02-20-21: Reader letters on recruiting, 2021 expectations, and credit; Saturday Spotlight: Maxwell; a clever joke

To really spice things up and add variety to my life, this morning I put a generous helping of butter on my oatmeal after the generous helping of brown sugar. (Usually it is before.) Pipelines are still full of generous helpings of loans as we find ourselves in the second half of February already, and as our industry continues to help millions of borrowers. Sure enough, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve, total household debt rose to $14.56 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2020, an increase of $206 billion from the third quarter. Year-over-year, the report shows an increase in household debt of $414 billion. Much of this is due to mortgage debt which hit $10.04 trillion at the end of the year, an increase of $182 billion. To the surprise of no lender, this also includes a surge in newly originated mortgages, according to the Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, which is issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data.

Saturday Company Spotlight: Maxwell, specializing in creating a customizable digital platform and fulfillment services designed specifically to help small to midsize mortgage lenders grow.

In 3-5 sentences, describe your company (when was it founded and why, what it does, where, recent growth and plans for near-term future growth). Maxwell is an industry-leading digital mortgage platform and fulfillment provider founded in 2015 by homebuyers who were shocked by the complexity of the mortgage process. Our founding team spent a year learning the frustrations, routines, and goals of over 1,000 industry professionals. Then, they set out to build technology that enhances rather than replaces the human elements of the mortgage process.

Today, Maxwell and its point-of-sale platform facilitates over $5 billion in loan volume every month, helping more than 200 community lenders nationwide close loans 45% faster than the national average. We plan to continue helping small to midsize lenders compete with big players through targeted solutions, such as our new Fulfillment Platform, which provides outsourced onshore fulfillment services at offshore prices. Learn more here.

Tell us how your company maintains its culture in the office, or in a work-from-home environment if applicable. Our employees settled into a work-from-home environment almost nine months ago. Maxwell has also grown rapidly this year, hiring over 150 employees in 2020. Despite these challenges in a remote setting, we’ve continued to prioritize culture.

Most importantly, Maxwell remains committed to its values and mission. Our interview process includes a “values interview” meant to gauge whether candidates are a good cultural fit. When new employees onboard, their first meeting covers the company’s mission and cornerstone beliefs. The same values presented in that initial meeting continue to show up in day-to-day interactions.

We also believe that small, spontaneous connections with each other and the company matter to culture. In any given week, the Donut app on Slack randomly selects employee pairings to chat over virtual coffee. Other touchpoints might include company contests or small surprises sent to employees’ homes.

Tell us about company culture and what type of volunteer work employees are encouraged to engage in, or charities your company supports, and why. The Maxwell culture is built on genuine, ego-free relationships. We strive to do the serious work of making our customers’ lives better without taking ourselves too seriously. We also believe the work we do is more effective when it’s approached with rigor, ownership, curiosity, kindness, and straight-up transparency—our values. Our value of kindness extends to charitable giving. Maxwell offers its employees two days of paid volunteer time per year. We launched a Holiday Volunteerapalooza campaign, which syncs employees up with volunteer opportunities, an event we plan to scale to a quarterly effort. Maxwell also regularly contributes to NewStory, a charity that provides housing for underserved communities internationally. We chose this organization because we believe homeownership is key to building net worth and generational wealth.

What things you are most proud of that don’t have to do with sales? We’re incredibly proud of holding tight to our values and mission, even as our company grows rapidly. Instead of simply being words on a webpage, our values continue to guide hiring decisions, business choices, and how we treat each other. We encourage employees to use our #gratitudes Slack channel to shout out others who exemplify those values. And while in the moment they may not seem important, these small actions have built a cultural fabric that strengthens with buy-in from each new employee. And, of course, it’s hugely rewarding to hear that a values-based culture is what stands out to new hires most in their first few weeks at Maxwell.

(For more information on having your firm and its charitable side featured, contact Chrisman LLC’s Anjelica Nixt.)

Thoughts on credit

There are lots of thoughts on credit, and how to improve the bureau system, and what to leave alone. Is the current system rigged toward those who know how to change their credit, and rigged against those who are more focused on cash but will make their payments even more reliably? I received this note from Anne Elliott. “The Biden Administration’s intentions are admirable but some their proposed ideas are ill-advised. A perfect rental rating can reflect either timely payments or a landlord eager to replace with lousy tenant with someone who will pay regularly. Timely utility payments may be motivated by the desire for heat during the winter and air conditioning during the summer while other obligations are ignored.


“If the three bureaus could tweak programming for those affected by short-term economic circumstances, supplementary credit scores reflecting timely repayment both before and after an isolated period of hardship atypical of normal performance could provide rationale for credit approval.”

Thoughts on 2021

This message was penned by Drew Waterhouse, Chief Revenue Officer of Model Match. “I want to pose three questions to the industry and provide my insight on important mortgage trends right now. First, what trends will change the mortgage industry in 2021 and beyond?

Trends tend to be subjective, but typically, when you have a lot of refinances, things get very busy and it can be easy to lose focus on other aspects of the business. It’s going to be a year of rebuilding Realtor relationships, reestablishing those relationships with people on the buyers’ side of the transactions and making sure you’re growing your purchase business to replace the falloff that’s going to happen with refinancing. That will be a trend for originators across the board because at the beginning of the year, people think a lot about goal setting. It is going to be a rebuilding and reestablishing year for the core purchase transactions and relationships that allow loan originators to build a sustainable business. When things are refinance-heavy, that gets lost because of all that low-hanging fruit that has been available to them, so everyone is going to be reminded that they need to take care of those core relationships.

Do current mortgage rates and trends indicate a buyer’s or seller’s market? It’s a seller’s market when you look at the lack of new builds and general lack of housing inventory that is available. Having said that, if you’re talking about the market in terms of interest rates, then that creates the appearance of a buyer’s market as well. So now you have opposing market forces at play as buyers try to take advantage of low rates, and sellers try to capitalize on the skyrocketing home prices created by low inventory. The only real middle ground is that the few available houses are selling quickly, so what you end up with is a housing market pendulum that swings back and forth, with both sides being able to capitalize somewhat on that atmosphere.

Third, how is technology impacting the mortgage sector? Loan officers – who tend to reflect trends in the overall mortgage industry – are almost always looking for the same thing: an efficient way to do the same amount of business in less time, which helps them make more money; or ways to do more business in the same amount of time, which helps them make that money more efficiently. Technology provides that efficiency regardless of whether you’re an originator or a business owner. There are also cultural efficiencies and operational efficiencies that can always benefit you in the mortgage industry, but those also tend to be born from technology, which is almost always one of the easiest areas to create efficiency across the supply chain. Automation is key to reducing expenses, which is what the back office is focused on as they try to bring in these loans. They’re going to work on building out those efficiencies, and technology plays a major role in that during every step of the process, from origination to closing and even post-closing and servicing.” Thank you, Drew!

Thoughts on finding the right applicants for the job

“Rob, I see job ads in your commentary during the week. I think it is important for those hiring to have a game plan, answer some questions, and take a minute to think about who you’re looking for. If you could clone your best employee, would you? Of course you would. Who doesn’t want their best employee multiplied so they can provide hours upon hours of amazing work that keeps customers happy (and doesn’t require handholding from you)?

“So now that we know you’re cloning your employee, who are you cloning? Do you have a picture in your mind of who you’d like to clone? Now think about it. What are they like? What makes them so valuable to your company? Once you’ve got all the details, it’s time to make a profile based on this star employee. For example, let’s say your ideal employee is Samantha. Sam is 28, engaged, saving up for her first home, wants a family, is licensed, and has a great work ethic. Sam is a nice person, always has a smile on her face, loves any challenge you throw at her, and is eager to learn new things every day. She is not afraid to put in hard work, always looks to put in overtime, is interested in how things work, and she is a strong team player.

“Do you know a Samantha in your workplace? Are they exceptional at what they do and hardworking? If so, keep them in your mind when writing up your job application. It’ll make it easier to target the right talent if you’ve got a picture of who you want.

“Now, take the profile we’ve created for Sam and compare it with the ‘generic profile’ that’s often posted on recruitment websites. ‘Anyone who has a pulse, aged somewhere between 25 and 50, shows up for work, has their license, has a semblance of a referral base, and only does the bare minimum.’

“Now, think about this: The generic profile works for their paycheck and their paycheck alone. They show up, clock in, clock out, that’s it. But your star employee Samantha works because she believes in her job, takes pride in her work, wants to become something, strives to do the best job possible, and complete her goals. Who would you prefer to work for you? Sam, of course. But how does Sam help you recruit other staff?

“It’s simple: Focus on Sam as the target audience when you’re recruiting. She’s the type of person you want in your business, and there are others like her out there, you just have to find them. You can find employees just like Samantha by focusing on applicant-centered recruiting rather than job-centered recruiting, writing job posts specifically catered for Sam or applicants like her, not writing a cold and impersonal job description, and highlighting the benefits of working with you, not the demands of the position.

“So you’ve found another Sam, and he’s considering applying for the position. How do you make sure he goes for the job? Keep his attention by stressing the ability to learn more about the job, showing off benefits that recent hires and current employees are enjoying, being specific about what the job entails but staying concise (long-winded sentences might make him stop reading), and always focusing on the applicant and what you can do to help them, not the job.

“There are three steps for securing qualified talent. First, keep them interested. Avoid using industry jargon, be specific, show them what a day will be like working with you, and make sure your job listing can be easily accessed on mobile devices. Second, spark their ambition. Make them want that job. The easiest way to do this is to tell them a story about your workplace. Get them engaged by how amazing it is to work for you. If you’re placing the ad on your own site or on social media, include a video showing employee testimonials or showcasing your facilities (once they return to work) and perks. Third, encourage them to take action. You have one goal in this step, don’t lose them. Make it easy for them to get in contact with you to apply for the job. Keep online application forms short and only including the necessary information needed. Long complicated application forms can scare off applicants. Linking from the job ad straight to your careers page. And naming the best person to contact in relation to applications so they know who they’re talking to (phone number and email address). And tell them what to expect after applying.”

The note wrapped up with, “By implementing these tips, you’ll see an increase in the number of applicants you receive for open positions. But most important, you’ll see a huge improvement in the quality of the applicants applying.”

No nursing home for me. I’ll be checking into the Marriott!

With the average cost of the nursing home being $275 per day, there is a better way when we get old and too feeble.

I’ve already checked on the reservations at The Fairfield: for a combined long-term stay discount senior discount, it’s $79.00 per night. Breakfast is included, and some have Happy Hours in the afternoon.

That leaves $196.00 a day for lunch and dinner in any restaurant we want, or room service, laundry, gratuities, and special TV movies. Plus, they provide a spa, swimming, workout room, lounge, washer and dryer, and more.

Most have free toothpaste and razors, and all have free shampoo and soap.

$10.00 worth of tips a day and you’ll have the entire staff scrambling to help you. They’ll treat you like a customer, not as a patient.

There’s a city bus stop out front, and seniors ride free. The handicap bus will also pick you up (if you can fake a limp).

To meet other nice people, call a church bus on Sundays.

For a change of scenery, take the airport shuttle bus and eat at one of the nice restaurants there. While you’re at the airport, fly somewhere. Otherwise, the cash keeps building up. It takes a few months to get into a decent nursing home anyway. The Marriott will take your reservation today! And, in the Marriott, you’re not stuck in one place forever – you can move from one Marriott to another Marriott, or even from city to city. Want to see Hawaii? They have Courtyard there too.

TV broken? Light bulbs need changing? Need a mattress replaced? No problem, they fix everything, and apologize for the inconvenience.

The Marriott has a night security person and daily room service. The maid checks to see if you are OK. If not, they call an ambulance… or the undertaker! If you fall and break a hip, Medicare will pay for the hip, and Marriott will upgrade to a suite for the rest of your life.

And no worries about visits from family. They will always be glad to find you, and probably check in for a few days mini vacation. And the grandkids can use the pool.

What more could you ask for?

Visit www.robchrisman.com for more information on our industry partners, access archived commentaries, or to subscribe to the Daily Mortgage News and Commentary. If you’re interested, visit my periodic blog at the STRATMOR Group web site. The current blog is, “Servicing: A Valuable Asset”. The Commentary’s podcast is live and at any place you obtain your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify).


(Market data provided in partnership with MBS Live. For free job postings and to view candidate resumes visit LenderNews. This newsletter is designed for sophisticated mortgage professionals only. There are no paid endorsements by me. For up-to-date mortgage news visit Mortgage News Daily. For archived commentaries, or to subscribe, go to www.robchrisman.com. Copyright 2021 Chrisman LLC. All rights reserved. Occasional paid job & product listings do appear. This report or any portion hereof may not be reprinted, sold, or redistributed without the written consent of Rob Chrisman.)

Rob Chrisman