I had been a mortgage loan officer for 15 years. I had survived the financial crisis and mortgage meltdown of 2008-2009 and emerged more determined, more focused, more educated, and more careful.

At my lowest point, I knew it was either time to find another career or to recommit to this one. I chose the latter and invested $2000 to attend a week-long training event for my industry.

While I was there, I met the co-owners of a correspondent lender in the city I am from. Ron and Tom were impressed with the commitment I had made by investing my time and money in the training. They sold me on their company and their vision, the compensation package, their competitive edge, and their belief in me.

While at the new company, I embraced the concepts I’d learned at the sales conference and hired a coach to help rebuild my business.

In November of 2012, I received a commission check that was more than double what I had ever received before. But I faced a dilemma. The stress of earning that money was greater than the compensation. The more business I did, the more pressure I felt. Even though I had an assistant, I still tried to control every aspect of the business from client and Realtor relationships and business acquisition to taking an application and walking the loan through to closing.

I felt frustrated about the added layers of loan approval conditions that were required as a result of the financial crisis. I felt powerless to move things along more quickly or easily in the loan process. The paperwork had increased by stacks and the regulations and processes had more than doubled. It was almost impossible to keep up with the daily changes in regulations and added layers of conditions for loan approvals.

And, because by 2010 there was such a pent-up demand for housing and loans, the dam had begun to burst with new loan applicants. However, because lenders didn’t trust the monetary system to support the process, and fearing another breakdown, they held off on hiring new processors, underwriters, and appraisers to meet the demand. The influx of new business created a log jam which resulted in frustrated borrowers and impatient, angry Realtors. I took on the entire burden of responsibility for this dysfunction.

I began to tell my new clients that by the time their loan closed, they would probably feel more like suspects than clients. And I told them that rather than taking 30 days to close their loan, it was more likely to take 60 or more days from application to funding.

As I looked at my fat commission check, I decided that my employer was to blame for my stress and frustration. I was determined to find another company with smoother processing, more reasonable underwriting, fewer layers, more support, and more competitive pricing. I put some feelers out and didn’t have any trouble at all fielding several offers and promises of greener grass.

I changed companies again. Over the next 6 months, my new employer broke every single promise. There were even more loan conditions, rates and fees were higher, and the process took longer. I quit after only 6 months.

My final move was to a regional bank where, every two weeks, the loan officers met with the branch manager and the sales manager, Mark. The meetings were informative and helpful.

It had been four years since the financial crisis. In that time, I’d had four different employers, each with a new list of loan approval conditions. I had learned to collect an abundance of documentation from my borrowers so as to provide, in advance, anything a processor or underwriter might require.

In a sales meeting one day I heard Mark, the sales manager say, “If any of you are spending more than an hour preparing a loan application before submitting to your processor, you’re taking too long. If you want help streamlining your process, let me know and I will help you.”

My immediate response was defensive. I looked around the table and realized that there were only a few loan officers who had been in the business as long as I had. That included Mark. I thought he was just being arrogant and only pretending to know what he was talking about. I thought he was completely out of touch and I was shocked he would make such a claim. I decided to call his bluff.

After the meeting, I told Mark I needed his help. My true motive was to prove him wrong. I was taking at least 6 hours to prepare a loan file before turning it in to my processor. Mark told me to call him before I began to compile my next loan file.

The next day, I took a loan application and called Mark. He came to my office and sat down to help me.

“What have you done so far?” he asked.

“I took the loan application, got an automated approval, and requested documentation.”

“Let me see the automated approval,” he said, reaching for the file.

I handed him the approval and as he looked it over, he asked me what documentation I had requested.

I went through the extensive list.

Mark frowned and asked, “Why did you ask for so much documentation? The automated approval only asks for 2 months bank statements and the last 30 days paystubs.”

I knew what the approval asked for. But I had been burned with previous employers when asked to go back to my borrowers over and over requesting more documentation for the application. In fact, it had happened with practically every single loan I had touched at the regional bank. I indignantly explained this all to Mark.

He interrupted my rant to tell me that I was over-documenting my files. He explained that because I was providing too much documentation to my processor, she was being forced to ask for even more. For each unexplained $100 deposit, a letter of explanation was needed. For each inconsistent paystub, another letter was required. If I gave my processor more up front than she needed, there were more questions to answer.

The light bulb came on. No wonder the processor seemed to be putting my files at the back of the stack. I was creating extra work for her. No wonder the other loan officers seemed to be able to get their loans closed more quickly.

Mark left my office. Later that day, the borrower provided the documentation I had requested. I put the file together and submitted it to my processor in less than 30 minutes. That loan was approved by the underwriter in a few days with no additional conditions. The appraisal and title report came back within two weeks and the loan was at the escrow company and ready to close a week before the contract date.

Here’s what I learned.

What has happened in the past can be helpful in preparing me for what is happening now. The past can deepen and broaden my experience. But unless humble wisdom is exercised, the past can become an unnecessary burden to carry.

I learned to ask for help even when I don’t think there is a solution.

I learned that what I think I know sometimes gets in the way of what is actually so.

I’m no longer a loan officer. I retired in 2015 to become a life coach. And I bring the lessons learned after 17 years in the mortgage business with me into my coaching business. I benefit from those lessons and so do my clients.

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