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Banking's Sweet Spot: Mortgage Servicing

Banking's Sweet Spot: Mortgage Servicing

With residential foreclosure rates at record highs, Congress creating borrower bail-out plans and nonprofits beefing up their consumer credit counseling staffs, mortgage servicing is definitely the sweet spot of the mortgage banking employment market.

"There are certainly needs for experienced loan workout personnel," says Jim Boghos, president of Corporate Search America in Longwood, Florida. "Many lenders simply do not have the staffs to handle this process effectively, so they are outsourcing this function, so outsourcers are growing rapidly."

Servicing employees do the work that happens after a mortgage is made. They collect and process monthly payments, answer customer questions, pass along payments to investors (most mortgages today are placed into securities and sold to investors) and account for those transactions. They pay property taxes and other bills from escrow accounts, make sure borrowers keep their homes insured and try to sell their mortgage customers other banking products, such as equity lines.

Wide Range of Jobs

Servicing is a broad field with jobs for both high school and college graduates. Employment centers are often located in areas where labor is cheap. The Midwest, Southwest, Texas, Jacksonville, Florida, and Salt Lake City are all servicing hot spots, says Randy Strauss, managing director of Strauss Group, a mortgage-banking recruiter in Williamsville, New York.

A high school graduate could break into the field as a customer-service representative in a call center, says Boghos. "Most people enter the field at the entry level through customer service, where they might learn how to do collections, payoff requests, escrow analysis, research misapplied payments or process quitclaim deeds, all in a call-center environment," he says.

While in the call center, those who get cross-trained in escrow management, collections or taxes will become more desirable job candidates, says Maureen McDermott, president of McDermott Advisors, a banking recruitment firm in Morris Plains, New Jersey.

Mortgage servicers also hire college graduates who majored in finance, accounting or business for accounting and management-track positions in investor reporting, loan acquisition, default administration, cash management and customer service.

Find Your Fit

"Servicing is so diverse," Strauss says. "It ranges from collections -- that's the lowest level -- to sophisticated jobs where you devise complicated hedging strategies to protect the servicing portfolio against interest-rate changes and refinances. Managing defaults and controlling quality are also important jobs."

Because servicing encompasses such a wide variety of jobs, it's a field that appeals to many different personality types. If you like cold calling and sales, you'll make a good collector. If you'd rather sit in a cubicle and analyze spreadsheets, quality control could be for you. If you're analytical, detail-oriented and can sit at a computer all day, customer service could be your niche if you're also "sensitive and a good communicator who can listen and create solutions for borrowers," says Robert Sherman, president of Calabasas, California-based Mortgage and Financial Personnel Services, which provides staffing services to the mortgage lending industry.

At the top of the field, loan-servicing managers earn median salaries of about $133,000. Loan-servicing clerks with two to four years' experience make around $34,000; entry-level collectors earn around $35,000.

"If you have any experience in the mortgage-servicing sector, I would set my sights high as there are many battlefield promotions happening right now, " Boghos says. "If you have limited to no experience, many [companies] will train for entry-level collector and [customer service] positions. From there, you can work hard to learn and move up in the organization."

Steady Employment

Unlike the lending side of mortgage banking, where employers staff up when interest rates are low and lay off when rates rise, servicing employment tends to hold steady, says Tom Peugh, vice president of consulting for MortgageFlex Systems, a Jacksonville, Florida, provider of software and systems to the lending industry. "Servicing personnel don't suffer the ups and downs the way lending people do," he says.

And once you gain technical experience in the field, you'll be in high demand, McDermott says. "The mortgage-industry servicing department offers a big future and a big window, even for nondegreed, hardworking people," she says. "Anyone who has tenacity and intelligence can do well."

To search Monster for jobs in mortgage servicing, type in the keywords "mortgage servicing" or "loan administration" in quotes. Without quotes, search mortgage collector, default or REO (an acronym for "real estate owned").

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