Mortgage underwriters are arguably the most important people in the mortgage business. While everyone on the lending team is critical, strong decisions by underwriters are essential for a mortgage lender’s financial success. Whether the underwriter is there to ensure a smooth automated process, oversee a manual approval process, or manage a team, they must demonstrate sound decision-making abilities to ensure the right approvals and denials are made.
The Hard Skills Required of Underwriters
Mortgage applicants are judged on income, credit history, debt-to-income ratio, savings and other assets. It is up to the underwriter to determine whether or not an applicant meets loan guidelines and will, be a low-risk customer who is able to pay back the loan. They must also review appraisals to be sure the home is worth the purchase price, and monitor other aspects of the financing plan.
Today’s underwriters must be properly licensed and versed in the types of loans their employing bank, finance firm or broker works with. These may include VA loans, FHA loans, USDA loans, RHS loans, conventional loans, ARMs and every type of loan in between. They must also be adept at cash flow analysis and risk assessment.
Mortgage lending is becoming an increasingly paperless and automated environment. Underwriters need to be comfortable using advanced platforms that automatically pull data from scanned documents, and they must be able to spot potential problems in data entry to prevent mistakes in the approval process. Attention to detail and accuracy are non-negotiable skills in any underwriting candidate.
“Many of our clients are going a step further and breaking down the components of an underwriter’s responsibility. Hiring qualified staff to build one “component” of the underwriting package will increase the speed of accurate decisions by the mortgage underwriter. Everyone is focused on giving the best consumer experience with the fastest approval process and growing a quality servicing portfolio,” per Kim Williams, Managing Director.
While automated systems have taken some of the legwork out of the underwriting process, these systems don’t allow for any of the “gray areas” that are so common in lending. The human touch of an experienced underwriter is still necessary, and experienced underwriters should be able to balance out the strict requirements of the lending process against some of those “gray” factors that could flag an application based on software and algorithms alone.
The Soft Skills Underwriters Must Have
In addition to hard skills, modern underwriters need to come to the table with some important soft skills. Even if underwriters work remotely, they must be able to communicate well with other members of the team. If underwriters, originators and processors don’t have a steady and open flow of communication, it could have a negative impact on the number of loans the company can process over time. They must be able to collaborate well, they must know how to get the information they need from other members of the lending team in a timely fashion, and they need to be able to communicate the reasons why an application was flagged or rejected clearly, so that the loan officer can relay that important information back to the applicant.
Underwriters must also have a strong commitment to ethics. They are the people who stand between a loan officer and her sales quota. They also stand between a bank and it’s Fair Housing Act requirements, loan origination numbers and mortgage profit margins. Underwriters must be committed to following the rules, regulations and requirements of mortgage lending no matter what type of pressure they feel from outside sources to approve or deny particular loans.
The decisions an underwriter makes have a serious impact on business outcomes. Defaults can cost a company millions of dollars and damage relationships with brokers, lenders and other partners. Experienced underwriters are crucial to the success of any mortgage business line. If your company is seeking top underwriting or finance talent, contact the expert A&F recruiters at Contemporary Staffing Solutions today.