MBA's Diversity & Inclusion Award Winners: Walking the Walk, Talking the Talk
By Mike Sorohan
October 23, 2017
For the five companies recognized this year by the Mortgage Bankers Association for their efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, actions speak louder than words.
The MBA Diversity & Inclusion Award winners--Flagstar Bank, Troy, Mich.; Pulte Mortgage, Englewood, Colo.; Altavera Mortgage Services, Westminster, Colo.; New American Funding, Tustin, Calif.; and First Community Mortgage, Nashville, Tenn.--demonstrated the ability to not only improve their communities, said MBA Chairman Dave Motley, CMB, but to also "enrich and transform the industry."
"These award winners reflect the tangible progress our industry is making on diversity and inclusion," said Motley, previous chair of the MBA Diversity & Inclusion Committee. "But we have a long way to go. The goal of these awards is to celebrate the best initiatives so that they are models for continued progress."
The MBA Diversity & Inclusion awards, begun in 2016 and expanded this year, recognizes companies for their leadership in diversity and inclusion through two awards--the Organizational Diversity and Inclusion Award and the Market Outreach Strategies Award. These awards:
--Recognize development of innovative ways to foster diversity and inclusion in the industry;
--Inspire business strategies that reach out to diverse populations;
--Share industry best practices and successes to inspire new strategies; and
--Raise industry awareness of the importance of being a diverse and inclusive industry.
Company initiatives were scored by two groups of judges consisting of members of MBA's Diversity and Inclusion Committee and MBA staff. The companies were scored based on the quality of their overall submission; identification of a target audience and annual goals; demonstration of a tangible benefit to participants and the overall enterprise; replicability of the program; innovative program approaches; and program success in broadening the culture of the organization through the values of diversity and inclusion.
"In only our second year of existence, we were once again inundated with quality submissions and pleased with the numerous initiatives and programs our members have created," Motley said.
The MBA Diversity and Inclusion Committee was formed in 2013 to provide leadership and guidance to help the real estate finance industry gain a competitive advantage by increasing diversity in leadership, workforce and suppliers.
Profiles of the award winners follow.
For Organizational Diversity and Inclusion: Flagstar Bank, Pulte Mortgage, Altavera Mortgage Services
The Organizational Diversity and Inclusion award celebrates company initiatives that were specifically developed and designed to increase diversity and inclusion within the leadership and employee base of member companies, thereby leading to a mortgage banking industry that may better reflect and understand its customers.
For a company with more than 1,000 employees, Flagstar Bank, Troy, Mich., is recognized for numerous diversity and inclusion initiatives, including across the board training, clear goals and metrics for success based on five distinct "pillars" of diversity and inclusion, mentorship and action diversifying its corporate board.
Flagstar's Diversity Council encompasses 48 employees directly involved in different capacities, led by Zahira Gonzalvo, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Risk and Diversity and Inclusion Leader. The Council has strong support from CEO Sandro Dinello and Cindy Myers, Executive Vice President and Chief of Human Resources. In addition, there is a D&I Core Team for this initiative that includes the five leaders of each of the company's Diversity & Inclusion Pillars.
The program has been in place for nearly two years. "Our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy vision is to build and leverage a diverse, inclusive and engage workforce that inspires all individuals to work together towards a common goal of superior results by embracing the unique needs and objectives of our customers and community," Gonzalvo wrote in the company's entry. "We are achieving this by establishing five key pillars aimed to provide services to our diverse market/customers; recruit a diverse workforce; mentor and engage our diverse workforce; outreach the community that we serve; and do business with minority-owned suppliers.
One of the Council's key initiatives was to create Employee/Business Resource Groups to promote talent engagement and inclusiveness, diverse recruiting, community outreach and understanding of the diverse customer base. "In addition, our CEO has signed a pledge for Action on Diversity and Inclusion, which is a movement on diversity initiated by a coalition of CEOs in different industries," Gonzalvo said.
In addition to the MBA Award, Flagstar earned the Metro Detroit 101 Best and Brightest Award, and rated higher than the region median in Diversity and Inclusion.
Pulte Mortgage launched a specific program this year, "Inclusion Insights," which provides monthly all-inclusive learning sessions for management and their teams leveraging materials created by a cognitive neuroscientist.
Sharyn Torrisi-Cartwright, Vice President of Human Resources, said the program was put in place this year. "We launched our overall D&I program in 2015; however this specific initiative was launched this year," she wrote in the company's entry. "We have partnered to launch all-inclusive learning to all team members with Pulte Mortgage.
The program, Torrisi-Cartwright said, "has been the most insightful way to create the dialog around diversity and inclusion. We have seen changes occur in the way our team views what Diversity and Inclusion really means. At Pulte, creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment is not an ‘initiative,' rather, it's an ‘imperative.' Staying true to our ‘Ignite the Spark' values, we strive each and every day to ensure that our employees feel welcomed, included and enabled to succeed."
Pulte also engaged in a partnership with Dr. Steve Robbins, a cognitive neuroscientist and diversity expert, to provide employees with unique and interactive learning videos. "His teachings are in direct alignment with what we believe the true definition of diversity is--which goes much deeper than the ‘visual' and ‘physical' components that most limit their understanding to," Torrisi-Cartwright said. She added that the initiative has enabled Pulte to have "a great focus in the last 12 months and have really integrated D&I into everything that we do! It is the core of our culture."
Altavera Mortgage Services
Altavera Mortgage Services was recognized for the design and implementation of its Diversity + Inclusion + Advancement + Leadership (DIAL) program, which proactively cultivates leadership opportunities for women, LGBTQ individuals and ethnic/racial minorities and works to remove traditional barriers to their advancement.
Altavera Chief Operating Officer Deb Aydelotte said DIAL has been in place since the firm's founding in 2012, though it was originally known as WIL (Women in Leadership).
"DIAL is an internal initiative targeting Altavera employees at all levels (both staff and leadership)," Aydelotte wrote in the company's entry. "It seeks to create a diverse and inclusive corporate culture that proactively cultivates leadership opportunities for women, LGBTQ individuals and ethnic/racial minorities and removes traditional barriers to their advancement."
The program tackles these barriers by developing and deploying recruitment strategies to build a more diverse organization from the front line to the executive ranks and building an inclusive operating model that helps advance career goals and cultivates leadership opportunities for women and ethnic/racial minorities.
Since its inception, DIAL has increased representation of women among Altavera's staff to 80 percent and its senior leadership to 80 percent and increased representation of ethnic/racial minorities across the organization to a level that reflects state and/or national demographics. Additionally, the program eliminated gender and ethnic/racial minority wage gaps and offers domestic/civil partner benefits that equal those offered to legally recognized spouses.
"Companywide, Altavera's ethnic/racial mix is now closely aligned with that of Colorado, where the company is headquartered and where 100% of employees reside," Aydelotte said "We are slowly bringing our demographic mix closer to U.S. norms as well."
For Market Outreach Strategies: New American Funding and First Community Mortgage
The Market Outreach Strategies award recognizes company initiatives that are specifically developed and designed to increase outreach, marketing and products to attract customers from the industry's fastest growing market segments.
New American Funding
For companies with more than 1,000 employees, New American Funding is being recognized for the creation of its Latino Focus Committee, focused on the lending experience of Hispanic consumers and improving the Hispanic community through homeownership and the New American Dream Initiative, focused on raising awareness and increasing the level of homeownership in African-American communities through home-buying education.
Marketing Director Rebecca Ray said the Latino Focus Committee has been in place for four years.
"The Latino Focus Committee develops services to enhance the quality of the lending experience among Hispanic consumers and aims to enrich the Hispanic community through homeownership," Ray wrote in the company's entry. "In 2016, New American Funding, a national mortgage banker, formed the New American Dream Initiative. The initiative seeks to raise awareness and increase homeownership in African-American communities by building consumer confidence fueled by home buying education and accessibility to relevant home loans."
The Latino Focus Committee seeks to enhance the quality of Latinos' experience with attaining a home loan, and enrich the Hispanic community through homeownership. Patty Arvielo, New American Funding's President and Co-Founder, created the Latino Focus initiative in 2013. When she started the initiative, 12 of her employees participated. Today, that number has grown to 184 employees.
"Patty brings her extensive experience, passion and cultural awareness of the Hispanic community to the mortgage industry," Ray said. "Patty knows the Hispanic community faces unique challenges when it comes to buying a home, including language barriers and frequently, a general lack of financial literacy. The Latino Focus Committee directly confronts these challenges with a variety of initiatives. They have developed several core outreach elements, including Spanish-language educational materials, and Spanish-language radio and billboard campaigns. The group has prioritized outreach that is specifically designed to educate the Hispanic community about their home ownership opportunities."
For example, New American Funding's Smart Start Home Buyer program, an initiative designed to educate first-time homebuyers about the process of purchasing a home, includes Spanish-language educational materials. On the operations side, the mortgage banker uses manual underwriting to accommodate cultural differences in earning, spending and credit that are common among Latinos. In 2016, Arvielo also collaborated with Freddie Mac to establish and launch a unique mortgage pilot program, Your Path, which makes affordable homeownership opportunities available to a broader demographic of borrowers in America.
Latino Focus also hosts educational events and workshops for professionals in the real estate industry. The seminars feature industry expert speakers, city officials and the community leaders. The events educate attendees about the cultural nuances of the millennial generation of Hispanic consumers, commonly known as "Hispennials."
"The initiative has garnered the interest of the industry as it has doubled in audience from its inception growing from 150 attendees per event to 350 per event," Ray said. "Due to popular demand, the events have expanded to a national level as of today. This initiative has been hosted in 13 cities nationwide."
New American Dream is a program that seeks to raise awareness and increase homeownership in African-American communities by building consumer confidence through home buying education and accessibility to relevant loan programs. Through this program, New American Dream aims to help families realize that owning a home is a feasible goal. Employees involved with this initiative help by shaping the communities focus. The committee who is involved with this initiative is able to identify and remove roadblocks by preventing the dream of homeownership.
First Community Mortgage
For companies with less than 1,000 employees, First Community Mortgage is being recognized for providing educational and financial resources to minority homebuyers, including a very wide array of bilingual information and educational resources for potential Hispanic homebuyers.
Miguel Vega, Vice President of Diversity and Multicultural Lending, said FCM's Multicultural Lending Initiative has been in place since November 2016 and came about out of necessity.
"Since 2000, Hispanics have accounted for 43 percent of the growth in U.S. households and have accounted for 56 percent of new household formations over the past five years," Vega wrote in the company's entry. "Additionally, our African-American market continues evolving and needs to be addressed intentionally with information, educational and financial resources."
The company's program focused on serving the middle Tennessee Hispanic Market and other customers from diverse ethnic origins through the formation of a dedicated Multicultural Lending Team. This team consists of an experienced bilingual Business Development Executive, an expert VP of Multicultural Lending Operations, four Multicultural Loan Officers and three Bilingual Customer Support and Lending Processing Junior Executives. The MCLI team reports directly to the Executive Vice President/Director of Lending for FCM.
To better serve its customer base, FCM identified the need for a mortgage loan product that would provide non-Social Security Number customers who have been paying taxes with an IRS-issued Tax Identification Number, with the ability to qualify for a mortgage.
"With the partnership of our parent organization, combined we have dedicated $10 million in funds for 2017 to support our Home Opportunity Loan," Vega said. "Our ‘HO7' solution is a non-QM/ATR portfolio product which allows customers that have two years of income taxes being paid with a ITIN, to have access to financing the purchase of their primary residence."
Additionally, FCN started a corporate diversity educational program and multicultural operations resources targeted to its executives, loan officers and Operations teams to prepare the organization to better serve customers from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Vega said locally, the initiative has been praised by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, Middle Tennessee Association of Realtors, Great Nashville Realtors and Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.
Other companies recognized by MBA this year for their Diversity & Inclusion efforts:
--AAA Appraisal Management Co.
--Alterra Home Loans
--Arvest Central Mortgage Co.
--Bank of America
--Crescent Mortgage Co.
--Digital Risk LLC
--East West Bank
--Embrace Home Loans
--Equity Prime Mortgage
--First Option Mortgage
--Guidance Residential LLC
--Massachusetts Housing Partnership
--Mortgage Coach (Wow Tools Inc. dba The Mortgage Coach)
--Nations Reliable Lending LLC dba NRL Mortgage
--Nationstar Mortgage dba Mr. Cooper
--Ocwen Financial Corp.
--Victorian Finance LLC
MBA encourages its members to support these efforts and to recognize the competitive advantages of embracing a diverse and inclusive workforce and marketplace. For more information about the MBA Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, click https://www.mba.org/who-we-are/mbas-diversity-and-inclusion-initiative/about-mbas-diversity-and-inclusion-initiative.
Commercial and Multifamily members will have a separate award process, with nominations opening at a later date to be announced and awards presented at the CREF/Multifamily Housing Convention & Expo next February in San Diego.
To learn more about MBA's Diversity and Inclusion efforts, visit www.mba.org/diversity. The MBA annual Summit on Diversity and Inclusion take place in Washington, D.C., December 4-5. For more information, click https://www.mba.org/store/events/conferences-and-meetings/summit-on-diversity-and-inclusion.