A Q&A with Casey Cunningham: the founder of a cutting-edge originator training program tells how the business has changed since she was a top producer.

AuthorHewitt, Janet Reilley
PositionSHORT TAKES - Interview


Q: How and why did you become a mortgage originator? When and where did you start your origination career?

A: I did not set out to enter the mortgage industry or become a mortgage originator.

When I was growing up, I wanted a career that made a difference in people's lives. Early on, I told my mom, who was a schoolteacher, that I wanted to do something that impacted others, as she was truly doing every day with the kids she was teaching.

So in 1984 I began working at Decatur Federal Savings & Loan, which was the top lender in Atlanta for many years. About three months into my first position there, I transferred to the mortgage department and began working with the loan officers and the department vice president. Each day, I watched them and started interviewing them about what they did, and quickly realized that it was the career I had been looking for.

My boss at the time warned me that I'd be paid straight commission, but I didn't mind. I was young and eager, and knew that each person that I met with was an opportunity, because everyone I'd get to work with was a person who I could help achieve the American dream.

So how did I get in? Totally by accident. Why did I get in? To help others achieve the American dream. Extremely intentional.

Q: What was your best year in the business in terms of origination volume?

A: My best year [in the 1990s] was when I annualized close to $60 million in volume, with an average loan amount of $100,000.

Q: After working with hundreds of originators (and would-be originators) and having been one yourself, what is the best background for a successful loan originator coming into the profession?

A: In terms of the best backgrounds, there are many. A few backgrounds stand out as easy transitions into our industry. Teachers and Realtors[R] transition into the role extremely well. Realtors already understand the industry and have an established network, and teachers love to teach-- which helps them naturally educate and guide their clients through the application process.

But one thing I've observed, over the past nearly 15 years since I opened XINNIX[R], is there's more than one pathway to success. We've coached a diverse group of people who have entered the industry with different levels of experience, and what we've found is that the most successful originators share a unique set of characteristics. They genuinely enjoy serving and they're self-disciplined, self-motivated, social people...

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