James Duncan, Director of Education & Engagement at Thrive Mortgage, helped his company close and fund loans worth $460.6m in 2014 to $884.2m in 2017, a 92% increase, and now they are on track to close around $900m this year.
Thrive Mortgage is a mortgage bank licensed (or soon-to-be-licensed) in over 20 states throughout the US.
In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, James shares how he and his team accelerated their high value sales by:
- Eliminating inefficiencies in the loan origination and closing process. They can close loans in 19 days on average, well below the 30 day industry.
- Providing systems to make it easy for their loan originators keep all parties informed of the loan funding and closing process, but also to keep in touch with their customers and referral partners.
- Building awareness of Thrive Mortgage’s regional brand, as well their local branch offices through extensive social media marketing.
Malcolm Lui: Welcome to a special episode of the High Value Sales Show of Eversprint.com. I'm Malcolm Lui, the Managing Member of Eversprint, and today we're speaking with James Duncan, the Director of Education and Engagement at Thrive Mortgage, a fast growing mortgage bank. Welcome to the call James.
James Duncan: Thanks Malcolm. Pleasure to be here.
Malcolm Lui: James, Thrive Mortgage closed and funded loan book, or other loan transactions, grew from $461 million in 2014 to $884 million in 2017, a 92 percent increase. And now you're on track to close $900 million dollars worth of loans in 2018. Despite the downturn in the market to get to where Thrive Mortgage is today, what's the one thing your team had to consistently execute over the past few years?
Eliminating inefficiencies and improving communications key to increasing their closed and funded loans despite the difficult market.
James Duncan: For us. Malcolm I think it really came down to our process several years ago. We took it took a step back and looked at what are some of the primary pain points with with completing a mortgage transaction from start to finish. And a lot of it with a lot of lenders. Their biggest holdup is is probably these top three things number one. The loan originator was simply taking the information and passing it along without doing a whole lot of setup on the front end. And then second of all there was poor communication on the back end. Now with us we had a pretty good system in place but after we took some time to really evaluate eliminating inefficiencies and maximizing the communication between the teams and maxima and using technology in order to to to increase the speed at which at which of a transaction goes from one stage that the next. And I kind of came up with sort of a secret sauce if you will. What really separates our process from most other lenders out there and in the industry and I think that was the biggest catalyst to us seeing such tremendous lift over a short period of time. And you pointed out the downturn in the market this year. It is it has affected every lender in the business. There are some lenders that are no longer in business as of today that that they were around at the start of the year but they're not around anymore. So this is something that we're very very proud. Proud to say even though our growth has tapered some as far as our production. We're still very very proud to be at the numbers that we're at and we are we have big big goals and aspirations for 20 19 as far as getting that that growth track back the way it was
Malcolm Lui: When people were looking to borrow from Thrive. Would you say typically Thrive is the only lender they're looking at. Or are they looking at a handful and then they're comparing the nuts and bolts of it all
Their LO's take the time to get to know their borrowers, so they can find them the best loan.
James Duncan: In this day and age. Most people most shoppers are getting smarter and smarter and they're getting more and more resourceful with with how they go about shopping for their their mortgage whether it's their first one or their tenth one. There are scads of Internet resources online application tools ways that the consumer can do their own research about who their lender is more more so now than than there ever have been before in history. So the clients that we're dealing with typically are much more educated on the process whether they've been through it or not. They are taking it on themselves to do their own research and to and to kind of find answers to some of the preliminary questions. But there's still a whole bunch of things that they are unaware of that they don't have access to there. There are literally several dozen variables that go into determining whether or not a borrower is getting the right loan program not just a loan program but the right one that's best suited for their long term financial success. That's where we step in. A lot of loan loan originators and a lot of our competitors do not take the time to really get to know their borrowers get to know their their spending habits and their as well as their saving habits. They don't take the time to really understand what it is that's motivating them and what's the most important thing to them when it comes to this particular transaction.
James Duncan: Why are they buying this particular house. What's it going to do for them in the future. Those are the kind of questions that our loan officers and our branch managers will actually. We'll take the time to sit down and actually have that conversation with the borrower. So when they when when they go to an online lender and get a get a rate quote and they come back to us and say This guy has this online lender is offering me half a point lower than you meaning like half have an interest rate lower than lower than you what was with the difference. We're able to sit down with them and kind of talk them through the differences and talk to them what what is that other lender not showing them in terms of total costs of what it's actually going to cost them in the long run. When you illustrate that to the client when you take the time to do that it really opens their eyes and it's not a sales gimmick either. It's basically educating the client and saying OK this this is the scenario you need to make the choice that's based on what is in your best interest long term financially speaking. And that's really the approach that we take that differentiates us from a lot of our competitors.
Malcolm Lui: Games when your clients are evaluating their different borrowing options under what circumstances do they say yeah. Makes sense for me to go with Thrive even though they're a little bit more expensive than this other lender. It makes sense for me to pay a bit more because I'm getting this in return. Can you maybe qualify quantify or quantify a bit more what that extra value is that right mortgage can provide
James Duncan: Sure it's not gonna be that's not gonna be the case every single time. Us being substantially higher than say an online lender. But when we are able to sit down and illustrate to them a true apples to apples comparison one of the things that's really eye popping for a lot of clients is that we're really not that far off the rate that if you take all the strip away all the all the shell games that a lot of online lenders like to use and you boil it down to OK what is the final tally going to look like. Are our rates are going to be just as competitive as a lot of those other lenders who are giving the initial quotes that are half a point less. So when you take on the main thing that a client needs to know is that until you get to a certain stage in the conversation there's only so much that a lender is a obligated or B has sufficient amount of information to answer those specific questions and get to the real heart of what's it gonna take to get this loan done. And once you reach that stage that's the point where at where the borrower is going to see that there's very turn in terms of cost and rate there's very little that differentiates us from a lot of the big box lenders.
James Duncan: The main thing though even when the if there is a time where there is where we do come in slightly higher. The main thing that I point to is the value in the process because would be our average currently our average close from application to stage that we call clear to close meaning that everything's been checked off and we're ready to send all the documents over to title for them to sit down and sign. Our average turn time from from contract to clear to close is 19 days. The industry average is actually closer to 30. So we're closing more than a week a week ahead of schedule compared to what the other other lenders are able to do. And with the increase in the technology that we use we're actually going to be dropping that average even lower. Our goal is to get to a 10 day close time and that that is pretty much unheard of these days and in most lending circles because there are certain regulations that we have to adhere to that take up seven of those 10 days but that that is our goal with the technology that we've adopted. And some of the things that we're actually in the process of rolling out company wide. We expect to be there within within a very short timeframe
Malcolm Lui: Now. Can you share with me how you can really do this the processes that I'd be so fast because early on you mentioned one aspect of how Thrive does things differently is that you really get to know the borrower really get to know what their situation is but their expectations are why they chose their home that they're buying and selling it. I mean that takes more time right. But at the same time your your overall turnaround is a way below industry average so how are you guys able to do that
How they can close loans fast while still knowing what's most important to the borrower
James Duncan: While we're able to do that because we know what questions to ask and so that they initial conversations with clients. There's a lot of stuff that that is going into our analysis. So it takes it takes a number of things one asking great questions. Number two it also takes having the technology on the back end that once you have that that solution in place or once you've outlined the the three scenarios that are in the best interests of the client and you as the ELO or the loan originator are able to go through each scenario and say OK this is what you said was most important. Scenario 1 meets all of that criteria scenario scenario 2 meets most of that criteria but it's a less expensive scenario 3 meet again meets most current criteria but here's the downfall that doesn't. And so we basically present them with options that you can't do that as a loan originator if you don't know guidelines if you don't know program the loan all the loan programs that we offer. So that coupled with knowing what great questions to be asking of our clients is really what we what we pride ourselves on. We have some of the best elbows in the business who are very very good at what they do and they work tirelessly to educate themselves on new programs and knowing guidelines and knowing exactly how to handle tricky little situations such as out of bankruptcy three years ago. Can I get qualified for a mortgage while knowing exactly what track as a loan or is there and knowing exactly what track you need to go down in that situation is imperative because it might be something where no we're not ready.
James Duncan: We need another another six months six to 12 months and offering that advice but still staying in touch with them. Whereas if they do that and share that information with another lender that other lender very likely might might just say hey give me a call in twelve months we'll talk then and click and that's the end of the relationship. So taking that approach taking that approach of getting really in-depth getting right in the middle of understanding that borrowers particular financial situation and every everybody's financial situation is different. Note there are no two snowflakes no two are the same. But getting into the middle of what makes them tick what drives them and what is motivating them to make the choices that they make. That is really key to the start of the whole process. After that it's really just like putting putting ingredients into a into a bread maker and letting it go every every everybody knows their purpose. Everybody down stream from the loan officer knows exactly what they're supposed to do exactly when they're supposed to do it and exactly when it's supposed to get done and that part of the process. That's the easy part. The tough part is at the beginning doing all the heavy lifting at the beginning and setting up the file the right way and and doing what's and figuring out the best solution for for that client long term
Malcolm Lui: Now. The system that you outlined the process that you outline where you do essentially a deep dive into what's going on with your potential client could you know how long it would take for me to be one of the best loan originators. If you're just popping down and one of your seats in your office you know how much training would it be acquired for I can execute at the caliber that you're talking about
How it'd take for me to become a Thrive loan originator
James Duncan: It would add that that is a great question. And and my position that's one that I've had to tackle a number of times to be full transparency and completely honest it would take a bit of time. Now we could train you let's say that you are just a top notch salesperson you or you are a high D on on the disk assessment. We could train you everything that you need to know and probably a span of about six months. I would say six to nine months really. That is going real deep and to all the programs that we offer all of the guidelines. Knowing how to handle specific situations because like I mentioned before there are literally dozens of different variables that go into pulling together the right loan program for the borrower. What really differentiates our loan officers from other loan officers more transactional focused loan officers is that relationship piece is that establishing the rapport with not just the client themselves but also with the referral partners who are who are sending us business. If you are if you stink at that let's say that you are the greatest salesman you can sit down close anything but if you stick it stink at building the relationship then you're going to struggle you're going to struggle and not just in our model but in any lending model. Consumers don't want to be herded through the process like cattle that they want to know that they have made the right decision because I mean after all when you think when you take a look at a purchase of a house we're probably helping people with what is more than like we are helping people with what is more than likely the largest single financial transaction they will do in their lifetime. And so it it there is a big burden and a huge priority on us as loan originators and as lenders to make sure that we're doing everything that we do and making sure that it's in the client's met the client's best interests
Malcolm Lui: Okay
James Duncan: So I don't think I specifically answered your question. Do you want me to
Malcolm Lui: No
James Duncan: Kind of
Malcolm Lui: You
James Duncan: Rapid
Malcolm Lui: Did at the very beginning you did and then you elaborated
James Duncan: Okay.
Malcolm Lui: On that. So you definitely
James Duncan: Okay.
Malcolm Lui: Covered it. So I appreciate that. James another question for you. How much of your business comes from repeat business where people come back to you again and say I had a fantastic expense to Thrive I want you guys to help me again. My next mortgage
James Duncan: A lot actually. And again that goes back to the relationships built by the individual loan originator and if they are doing. It's been said by many in our industry especially industry coaches that if you want to be someone's lender for life you're going to have to talk to them again at some point in their lifetime. So making sure that you have the ability whether it's through the use of a CRM or through just being uber organized you have to have the ability to follow up with your current clients as well as your past clients and make sure that you are continually feeding them not just your contact information but valuable information things that are going to help them plan and prepare for for their financial future and whether a lot of my repeat clients are on the investment side of things they are investment purchase or investment buyers who go out look for rental houses that they can acquire and add to their portfolio. I've had a number of them come come through and they keep coming. Coming back to me because they know my as an originator they know my level of expertise. They know that I can come up with some pretty creative strategies for not just how to acquire the property but how to how to manage the financing of it and and knowing what what they can and can't do in terms of what's going to be too much leveraging those assets versus the the liabilities that are tied to them and keeping them out of a situation that so many loan originators and brokers were guilty of not doing better in the housing crash
Malcolm Lui: Can you give some context as to you made a comment earlier about people if you want to be a lender for life you have to. You have to stay in touch with them which totally makes sense right. So
James Duncan: Yeah.
Malcolm Lui: But
James Duncan: That's a that's a Todd Duncan line. I can't take credit for it
Malcolm Lui: Right now are your loan originators on their own is up to them for staying in touch with people or does their company have systems in place to help them with that
James Duncan: We've got a system there to help them to stay in touch with their their clients. We use a CRM. Is it all right for me to say the name.
Malcolm Lui: Yeah yeah definitely
Their CRM system is a key component of their success.
James Duncan: We use a CRM known as be in touch and it is a great tool that our a lot of our loan officers to take great care in maintaining and we manage that on the corporate side. There's a member of my team who is our CRM admin and his responsibility his his main responsibility is coaching all of our elbows especially our new alos on the ins and outs of how that system works how they can maximize it for their prospecting activities how they can maximize it for doing drip campaigns so they have a conversation with a borrower that that says you know what. I'm just thinking about this I'm renting now but my lease isn't up for another six months. So but I didn't know if now is too early to start the conversation. The loan originator has the ability to stay in touch with that client over the course of that six months as they really sticky to that particular prospect feeding them good information feeding them hey these are some things that were worth the three month mark. So these are some things that you need to start thinking about and that we need to start preparing for. This is the kind of documentation I'm going to be asking you for once you do submit the application. So and so are you working with a realtor. Well I know a great one and you and we can tie that that borrower to a realtor and establish establish that relationship and build up the value to the referral part. So there this area can handle quite a number of situations. And just provide a lot of value to our fellows. There were some elders who choose to kind of do their own system maybe they came from another company where they used a different system that they really really like. We're fine with that. But as long as they have some methodology of staying on top of their contacts staying on top of being in front of their referral partners and using it to the best of their ability and getting the word out of how much value we can provide to the process then we're good with it.
Malcolm Lui: Have you estimated the cost of your systems or your CRM systems in terms of the costs of acquiring or not acquiring but of getting ready for a business versus the costs of getting new business that might be an interesting number to compare. If you have those figures
James Duncan: I don't have those figures but I can just tell you just based on the analysis that I do on a daily basis that it would be darn near impossible and we would drive ourselves we would drive ourselves absolutely crazy if we did not have a CRM in place we would we would not be experiencing near the level of success and near the level of client retention and referral partner retention. That that we do have if we were not using any CRM
Malcolm Lui: Right
James Duncan: It is it's absolutely a CRM. I would say in any sales position as CRM is absolutely critical to your success
Malcolm Lui: Games for two thousand eighteen. How many loans do you anticipate that you will close and fund
James Duncan: By the end of the year we will have closed and funded over thirty seven hundred loans.
Malcolm Lui: And of the. Of those thirty seven hundred loans. How many of those would you say are from repeat business vs. brand new loans first time borrowers through Thrive Mortgage.
James Duncan: I would say just and this is just me going off of just what I've seen. I would say that our repeat business is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 out of every 8 loans is probably going to be a repeat customer
Malcolm Lui: Does that imply potentially a good number of loans are being people are seeking loans from other lenders and set to Thrive and come to their second loan third loan
James Duncan: Not necessarily because a mortgage loan is something that you're you're not going to get one every year. It's not like going and renewing a gym membership. It's if somebody is getting a mortgage on their primary residence they're typically going to keep that for about three to four years. At the end of that three to four years they might be moving up they might be moving to a different location and in which case they'll come back to us. So so those kind of numbers to me indicate that we're doing a pretty good job of retaining the clients that we worked with in the past. I could be completely off on that estimate. I'm just going based off of off of my impressions of of some of the reviews that that I see and how many times I see the comment I've used such and such a loan officer in the past. They were great then they were great. Now that kind of thing. So so the mortgage industry it's it's not this isn't something where unless they're an investment buyer who is purchasing like three or four homes per year we're probably not going to see the same client every song every single year once a year for a new transaction which is normal
Malcolm Lui: Okay.
James Duncan: Because most people aren't aren't going out get a mortgage that frequently
Malcolm Lui: And from your experience in your company's experience how often do they turn to Thrive again. How many times are they repeat borrowers from the Thrive
James Duncan: Without possessing any empirical data to present to you. I would say that that's better than two thirds of our clients are going to are gonna be repeat customers through for one for any number of reasons. I think that the the main reason why somebody might not come back to Thrive Mortgage for another loan down the road whether it's three four or five years in the future maybe because they're moving to a state or a location where we don't have a license or don't have a retail branch operation. As far as I think a better response or a better analysis to do is how many of those past clients are referring us additional business. That's usually where we see the biggest lift again. As I've stated before people aren't getting a mortgage every single year. Not typically but they are telling their friends about the experience that they had and they're telling their family you've got to use this loan officer from from Thrive Mortgage because I had a great experience they want me through everything. So on and so forth just relaying how great a lending experience it was. That's really I think a better especially in our industry. I think that the referral business that we get from our past clients speaks greater volumes than then coming back to us for the next loan. Well we certainly want that to happen as well. It's going to be a little bit longer incubation period for that specific client to come back for a second transaction.
Malcolm Lui: For every 10 clients who borrow from Thrive. How many of those 10 will make a referral that will result some business for your company
James Duncan: I'd say at least nine. Jeff. Yeah. Just just because of the the job that our fellows do not just during the transaction but after the transaction as well. There have been and I kind of point back to the CRM that to be in touch CRM that we use. We have a certain set of campaigns that are set up that so that during the process during the manufacturing process of the loan we are in communication with the buyer the buyer's agent as well as the listing agent on the property. Earlier this year I had a closing where a listing agent reached out to me after the closing or actually I followed up with them and said hey this is a great experience we'd love to meet you at some point the future this real turn I'd never met face to face but when when we were able to actually touch base she said I have never seen a lender communicate as well. I mean this and this is a top performing realtor in the Austin area. She said I have never worked with a lender that communicated as well as you did during this process. I appreciate all the updates. You were very professional. So I saw it and said I had a lot of really nice things to say and I said thank you very much. Well within the span of the next two weeks she sent me to refinance referrals. Now for your audience that for members of your audience that don't fully understand the implication of that a realtor in a refinance transaction is not needed.
How great communications led to future a referral.
James Duncan: The real this particular realtor because of her experience with me in that one closing sent me to refinance for referrals of clients of hers that she and sold homes to that wanted to refinance their home. So she was getting nothing out of the transaction. Yes she still felt that the value was built and the relationship that she and I had with her as the listing agent she still felt strongly enough that like this company gets it. They know what they're doing. And she sent me to clients that she was going to get nothing out of the transaction. We've since done a couple other purchase deals since then. But that alone speaks volumes to the power of our process and how we have structured our business and how we have to have tailored a way that all parties see immense value through this transaction not just the speed at which we were able to get things done but the counsel that we provide and the the communication that we provide all through all the stages of the process. One of the top complaints that people on the purchase side are that consumers and also realtors have about lenders is lack of communication as the number one complaint across across the industry. Well we've solved that problem.
Malcolm Lui: And his communications. What channels are being used to my telephone calls emails written and what
James Duncan: All of
Malcolm Lui: Can
James Duncan: It.
Malcolm Lui: Be
James Duncan: And typically it's just emails text message phone calls basically giving them any any necessary updates through all the different milestones because there are certain benchmarks that you have to hit within a certain timeframe with a real estate transaction. And so keeping them abreast of all those important milestones what's going on right now. When are we expected to be done with underwriting when a re expecting the appraisal to come back. Winter have inspections been completed. There are dozens of things that need to be communicated throughout the course of of of completing a loan transaction or completing a real estate purchase. And the lenders and a very important component of that. And when realtors are not getting the updates that they need they're not able to share that information with their clients whether the seller or the buyer. And so being and circumventing that problem and being the source of communication with the progress of the loan that that kind of puts us in the driver's seat for driving the value to that transaction
Malcolm Lui: Yeah
James Duncan: And we
Malcolm Lui: Definitely.
James Duncan: Do a very good job of it.
Malcolm Lui: Yeah I mean I think the biggest issue is if there are any delays of any sort right. Everyone wants to know about it so you can fix it right away. Right. I don't want to surprise you know three days before the deadline.
James Duncan: Exactly. I never call a realtor or a client. I never call them to give them a problem. If I have an hour without being able to offer at least one solution to the problem
Malcolm Lui: All right I make sense now. Do you have systems in place to make all these communications really easy for your loan originators
James Duncan: Yes they again the CRM there's a lot of we have a number of campaigns that are built into our CRM that once certain triggers get sent from our loan origination system they get pushed over to our CRM so the CRM knows to fire off a particular message in a particular sequence to a particular recipient. So let's say the appraisal the appraisal is one of the is one of the things and this is nothing against appraisers. It just takes time for them to do what they do the appraisal is one of the one of the items that we have to have on every loan transaction that typically takes the longest number of just total days. There's other things that we can do while the appraisal is in the process but the appraisal is one of the key things that we need in order to complete a transaction. So sometimes an appraisal depending on the market sometimes on appraisal can take five to seven business days from when it's ordered to when the appraiser actually submits the finished report. So that's a long stretch of time especially when you're trying to close in 10 days. So the key is we order the appraisal early and then when it gets back we have an underwriter who reviews all the appraisals that come in and make sure that the appraisal is legit. That that all the collateral checks out and that the valuation to subject property meaning that the property that's being purchased may make sure that the valuation to matches the the the the contract agreement or make sure that's within a reasonable range. There are some times when an appraisal will come back and it misses the mark. The appraiser says well you have a purchase price of 300 thousand the appraisal came in at 275.
James Duncan: I don't think the appraiser is basically saying I don't think that this house is worth three thousand. That's a problem. And having a ready solution for how to mitigate that is what kind of separates the really top notch lenders from the the also rans. And that's kind of one of the things that we specialize. But back to the communication question. That is something that needs to be communicated to all parties immediately whether it didn't whether it missed value or whether it came right in on the number either way. Once we get that report back we review it quickly and then we post that and then that message gets fired out to all parties saying hey we got the appraisal back. Everything's good. Full steam ahead and having those triggers. And that's just one example of one benchmark throughout the course of the transaction. There's multiple. So there's probably about there's really about five or six stages where there needs to be a certain kind of communication going out to all the parties and that's what really sets sets a good loan officer apart. That as well as just supplemental calls for Hey just wanna let you know got the documentation back and we're good to go everything checks out. And just having those quick little phone calls are quick little text messages these days a lot of our borrowers are comfortable receiving this kind of information by text. And so we've got a little ole text heavy and so we built into our campaigns certain text messages going out to the parties because they just want it might not need to be a big huge long message sometimes it's just a real quick little. Hey how you doing. This is today's update
Malcolm Lui: Right now. The system is entirely automated and it fires these off automatically or does the loan origination officer review them and say yes send this Yes and that
James Duncan: The ELO does have that choice. Most of our loan officers opt to have those messages sent sent automatically simply because it takes one more thing off of their shoulders and freeze them up to do more prospecting or to do more relationship building with their referral partners. So they do have the option of automating those campaigns if they are very detail oriented and very particular and want to make sure that they know exactly when a message is going out. That's fine they can do that. It's just taking taking a little bit more time than than what the system was designed to do. But they can if they want
Malcolm Lui: Okay. Now you mentioned prospecting and t share how much of your business comes from referrals and how much of it comes from the hard work that you're out Elmo's do to find new business
James Duncan: I'd I'd lump both of those into the same category. Honestly
Malcolm Lui: Ok
James Duncan: I realize the question that you're getting at but they are that the ELA the loan officers business is largely referral based. All of our branches and all of our loan originators in each of our branches are responsible for the vast majority of all the leads and prospecting that they that they get. There are occasional times when somebody will pick up the phone and call the corporate office and say and tell us Hey I'm down in Houston Texas and I'm looking for a loan officer. I saw some advertising on social media about you guys and was really curious if you could connect me with. With talk to somebody about a loan. Well we're not going to keep that here in-house. We do have a handful of corporate loan officers but they're they're not intended to be competitors to our retail world. The corporate loan officers are handling specific one off situations. Sometimes they'll take a lead that comes in a corporate office but really we want to feed as much of that business out to our local retail branches in the area because they know the areas where they were that they serve better than than we do. So if a call comes in says Yeah I'm down in the Houston area we'll get specific okay. What part of Houston are you looking in. Well that's great. We've got a branch right down the street from you
Malcolm Lui: Ok
James Duncan: And we'll find it we'll funnel it to that branch. So but that's a that's a very rare exception. Most of the prospecting and most of the referrals that come in are solely based on the efforts of the individual Ello out in the field
Malcolm Lui: James how do your elbows find new business. The ones that aren't coming from referrals.
Thrive encourages their team to promote themselves via social media
James Duncan: Every elo is very adept at promoting themselves and promoting their business so that we encourage them and we'll help some on the marketing from the marketing department perspective will support them with any marketing collateral that they need in terms of whether it's flyers we prefer those to be digital. We would like to encourage our sales teams to promote themselves as much as possible through social media. That's one of the things that we do as the marketing team as we're pushing a lot of material out through our social media channels that promote our products or services or are our fast turn times the value that we provide to to all all different parties. So our objective from a corporate stance is promoting the brand and getting our name out there as often as possible and in as many through as May channels as possible that low then takes additional collateral that we produce specifically for them post it to their social media channels. We also offer a lot of branding coaching and lead generation coaching various different tactics that they can use to whether it's toasting special events or or open houses are kind of how things used to go. But with the advent of all the technology that's available to us it makes more sense for that prospecting to be handled digitally and then a third track is as that. Nothing really replaces the personal one on one relationships that our loan officers established with with the individual realtor and with other referral partners not just realtors but financial planners accountants attorneys especially real estate attorneys investment groups and the like so every market is different just like every lending situation is different. So we give our fellows the freedom to prospect however they see fit or whatever suits their style the best. And we're here to offer as much support and and coaching and guidance as they need.
Malcolm Lui: So what's your thinking or what's the company's thinking and perhaps even your thinking as well about not having a more corporate driven lead generation. Like for example Thrive Mortgage to advertise proactively seek out people in the home buying process and then connect the leads and then send them to the relevant local office for them to follow up on
Buying leads is an expensive proposition
James Duncan: That is a strategy that some have have pitched for me personally and and I believe that I can speak for just kind of the impression on the corporate. There are so many different pay for clicks or pay for leads our pay for lead generation resources out there and everyone has a favorite. And our personal stances. Is it really just relates to the cost of it for us to be purchasing leads right now in the industry there with market compression and with with everything going that's going on in terms of rates and competitiveness between amongst the lenders. Not too long ago a lot of the big box lenders that have just almost unlimited. I won't say completely unlimited but almost unlimited resources it seems at their disposal went and bought bought up all the major sources of leads a few months ago in our industry buying valid leads is an expensive proposition. So for us we feel it's a more responsible use of our own of our resources and of our growth projections to to not engage in that and instead to allow the ELO to select which lead generation resources are most beneficial to them. Some pay for Zillow lead some some spend spend money on Facebook ads or or linked in promotions or something along those lines. There are a lot of ways that you can generate generate leads and everybody has their own different style of what they consider to be a viable lead. For us it's really just providing them the resources the internal resources to to brand themselves not just promote the Thrive brand but also promote their own individual brand as a Thrive loan officer and make sure that we are supporting them as best as we can.
Malcolm Lui: Yeah that makes sense. For sure people have different styles different personalities and different ways of building the business for 2019. What are the company's targets for closed and funded loans versus 2018. I know in 2018 you're looking to close around 900 million dollars worth of loans. And what's a target for 2019. And what's the plan to get there
James Duncan: We're expecting as far as as far as our total closing funded loan volume we're expecting by the end of the year to be at one point to five to one point five billion and close and funded volume and that's obviously that's a market jump from what we had to 17 in 2018. But there's a number of factors that are playing into that one technology that we are in the process of adopting and rolling out to all of our branches that's going to make our process much much quicker. So the typical ELO to this year was closing three or four loans a month next year because of the advanced technology and because of the advanced tools that we are providing to our teams they're going to be able to do do transactions much much faster and we'll probably be able to see at least a 50 to 100 percent increase in that in their business. So that's one strategy. The other strategy is because of the brand change the rebranding and because of our ability at at marketing the Thrive brand and getting the name recognition in multiple different states we're branching out to new markets and that is largely a result of our new national sales director gentleman named Randall Gillespie.
James Duncan: And he has done a fantastic job of using his connections in the industry as he is a longtime veteran of the mortgage industry and using his name and his reputation. People know that he's not going to go somewhere that is just some kind of fly by night organization. It's a it was a very serious step in the right direction for us and because of the connections that he has we're able to now branch into a number of other markets where we didn't previously have a foothold and the types of recruiting that that we are doing and the coaching that we're providing our existing staff. We fully expect to see that kind of a lift in our business so as as many of our competitors kind of struggle to adjust to the the winds of change so to speak in the industry. We've already made those adjustments and have trimmed our sales I can use a sailing analogy and and and we know our destination and we've got a very solid plan of how to get there
Malcolm Lui: Great. Fantastic. Now what do you see as the biggest challenges that you your team would need to overcome to execute the strategies you outlined to get you from 900 million to one point eighty five or one point five billion of those that funded transactions.
James Duncan: One of the biggest challenges that we're gonna face are the variables that we can't control. We can only do so much as far in regards to what race were able to offer with rates largely being driven by the bond market and and the kind of a tangential tie to the stock market. The watch watching the volunteer volatility that's been going on the stock market recently is I don't say disconcerting that's a little low extreme of a word but it is certainly something that's been eye catching for for a few months. It's kind of a weird situation for the mortgage industry to be in because the economy is going very very well in just about every sector except real estate and that's what it's it's it's both a frustration as well as kind of a kind of a shoulder shrug where just kind of well I mean that's one component that we just have very little control over. And
Malcolm Lui: What
James Duncan: But as
Malcolm Lui: About
James Duncan: Far at
Malcolm Lui: What about the components that you do have control over. What are the challenges there that that that that you guys are facing that you know you can have some degree of control over that you need to overcome to hit your goals
James Duncan: As far as what we can control we can we can control our process we can control the way that we market ourselves and the service that we provide and the more we stick the excuse me the more we adhere to what our core values are the more our clients and our future clients are going to really understand what we mean when we talk about having a offering a a legendary lending experience. We want this to be something where they don't have the stress that normally is associated with buying a new home because it is a very stressful transaction. We can also control our growth. We can control what markets where we're going into. We can. We also have the ability to control kind of how we how we position ourselves to to and in terms of the branding of who we are and getting the name out there.
Malcolm Lui: Okay
James Duncan: There are a number of things that we can control that that were that we're taking full advantage of
Malcolm Lui: So of those things you mentioned. Which one's the biggest challenge to execute well and to achieve is at getting your brand out there getting people out there to be aware Thrive. Is that the biggest challenge is it hiring additional people to grow your retail branch outlet to get people to use technology. Or is it totally something something entirely different. What is the biggest challenge. You definitely need to overcome to hit your 2019 targets
Biggest challenge: getting their branding and name recognition beefed up.
James Duncan: Well and in my opinion I'm a little biased in this but I'll say it's the first option that you offer there and as head of the head of the marketing team for Thrive I would say my personal biggest challenge is going to be that exactly that branding and getting the name recognition beefed up to a level where I don't think I think we've got a long way to go before Thrive and quicken our Quicken Loans were uttered in the same sentence but. But that's okay. They kind of had a little bit of a head start on us. But as long as we are doing our level best to make sure that Thrive is synonymous with value and that Thrive is as synonymous with integrity and with serving our clients to the best of our abilities and keeping their best interests at top of mind then I think that we'll be successful in that regard and as big as the mortgage industry is. It's actually it actually is kind of a small community where word travels fast and a lot of people know a lot of other people. And so it's kind of funny going to conferences now as opposed to before the name change when I would tell people who I worked for and would say Georgetown mortgage they'd be like OK who where are you now. When I say we're we're Thrive I work Thrive Mortgage there's like Oh I read an article about you all the other day and I'm starting to see that more and more and more and I think that largely has to do with the with the efforts of the marketing team and and the company as a whole to be quite honest with you because there are a lot of people that really jumped on latched on to the name change in that and the brand change and have done a great jump themselves of promoting it. So it's not just our internal efforts it's it's also the efforts of everybody out in the field.
Malcolm Lui: Games from a marketing perspective. You know what's the one biggest marketing challenge you have right now. I know you talk about getting the word out but what's your plan to get the word out that you think can be most effective. And how is our plan working out so far for you
James Duncan: I think the biggest thing for me I guess you could you could pose a challenge. One of the biggest things for us is is making sure that our social media game is on point. That is something that we have historically not been great at. But but with this year especially leading up to and then during and then after the rebrand we really had a major lift and our social media game and both the not just the quantity of postings across all the different platform platforms but also the messaging and getting things out there that are that are valuable. One of the primary things that's that's really really important to us is that no matter how big we grow that we still maintain that community feel and the feel of being a family on business because we still are a family owned business. And the one of the ways that we are doing that is seeking ways to to highlight the ways that our branches are involved in their local communities. We've been doing a number of community that we call them community videos but basically it's highlighting certain branches for instance we have a branch up in our Dallas area that works very closely every year with a homeless shelter in the Dallas area. We recently just published a video that was shot by our videographer team highlighting both the work of that that homeless shelter as well as interviewing the branch members who are part of that volunteering effort and will and every year donate thousands and thousands of dollars worth of resources and their time and go serve at the homeless shelter. They take two days to do it and serve a hot meal.
James Duncan: We document the whole thing almost like a kind of a Ken Burns type special and just buy and boil it down to like a six minute video and we promoted that through social media and it is given us a tremendous amount of lift. Now we're not doing that just to get the marketing lift we're doing it to help promote that homeless shelter promote the volunteerism of our branch there. But we received a tremendous amount of applause from our folks in the field in other markets saying that is a fantastic video we need to do we need to do more of this. And and as the director of marketing I'm sitting there not in my head exactly. That's the reason why we do this. I really think that that being a company that has a ready answer for why we're in business it's going to be very very critical and that's that's the big message that we want to get out to the rest of world or at least the rest of the markets that where we where we serve clients is that we're not just in this for the profits that we are a company that is driven by by more than that that we're a community of individuals with some great stories to tell and we want to meet other storytellers and in our referral partners and our clients and and and make a greater impact than than just getting somebody a mortgage we're giving somebody an opportunity to build their families and to build their their dreams and build their life
Malcolm Lui: It
James Duncan: That's
Malcolm Lui: Asked.
James Duncan: What drives us
Malcolm Lui: And that's like two last questions for you James. Who are your ideal clients and what's the best way for them to reach you and your team
Their ideal clients and the best way to reach them
James Duncan: Ideal clients really is just anybody that needs new solutions for for financing. There are and we will probably break down the number of loans we do buy by demographic. If we had time that would be a pretty extensive report but I would say that anybody who is a first time homebuyer there they are going to come to us. We don't delve into the into non QM or non qualified mortgage products. Just a quick definition of that non QM versus QM QM is basically the the safe types of loans. Those are the the different the different down payment programs that are that get sold to Fannie and Freddie. We can do jumbos. We can work with B.A. buyers we can work with FHA buyers QM loan is basically anything we're as much risk as possible has been mitigated non QM A lot of people mistakenly refer to these as subprime loans. That's a whole different discussion but non QM are loans that are add to add on a little bit more risk onto both the lenders shoulders as well as the borrower shoulders. They typically come with a higher interest rate. That's not really a model that we're interested in playing in. We do have broker broker options where we can send those to a another investor that we have relationships with but that's not our typical client or typical client is somebody who wants to get into just a safe conservative type of type of loan. We can't find alternatives for them. If the if the qualifying criteria doesn't match up with what we offer. But but that's our ideal client. And
Malcolm Lui: The best
James Duncan: Does that
Malcolm Lui: Way
James Duncan: Kind
Malcolm Lui: For
James Duncan: Of
Malcolm Lui: Them
James Duncan: Use your
Malcolm Lui: To reach you and
James Duncan: Best.
Malcolm Lui: The best way for them to reach you.
James Duncan: The best way for them to reach us is probably going to be through social media actually instead of sending them to a Web site Web site will we'll give them basic information that they can find just about anywhere but the way to find us directly and most quickly would be to go to follow us on Facebook just search up Thrive Mortgage. You'll find us Twitter same thing LinkedIn same thing go into our social media platforms is usually gonna be the quickest way to interact with us and find and if you get in touch with us corporate we can direct you to a retail location that will be able to serve you excellently
Malcolm Lui: Thanks for joining us today James and sharing how you how your companies has accelerate their high value sales
James Duncan: Absolutely Malcolm it's been my pleasure and thank you very much for the invitation.
Malcolm Lui: We've been speaking with James Duncan, the Director of Education and Engagement at Thrive Mortgage about his company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing high value sales companies, or to learn how we can accelerate your firm's high value sales through automation, visit Eversprint.com.
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