Back to Basics: Growing in a Contracting Market
Joe Welu: Hello everyone. I'm Joe Welu, thanks so much for tuning in to Expert Insights where we talk with industry leaders across modern financial services to discuss leadership and innovation. Let's get started. Hello everyone. Joe Welu here with another episode of Expert Insights. Today I'm pleased to be joined by Traci Huntemann- Piatt, VP of Marketing with, a great company, Envoy Mortgage. Traci, thanks so much for being here. Welcome to the Expert Insights Podcast. How are you?
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Awesome. Thanks for having me, Joe.
Joe Welu: Yeah, a little bit of a crazy times out there these days. So how are you and the team kind of navigating this environment? And maybe let's just start out talking a little bit, you're known as a really great leader in the industry and would love to just hear your perspective on how you're guiding the team right now in this climate.
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Well, I think it's just focusing on positiveness. The mortgage industry has always been cyclical. There's always been up and downs. We're just happen to be hitting one of the downs, and we've certainly seen these before. So right now it's focusing on the purchase business. We obviously have pivoted away from our refi and the purchase business is a longer game. So it takes a little bit more time, a longer runway to get those deals done. And so you have to have some patience in what you're doing and you have to be doing quite a bit to just keep out there and keep in front of folks. One of the biggest things is trying to move the discussion away from REITs. That's where we hear all the doom and gloom right now. But home ownership is still the American dream and it's still something that's achievable. And so you need to focus on the things that home ownership does bring an owner. That's the way they build wealth, and that's what all of our dream is. It's a way for security, it's consistency and budget. Rent can go up. A mortgage is pretty set. And it's also reminding yourself that a mortgage is temporary, the home ownership is long- term. So when rates change, you can refi and perhaps save some money that way.
Joe Welu: It's really, really well said and we've talked a lot about that with different execs and groups that I speak to pretty frequently. And look, the dream of home ownership in America is still really meaningful. And I think you hit the nail on the head is that you have to change the conversation away from just rates, which is certainly does impact some people, but it's ultimately, there is a long game here. And this long- term game of home ownership is a really important one. You touched on something in terms of just positivity in the market. I mean, we see from our perspective there's really two types of leaders and two types of organizations. You've got the bucket that you guys are in, that you're in is, hey, growth mindset, positivity, and what are the actions that you can take to be proactive right now? And then let's think, while there's some short- term turbulence, let's think long- term. Let's run some plays that long- term are going to pay off. I mean, how are you guys thinking about, how do you get that mindset infused into the company? You have a lot of the sales organization that you guys support. Do you have any tips or tricks or secrets in terms of getting that mindset distilled down through the organization?
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Oh, I think it's a team effort, of course. It's everybody in leadership who is maintaining that positive out sight on what's going on in the market. And there's plenty of opportunity that's still out there. So you have to work maybe a little harder than you did the last couple years because purchase business has always been a little bit of a harder thing to get than a refi. And you also have to have the patience. I mean, a refi can drop in your box today and you can kind of do that right away. When a purchase deal, that could take six months to even two years sometimes to get a purchase done, just because there's so many other factors that go into that. It's keeping out there and reminding folks what tools and resources they have available to them. Letting them know where the opportunities lie, where they should be spending their time and effort, making sure they're taking advantage of all of the tools and resources they have available to them today to do all the things they need to do to keep that pipeline strong and to keep it active.
Joe Welu: Yeah, no, that's really well said. How important do you feel it is for your team to be really nimble right now and kind of quickly react to changing market conditions? I guess that's part one. And then part two, how much different is your strategy on technology? Are you leaning into technology more to stay nimble and stay in front of customers to be able to cut through that noise? Just maybe give me your perspective there.
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Well, in terms of the market, it's really important to keep in touch with the folks that are out there, our sales teams. And they're the ones who will often let us know when there's a market change or a product or a service that is going to react better to these markets. And then it's being able to pivot very quickly and get them the tools and resources they need to be able to take advantage of those markets. I mean buydowns is a big example, that's new. They needed something in hand as quickly as possible to be able to explain to a buyer how these different buydown programs work and how it could impact their ability to purchase a home. So our team was able to get those out pretty quickly. And that includes things like emails, social media, as well as just a simple flyer so that they can talk through a potential buyer.
Joe Welu: So my opinion, and obviously correct me if I'm wrong, but one of your core strategies that you guys seem to excel at, and I'll pay attention to content messaging and communication, you guys seem to really excel at helping position your sales organization as that trusted voice to where they're able to be the ones that are presenting information. They're the ones that are able to communicate to customers. You're really focusing on how do you elevate the sales organization, the loan officers, the producers, how do you elevate them as that trusted source of information for the market? Is that accurate?
Traci Huntemann-Piat: That is absolutely accurate, because we know in the mortgage business, it is a difficult purchase for people to make. They don't make those every day and they are looking for that assistance and that partnership so that they feel like they're making the best choice for their finances, their family. And so what we want to do is give them the kind of resources where they can use those with a customer or even with a referral partner, to be able to teach and explain how this program works, this particular one, where those opportunities are, if it's a realtor for their buyers. Because there are lots of different programs that we can provide for a potential buyer where it expands their buyer pool. And you want to make sure that they're aware of those things. One of the things that we make sure and advocate for every one of our loan officers is to have their realtor partner signed up for the weekly newsletter that comes out through Total Expert that provides, in their inbox every week, expertise on the market. And it comes from them. So even though your team is the one putting it together, it does come from that individual loan officer to those referral partners. And it's another great way to make sure that those folks know that we know what's going on out there, and we are here to help.
Joe Welu: I think in a market environment where every realtor now all of a sudden, and every builder for that matter, has probably three or four or five times as many loan officers trying to reach out to them. Having the ability to elevate yourself as kind of this trusted expert, this trusted source of information, this additional layer of credibility. A lot of times we see if you can be the authority on the market and you can be looked at as that trusted professional in your local market, that's the difference between those realtors, those builders, sending you a deal potentially versus sending the deal to the five other people. If they look at you as you're not just a transaction minded person. You're an advisor, you're an expert. You guys believe in that, correct?
Traci Huntemann-Piat: 100%. And that's why we believe in making sure that we continue to communicate with our realtor partners regardless of what's out there for a deal. We want to make sure they're hearing from us, they're hearing news from us, they're hearing great tips from us and how they can improve our partners with them. We want their success as much as they want their success. If they understand that, that we are partnered and have the same goal, it shines in the end in terms of partnership.
Joe Welu: So what I'm hearing you say is you're not just out there having conversation about, " Hey, this is our rate, this is our loan programs." All this tactical stuff, but you're really saying, " Hey, we're a partner with you in growing your business." Is that direction the way you guys go?
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Yes. One of the things, we're investing in a tech stack that also partners with our realtors and brings value to them, where they're able to take advantage of those same tech stack that we use every day, they can use most of it as well. So they can come into Total Expert, they can get resources and tools right out of that without even having to talk to one of our loan officers to get that information using our Simple Nexus app. That's a communication tool. Once a deal is in process that just really helps facilitate that deal and push it through the system a lot more quickly and efficiently and everybody knows what happens. The biggest thing is understanding that we know how important it is to those realtors to also know what the status of the deal is as it goes through the system. And so that communication process is so key.
Joe Welu: Yeah, one of the things I talk a bit about is the quality of the communication that you have with all the stakeholders in a transaction, is going to be really directly proportional to the quality of that experience and the quality of that experience is going to be tied to, do you get future business or not? And it sounds like that's a core part of you guys' strategy as you're looking at how do you navigate this next chapter.
Traci Huntemann-Piat: It is. We also are looking to partner with realtors to help bring buyers to them as well. So that's through things like first time home buyer seminars and other types of consumer educational events where we can partner with them and bring value to their potential buyers and help bring people in the door for them as well.
Joe Welu: Yeah, no, that's great. Makes total sense. So I'm going to switch gears a little bit. So a time where obviously the last couple of years, the biggest problem that most people had is, how do I fulfill all the business that's out there? So now we're in this environment where it's really about identifying and uncovering new opportunities and we're spending a fair amount of time and partnering with a lot of companies on how do we look at the database of partners? How do we look at the database of past customers, maybe prospects that you've talked to? And then how do we tap into the hidden gems, the hidden gold that is in those databases and sort of uncover opportunities? How are you guys thinking about using data to drive the business to uncover more business? How are you guys thinking about that?
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Well, I think here we're really lucky to have an in- house data team, because we know data really drives things. We want to work smarter, not harder. And data allows you to work smarter, allows you to understand who your current customer base, who your current referral partner base is, and then go after folks who kind of fit that same parameter that you've already got or understand where our deals are coming from in terms of referral partners. And are we getting all of those deals? Probably not, but how can we get more of that slice of that pie that that realtor has and why aren't we getting those right now? We're also using, of course, we are just beta testing the customer intelligence in Total Expert, and that's going to give us even more of that heads up on what's going on with our customer base within our database. So that's going to allow us to mine more opportunities. Real opportunities are coming from that database. We're really excited about that.
Joe Welu: Yeah, no, we are too and appreciate the partnership as always. But I think what's really cool is you guys think about data pretty broadly in the business. And I believe there's a lot of growth that companies that are data driven in this environment and really operational. It's one thing to be data driven, but if you can't operationalize it and actually translate it down into the people that are out in the trenches doing things, then you're not going to get the value from it. And what I think is impressive about you guys, you think through that all the way through. You don't just have a data team and getting intelligence about your partners and the customer databases, but you also think about it all the way down to, how do we enable them at the ground level? And I think that's a key to success from our seat.
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Absolutely. I mean that data is helping us operationally as well become as efficient as possible, because closing times are always very important and we want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to give the customer an experience they're going to love. And that's where you also get customers for life as well as referral partners for life, because when they have a great experience, it's going to come back two fold, 10 fold, whatever.
Joe Welu: And the business is so much more fun when you deliver those amazing outcomes for customers and partners and everybody wins and it's just a fun way to do business for sure. Last-
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Right. Well and here we-
Joe Welu: Go ahead.
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Oh, I want to just say, here it's all about improving lives. That is what we all are aiming to do, and we believe home ownership is what we do and improving those lives of those homeowners that we help get into a mortgage. So that's where we get excited as a company and as members of Team Envoy, is that we are making that difference. And that really translates as well into how we do our work every day. Because mortgages, financial industry, it can be pretty dry, but when you put the people behind it, it becomes really a passion for everybody.
Joe Welu: It's so well said, Traci. And improving people's lives through home ownership and the fact that how much a difference home ownership makes for somebody long- term financially, the stability for their families. It really does. And you think about it, and I think so many people in the industry forget how important it is, the business of providing a way for people to accomplish home ownership, which is what lending does. It really does have a profound impact. Yeah. Really, really cool that you guys think through that. Last question. If you look out the next six to 12 months, any advice that you would share with your peers in the markets on how to navigate this next six to 12 months?
Traci Huntemann-Piat: I think it's a couple things. I started saying, " Relax and mortgage on." Because we need patience and we need time. The market is going to be what the market's going to be. That doesn't mean there are not opportunities out there, it just might be a different way to find those opportunities to take advantage of those opportunities. It's a market everybody knows. I mean, if you've been in this industry for at least 10 to 20 years, you've seen markets similar before. We've weathered them in the past. We'll do it this time. You got to stick to what you do really well. Kind of stick to making sure that you are continuing to be in front of your potential customers. You're continuing to be in front of your referral partners in very meaningful and relevant ways on a daily basis, weekly basis. And those are the things that are going to come back to you in the long run and build that, like I said, that strong pipeline. And when things start to turn around, they will be there for you and you will see that come back.
Joe Welu: Yeah, what you just said is just, it's all about really putting in the work right now. Putting in the effort to do all the things that you're talking through, really sets up the next few years. It's just having the discipline and the consistency to do those hard things.
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Right. And right now you have time. When we were doing the refis, I know loan officers that were working 18 hour days and they didn't have time to eat lunch. And now that we have the luxury of a little bit more time, use the time wisely. Use the time to make sure that you're developing those relationships, nurturing those relationships, getting out there, meeting with people, being at community events, making sure that people know that you are in it as a partnership to help improve not only the lives of our borrowers, but also our communities in general. Because home ownership is something that improves communities on a whole.
Joe Welu: Well said Traci. That is the bullseye. It totally is. And so congrats to all of the amazing work that you guys are doing at Team Envoy. I know you're a huge part of that and love what I hear. I know you guys are a very well respected brand and thanks for sharing some of your thoughts today.
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Absolutely. I'm happy to be here and we love our partnership with Total Expert and think that it's part of why we have success right now. So thank you for that.
Joe Welu: Well, thank you for allowing us the opportunity, Traci. All right. Have a wonderful day, and thanks for joining us.
Traci Huntemann-Piat: Thanks, you too. Absolutely.
Joe Welu: Thanks so much for joining us today. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
As mortgage lenders face market uncertainty among rising interest rates, there's no question lenders need to play offense to help get consumers into their dream home. Traci Huntemann-Piatt, vice president of marketing at Envoy Mortgage, joined Joe Welu to discuss how she is leading her team to tackle the market, how to remain nimble, and how to go "back to the basics" to mine your database and uncover new opportunities.