How Radius Financial Group Is Building a Millennial Workforce
In the mortgage banking industry, the average loan officer is 54 years old — a stat industry groups and some companies are hoping to lower.
“We’ve had extensive dialog and concern about the aging workforce population in the industry and the need to bring in younger people to mortgage banking,” David Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, tells National Mortgage News. “Part of that means that we need to bring in a more diverse workforce.”
Radius financial group (which does not capitalize its name) is a retail originator based in Massachusetts that’s going “all in” to attract Millennial workers.
The executive team made this commitment while gathered for its three-day team meeting in fall 2014.
“One of the topics I had on the agenda was ‘What are we going to do about attracting young people to our team?’ We decided it was time. Instead of the rhetoric…that it was important for us to do something,” says Keith Polaski, co-founder, principal, and COO of radius financial group.
Making Good on the Idea
That meeting planted the seeds for the company’s Nex Gen IMB (Next Generation Independent Mortgage Bankers) boot camp.
To attract participants, the company attended career fairs for returning military veterans, reached out to area colleges, and posted to job boards. In May 2015, radius selected 20 Millennial-aged applicants from a pool of 80 to participate in a paid 12-week boot camp.
It selected only candidates without mortgage banking experience. (If a Millennial with mortgage banking experience applies at radius, they are slotted into a hiring process separate from the boot camp.)
Radius tapped internal leadership, online Mortgage Bankers Association training, and vendors to teach. The coursework included yellow belt Lean Six Sigma certification, which teaches participants techniques and tools to make business process improvements.
“We wanted to give them the skill sets and knowledge to challenge the status quo in the workflow,” Polaski says.
Besides teaching about mortgage loans, the boot camp included community service and leadership training in an effort to provide a well-rounded curriculum.
All participants knew from the outset that that they were competing with their peers. Class rankings were posted daily.
“It was fully transparent as to where you stood,” says Polaski. Three people left the program during the initial weeks, but the other 17 completed the boot camp. In August 2015, radius offered 15 participants jobs, and 13 accepted.
MBA’s Stevens heard about the training, followed its progression, and even spoke to the class at graduation ceremonies.
From Army Vet to Loan Officer
Christian Carter, an Army veteran, was 29 when he entered radius’ boot camp, which he learned about from a career recruiter who helps veterans assimilate into the workforce.
Carter said he related well to the military-style, no-nonsense classroom.
“Everything was laid out to you on day one,” he says. “Keith said, ‘I don’t care if we take all 20 of you and all 20 of you make the cut, or we only walk out of here with four. I don’t care about numbers. I want quality.’”
Upon graduation, Carter became a loan officer at radius.
“I don’t know how you could go into this job without the training that we had,” he says. Participants learned how to originate FHA, VA, USDA, and conventional loans and how to calculate income, among other things. “The intensive training was so important,” he adds.
Sarah McSharry (in large top photo) graduated with Carter and became a radius loan officer assistant.
“I was in a completely different line of work before this and was looking for a change,” says McSharry, an education major who was working as a school tutor at the time she came across Nex Gen IMB on Indeed.com.
Like Carter, she was 29 when she entered the training.
“The group was really young, which was great. A few were right out of college,” she says.
McSharry said she liked that the entire group was new to mortgage banking so everyone was starting on the same footing.
“You quickly realized how much work, time, and resources radius was putting into it,” she says. “You definitely wanted to do your best. The competitiveness does push you to do better.”
The company, Polaski says, invested nearly $1 million in the boot camp and is now planning a second one. It will tweak the process as it continues toward its goal of increasing its Millennial workforce from 32 percent today to 51 percent.
Polaski says they’ll look for ways to build sales skills in the second boot camp and will test for sales aptitude. Of four people offered sales positions, only one loan officer remains. One left, and two transitioned into operations after determining sales wasn’t a good fit.
The boot camp for sales support and operations positions, on the other hand, was “wildly successful with an immediate impact on the factory floor,” notes Polaski.
The Nex Gen IMB boot camp has had a number of side benefits — accelerating the company’s commitment to technology, for one.
“It has invigorated the company to invest in technology,” Polaski explains, “and we’ve made substantial technology investments that are in the works.”
Radius has also learned from Millennial workers to be more flexible. It now allows headphones so Millennials can listen to music while they work, and it no longer blocks social media sites.
“There have been changes that have happened as we try to push the age of our workforce down,” Polaski says. “I think you have to have flexibility.”