How Freddie Mac is addressing affordable housing challenges

Freddie Mac created its Housing Solutions team in 2020 to reduce barriers to homeownership and provide solutions to some of the nation’s toughest housing challenges.

What is the next step for NAR?

In this Q&A, Senior Real Estate Reporter Matthew Blake gives us the inside scoop on what happened at NAR’s annual conference, including the latest on the DOJ investigation.

Mortgage Tech Virtual Demo Day

Tune in to our live Virtual Demo Day on December 1st at 10am CT to experience demos from the most innovative tech companies in the Servicing, Audit and Post-Close space.

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In this episode of Houses in Motion, a series that is part of the HousingWire Daily podcast lineup, St. Petersburg, Florida-based appraiser Francois “Frank” Gregoire discusses issues in the appraisal industry.

Mortgage

How to hire more operational players in the mortgage space

UWM's Agnes Standowicz shares tips and advice on recruiting and retention

HW-Agnes-Standowicz-UWM
Agnes Standowicz, vice president, underwriting leader at United Wholesale Mortgage

This year’s list of HousingWire Insiders radiate influence well beyond the walls of their individual companies, providing the infrastructure that upholds the whole industry. HousingWire decided to dive deeper into a few of our award winners to get a peek behind the curtain on what defines an Insider, with this Q&A featuring Agnes Standowicz, vice president, underwriting leader at United Wholesale Mortgage.

Even though it’s rare that housing finance is listed on someone’s career aspirations when leaving high school, it doesn’t mean that the people who are in this space are any less passionate about what they do. This can be seen in these Q&As with three HousingWire Insiders as they share how they got into the housing industry, how to get more people into the space and the key to retaining employees.

Humble, driven and innovative, the Q&As also feature Sandra Madigan, digital product director, enterprise product strategy, servicing technologies at Black Knight and Dave Sheeler, president of residential servicing and correspondent lending at Freedom Mortgage. To read the other two Q&As in the magazine, go here.

Brena Nath: First off, congrats on being named a 2021 Insider. If you were standing on a stage giving an acceptance speech, who would you want to thank for helping you get where you are today?

Agnes Standowicz: The first people I would thank is Mat Ishbia, Melinda Wilner, and Katie Foster. Mat for giving me a chance about eight years ago by bringing me on to the team and really giving me a place to grow. Melinda for believing in me, seeing potential in me, and challenging me in all the right ways. I’m very grateful to her for giving me confidence that I didn’t even know I had in me. She makes me a better person professionally and personally every single day. And finally, Katie Foster, my former leader and a lifetime friend for being there through it all for me.

Brena Nath: Rarely do people choose to get into the mortgage industry. What has your journey been like getting into the industry?

Agnes Standowicz: It was a unique journey for me. I came to the United States in my early 20s to finish college, and probably like most of us, when we first enter the workforce, I did not have a goal of getting into the mortgage industry. My first mortgage job was a summer job my last year of college, and I was an intern and a receptionist at a small mortgage shop. From there, I stayed on and learned mortgage processing. Once I got into the mortgage business and got a taste of it, I set really high goals for myself. I stayed there for a little bit, and I wanted to become an underwriter.

I left that place to go to GMAC mortgage, which was a much, much bigger institution to learn how to be an underwriter and went on from there. It’s kind of typical journey of people in a mortgage business. Some places were smaller; some places were bigger.  I was growing as an underwriter, and I became a government underwriter after a couple of years. And finally, about eight years ago, I found a home here at UWM that’s hopefully my permanent home for the rest of my career. 

Brena Nath: What do you think it would take to get more people in the industry?

Agnes Standowicz: Looking back, the industry has changed a lot over years. Right now, it’s much easier to get into it. I think here at UWM, we have a unique model that lets more people into it in a sense of really investing in training and technology. Our model is to take people who are entering the workforce and who typically just graduated college and really don’t know much about mortgage and teach them everything mortgage-related from scratch, which is fantastic. It gives that ability and opportunity to people to enter the industry that they probably didn’t even know much about. I think that’s one of the things that’s helpful: giving people the opportunity to dip their toes in it and learn it.

From there, something else is promoting lateral and vertical growth. We really are big on putting people in the right roles, the roles that they’re going to be the best in. We really encourage that growth in between teams. Maybe underwriting isn’t the best fit for you, but you are a fantastic fit culturally and you are a great team member, we will encourage you and set goals for you have to kind of shift around the company and find the best path that fits you the best from a career standpoint. 

Brena Nath: For the other side of that story, what are some things that you think are the key to retaining employees?

Agnes StandowiczFirst, give culture, give opportunity and give that path for growth. I think everyone wants to be a part of something big and exciting. We spend so much time at work, and I think that’s across a lot of professions. We spend so much time together here creating an environment of being one big family. 

Also, ask for feedback. I truly believe that feedback is a gift that allows us to grow, starting from leaders but also going up the chain. It’s also about being open to that feedback and asking a lot of questions, like what can we be doing better? What are a couple things that we could improve on? So, asking for feedback, taking that feedback, implementing some of that feedback is really big. And, asking people what their goals are. Not only asking them but helping them realize what their goals are and really taking the time to help them get there, holding them accountable. Very often the trick to it is to even realize what you want, and maybe verbalize it and setting timelines for yourself. From an employer standpoint, it’s important to know your people, invest in them and help them get there, no matter what these goals are.

Brena Nath: If you were sitting in a room with the top leaders in the housing industry, what would you want them to know?

Agnes Standowicz: I would go back to the people aspect of the industry. I’ve learned over the years that as long as you really focus and put effort into people, and that goes for big picture stuff but also for a microenvironment. So, whoever that end person is, borrower, real estate agent, team member, whoever that end person is, if you really invest in people, the success will come.

Brena Nath: To wrap, what’s one piece of advice you would give people in this industry?

Agnes Standowicz: Push yourself to function and be okay outside of your comfort zone. Do the right things every single day and success will come. Rewards will come. I’m big on putting your head down and grinding and not necessarily expecting those immediate rewards. Also embrace the change. Change is often not easy, and we often fight the change. But a lot of growth from a professional and personal standpoint in life, I believe that comes from being uncomfortable, and embracing a change even when that end goal isn’t that obvious at the beginning. 

Brena Nath: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Agnes Standowicz: I have to take a moment to thank my team. My leadership team, people who are in my very close circle that I work with every single day, but also the entire underwriting team, which has grown over the last eight years with me being here in a tremendous way. Six years ago, we were a couple 100 underwriters and now there’s almost 4,000. I’m very lucky to work with a truly amazing group of people and have them by my side. We set big goals for ourselves, and somehow at the end, we always make things work. So, I’m grateful for that. It definitely takes teamwork every single day. 

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