Joe Welu: How Lenders Can Keep Their Top Performing OLs
PERSON OF THE WEEK: LO retention and recruitment took on new meaning in this second stage of the pandemic, as the mortgage market turns into a buying market. Soon, LOs will play a more critical role in helping lenders gain market share. This is why lenders should focus on retaining their top performing and most experienced LOs. To learn more, MortgageOrb recently interviewed Joe Welu, Founder and CEO of Total Expert.
Q: Why is LO retention more important than ever for lenders?
Welu: According to a survey of nearly 250 credit institutions by The Mortgage Collaborative (TMC), LO retention is the most important problem for credit organizations today. And after processing dizzying volume for over a year, lenders are bracing for a 40% drop in origination volume in 2022.
With warm leads at a premium, top performing LOs will look to their employers for the tools and technology that will help them be successful in their jobs. Employers who show they listen and understand their LOs by offering this technology will earn their loyalty as they weather next year’s drop in volume.
For example, suppose a lender asks their LOs to sort long contact lists for qualified leads. Meanwhile, its competitor is delivering a steady stream of well-qualified leads directly to their LO’s pipelines. The latter lender shows its commitment to helping its employees succeed in their business and will be rewarded with better retention rates.
Q: How can lenders maintain their top performers in today’s lending environment?
Welu: In this industry, we all know one of the key principles of customer engagement: It is almost always cheaper to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. The same goes for our employees: Retaining the top performing employees you already have is easier and more profitable than trying to recruit from outside a competitor.
With this in mind, consider LO retention as an extension of your recruiting strategy. When your employees are considering a career change, they are essentially reviewing multiple job postings. A job they already have, but on which side of the fence is the grass the greenest?
See your organization through the eyes of your employees and remember that LO compensation is often based on their original volume. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do we have modern and efficient systems in place?
- Are marketing and sales efforts unified?
- Is the customer receiving consistent messages?
- Are we preparing our people for success?
- What advantages do our OLs have over their competitors?
- Do we communicate to LOs the link between our technology and their loan production?
- What do we represent as a company?
- Are we pursuing a mission that sets us apart from our industry?
Then compare your answers to those of your competition. Do they stack up?
There should be a high level of continuity between your brand and standard operating procedures within your organization. Your current employees know the realities, good and bad, of your business – and they are bombarded with reels of highlights from your competition. It’s one thing to include your mission statement in every employee’s electronic signature, but it’s another to make sure everyone lives up to your mission and values in their day-to-day work.
Likewise, management teams must keep their word. If a business consistently describes itself as innovative but operates with outdated systems and an unwillingness to take calculated risks while embracing new technology, it undermines its credibility with current employees. Audit your employee experience the same way you carefully craft your customer experience.
Q: What are some common pain points in OL that could be treated to help with retention?
Welu: To balance multiple relationships with different clients, LOs often have to switch between various devices and connections, allowing missed connections to easily slip through the cracks.
By integrating disparate systems into one platform, lenders can configure their LOs for success by developing a single source of truth with a complete view of every customer. From there, LOs can focus on high priority tasks and follow-ups while humanizing critical communications at key touch points. Or, in other words, focus on what they do best: building real relationships with their customers.
It’s a common theme in LO retention: outsource, automate or assist your employees with day-to-day tasks that prevent them from fully focusing on the most critical aspects of their jobs. With the ability to automate marketing to existing leads, referral partners, and previous customers, LOs can sit down and manage new leads when they arrive in their inbox.
Q: How can I develop an LO retention strategy?
Welu: In mortgage lending, we’re obsessed with the customer experience, but the employee experience is just as important. Remember, compensation packages are only one aspect of their experiences – and by focusing primarily on dollar signs, you’ll create a culture rooted in instant gratification (rather than long-term success and sustainability. ) “base point hunters” eager to get off the ship at the next best opportunity.
The employee retention strategy should focus on solving the problems in their day-to-day life. Lenders who prepare their LOs for success by solving their problems, outsourcing the tasks they don’t want to do, and positioning them to gain more business, will be the ones who will retain their best employees (and attract new ones by word of mouth. -of mouth).
Survey existing staff on what your business does well and what you could do better. Placed between clients and lenders, LOs serve as “human intermediaries” through complex financial transactions. By discovering areas for improvement in your organization, you can empower them to deliver modernized awareness while maintaining a human connection during the creation process – and beyond.
Q: I already have the latest and greatest technology. Why would my OL still leave?
Welu: According to research from the STRATMOR group, lenders are buying and installing new technology quickly, especially since the start of the pandemic, but they are slower to drive adoption and achieve full return on investment. In an age when retail lenders are spending double per loan on technology than they were five years ago, lenders should make sure new technology delivers its return on investment. They should ensure new technologies:
- Integrates with existing platforms and processes
- Can be deployed by an effective implementation team (internal and external)
- Solves real problems (discovered in the experience audits of their employees – and LO -)
Without effective implementation teams, easy integrations into existing systems, and quick and easily identifiable improvements in employee experience, technology spending can just add another grievance to the work lives of disgruntled employees. When asked to adopt a new system, employees need to know how it will help them be more productive in their jobs. If they don’t, adoption rates will suffer, desired ROIs will not be achieved, and employees will continue to deal with the same issues as before.
The implementation challenge is why platforms like Total Expert are disruptive in the financial services industry. Normally, with generic CRM and customer engagement platforms, the creation and implementation phase can take years. On the other hand, platforms already designed for mortgage lenders provide customers with faster turnaround time and ease of obtaining ROI for LOs and for the entire business. Fast time to value leads to early success for our customers, which translates into snowballing returns year after year.