Lenders and vendors of the tech world filled the expo hall at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago for the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Technology in Mortgage Banking Conference and Expo. But there was one element that was clearly lacking after scanning the room of attendees.

There were few young professionals, also commonly dubbed Millennials.

HousingWire has often covered the fact that the housing industry is one of the last sectors to go digital, getting beat by the travel and retail sectors.

Now, as people get used to companies like Uber and Amazon, they expect more from the mortgage finance world.

On the flipside of the consumer impact, could one unfortunate side effect of being behind in going digital be that mortgage finance is even less “cool” for young professionals to go into?

Mortgage companies are only now starting to prioritize integrating more digital elements into their workflow, along with increasing hiring in those departments.

But after listening to a lot of top lenders talk about the growth of digital in various conferences this year, there is a also common underlying message coming across: mortgage lenders looking to hire Millennials are getting beat out by the Amazons and Googles of the world.

In the words of Anthony Hsieh, chairman and CEO of loanDepot, at the Goldman Sachs housing and consumer finance conference, “We've got to make mortgages cool again.”

Hsieh noted this after explaining that technology is the new barrier to entry into starting a mortgage business.

The industry needs to try and reset the image of housing, he said, especially since mortgage companies need to hire more tech developers into order to compete.

Bill Emerson, vice chairman of Rock Holdings, Quicken Loans’ parent company, who was also at the Goldman Sachs housing conference, emphasized that the environment that people work in at the company is very important.

“If you invest in the environment that people work in, it makes a difference. Most people look at this as an expense,” he said.

But to Quicken, it’s a critical element that is worth investing in.

Dom Marchetti, chief technology officer at loanDepot.com, however, had a unique solution to this that has helped his company boost its hiring effectiveness. Marchetti recently hired a bunch of tech people thanks to a ramped up effort in technology.

In a conversation at the MBA tech conference, Marchetti explained the key is the way that he presents the vision of loanDepot.

In a blog for HousingWire, Kristin Messerli, managing director of Cultural Outreach Solutions, recently noted that Millennials want to work for companies who make a difference in the world and their communities. They want to feel like they are contributing to something greater than just a steady paycheck.

Marchetti uses this concept to inspire candidates in his hiring process.

He tells candidates that housing is the biggest contributor to the GDP. “You have a huge ability to make an impact,” he said.

And even though the industry is behind others in technology, this only turns into a positive for those who join, who will then have the power to make “real disruptive change,” Marchetti noted.

“It's critically important that we get talent into this industry,” Marchetti said. “We haven't done a good job of highlighting the benefits. Fundamentally, that is critical.” 

All the ingredients are there for mortgage companies to succeed, but it’s up to these companies to share the power of change that future young professionals could have in the space. If not, you can expect the same lack of young professionals at the MBA tech conference next year.