Truist’s Sherry Graziano on the pivotal moment in the housing industry

Women of Influence: Leadership in the midst of crisis

As lenders cope with a shifting lending environment due to COVID-19, they are also striving to ensure they are putting their clients first.

“During these unprecedented times, we have an opportunity to inspire and build better lives and communities,” said Sherry Graziano, Truist senior vice president of mortgage omni experience and 2019 HousingWire Woman of Influence. “This is a pivotal moment for all of our entire industry to demonstrate to clients that we stand for better.”

HousingWire sat down with Graziano to discuss stepping up as leaders in the current environment. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

HousingWire: How can leaders make sure they are putting clients first even in these challenging times?

Sherry Graziano: During these unprecedented times, we have an opportunity to inspire and build better lives and communities. This is a pivotal moment for all of our entire industry to demonstrate to clients that we stand for better. So many of us know family and friends who have been impacted by loss of income as a result of this pandemic. We have seen glimpses of how hard many families work to achieve the lifelong dream of homeownership. As we embark upon times when our clients need us most, it is incumbent upon our industry to keep our clients front and center of all we do. Truly connecting with your customers, empathizing given their circumstancing and innovating to transform the experience is critical.

HW: How can leaders keep strong collaboration as everyone moves remote?

SG: Show you care. Take the time to engage with your teammates on a regular basis. Show genuine care and concern; ensure they are learning to adjust to the new norm. Many may be struggling trying to balance homeschooling their children, working partners under the same roof, limited Wi-Fi or cellular bandwidth, dogs barking…it’s okay! This too shall pass.

Stay connected. Technology is a beautiful thing, let’s use it without fear. Maybe you are home in your baseball cap and running clothes, no sweat – that webcam is your friend and can connect you virtually to engage with peers as if you were in a conference room.

Expect the unexpected and embrace change. Respect your team’s commitment to drive forward during unprecedented times for your clients. Learning to navigate these challenges together is incredibly powerful, there is no playbook for this event. Someone once told me “change is the only constant” in mortgage – and challenging times like this force teams to make tough decisions together to take their organization to the next level.

HW: How can leaders make sure employees have all the tools they need to work with clients and keep client satisfaction up?

SG: Equipping your teammates to serve during these challenging times is critical to your long-term success. One simple way to engage with your team is leveraging empathy sessions. Lenders should ensure they have an open line of communication with their teammates from all levels in the organization. Depending on the challenge at hand, the frequency, duration and intent may change. Ensuring teammates on the front line serving your clients are heard, can unveil incredible areas of opportunities and possible innovative solutions that result in a tremendous experience for your clients.

HW: What is your secret to making it to the top of the industry as a Woman of Influence?

SG: My mantra I have always lived by is quite simple, “Be you.” Live authentic in every aspect of your life. Know where you came from, stay grounded and humble, and know your why. I am a purpose-driven, working mom who is passionate about making a difference for future generations of homeowners. I firmly believe my success to date has been leading with transparency and a clear vision – putting our clients at the center of all we do every day. Ben Franklin once said “opportunity is often missed because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.” You must be willing to walk through an open door, make sacrifices and be flexible to make an impact. Every day we have a chance to write a new chapter in our personal book, each role in which we serve should be treated as a chance to learn, given chances to both fail forward and succeed. Upon great reflection of those defining moments, I remember all those who provided me with an opportunity – it’s quite simple to realize it is incumbent upon each of us to pay it forward. Humble servant leadership always prevails.

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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