In his 35 years in the mortgage business, Brian Hale has held many roles in multiple channels, but salesman is one of his proudest titles.
“Not to diminish anyone in the company, but the truth of any business is until somebody sells something, everybody else could effectively go home,” he said. “Obviously, once the salesperson creates a transaction then everybody else is massively critical.”
Hale makes a point of personally meeting with every new hire sales class for three hours a month during their training. A great salesperson, Hale said, is somebody who believes in deep, long-term relationships and selling, has a “maniacal focus on customer service and delivery” and a focus on results.
“We spend a lot of time in our company talking about real selling and trust transference is an exceptionally important piece to be a true professional,” said Hale, who started his career as a commissioned street level retail originator.
“It’s not to be an application taker, but to have a lot of personal accountability around service delivery and doing what’s right for the consumer.”
Hale joined Stearns Lending in 2012, taking the reins from founder Glenn Stearns, who held the post for 23 years. In 2011, the Santa Ana, California-based mortgage lender funded just over $5.6 billion of total volume.
Last year, it funded $16.1 billion and this year volume is expected to hit $26 billion.
In August, private-equity investment bank Blackstone announced plans to acquire a majority stake in Stearns Holdings, the parent company of Stearns Lending.
Blackstone, which said it was attracted to Stearns’s focus on compliance, strong management team and technology platform, is a partner with exceptional access to the capital markets and will aid the company’s growth, Hale said.
Stearns, which has been profitable 25 of its 26 years, has grown from a single channel company focused on wholesale to include correspondent, retail and strategic alliances.
“We have significant market share positions in all four of the major channels of the industry,” he said. “I don’t have a natural competitor, bank or nonbank who competes at wholesale, retail, joint venture, correspondence and consumer [direct] at the national level.
“We have to be good at four or five things where most have to be good at one or two things.”
Hale describes himself as a collaborative leader who tries to paint the direction of the company and vision, but unlike many other CEOs is “immensely involved in excruciating detail of virtually every aspect of our business.”
“It’s a very complicated business and CEOs who separate themselves or float about don’t know what’s going on in other divisions; it’s a mistake,” he said.
“A mentor told me that you should treat the mortgage business like an 8-month-old. It can walk away for a very short time, but if it [does that for too] long of a period, only bad things will happen.”
Prior to joining Stearns, Hale served as president of the residential mortgage division at MetLife Bank, and he has held executive roles at Bank of America, Countrywide, Wells Fargo Home Loans and Fleet Mortgage.
He also is a highly sought-after speaker and one of the most recognized executives in the industry.
With over 2,000 employees, Stearns has a diverse workplace that reflects its customer base. Two of its executives were recognized in HousingWire’s 2015 Women of Influence feature for their excellence.
Glenn Stearns is proud that his first employee still works at the company, and that lots of new talent has been added in the last three years, Hale said.
“We’ve done a fabulous job of retaining great legacy talent in the company,” he said. “That, combined with the new talent, fuels our success here.”