It’s the season of giving thanks, and for those who have worked in the mortgage and servicing industry throughout the ups and downs seen in the housing market, there are many aspects of the business to be thankful for these days. DS News spoke with several mortgage professionals to discuss their mortgage background, what changes they have seen over the course of their tenure in the industry, and what they love about the work that they do.
For the first installment of this series, DS News sat down with Brian Koss, EVP of Mortgage Network, one of the largest independent mortgage companies headquartered on the East Coast.
What is your background as a mortgage professional?
I got into the business right out of college. Fortunately, it was back in 1986, and rates were still in double digits but making their way down. During this time, there was a big refinance boom. A college kid could come out of school and be thrown into the masses of paperwork and be given lots of responsibility to help. There was more business than the banks could deal with.
I worked for a regional bank at that time, and they were a great training ground. I was able to learn the business from the back forwards, and I was able to process, underwrite, and learn how to serve the customer from the back of the business. It was a great opportunity and I was able to become a top producer at the bank. I have done that at each of the companies that I’ve worked for since then.
A defining moment for me was getting to be one of the people opening up North American Mortgage, which was a growing national franchise back. In January of 1994, it was a tough time to open. The federal reserve moved very quickly, and rates went way up but we stuck with it and opened up a brand that became number one. Then we were bought by Washington Mutual. I moved with my team over to Countrywide at that time because they were getting into retail and was part of a group from North American. We got to help the start of their retail franchise and help them grow to the number one market share in New England.
Then you could see the writing on the wall with the changes over there, and I jumped off in 2006 and joined Mortgage Network, which was, I thought, one of the best kept secrets in the business. It was a good sized, regional independent at that time. I helped them grow and run their production franchise, and I have been doing that ever since. It’s been obviously a very tumultuous 10 years in the business, and we’ve seen some ups and downs. We got out of wholesale and are 100 percent retail now. I’ve rebuilt that, and we do about $2.6 billion in retail throughout the East Coast.
What are the best parts about this industry or the best parts about your position in the industry?
For those who really understand the risk of being the lender and fiduciary responsibility of being a lender, you feel what it’s like to have the responsibility of that customer and you don’t offset that responsibility. You might be that person who may have to come back and repossess a home and that is a horrible, horrible feeling.
We feel good about the industry. It’s come around so that, for the most part, there are a lot of really good people who are left, who did the right thing, and are adults that take the responsibility very seriously of putting people in homes and keeping them in homes. Therefore, if you’re really good at that, and you’re really good at letting people know your story, you can build a very good business.
In looking back 5 years, what aspects of the industry have changed or shifted?
I think, obviously, the compliance aspects or the fear of the unknown have changed. I do think that we’re coming to the end of the fear of the unknown, and we’ve seen the worst that it can be. All of the burdens of the regulatory world finally seem to be coming to an end. Now we’re starting to see that’s what we’ve been living with for the last five years is the fear of anything you do could be wrong. What’s enough compliance? What’s enough fear to permeate your business? Looking forward, we see less of a reason to be fearful and more of a reason to be able to find a better way, a faster way, a cheaper way to be able to get funding to people.
That’s why you’re seeing things like rockets and digitals. All that discussion is the essence of what we’re looking at going forward – how to do this business better, bring it back, and make it more affordable for people to get a home and less painful, without losing our fiduciary responsibility to take care of them and make sure they are in the right home they should be in.