AmCap Mortgage has recognized tremendous growth over the last several years, producing more than $1 billion in closed loans in 2013, while closing in on the $2 billion mark at the time of publication for 2015. Additionally, AmCap has expanded both the scope and reach of its services, after adding two regional operating centers in late 2012 and early 2013. AmCap is now licensed in 22 states, with 72 branch licenses and more than 300 loan originators.Finally, AmCap has received numerous awards, including the Houston Business Journal’s prestigious Fast 100 Award in 2015 for the quickest expanding companies.
How did AmCap achieve that kind of expansion when the broader industry has been struggling so much? CEO Garrett Clayton attributes the company’s growth and maturation to a strong operational foundation, a top-tier executive management team and a true love for the mortgage industry. Clayton explains, “While I am extremely proud of our growth, I am even more proud of our recent awards, customer satisfaction levels and our company’s rebranding.”
The company has incorporated the idea of partnership into every part of its organization, including its branding. AmCap uses the ampersand (&) as a company symbol because it signifies collaborative efforts and the attitude of inclusion, teamwork and partnership.
“To me a true partnership is one wherein each party to the transaction is better off for having been part of the relationship,” Clayton said. “We strive for 100% customer satisfaction and do everything we can to ensure our clients are happy with the experience. After all, AmCap is in the business of making good loans to good people.”
AmCap uses customer surveys as a benchmark for understanding what it is doing right and where it needs to improve.
“We typically have 70% participation rate in the surveys, so we are getting invaluable feedback directly from our clients on a monthly basis, which helps our managers create specific training for their staff and loan originators,” Clayton said.
“AmCap sees major growth opportunities in our industry, through the proper implementation of TRID. We are concentrating on the utilization of internal technologies to enhance the borrowers’ mortgage experience, while improving the overall communication and transparency during the entire mortgage process. Banks that embrace and implement the TRID regulation correctly will not only gain market share, but improve ROI and the bottom-line,” Jason Smargiasso, AmCap’s COO stated.
Even AmCap’s attitude toward regulatory compliance reflects the company’s orientation toward partnership. For example, instead of seeing the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule as a roadblock to be overcome, the company embraced the chance to implement it.
The first thing AmCap did was to create a specialized “TRID Team” in the second part of 2015, while pushing its senior management team to learn as much as possible about how TRID would affect their individual departments. Once TRID was applied to their workflow, executives would report back to the TRID Team to collaborate on the best way to implement the new regulation, giving AmCap valuable feedback from all departments so it could better define its origination workflow.
The company also leveraged its technology platform and built a more robust reporting database, allowing its process to be scalable while remaining highly compliant.
“Enhancements in both of these areas were important as it gave our staff tangible information to test and trend against,” Clayton said.
But most importantly, AmCap made a concerted effort to develop a comprehensive training process around the new rule.
“The front line for ensuring our products adhered to the highest standards of accuracy and compliance is the branch office,” Smargiasso, said. “The TRID rollout meant nothing to the company without an effective training program. We needed every employee to understand the changes that affected their job responsibilities.”
AmCap utilized hands-on regional training as well as internal webinars to disseminate policies and procedures to employees. The company started training on its “Readiness Program” in the third quarter of 2015, and might be one of the few companies in the industry that was actually disappointed when TRID implementation was delayed.
AmCap regards TRID implementation as an opportunity for growth, since TRID requires human oversight and a highly sophisticated technology platform.
“While this can put pressure on banks and originators unprepared for the new changes, we were very confident in our prep work,” Clayton said. “Some banks will not have the resources to perform all of the requirements under TRID, but here at AmCap we feel the lending landscape looks very bright indeed!”
AmCap’s partnership with consumers includes meeting them right where they want to be engaged — online and through mobile devices. With a wave of 70 million Millennials looking to spend $2 trillion on home purchases in the next five years, this push for digital engagement is set to skyrocket, making AmCap’s digital strategy even more critical.
“Clearly, the Millennial generation is interested in homeownership, and at AmCap we want to help them achieve that dream,” Clayton said.
“In order to attract the younger, tech-savvy borrower, we provide self-service tools to allow the borrower to handle a large portion of the loan process, if they desire, as well as real-time notifications of the progress/status of their file. We use a number of methods including our mobile responsive website, secure self-service web portals, and a custom AmCap mobile app.”
The company also recognizes that consumers of all ages are clamoring for real data security, something that AmCap is wholly committed to providing. The company has partnered with Ellie Mae and Microsoft to ensure the security of borrowers’ personally identifiable information.
“Partnering with Ellie Mae provides us with an extremely secure, single system of record for the entire lifecycle of a mortgage hosted in redundant data centers,” CIO Mike Eichner said. “With the network of integration partners that we utilize, we are able to confidently handle today’s compliance challenges in an ever-changing industry.”
Growing production means increasing personnel to handle the rising demands of the company’s production team and its end consumers. While that’s a great problem to have, hiring people who will be a good fit can be a struggle. For AmCap, it’s all about finding employees who understand what it takes to be “true partners.”
“When growing any business, assembling the right team of people is always one of the toughest challenges facing business owners. As AmCap has grown, we have been committed to seeking professionals in the operations and production side of things that really buy into what we are trying to build as a company,” Mike Johnson, president of AmCap, explained.
“I find AmCap is a bit different from other retail branch banking lenders because we are not looking for production for production’s sake, but truly trying to partner with like-minded individuals who plan to make AmCap their last stop and call it home.”
To build this partnership internally the company highlights employees’ achievements and personal milestones in an internal company newsletter and throws an annual celebration for the company’s birthday every year. It also strives to give any kind of corporate training or continuing education course a unique twist.
For example, AmCap gave each employee a TRID Survival Pack and ended one TRID training session with a game of laser tag through its corporate offices.
“Employees spend as much time or sometimes more time with their co-workers than they do their own families, so we find ways to have fun,” Clayton said.
Over the years AmCap has hosted Super Bowl pools, end-of-month lunch crunch, family day at the ballpark, bowling tournaments, monthly first Friday breakfasts, hot dog days, warm cookies at each cubicle, Easter egg hunts and girls-night-out events.
Company employees also work together on charitable projects, including Habitat for Humanity houses (see picture, above), food banks and animal charities. “Nothing builds a company culture quicker than working together toward a common goal. Giving back to the community is a major part of our company identity,” Clayton said.
Maintaining an outstanding company culture is a top-down commitment at AmCap.
“It is impossible to create a positive internal culture for any type of organization if you don’t practice what you preach. Expectations are high for management to lead by example,” Clayton said. “It’s easy to show up on time, stay late and be focused all day for short bursts of time, but ownership and management need to be consistent with their performance matrix over longer periods of time.
The company’s strategy for creating a corporate culture that draws exceptional employees is clearly working. For the fifth year in a row AmCap has been ranked as one of the top 100 companies to work for, based on anonymous employee surveys solicited by the Houston Chronicle.
It’s all a piece of the bigger picture that Clayton envisioned when he took over the company.
“In setting out eight years ago in the mortgage space, my goal was to create a company that was well respected and did the right thing by the customer 100% of the time — while having a lot of fun doing it,” he said.