If the mere thought of printing out numerous documents, filling them out and scanning them back into a computer sends a shiver down your spine, it’s probably because you live in the 21st century.
The mortgage industry, however, is stuck in the past. And if you’re a loan officer, that means you’re likely also stuck — dealing with mountains of paperwork, finicky fax machines and hours of manual work.
“Most mortgage companies still rely heavily on paperwork,” Aaron Simonson, a director of production at Neat Loans, said. “Anything the borrower gives them, loan officers have to manually look at it and manipulate to figure out what they need to accomplish for the borrower’s goals.”
Fortunately, things work a little differently at Neat Loans, a startup that intends to bring the mortgage industry into the modern era. The company’s tech enables borrowers to upload their documents, then guides them through a comprehensive series of questions and prompts that spell out exactly what they need to provide in order to secure a loan.
“I know that sounds simple,” Simonson said. “The whole world works that way, but the mortgage industry doesn’t.”
Neat Loans’ tech makes life easier for borrowers, who benefit from a faster, more transparent process than if they were to go through another lender, thanks to digital tools and a rapid pre-approval feature. But customers aren’t the only ones benefitting from Neat Loan’s processes: They’ve also been a game-changer for loan officers, who can zip through files in a fraction of the time, allowing them to close more deals and grow their businesses faster.
That’s been a boon to the careers of Neat Loan officers, according to Simonson and his colleagues Director of Lending Justin Carmichael and Senior Home Loan Advisor Chuck Threshie. The trio connected with Built In to share how, since joining Neat Loans, their careers have unfolded — and how they’ve been able to leave their mark on a new kind of mortgage industry.
How has Neat Loans’ ability to differentiate itself impacted your experience as a loan officer?
Director of Production, Western Division Aaron Simonson: If you were going through a traditional mortgage banker or broker, there are just a handful of programs that everybody uses. If you’re a loan officer looking to move to a new organization, really you’re just kind of changing the company you work for, but probably still using the same technology and methods.
At Neat Loans, we’re trying to do something very different: We’re using intelligence and technology to actually bring the mortgage industry into modern times. We’ve spent a lot of time building tools that enable clients to have a seamless application, approval and funding of their loans through an easy-to-use platform.
We’re using intelligence and technology to actually bring the mortgage industry into modern times.”
Senior Home Loan Advisor Chuck Threshie: Prior to joining Neat, I was a wealth manager in finance. We offered mortgages, but the process was so painful. Every time I got involved in a home loan, 85 to 95 percent of the time clients would threaten to fire me because their mortgage wasn’t going well, thanks to an antiquated, challenging process.
When I was approached by Neat Loans to invest, I was so fascinated by the mission that not only did I invest, I joined the company with both feet. This was something I wanted to be a part of because it was such a refreshing opportunity to simplify the mortgage process.
Welcome to Neat
We’re in a hot real estate market. How can Neat Loans help buyers secure their dream house?
Director of Lending Justin Carmichael: When buying a house in this very hot market, there are usually multiple people making offers on every house, and there’s not much differentiation between banks for loans. Maybe a buyer can write a letter to the seller to try to persuade them to take their offer, but outside that, there aren’t many tools for buyers to leverage.
We, however, can put clients in a better position to be more effective to win particular deals. For example, if a house has five offers on it, all of which might look the same and have contingencies, perhaps they can’t close for 60 days because the bank takes that long to process the loan. But through Neat, buyers don’t have to wait. They get full credit approval right off the bat, have access to a cash-like offer through Neat’s Platinum Pre-Approval, and can close in 15-20 days. This allows us to position our clients much more aggressively. And in this market, you need to be really sharp when you make your offer.
Threshie: Every time I’ve introduced our Platinum Pre-Approval product to an agent or referral partner, I can see a noticeable reaction from them because of how we can help them differentiate themselves to their buyers and clients. I can’t tell you how many times over the last year our Platinum Pre-Approval product has won deals because we can move forward without a mortgage contingency and make a bank commitment up front.
Plus, our software is beautiful and intuitive. It changes each subsequent question based on the answer you just submitted, which is pretty remarkable.
What has Neat’s approach to the mortgage industry meant for employees’ career growth?
Simonson: Some people come to us looking to be sales managers. I try to have a very open-door policy as far as management goes. If someone needs to hire five people underneath them, I’ll help them by getting on phone calls and going to dinner or coffee with potential team members. There have been a lot of people who’ve come here looking for managerial roles who have been successful.
Aside from that, most loan officers are simply looking for a place to grow their business. At Neat, most people see an average sales pipeline growth of about 30 to 40 percent after six months. This kind of opportunity isn’t just because we have great rates, it’s also because our platform allows them to spend less time per file. We always push our officers to spend less than 30 minutes on a file, whereas the average officer at other organizations probably spends two or three hours per file. The growth they see at Neat is because they finally have the ability to do their job — and their job isn’t paperwork. It’s going out and building relationships.
Carmichael: The market has taken off during Covid-19, but even during the 2019 calendar year, which was a flat-to-slightly-declining real estate market, I was still able to grow my business by 35 percent. I was able to take deals from other people in the industry because everyone else was doing the same thing, whereas I had a differentiator: Neat Loans’ technology.
Growing your business in a flat market is the litmus test of what opportunity exists for an originator. Because of all the parties we work with — sellers, real estate agents, buyer’s attorneys, seller’s attorneys and more — what we do here catches on like wildfire. It’s made Neat Loans the easiest place I’ve worked to grow my referral base.
What we do here catches on like wildfire.”
Threshie: I had no loan officer experience when I came to Neat Loans. For the past three years that I’ve been licensed, I have been able to grow my business year over year. I don’t think I would have been able to do that at another bank or brokerage.
What is Neat Loans’ company culture like? How does this culture help employees with their own career development?
Threshie: Startups aren’t for everyone. Throughout my career, I have worked at companies that had guardrails and different departments. Then, I came to a startup where everyone wears different hats and tries to solve problems that other legacy companies have already thought through. It’s a really exciting experience, and at Neat Loans, I embraced that culture of quick growth.
Simonson: When we build out those new processes, we do so in a really collaborative format. We have a wiki that everyone can contribute to: It’s a living document that people are really proud of adding to.
We also have a really great culture. There’s about a third of the company I’ve never met in real life, but I feel like they’re my good friends because we interact all of the time. If you’re struggling, you can reach out to others for guidance. There are so many people from all generations here, so you can see what someone who’s been doing this for 30 years is doing to be successful and what’s working for someone who just joined out of college. We do a good job of blending all of that experience together.
Carmichael: At other places where I’ve worked as an originator, I felt like I was pushing a boulder up a hill due to the cumbersome processes, archaic technology and back-end issues that don’t allow you to perform to the best of your ability. At Neat, we have a tech team that’s willing to listen to the people who interact with customers, and are willing to adapt our tools and processes. It’s a collaborative effort between operations and sales to figure out how we can do more business and make our clients happier.
It’s often difficult for originators at big companies to eliminate obstacles to their success. But at Neat, we thrive on making people more successful. And to me, that’s the best quality we offer right now.