In the latest episode of ‘The Loan Officer Wealth Podcast,’ host Chris Johnstone invited two special guests, Damon Germanides and Chris Furie, partners at Insignia Mortgage. Both guests have earned prestigious rankings in the Scotsman’s Top 10, with Germanides and Furie ranking #4 and #7, respectively, in 2023. This episode offers a wealth of knowledge and shares their journey of starting and growing their business, their unique value proposition, and some valuable mortgage marketing ideas. This episode is packed with insights that will inspire anyone in the mortgage business.
The episode kicks off with Chris Johnstone expressing his enthusiasm for having the largest volume lender in the nation on the show. Damon Germanides and Chris Furie, who have been in partnership for over a decade, share how they started Insignia Mortgage. Chris Furie, a veteran of the mortgage business, started working for Oak Mortgage in the 90s and later partnered with Damon Germanides, who had a background in the restaurant business and an MBA from USC, during the financial crisis of 2008. They decided to join forces in 2010, going in with their eyes wide open and without setting any expectations, a strategy that proved beneficial in the long run.
Finding Their Niche:
Damon Germanides and Chris Furie recount how they were introduced to a Credit Union in 2011 or 2012, which marked the beginning of a fruitful partnership. Starting with one loan, they gradually increased their volume to around $500 million. Their secret sauce was focusing on a niche part of the market, dealing with a few lenders that would take the time to underwrite customized files for good quality borrowers, a strategy that went against the grain at the time. This approach required a deep understanding of their niche and a commitment to not following the normal underwriting methodology.
Client Acquisition and Realtor Relationships:
Chris Johnstone then steers the conversation towards client acquisition and the role of realtors in their business. Damon Germanides explains that their success came from a combination of factors, including growing up in Los Angeles, having a vast network, using Salesforce and marketing cloud for segmentation and advertising, engaging in social media, Google search, and redisplay, and having a strong reputation among realtors. Furie adds that their upfront and transparent approach helped build trust with realtors, and Germanides highlights the importance of analyzing files, writing cover letters, and being honest about the feasibility of the loans.
Active Engagement and Communication:
Chris Johnstone inquires about their outbound funnel for realtors and if they have a business development manager. Damon clarifies that they are actively involved in the day-to-day operations of Insignia Mortgage, and while they use social media, email, and texting to broaden their reach, they believe in the value of warm calls, lunches, and active communication with their referral partners. Chris Furie underscores the importance of talking to realtors every day, as they appreciate the personal touch.
Chris Johnstone, Damon Germanides, and Chris Furie are discussing various aspects of their business strategies, which include maintaining relationships with realtors, understanding the market through direct communication with stakeholders, leveraging Salesforce Marketing Cloud for segmenting clients and sending out automated journeys, and the future role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the mortgage business.
Chris Johnstone inquires about Chris Furie’s daily success plan, asking if it includes specific activities or a list of contacts to reach out to each day.
Daily Success Plan:
Chris Furie explains that he has a spreadsheet of around 30-40 realtors whom he tries to call or text every couple of weeks, as this approach works best for him. These are people with whom he has relationships and has done loans with. Chris Johnstone appreciates this strategy, emphasizing the importance of maintaining relationships with warm contacts and past clients. Chris Furie talks about the importance of understanding the marketplace and shares that talking to realtors helps him gauge the market as they are on the front lines. Damon Germanides adds that their partnership allows them to strategize better and get a more comprehensive understanding of the market by engaging with both realtors and lenders. Chris Johnstone then asks about their process for reaching out to their past customer database.
Weekly Newsletter Engagement:
Chris Johnstone started by commending the in-depth market analysis included in the weekly newsletter shared by Damon Germanides & Chris Furie on social media and their website. This newsletter covers not only the real estate market but also the lender side of things. Damon mentioned that it’s challenging to track the engagement, but the newsletter is sent to around 10,000 to 12,000 real estate brokers and financial advisors. He shared that it includes his opinions and observations about the market and also touches on the local market trends based on feedback from clients. Damon Germanides and his partner, Chris Furie, are active in the business, engaging with clients and understanding their concerns.
Database Marketing and Client Engagement:
Chris Johnstone pointed out that there are three ways to grow the business: past customer database, referral partners, and marketing and advertising. While they had discussed referral partners, they hadn’t touched on database marketing. Damon Germanides mentioned that while they do not have a formal process for reaching out to past customers, they do have triggers in place, thanks to Salesforce, to connect with their clients without overwhelming them. These triggers include reminders for tax bills, loan adjustments, and even birthday wishes.
The Role of Salesforce:
Chris Johnstone highlighted the significant role of Salesforce in their business. Damon agreed, stating that while it was a lot of work upfront, the automation and CRM management it provides have been incredibly important for their business. It helps them to track engagement, manage client relationships, and send out automated reminders and wishes.
The Importance of CRM Management:
Chris Johnstone started by acknowledging the effort put into setting up Salesforce and the dividends it pays in terms of automated marketing and CRM management. He then asked Germanides to explain how they leverage Salesforce Marketing Cloud in their business.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud: A Powerful Tool:
Damon Germanides explained that Salesforce Marketing Cloud allows them to create segments of their clients, past clients, and realtors, and send out ‘Journeys’ based on those segments. This helps them track engagement, optimize deliverability, and adjust their approach as needed. He proudly shared that they were the first in the market to integrate Salesforce Marketing Cloud with Simple Nexus (the consumer-facing app) and Encompass, creating a digital loan application process that their clients have embraced and appreciated.
Building a Tech Stack:
Damon credited Neil Patel and Michael Nazare from his office for helping to integrate these tools and create a more efficient digital loan application process. He mentioned that the process was challenging due to the technical details involved, but the result was worth the effort, as it has made their company more efficient and allowed them to bring in seasoned brokers they wouldn’t have been able to handle otherwise due to manual processes.
The Future of the Mortgage Industry:
Chris Johnstone concluded by highlighting the importance of technology in the mortgage industry’s future, stating that the top 10-20% of the mortgage market in the next 5-10 years will be those producers who leverage technology to its fullest extent.
Chris Johnstone, Damon Germanides, and Chris Furie, discussed the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the mortgage industry, and how it can be leveraged to optimize business operations.
Embracing AI for Efficiency:
Chris Johnstone started by asking Damon Germanides about his thoughts on implementing AI in the mortgage business. Damon shared that he was currently using ChatGPT to optimize ads for a sister business, and believes that embracing AI is essential to avoid being left behind. While he acknowledged that AI cannot directly get you a real estate referral, he believes it can make the business more efficient. For instance, AI can be used to analyze guidelines from various banks, credit unions, mortgage banks, and bridge lenders, and help originators quickly identify the right fit for a loan.
The Future of AI in the Mortgage Industry:
Chris Furie, when asked about his use of AI, mentioned that he is not directly involved in using it, but believes it is definitely the future. Chris Johnstone agreed, highlighting the importance of staying informed about AI while also emphasizing the importance of traditional relationship-building activities like phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and lunch appointments.
Chris J. concluded by congratulating Germanides and Furie on building one of the nation’s largest mortgage businesses by focusing on fundamentals like treating people right and doing good deals. While AI holds great promise for making the mortgage business more efficient, it is clear that traditional relationship-building activities remain essential for success in the industry. acknowledged that AI cannot directly get you a real estate referral, he believes it can make the business more efficient. For instance, AI can be used to analyze guidelines from various banks, credit unions, mortgage banks, and bridge lenders, and help originators quickly identify the right fit for a loan.
Chris Johnstone is the owner of Connection Inc. His team at Connection Inc. will fill your calendar with qualified sales appointments.
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