In Focus: The rise of branch networks
By Don Horne
Branch networks are proving popular among unsatisfied brokers – and that can be attributed to a lot less of one thing, and a lot more of another.
Branch networks like Integrity Mortgage Group provide corporate support without the corporate red tape, says Kelly Wolfe, co-founder and president of Integrity Mortgage Group.
“We think our size is one of our big assets here at IMG,” Wolfe says. “We have an open door with our branches and our people, and not many people can call and get the owners directly – and that’s pretty standard here.”
The shift from brokerage to branch network is due to the flexibility that a company like IMG provides, versus the rigid guidelines that hinder originators.
And it isn’t just the agents that appreciate that freedom, but the clients as well.
“I think service is the key in this environment,” Wolfe says. “Everybody is offering pretty much the same product, so what sets you apart is what you can do for your client – the service you offer.”
Part of that service package includes being FHA, USDA and VA approved, delegated with investors, and having adequate funding in warehouse lines.
“But having that flexibility and being able to make a decision quickly, without having to peel back those layers of red tape, I think is big for our branches and our customers,” Wolfe says.
Branch networks can also give originators the tools to adapt to changing times and technologies – and that means meeting the needs of the growing millennial market.
“They would have surgery on their phones if they could. They are definitely connected, and it is a different generation,” Wolfe says. “They are obviously going to get into the housing market – they aren’t going to rent forever, and that will change the complexity of the industry as it goes forward.”
But changing how mortgages are done – changes that need to come at Internet speed –means that underwriting needs to be not only faster, but absolutely on point, Wolfe says.
“We’re ‘paperless’ and a lot of our stuff is done in the system, and I think we’re up on the curve on technology as anyone,” he says. “We’re looking at handling documents and signoffs that can be done on your phone. We actually use e-signature and Encompass now. We’re as advanced as the industry is right now.”
And staying on the leading edge of technology has meant that IMG can go toe-to-toe with the big boys in the mortgage space.
“I like to say, ‘We’re small enough to care, but big enough to offer everything you need,’” Wolfe says. “We’re not working on a shoestring budget; we have the technology and everything that our competitors have. The big difference between us is that we have the ability to make the decisions without having to go through layers and layers of departmental people to get to that point. We can make that decision in a day if we have to.”
For more on Integrity Mortgage Group, keep an eye out for other In Focus stories this week.