Feb. 16: AE, LO jobs; wholesale, HELOC, marketing products; STRATMOR & customer experience; more strong inflation data driving rates

It was a sad day earlier this week for anyone who likes food out of a toaster as the inventor of Pop-Tarts passed away at age 96. (Yes, Pop-Tarts were invented… they don’t grow naturally in the wild.) Something else that isn’t found naturally is airline seat pricing. We’re in mid-February, and conference activity will increase, and families will start thinking about summer vacations. That often means flights. Prices do go up significantly 21, 14, and seven days before a flight, so keep that in mind. (For anyone who is genuinely interested, here’s an easy to read scholarly article on the awkward way in which airlines set seat prices.) And while we’re talking about dollars, recent Commentaries have mentioned the shift in regional manager’s pay to more profit-based rather than strictly volume, as well as how it is illegal to pay LOs on profits under TILA’s LO Comp Rule. Addressing management pay, attorney Steve Lovejoy with Shumaker Williams pointed out that, “If the branch manager is a producing manager, meaning he/she originates, or so much as talks to consumers, their compensation cannot be based on profitability of a loan, the branch or the company.” (Today’s Commentary podcast can be found here and this week’s is sponsored by Lender Toolkit and its AI-powered AI Underwriter and Prism borrower income automation tools. By providing lightning-fast underwriting decisions, your market reputation with borrowers and Realtors will soar, which means more repeat and referral business. Hear an interview with Figure’s Anthony Stratis on trends in home buying and the HELOC space.)

Employment, transitions, and a retirement



Kind Lending, LLC is pleased to announce that Will Fisher has joined Kind as the Executive Vice President of Non-QM. Will brings with him over 11 years of experience in building and designing Non-QM platforms and products. He has served in executive roles at LoanStream where he successfully built a non-QM-focused operations and sales teams. Additionally, Michael Falce has joined the team as the Director of Capital Markets, Non-QM Division. He boasts an award-winning background in Non-QM lending spanning over 15 years, with a strong focus on Capital Markets. Kind Lending is extremely excited for the experience and skills that both Will Fisher and Michael Falce bring to the team and the direct contribution they will have in the continued focus and growth of Kind’s in house Non-QM product offerings. To learn more about opportunities at Kind Lending, visit us here.

Steve Adamo, President of Residential and Consumer Lending looks to continue to expand OceanFirst Bank’s Residential Lending division. In 2023, the Bank saw top producing Loan Officers join the team as well as expanding its geography in the new metropolitan market of Washington D.C. OceanFirst Bank blends the benefits of an independent mortgage company with the stability of a banking environment. The Bank provides their Loan Officers with a strong portfolio, direct agency lending, retained servicing, innovative marketing and technology products and services, and the ability to lend nationally as a National Association bank. Additionally, our NeighborFirst program has benefits such as a low-down payment, no Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), and no LLPAs based on credit score or loan amount. Contact John Costa, Senior Vice President and Head of Mortgage Sales or 609.444.6121 to take your business to new heights. FDIC | Equal Housing Lender | Equal Opportunity Employer

US Mortgage Corporation proudly celebrates 30 years of unwavering excellence. Founded by Steven A. Milner on February 17, 1994, the company has evolved into a national leader in the mortgage sector and continues to invest in growth fueled by its deep ‘YOU&US’ Culture and commitment to its Mission that ‘everyone deserves a roof over their head’. From its inception, US Mortgage has been committed to transforming homeownership dreams into reality. It’s remarkable journey from a local lender to a nationally recognized mortgage leader has been propelled by the trust of its amazing team who focuses on longevity through putting others first. US Mortgage is thrilled to announce an ambitious expansion plan that underscores their commitment to growth. “As we celebrate 30 years of excellence, we are energized by the possibilities that lie ahead. Our expansion signifies not just growth but an unwavering commitment to serving our clients, referral partners, and each other with the highest standards of professionalism,” said Steven A. Milner. For info, contact: Mike Veli, VP of Strategic Growth.

I have not conducted a formal study of the matter, but it seems like few people actually retire from our business. Many hang on, doing their jobs or consulting into their 70s or even 80s. Not so with Susan Semba of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association who is retiring after 40 years in the trenches. Susan has supported her local MBA Chapter, Idaho Mortgage Lenders Assoc., for 30+years included being President, chairing the Pacific NW Lenders Conference, and always willing to be a speaker. She has been a mentor and strategic partner for HFAs across the country. As Susan heads to Las Vegas for a little golf Chuck Kracht will assume the role of VP of Homeownership Lending and Servicing. Congratulations all the way ‘round.

Lender & broker services, products, and software


Technology and operations leaders: what’s better than a free consultation from a mortgage tech expert? Getting the advice of six. That’s what’s in store if you join “Strategies to Master the Market Now with the Right Mortgage Technology,” next Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 2 pm ET. This free webinar, co-sponsored by Floify and Truv, Christy Soukhamneut, chief lending officer at UFCU; Raven Johnson, VP business systems at Legacy Mutual Mortgage; Craig Ungaro, COO AnnieMac Home Mortgage; features Jodi Hall, founder & CEO of DandaRoad, LLC; Richard Grieser, vice president of marketing at Truv; and Sofia Rossato, president & GM of Floify. Click here to register.


To gain the repeat, referral and refinance business coming in 2024, many lenders are beginning to think like a healthcare provider. Similar to a patient portal for health management, what if you could offer a home care portal that assists homeowners in managing their home? Milestones offers home finance insights, home improvement suggestions, storage for home records, and direct access to home service providers in one portal that is completely white labeled to you. Learn how to keep your lending products and partners top of mind with Milestones.

TPO products for brokers and correspondents


Merchants Bank of Indiana continues to grow and recently announced the addition of a Mini-Correspondent offering to its BCU Mortgage Services platform. BCU Mortgage Services offers a dedicated Wholesale and Mini-Correspondent channel to Banks and Credit Unions. If you are a financial institution tired of Investor churn, check out Merchants. They are a strong and committed counterparty.  Having recently reached $17 Billion in assets, they continue to leverage their diversified business model to grow market share and assist their lending partners. In addition to BCU, they also offer a full Correspondent Lending platform to Banks and IMBs offering Non-delegated and Delegated underwriting. Their commitment goes further, they are a top 3 Warehouse provider and are looking to grow their retail footprint. Contact Ron Berry, Retail Sales Leader to learn more about their LO opportunities. Contact Rob Wilson, Correspondent Sales Executive to learn more about their Correspondent or BCU Mortgage Services offering for Financial Institutions.

Rocket Pro TPO is continuing to support broker partners by providing professionally designed marketing toolkits & customizable flyers tailored to brokers’ specific needs, saving time and effort. For first-time homebuyers living within the 21 eligible metros, Rocket Pro TPO’s Purchase Plus product has no AMI limits and provides a $5,250 grant assistance which can be a powerful benefit paired alongside the customized open house flyers. Recently at IGNITE Live, Rocket Pro TPO announced that by utilizing Credit Upgrade, broker partners were able to save clients a combined total of over $21 million in 2023! Those are savings clients and brokers alike would all want to contribute to in 2024. Interested in learning more about a Broker or Non-Delegated Correspondent partnership? Contact Rocket Pro TPO to learn more.

“Transform your brokerage with The Loan Store, a catalyst for broker owners in pursuit of seamless growth. Picture your loan officers effortlessly earning a remarkable 200 basis points with minimal effort, ensuring unwavering borrower engagement amid market fluctuations. Our forte lies in lightning fast HELOC closings, no appraisals, no processing headaches, and approvals in minutes. Our pledge is simple: empower your team to focus on cultivating relationships. By streamlining the loan process, we empower your loan officers to outpace the competition in today’s dynamic landscape. The Loan Store stands as your ally, propelling your brokerage to unprecedented heights where speed, efficiency, and remarkable earnings effortlessly converge. Ready to redefine success? Connect with us or explore our website to embark on a journey of unparalleled success with The Loan Store.”

Exciting times lie ahead for American Financial Resources, LLC (AFR) as the recent change in ownership to a fund led by members of Proprietary Capital, LLC is now finalized. Keen observers may have noticed changes in pricing, and this trend’s expected to continue. AFR, known for its excellence in specialized loans, is poised to elevate its position even further. The infusion of capabilities from the expertise from the team at Proprietary Capital opens doors to broader product development, execution, and market growth. While AFR will remain a leader in specialized loans, the discerning eye will observe a notable expansion beyond the specialty niche. This ownership change marks the beginning of a new era for AFR, promising enhanced offerings and a commitment to the experience of our customers in all channels. Stay tuned for a journey of growth and innovation with AFR at the forefront. Contact AFR Today!, 1-800-375-6071.

Now that we’ve entered the new year, it’s time to set new goals and meet updated production targets. Axos Bank’s Wholesale & Correspondent Lending program offers unique financing solutions to help you reach those goals. Qualify more buyers with Pledged Assets for loans of up to $30MM Closed-End Seconds with a CLTV of 85%, buy-before-sell options, and Reverse Exchanges. For more information, reach out to your AE. Don’t miss our free webinar, Buy Before Selling Options, on Feb. 20, for valuable mortgage origination tips to help you reach your goals. Our Axos Residential Warehouse Lending team is also available to provide strategic direction and support your business growth. Schedule a call today! Email Eric Nelepovitz or call the Warehouse Lending team at 888-764-7080 to learn more about our warehouse program.

STRATMOR’s customer experience workshop


It’s the CONSUMER experience that matters most… Price, product and technology only go so far in driving profitable relationships for banks and lenders. So how is your company employing customer experience strategy to drive revenue growth in today’s challenging market? Join STRATMOR Group customer experience experts and peer lenders March 12-14 for the three, two-hour-session virtual Customer Experience Workshop to learn how to optimize your loan processes to maximize repeat and referral business and achieve your growth goals. This highly interactive virtual workshop is designed to give lenders specific, actionable ideas to optimize the customer experience and create raving fans, especially in challenging market conditions. Click here to learn more and reserve your spot today.

Capital Markets: rates higher on more strong inflation data


The Bank of Oklahoma’s trade desk reminded everyone who deals with margin requirements that FINRA 4210 is coming, effective May 22, 2024. “We want to make it clear to our originator clients that BOK is not subject to FINRA’s 4210 rule. We are a bank dealer that is governed by the OCC, not FINRA.”

A common email that I am receiving now from lenders is, “Is the economy hot or cold. Which way is it pushing rates?” Mortgage rates are inching up after reports of hotter-than-expected inflation data showed continued strength in the U.S. economy. The Federal Reserve doesn’t set mortgage rates, but with inflation still over its 2 percent target alongside a robust job market, the market continues to focus on when the Fed will start cutting its benchmark interest rate, which is currently keeping mortgage rates elevated.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.77 percent as of Feb. 15, according to data released by Freddie Mac and up 13 basis points from the previous week. (One basis point is equal to one hundredth of a percentage point.) Mortgage rates were last at this level in mid-December when rates fell below 7 percent for the first time since August. For perspective, a year ago, the 30-year mortgage rate was averaging 6.32 percent. So, the economy has been performing well so far this year and rates may stay higher for longer, not helping the spring homebuying season or production numbers.

That said, a drop in U.S. retail sales yesterday helped soothe traders’ nerves about an overheated economy after this week’s inflation print came in above expectations. Retail sales declined 0.8 percent month-over-month in January compared with a 0.2 percent downwardly revised decline in December. Factory production decreased in January for the first time in three months, pointing to a loss of momentum. These reports were unduly influenced by weather-related issues over the course of the month. Weekly jobless claims also unexpectedly declined by 8k to 212k, indicative of a growing economy. However, the rising level of continuing jobless claims displayed the challenge in currently finding a new job after a layoff.

Today’s economic calendar contains some first-tier data, including the producer price index, which will be closely watched as it should help define the Fed’s next steps. PPI in January, +.3 percent, ex food and energy +.5 percent, versus expectations of increasing 0.1 percent month-over-month and 0.7 percent year-over-year. We’ve also had housing starts (-14.8 percent, but thought to be weather-related!) and building permits (-1.5 percent), seen increasing to 1.465 million and 1.510 million from 1.460 million and 1.493 million; later is the preliminary February Michigan sentiment number. Three Fed speakers are currently scheduled to close out the week: Richmond President Barkin, Vice Chair for Supervision Barr, and San Francisco President Daly. We begin the day with Agency MBS prices slightly worse than Thursday evening, the 10-year yielding 4.31 after closing yesterday at 4.24 percent, and the 2-year at 4.67.

I asked my wife if I was the only one she had ever been with.

She replied, “Yes, all the rest were 8’s and 9’s.”

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. STRATMOR’s current blog is titled, “It’s 2024: Do You Know Where Your Servicing Is?” 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 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 2024 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