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  • Writer's pictureMVA


Updated: Dec 24, 2018


The infusion of youth into our company has had an unanticipated and extraordinary impact on our corporate culture. It has reawakened the yearning for learning in our more seasoned staff members. As the mortgage industry continues the march toward coupling the consultative approach with digital solutions, honing talents and learning new skills will distinguish the companies who survive and thrive from those that subsist to exist. The choices you make today will impact your sales, operations and technology for years to come. Hiring stellar talent and providing meaningful training is the first step toward future success, but it isn’t the last.


In 2014, when we re-envisioned our staffing model in anticipation of the oncoming 2015 tsunami – the perfect storm of regulatory AND technology requirements - we made the heretical decision to hire for talent rather than skill. It was a significant departure in an industry that for too long placed too much value on proprietary knowledge gleaned from industry competitors. Come on – admit it – your staffing model probably relied upon excised employees from a mortgage behemoth like JPM, Wells or BOA – an approach that will always have you fighting the last war rather than preparing for the next invasion.

Our new vision presented unusual challenges, like how to bring a 22 year old college graduate up to speed on the historical aspect of the mortgage industry or make them understand the enormous implications of failing to comply with government regulations when they hadn’t actually felt the repercussions of the 2008 implosion. (Most of them were just pre-teens at the time.) Thus, educational design became a company priority. Our solution?  Throwing them into the deep end of the pool. As discussed in my previous article, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Millennials,” our intensive 60-90 day employee on-boarding and mentoring program coupled with our 6 course Mortgage University, was the perfect answer to the problem presented. And then something unexpected and delightful occurred. The entire company found a yearning for learning.

While our Mortgage University curriculum was intended to be a crash course for the college grads, a funny thing happened along the way. Seasoned employees requested admission to the 6 course roster. As a result, each time we offer a new round of Mortgage University, all staff receive an invitation to fill the open seats. (Admittedly, we do serve lunch – which is a draw.) Like a tree, most of our employees are rooted in that common core and that has solidified and institutionalized the base of knowledge required to be an engaged employee. 

Learn, Think, Do and Teach are the core competencies at CUMAnet. This is where the branches of the tree come into fruition. All employees are expected to become teachers of their craft – from the Millennials to the Boomers the requirement is the same. Master a process, understand complicated calculations, realize effective vendor integration, learn a useful software application – then write the instructions and teach others how to do the same. Last year we had some very seasoned mortgage loan originators and senior staff teach courses on Affordable Housing and Mortgage Math (sounds funny I know – but can your staff understand and explain aggregate escrows? – ours can!) When everyone is involved in learning, you begin to appreciate your staff for the talents they have. The technologists, the researchers, the promoters, the artists – all have a role to play within our organization. Even when those skills may not pertain to the job they are doing today – they will certainly impact where they wind up tomorrow. Identifying and playing to the strengths of your employees is what will take your organization from good to great and from great to exceptional. Acknowledging and rewarding staff for these core competencies, Learn, Think, Do and Teach – only increased the yearning for learning.  Staff wanted more. CUMAnet was committed to deliver.

What began with Mortgage University in 2014 naturally progressed to my search for innovative solutions to deliver new educational content to staff. Courses in project management, data analysis and coding could provide our staff with access to acquire new skills to broaden their knowledge and our capacity to deliver excellence. These courses are readily available on the internet with providers like Coursera and Udacity. When you establish a business account, your employees can self-learn on demand. But before taking the leap to engage these companies on a grander scale, we wanted to test the waters and understand if these methods were suited to how our employees learn. Millennials and Gen X are comfortable with on-line learning – in fact it is not unusual for today’s graduates to have completed a portion (if not all) of their undergraduate coursework on-line. But Boomers are used to face to face learning. They raise their hands to ask questions – they don’t ping the instructor. If we are making these classes available to all staff, we would have to accommodate all learning styles to give every employee the chance to succeed.

In conjunction with our HR and Learning departments we decided to deliver a blended experience. We selected an on-line project management course and the VP of Human Resources (a project manager in her previous life) offered to serve as a facilitator and guide the class through the curriculum. We calendared the classes and set off on our self- learning adventure. Each week participants would watch the videos and complete the small assignments required by the on-line instructor. We would then meet as a group to decipher and debrief. Our ultimate goals are to complete the on-line course AND finish an internal mini-project selected by the group. Ambitious? Sure. Impossible – stay tuned.

Up next – Project Management is a Science?!

Debra A. Leone, Principal

Mountain View Advisors, LLC

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