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Mortgage Industry’s Battle for Talent Has Job Seekers Running the Show


  • Demand for home loans skyrocketed during the pandemic as interest rates plummeted.
  • That, in turn, has led to soaring demand for talent, including underwriters and loan officers.
  • One recruiter recalls an ‘absolutely insane’ $50,000 signing bonus, says job seekers are ‘running the show.’

When it comes to hot hiring markets, the mortgage industry may well be on fire. 

The

Federal Reserve
slashed rates in the spring of 2020 as the pandemic emerged in the US, supercharging the mortgage market in the process as borrowers looked to refinance existing loans or buy new homes. 

Competition for talent within real-estate lending over the past year has consequently seen some fast-growing lenders (and not necessarily banks) hike salaries by tens of thousands of dollars and offer equally mammoth signing bonuses to attract experienced workers. Other lenders have been filling job gaps by turning to pandemic-stressed industries, like hospitality, to poach new talent.

“Right now, I’d say these candidates are running the show,” Madeline White, an executive mortgage industry recruiter at Parker + Lynch and based in Phoenix, told Insider. Many of her clients are smaller to medium-sized companies who might not have dedicated staff and resources to train talent. 

White added that since last year, she has seen one mortgage professional offered a $50,000 signing bonus and salaries for underwriters in some cases rise $30,000 to $40,000 above what was once considered a “normal” market.

A “50k sign-on is absolutely insane,” White said of the offer, which the candidate accepted. 

Although the frenzy has started to settle down in recent months as lenders have staffed up, White says skyrocketing demand from lenders is far from over. Clients have told her, “I filled all my needs, but call me back in six weeks and I promise I’ll have another 10 loan processors that I’m going to need,” she said.

The mortgage industry’s hiring spree comes amid a broader US labor shortage created by fears of Covid-19 and, according to many employers, boosted unemployment benefits and generous pandemic stimulus checks. This is a look at just one industry’s efforts to rectify the problem as the economy struggles to rebound from the pandemic.  

Mortgage industry jobs consist of loan officers, who assist borrowers with loan applications, and underwriters, who assess the creditworthiness of clients. Underwriters in particular have been in high demand, industry insiders say. 

In addition to near-zero interest rates, broader, structural factors have also played a role in the industry’s tight labor market, since there’s typically not a dedicated class of loan officers or underwriters who graduate college each year.

“The mortgage industry is still today a tribal knowledge industry,” Anthony Hsieh, the founder and CEO of the digital mortgage lender loanDepot, told Insider. “Anyone that has a specific skill set that is hard to train, there’s a demand for it. Underwriters are highly in demand,” he added.

loanDepot has added about 5,000 net new employees since March 2020, the company said.

Hiring from hospitality

When it comes to less experienced workers, the mortgage industry’s staffing woes may actually be contributing to worker shortages elsewhere as some lenders say they were able to boost their ranks by tapping newly laid-off workers to fill entry-level job vacancies during the dark days of the pandemic last year.

United Wholesale Mortgage has recruited laid-off workers for entry level jobs, Laura Lawson, the company’s head of people, told Insider, and about 40% of 5,000 new hires in 2020 were employees who had lost work. Hires from hospitality are especially suited for client service roles, she added.

According to Lawson, UWM has not raised…



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