Larry Silver of Superus Careers on Underwriter Career Strategies
Larry Silver is CEO of Superus Careers, Fulton, Md., is a results-focused mortgage consulting firm with more than 20 years’ experience in high-growth mortgage operations. Specialties include business and career development. Silver is also a Founding Partner and CEO of Athlete Career Placement and also serves as an instructor with the Robert H. School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, Md.
MBA NEWSLINK: What impact has the transition from in-office to remote had on the mortgage job market?
LARRY SILVER: The mortgage industry has an interesting history in terms of careers. Almost no one said, “when I grow up, I want to get into mortgages.” That was particularly true after 2008. You couple that with the cyclical nature of the markets and you traditionally have limited supply of mortgage talent.
Historically, most lenders would “find” the talent they needed during robust times by recruiting people from their local rivals. Once the market realized that it could be extremely productive in a remote environment, and production picked up at a record pace, all geographic boundaries became irrelevant. It’s simple supply and demand economics. Since then, the production support roles, processing, underwriting, closers and post-closers, became highly sought after.
NEWSLINK: Which of these changes will be permanent?
SILVER: Remote underwriting is here to stay. The nature of the job specifically requires a great deal of concentration, but it does not require a tremendous amount of collaboration. Most remote systems have a level of security that protects nonpublic information just as securely as it would be in an in-office environment. Processors, on the other hand, are right in the mix with a lender’s internal and external partners. They tend to be more collaborative and feed off the energy of others. For the most part, you will see them return to the office. Closers and post-closers will probably be a mixed bag, company by company. I do believe that you will see more hybrid models as well, the new version of flex time.
NEWSLINK: We hear stories about how competitive it has become to recruit underwriters; how has the employment market for underwriters changed over the past year?
SILVER: In my twenty years in mortgages, it’s been as crazy as I have ever seen. This has been validated by every conversation that I have had. To say that underwriters are being recruited dozens of times a week would be an understatement. They have been inundated and commoditized.
To most it is overwhelming, even paralyzing. If you think about the nature of the job, personality-wise, underwriters are traditionally more introverted and introspective. It takes hours to evaluate one customer, review guidelines, and collect documentation to validate their worthiness of a loan. They make life-changing decisions for the homeowner or perspective homeowner, all the while ensuring that they are protecting the company from prospective default. Now, they are under fire from so many recruiters making offers and presenting opportunities at such a rapid pace, and they’re being asked to make decisions regarding their own lives. That said, others have found it quite exciting to be wanted by so many people. They are able to leverage these opportunities for greater financial status or career growth, or a different opportunity that until now has been geographically out of reach.
NEWSLINK: What should an underwriter consider when hit with multiple job offers?
SILVER: For one, they should approach the job search understanding what they are looking for. What personal and professional goals and objectives do they have for themselves? Secondly, they should really try to understand the culture of the organization and decide if it aligns with their personal beliefs. They also should have a realistic range of what is an acceptable income for their position. Nobody wants to be undervalued, but at the same time, just looking for the highest wage may come back to bite you in the long run. Finding a fair arrangement for both you and your prospective employer will lead to a long-lasting relationship.
Finally, I would encourage underwriters to communicate with employers and recruiters, not bite off more than you can chew and be respectful of everyone’s time. Fielding multiple job offers is overwhelming, for sure, but dragging the process out or taking up an interviewer’s time without making a decision is taking the opportunity away from others. If you have decided to make a move, have your objectives clearly written out, evaluate two to three offers, and be decisive.
NEWSLINK: When is it better to stay at a lower paying underwriting job?
SILVER: You have to ask yourself why a company is paying what they are paying, both in salary and bonuses. Really evaluate why. Sometimes a healthy bonus makes up for lower pay, but we’ve heard people tell us that they took a bonus and are “trapped” because they would have to give it back if they moved on. Meanwhile, they are miserable day to day. It comes down to being paid a fair wage with growth opportunities and job stability. No one wants to chase the big check and find themselves first in line for cost cutting maneuvers.
NEWSLINK: How can an underwriter have the best chance at a long-term career beyond the current refinance cycle?
SILVER: Rates, products and programs will always change, but the housing market and the value of an underwriter is not going away. Understand the long-term plan of your organization, whether it’s the company you are with today or one you are evaluating for future employment. Do you want to grow as an individual contributor or as a leader? Do you have knowledge to share, or knowledge to gain? Once you know that, you can discuss your career goals and a career path with your current or future employer.
NEWSLINK: What other issues are coming up for underwriters in today’s job market?
SILVER: If you’re in the job market, there is a lot of excitement out there. But you have to ask yourself why you are looking in the first place. For some, the best opportunity is the one they have. Others have thought about it for years but have been too afraid to take that leap. Many are looking for growth, a career path, leadership, signing authority, and designations. But most organizations are so backed up that the promise is there, but it is far off in the future. Some underwriters regret they have not made the best long-term decisions, but at the same time they don’t want to have a lot of movement on their resume.
Again, ask yourself what you are looking for. Consult your head, your heart and your gut. What’s the smart move, what is the emotional move, and what do your instincts tell you? Then let two out of three win out, and from there, stick with your decision and enjoy the ride.
(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policy of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Mike Sorohan, editor, at email@example.com; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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