2020 was a record-breaking year for the mortgage industry. Volume topped out at close to $3.8 trillion—the highest level of origination since 2003. It was an incredibly successful year despite a global pandemic, and a time for rapid growth among lenders of all types across the country. 

At the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Spring Conference, Qualia Account Director, Ty Cieloha, led an open forum with the MBA’s young professionals network, mPact, to discuss how business leaders are responding to the changes and growth happening in the industry. 

A new workforce emerges

Throughout the pandemic, the mortgage industry offered opportunity to those who lost their jobs in other hard-hit sectors of the economy such as entertainment, travel, and the broader services industry.

During the peak of the refinance boom, job openings for mortgage loan officers spiked dramatically as the industry upped its hiring capacity to keep up with demand. According to a Money.com report, there was a 123% increase in job openings from March to June 2020. Meanwhile, big players such as Quicken Loans and loanDepot offered thousands of open positions. Several panelists shared the growth of their own businesses over the course of the pandemic, and one participant noted that his business has doubled its hiring capacity. 

The hiring spree across the country was an exciting moment for the mortgage industry to demonstrate its dynamism. “Many of my peers don’t know about the industry and aren’t aware of how they could fit in,” Krystal Thomas, Sr. Specialist for Industry Relations & Member Engagement at the MBA, said. “My background is in conflict resolution and Mediterranean security. None of that related to anything in this industry [on the surface] but this industry is the perfect fit for my overall skill set.” 

Challenges in a remote environment

While many people benefitted from the increase in job openings, the panelists agreed that this was likely a difficult transition for the new workforce. “I have empathy for people starting their career in this environment,” James Paolino, CEO of LodeStar Software Solutions, noted. “When I was first starting out I didn’t always have the discipline to work from home—it takes a lot of initiative [to successfully work remotely].” 

Despite these drawbacks, new workforce entrants had the benefit of learning how to work in one of the most challenging environments (a global pandemic full of uncertainty) right out of the gate. Plus, new employees were in the same boat as everyone else navigating the uncertainty of the pandemic. 

These new entrants also benefited from relative job security compared to other industries. While other industries laid off employees at record rates, the mortgage industry went on a hiring frenzy and even offered prospective employees large bonuses to join their teams in an effort to stay competitive in a hot job market. 

Now could be the perfect time for career advancement 

During a record-breaking year and amid a global pandemic, many mortgage lenders faced unprecedented challenges related to compliance, volume, and quickly-shifting regulations. This ultimately created opportunities for existing employees to level-up their leadership skills and earn greater responsibility. “Folks who just started out [at the onset of the pandemic] are now managers just because of the growth we’ve experienced in the last year,” one participant noted. 

Other panelists added that career advancement can also be a mechanism for diversifying teams. “If you’re feeling survivor’s guilt by advancing your career when others are losing their jobs, look at things differently and see the opportunity to bring others into this industry by growing your team,” Paolino said. 

Another strong year on the horizon

It’s expected that 2021 will be another strong year for the mortgage lending industry and it’s likely that another wave of new talent with fresh perspectives will enter the field. It’s an exciting time to be in real estate, and Qualia will be following along with our upcoming series “The Workplace of the Future.” To stay up to date with the latest stories in this series, click below to subscribe and receive the latest updates straight to your inbox.