Any newcomer trying to break into an entrenched market must first establish relevancy with potential employees and customers. So when Better Mortgage set out to differentiate itself from other lenders, it started with an aggressive technology strategy. Then it took aim at one of the most hallowed of industry pillars: loan officer commissions.
The New York-based lender was founded four years ago and enjoyed 300% annual growth in 2018. As part of its efforts to both put borrower needs first and to level the playing field for employees, loan officers at Better Mortgage do not get paid commissions.
“By limiting the traditional loan officer commission structure, we’re incentivizing people who work at our company to focus on the customer experience and service, rather than commission sales — and our loan officers and our processors and our underwriters all are paid super well,” said Better CEO Vishal Garg.
“We pay nearly twice as much as the industry because we’ve gotten rid of the hierarchy where the traditional commissioned loan officer gets paid hundreds of thousands in a year and everyone else in mortgage gets, say, $45,000. And that’s why we have a super-dynamic, young, fast-growing, fast-paced workplace culture that rewards everyone involved with helping our customers get a better home,” he continued.
The company, whose mantra is customer service before all else, credits its success to investing in employees like it does borrowers. “If we don’t treat our employees well, how can we treat our customers well,” Garg said.
Better Mortgage crossed the $1 billion mark in loans funded in 2018, and expects that figure to be north of $5 billion in 2019.
The Better Mortgage work environment emphasizes equality and transparency. All employees sit in the same room, with no executives separated in offices. The arrangement promotes collaboration, limits a sense of hierarchy and enforces the notion that “everybody has a voice,” suggesting that “the best idea wins,” Garg said. To support transparency, the same materials reviewed in board meetings are the ones shared with staff at company meetings.
The company leverages rote processing, data form entry, order routing and order follow-up to tackle the bulk of the workload so that staff can focus on advising customers. The tech allows loan officers at the company to average about 45 loans a month.
Its tech-savvy nature also attracts younger, more innovative minds. Of Better’s 197 employees, 180 are millennials. The team anticipates its staff number shooting to somewhere between 750 and 1,000 in 2019, but points to getting more industry experts on board as a challenge because of its “disruptive” nature, says Garg.
The lender aims to add more mortgage vets to the mix by upping its use of recruitment services, and its “Better University,” a 90-day onboarding program to help seasoned professionals get acclimated.
To maintain a positive culture, Better Mortgage equips its staff with 100% paid insurance premiums. It also offers free meals, allows limitless paid time-off to full-time workers, and helps its team members bond through office game nights, happy hours and other activities.