The mortgage industry has always been tumultuous. Dramatic cycles with extreme highs and catastrophic lows has plagued the industry since its inception, and the last six years has been no exception.  Starting in 2007 with major wholesale lenders going under and hundreds more following suit over the next year and half.  Now, in 2013, when you would think the worst was behind us and yet another round of layoffs are announced from major mortgage banks.   Citibank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase expect to lay off over 22,000 people from their mortgage departments. The question tends to be, how does a loan officer thrive, not just survive, and be indispensable to their company and their clients.

There’s a lot more that goes into being a good loan officer than just quoting a rate and closing a loan.  If you want to be indispensable to both your company and your clients then you need to go above and beyond to help your borrower, your company and yourself.  For your client, you need to answer their questions, return their calls and emails quickly and efficiently, lock when they’re happy with the rate, and do what is in their best interest and all times.  For your company, or your lender, you need to put together complete files, with explanation letters, VO’s, correct and complete application and summary, and double check your work and your math to make sure what the underwriter sees is accurate. For yourself, you need to constantly be marketing and making outbound efforts to bring in business without depending on leads from your company.

Some of the biggest complaints amongst borrowers today is that their loan officer doesn’t answer their phone, doesn’t return their calls, doesn’t reply to email, didn’t lock when they were asked to and didn’t explain their options or give them the details of their loan program.  Granted, borrowers receive disclosures and other documentation about their loan. However, let’s be honest, disclosures and other mandatory paperwork is not written in layman terms and is difficult for MLO’s to understand much less someone who has never gotten a loan before. In addition, borrowers should be given choices for their loan. If you arbitrarily put a borrower into a 30-year fixed because it’s easiest to sell and explain, then you aren’t representing the borrower to the best of your ability.  Sometimes a borrower asks for it because that’s all they know about. But if a client is in the military, for example, and knows that they will be getting transferred to another city or state in the next 3, 4, 5 years then you, as the expert, need to provide your borrower with all of their best options.

Customer loyalty is very rare in the mortgage industry.  Getting repeat clients or referrals from a past client are few and far between. This is primarily because very few borrowers are happy with how their loan officer performed on their transaction. Once an application is in underwriting and an approval is provided the MLO tends to drop the ball and stops being responsive to the clients needs. Starting off the relationship by providing your client with options and explaining the details of different types of loan programs is the best way for a borrower to gain trust and confidence in you. Reviewing and explaining the disclosures and responding to questions and inquiries will keep your client happy and comfortable throughout the process. After the loan has closed, checking in with the client to make sure all is well and perhaps confirm that they have their payment coupon to make their first payment just in case a statement hasn’t come in the mail yet, can really solidify the relationship. And let’s not forget good old fashioned gratitude. Sending a thank you card, yes a card, not an email, text message, or facebook post, can keep a borrower loyal to you forever. After all, who does that anymore?  Noone, and that is why the borrower will remember you and all your efforts.

Keeping your company happy so you aren’t on the chopping block when a layoff occurs is another great way to become indispensable.  The best way to do this is to put together good, complete, and quality packages. Be thorough and run the income, check the ratios, ask about down payment and assets and make sure they can be proven and supply all necessary documentation. Anticipate what the underwriter is going to ask about (see article on Thinking Like an Underwriter) and have it available in the initial file for review.  Also, properly stack the file so that everything is where it should be. This saves time and underwriter frustration because they don’t have to search through the entire loan to locate what they are looking for.

One of the biggest and best things you can do to keep your company happy is to always be working and hunting for your own business.  A lazy loan officer will just sit at their desk and wait for leads to show up on it.  An indispensable loan officer will always have more business than his colleagues because he is always on the hunt for it.  Go to networking meetings like BNI, chamber of commerce and other local organizations.  Meet with referral partners on a regular basis.  A good loan officer will have at least one real estate agent, financial planner, CPA, bankruptcy attorney, divorce attorney, contractor, personal banker, title agent, escrow agent, closing attorney and insurance provider on speed dial.  Remember these relationships go both ways.  If you want someone to send you business, then you need to send him or her business as well. People who have created and nurtured these relationships will have business coming in from many different resources. They will likely have a bigger pipeline than any of their counterparts and your company will fight to keep you when layoffs occur, because you do more than typical LO.

As you can see there are many ways to make yourself indispensable.  Going above and beyond for your client keeps them coming back to you and sending others your way.  Bringing in your own business and not just counting on company leads helps you and your company stay busy and profitable. Layoff’s and company closings are a part of every business. However, if you do your part for the client and your company, you will never be let go during a RIF.  If your company happens to go out of business and you have to find a new place to set up shop, other companies will be fighting to get you to join their team.

For loan officer or processor training, licensing education, and other sales and marketing tools please visit