The Radius Financial Group, a mortgage lender in Norwell, Mass., recently made a $1 million investment in its future. The outlay wasn’t for technology, marketing or even office space. Rather, the company executives decided the future well-being of Radius depends upon its ability to attract younger employees from more diverse backgrounds.
So they started what they call the Next Generation Independent Mortgage Banker training program, and hired a young Marine captain to lead the initiative. In May, about two dozen candidates became the first to enter the 12-week immersion program, which paid them a base salary. And this month, 13 of these candidates graduated. Of them, six are veterans from the military, one is black and two are Hispanic, according to Keith Polaski, the chief operating officer and a founder of Radius.
The program is an attempt to ready the company for the coming shift in demographics among home buyers, Mr. Polaski said. Over the next decade, young adults are expected to drive most of the country’s new household growth. They are a diverse generation: About 45 percent of those born between 1985 and 2004 are minorities, with Hispanics accounting for 22 percent, according to a recent report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
“For about five years, the industry has been talking about the mortgage banking demographics: 55-plus-year-old white guys and gals,” Mr. Polaski said. “If we don’t do something about creating the next generation of mortgage bankers, we’re going to old ourselves right out of business.”
Dave Stevens, the president and chief executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association, agrees that the industry is not prepared for a younger, more diverse market. He has made the issue a priority for the professional association, establishing a diversity and inclusion committee (headed by William Emerson, the chief executive of Quicken Loans), and holding diversity summits. The organization has also partnered with the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals to promote a mortgage training program to Hispanics.
“There are people of color and ethnicity who want opportunity in their jobs, who want to grow, and helping to train them is one area that we could do better in,” said Jason Madiedo, the president and chief executive of Alterra Home Loans in Las Vegas, and a past president of the Hispanic real estate group.
At Alterra, Mr. Madiedo has made a point of hiring a sales force that is predominantly Hispanic, with an average age under 40, to serve a largely Hispanic clientele. But the industry in general, he said, “is very, very weak” in terms of “understanding the nuances and needs of the Hispanic consumer.”
Just getting young people interested in the business is a challenge, because of the stigma around mortgage bankers from the recent housing market collapse, Mr. Polaski said. “The entire world financial crisis was hung around our necks,” he said, turning off many young adults who graduated from college during that time.
Jethro Anilus, 22, said he used to associate mortgage banking with “an older generation, suits, ties, deception, lying, cheating, stealing.”
But coming out of college with no firm career plan, he saw the Radius training program as a welcome opportunity to develop new skills. Learning about the history of mortgage banking, its role in the economy and how a loan is produced gave him a more positive mind-set, Mr. Anilus said. It also gave him a new job – he’s now working full-time as a loan processor.