Brian Miller: Shift to Remote Work Has ‘Tipped the Scales Toward Employees’


PERSON OF THE WEEK: The shift to a purchase market, lenders’ re-expansion into niche products such as non-QM, and the reality of remote work and its impact on retention are among the topics covered by Brian Miller, senior vice president, talent acquisition for Planet Home Lending, in a recent interview with MortgageOrb.

Q: What’s going on in the mortgage banking recruiting market right now?

Miller: People who had their heads down during the refinance boom are starting to pop out of the foxhole. They’re seeing the Fed signal rising rates, and they’re watching Ukraine. When big producers move, they’re not going to another large company. They’re going to a mid-major. Going from a large company to a large company changes the logo on your card, not your support situation.

The same steps are used to process a home loan no matter where you work. It’s a matter of attention and focus on the originator, and what they can get out of the manufacturing process that’s the big decision-maker.

When you’re a big fish in a big pond, you can become a number. Moving from a Top 10 to a Top 50 player lets producers keep large company benefits, like financial stability and pricing advantages that come with high origination volumes, and gain visibility. Now, they’re on a first-name basis with the CEO and their operations leaders.

Q: How has remote work changed mortgage banking recruiting?

Miller: The first question candidates ask the recruiter now is whether the position is remote. Going into the office five days a week is a non-starter for many folks.

People’s way of working and living has changed due to COVID. If they see their company say: “On July 1, we’re going back into the office,” some say, “Am I?” and look for other opportunities. Others look forward to a couple of days a week in the office collaborating with colleagues.

Before COVID, people were motivated to change jobs or companies because they wanted more money, better benefits or a different boss. Maybe something happened where they weren’t in the driver’s seat to control a change they didn’t like. Still, they stuck it out because nothing else with a reasonable commute was open. 

That’s flipped in the past two years. The workforce is smaller and discovering what it can be like to work when you don’t have to commute an hour has tipped the scales toward employees. At the same time, if the job is remote, a recruiter can look everywhere and anywhere to fill a position. That makes it easier both to find and to lose employees.

Q: Has the great resignation hit mortgage banking? If so, what has been the effect from your perspective?

Miller: During the past two years, our company, like every other mortgage lender, needed to staff up in operations. Seeing how many people were leaving or laid off in hospitality, we came up with the idea of recruiting them to join our industry. 

They came to us with excellent customer service skills and a desire to start a new career with regular hours and more opportunities. We gave them on-the-job operations training.

Housekeepers, bar managers, all sorts of people who had never considered our industry joined our company and today, they are A-team processors, closers, funders and even underwriters.

Q: What do you see happening in 2022 in the market?

Miller: I’m seeing companies that are dipping their toes back into non-QM and niche products that were the name of the game before the financial crisis.

I see the continued migration of large established teams (and individual producers) now at top 10 lenders seeking to move to top 50 competitors for the same reasons outlined earlier. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policy, or position of Planet Home Lending, LLC.

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