PERSON OF THE WEEK: The glass ceiling has been shattered and women now make up a significant – and growing – share of the mortgage industry. Whether women will one day reach equal share in the industry is hard to predict but there is no question that they are seeing increasing representation in the mortgage C-suite.
Although women have blazed an impressive trail in the mortgage industry, they still face a long path to reach 50% representation. One thing that has become obvious, in recent years, is that mortgage companies that embrace diversity on all levels are often at advantage over those that do not.
To learn more about how diversity is giving mortgage lenders an advantage in the marketplace, MortgageOrb recently interviewed Listy Limon, regional manager, southwest region, for Homespire Mortgage.
Limon has more than 15 years of experience in the mortgage industry, specializing in the growth and development of residential mortgage branches. She provides leadership and oversight to the growth of the company’s branches across the southwest region.
Q: We’re seeing more women in executive positions within the industry and there are now several special interest groups and associations geared toward supporting women in housing. How is the situation today different than when you started your career?
Limon: This is one area where our industry has seen significant progression over the years. When I began my career, women were typically only represented in operations and/or support roles. It was rare to see female sales or loan officers like myself and rarer still to see a woman in an executive leadership position.
Today, we have female presidents, CEOs, and even owners of lending institutions. And the increase in the number of female loan officers has been dramatic over the last five to seven years.
I think a big part of this has been a recognition by lenders that diversity is a key component of success in the market. For me, that’s been empowering to see, and I am proud to have been a part of that transformation in the industry.
Q: Why do you believe that diversity is an essential component to business success for mortgage lenders?
Limon: The borrower pool in this country is very diverse and a lender’s staff needs to reflect that in order to truly connect with customers and provide them with an excellent experience. I have seen firsthand how having a diverse workplace creates a strong layer of trust and respect both among your employees and within your community.
That said, it seems many companies still tend to look at diversity as a reporting measure rather than a culture improvement and I feel that’s where there’s some room for improvement.
Diversity is like being invited to the party, but inclusivity is being asked to dance. Repeatedly we see studies that show that organizations with more diverse staffs tend to be more innovative because they benefit from having a team of individuals that can draw from a variety of backgrounds and points of view and then apply those different perspectives to solving common problems or achieving strategic initiatives.
So, with diversity, there also has to be inclusivity to allow innovation to truly thrive within your organization, and that’s something that we’ve embraced strongly at Homespire.
Q: The mortgage industry is not particularly young in terms of average age of loan officers. What strategies are you using to help attract young professionals into the industry?
Limon: That’s a significant issue for our industry to overcome and I believe there is opportunity to do a better job of telling the story about how innovative, engaging, exciting and rewarding (both professionally and personally) a career in the mortgage industry can be.
At Homespire, we have also made significant investments in technology and that is helping us better attract talented young professionals who are looking to join a dynamic, growing company. Whether it’s our use of the latest mobile technology to market to, and work with, our borrowers, to some of the digital marketing initiatives we employ, we provide opportunities for our staff to work within a number of mediums and delivery channels and empower them to develop new ideas and strategies to help keep us modern and relevant.
Q: What should today’s mortgage companies look for when recruiting new team members? Likewise, what should loan officers look for in a prospective company?
Limon: I think one of the most important things is that it’s a culture fit for both the company and the new hire. Often, decisions are focused on numbers and production and financials and different aspects of that, but honestly, the culture fit is always the most important thing.
For loan officers and branch managers, they should pointedly be asking about what kind of support teams and resources are in place to help them succeed. I would encourage them to take it a step further and actually request demos as well to see what they will have access to firsthand.
Most importantly, loan officers should clearly understand the vision of the leadership of the company and ask themselves if that is something that they want to be a part of.