Academy Mortgage’s Kristi Pickering on why lenders are better off now than 2008

Women of Influence: Leadership in the midst of crisis

A great leader is prepared to take their team through uncertain times, and one Woman of Influence explained how lenders can do just that.

COVID-19 created unprecedented changes across mortgage lending, but with the right technology and team, lenders are in a better position today to react to changing market conditions, said Kristi Pickering, Academy Mortgage Corp. senior vice president of process automation and a 2019 HousingWire Woman of Influence.

“Twelve years ago, I don’t think we would’ve dreamed that we’d have these extraordinary capabilities at our fingertips,” she said.

HousingWire sat down with Pickering to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on lenders today, and how leaders can guide their teams through this time. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

HousingWire: How does the crisis today compare to what went on in 2008? Will the pandemic have more or less of an impact on housing this time around?

Kristi Pickering: No one can completely control or predict what impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the housing and mortgage lending industries, but we are better prepared for these challenges because of the lessons we learned during the mortgage crisis of 2008. A specific example is today’s requirement to verify that a borrower has the ability to repay their mortgage, which has resulted in a much stronger portfolio of loans than we had in 2008.

We also now have improved processes and pipeline management strategies in place, which were implemented to maintain quality and compliance as we’ve adapted to market fluctuations over the past 12 years. Overall, we are in a better position to quickly and prudently react to market changes today.

HW: How does/can automation help the housing industry be better prepared this time around?

KP: Our teams at Academy were prepared and equipped for today’s COVID-19 logistical challenges with technology and in-house resources to ensure we can keep delivering the dream of homeownership. With innovative tools like our My Mortgage app and multifunction AI bot technology, our team members have been able to continue in their daily roles and responsibilities to originate, process, underwrite and fund loans as quickly and efficiently as possible, without missing a beat. Twelve years ago, I don’t think we would’ve dreamed that we’d have these extraordinary capabilities at our fingertips.

HW: How can members of the housing industry show leadership through this time?

KP: Leadership teams can focus on delivering three things during this time of uncertainty: communication, transparency and nimbleness. At Academy, our company leaders are providing company and market updates via weekly town halls broadcasted nationwide, frequent emails, dedicated websites and internal communication platforms.

As information continues to come in rapidly, we are trying to quickly communicate and be as accurate and transparent as possible with our team. It is also important to be proactive versus reactive in this fluid environment, responding to ever-evolving conditions with agility and optimism.

HW: HousingWire recognized you as one of our 2019 Women of Influence. What is your secret to success?

KP: I have been blessed to work with amazing people who have served as mentors in helping me succeed in this industry. I have tried to follow their examples and emulate their strengths. There is power in surrounding yourself with people who stretch your ability to do more, get you out of your comfort zone, and help you grow.

HousingWire’s nominations are now open for our 2020 Women of Influence. But they won’t stay open long – nominations close on April 24, 2020. So nominate your Woman of Influence today, we want to get to know them!

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