him walking through eSign disclosures. He did a little intro piece, but then in his journey, when his loans hit a certain status, that video fires out to his borrowers. It’s him on the screen saying, “This is incredibly important. I need you to sign these disclosures, and in the next 90 seconds, I’m going to walk you through on-screen exactly how to do that.”
It’s so powerful. We use it internally. I do all of our tutorials for our LOS. If we change processes, I do a quick screen capture video, and I can drop it out in TE, and I can blast it to the whole company. I can drop it to sales or processing, whatever it might be, the applicable audience. For the readers out there, if you are a TE user and you’re not using BombBomb in that fashion, you should take a look at it and utilize the tool. It’s phenomenal.
Video in itself is powerful, and then a BombBomb, the way they integrate it into TotalExpert is nothing else. It is so powerful. I love that example. If we set up videos around processes explaining the consumer to the consumer, it creates a personal connection, a process connection, and walks them through it. As you look ahead for the rest of 2022 and into 2023, give us some interesting insights into what you are focused on, Jesse, to differentiate yourself in this ever more competitive market.
I’ll be honest, it might sound weird, but it’s staying true to who we are. We are truly a core government lender. We don’t have a lot of guideline overlays, and it works for us. We do loans that most other companies don’t. It’s staying true to who we are as an organization and not falling victim to feeling like we have to go out and chase the shiny objects to compete in a world that is already competitive. That might seem a little odd and maybe doesn’t necessarily fully answer the question, but it truly is staying true to who we are.
A lot of people try to be all things to all people. They start scattering out and trying to be all things to all people. When you find something you do well, stick with it. It’s a higher-margin product, generally speaking. If you stay true to that market, you’re going to find that market is going to pursue you and stay loyal to you.
It’s what you said. You can chase all the things and try to be all things to all people and be mediocre at a lot of things, or you can be good at a couple of things and dominate.You can try to be all the things to all people and be mediocre at a lot of things. But you can be good at some things and dominate on those. Click To Tweet
Jesse, it is a delight to talk to you. I want to have you back. I love you on stage. I loved your energy on stage, and I love the things that came out of you. What comes across is your passion and how articulate you are about the passion you have. I’m thrilled that I get a chance to spend a few minutes with you here. It’s been good. I enjoy the time with you, Jesse. Kudos on your success. Tell Rob that I love the foundation of what he has built there and how he cares about the people and reaching out to him. That culture is so important, especially in this ever-competitive market where everyone’s getting recruited like crazy.
Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity. I’m happy to come back anytime. Let me know.
I love it. Special thank you to TotalExpert that made it all happen. We met at the conference, then we meet here, and they opened the door for us to get together. Thank you so much, Jesse. Have a great rest of your week.
About Jesse Lopez
Jesse Lopez has over 22 years of mortgage industry experience, starting his career as a Loan Originator in 2000 for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.
In addition to serving as a top-performing originator, Jesse has served as a Wholesale Account Executive, National Sales Trainer, Vice President of Wholesale Lending, Vice President of Retail Lending, and currently as Vice President of Training & Development. His experience includes the development and presentation of innovative training curriculum, sales and marketing expertise, leadership development, vendor management as well as system architecture, integrations, and general system administration.
Mr. Lopez has worked for Mortgage Solutions Financial since 2011 where he has played an integral role in the expansion of the company’s national footprint. Currently, Jesse’s primary responsibilities include onboarding new employees, employee training and leadership development, internal and external customer experience; architecture, integration, and management of the company’s primary systems such as loan origination software, CRM, mobile app, and point of sale. Of his 22 years in the industry, 15 years have been served in an Executive level management position.