PERSON OF THE WEEK: Mortgage lenders and servicers have made great strides during the past 10 years or so in terms of fostering diversity, equity, inclusion and opportunity within their organizations. This includes implementing best practices, tackling complex issues and eliminating barriers, and creating networking opportunities that advance overall diversity, equity and inclusion.
Still, the mortgage industry has a long way to go before it reaches the level of diversity seen in other industries. One of the more common issues preventing the mortgage industry from becoming more diverse is that mortgage lenders, in particular, tend to favor “veteran” employees for frontline and sales work, based on the perception that these veterans will be able to boost sales and improve customer service faster and better than new hires.
In a recent interview with MortgageOrb, Paul Gigliotti, president of AXIS Lending Academy, said if lenders are serious about boosting their diversity and inclusion efforts, they should consider getting more diverse talent into their recruiting pipelines, instead of being so tunnel-visioned on experience.
Q: How do you see the mortgage industry faring as far as diversity goes?
Gigliotti: I think most people agree it could be better. In terms of representation by different minority groups, the makeup of our industry is not proportionate to the overall population. We can do a better job of maintaining an inclusive working environment, so people of different backgrounds who choose a mortgage career want to stay.
Q: What is a “diverse group?”
Gigliotti: To me, a diverse group involves inclusiveness and reflects the entire array of human differences, including race, age, and gender as well as physical impairment, religious belief and sexual orientation. With the mass adoption of remote work, even geographic diversity is possible.
Q: What is the benefit of bringing new people into the industry?
Gigliotti: One major benefit of bringing new people into the industry is that it reduces payroll costs. Many lenders gave out huge salaries and bonuses during the refi wave, but long term, these are not sustainable. By replacing highly compensated employees with new, freshly trained and highly motivated people, you’re going to cut staffing costs.
Another huge advantage is that newcomers bring different perspectives and ideas with them. Since they aren’t tied to the traditional, outdated ways of doing business in real estate finance, they’re more likely to find improvements.
Q: What is your role in replenishing the industry with greater diversity?
Gigliotti: I founded AXIS Lending Academy to provide lenders with a source of talented job candidates from all different backgrounds. We target people who have experience in other industries and provide them a mortgage education that’s a hybrid of classwork and on-the-job training. Many of these folks may have been displaced as a result of the pandemic or were simply unhappy with their current career and looking for a new challenge.
Q: What inspired you to launch AXIS?
Gigliotti: My own personal journey began in a world of exclusion. I was told as a child that being gay meant I would never be successful, never have a meaningful long-term relationship, and never have a child. None of these things proved to be true – I have all these things. My experiences motivated me to create an organization where all types of people can elevate themselves and work happily in a career where they feel like they belong.
Q: When did AXIS open for business?
Gigliotti: We launched in January. Classes began on May 17, and our inaugural class graduates in August. By then, our graduates will have had a 30-day paid internship at PJ Operations, a mortgage fulfillment company. We even help them with job placement to make sure their new career is off to a successful start. Frankly, I can’t wait – I’m real excited to see how far they go.