Chris Mason: ‘Dear Management’…

Christopher M. Mason is Chief Financial Officer of Pacific Residential Mortgage, Portland, Ore. He is a CFO/CPA/Analyst/Author/Consultant who has handled a wide variety of experiences in his various advancing roles throughout the years. His blog/website is

Chris Mason

2020 is ending…and 2021 is coming into view. A few thoughts that should be dancing around in your head…along with those sugar plums.

Bonuses or 401k this year?…should you do extra?…should you do both?

Because listen…people want bonuses, MORE than extra 401k! Period.

Instant gratification is always better in their eyes. Period.

Now…. sure, they want a 401k match… a “for sure,” “steady match”… that is always there.

And that is really just fine with them.

And if you don’t believe me…remember back to the days… when you were little… and you got that gift from Uncle Joe. You ripped it open, expecting a toy (bonus in adult language).

And instead… bum bum bummmm…a college savings bond (additional 401k monies in adult language). Just sayin’.

It’s been almost a year of this COVID (pardon my French)… crap! But, vaccines are looking promising, lights are appearing at the end of the tunnel, etc…so, what are your plans long term for employees and spacing needs?

Who’s coming back, who’s staying remote, and who will be both? What are your spacing needs? Downsizing? Growing?nWhat leases are being renewed? Which are going away? What questions are you asking? What scenarios are you processing through? Nothing? NO PLAN? That is SAD peeps…change that.

COVID has also brought a lot of side effects with it in 2020. And one of those… is 24 access to your employees that are working from home. But with that unfettered access comes management issues… you might not of thought of before now.

Those of the wage and hour kind:

–Those of the “are they taking their required breaks”?

–Those of the “is that login at 9pm, actually overtime”?

–Those of the “are they actually even working an eight-hour day”?

In an unstructured world… rules of engagement have to still be maintained. Because even if you might not be thinking of it… the state/federal labor departments are. So get those HR departments working for you… People! Updates to policies are surely needed.

Another, is let’s say, even now… you have a sub-lessee/lessee that is asking for help with the monthly rent they owe. This should NOT be an unexpected question that might come your way, especially these days. So, what do you do? Fight? Kick them out? Take them to court? Or… do you work with them… longer term, reduce rents to be recaptured later, just take less, etc.

Because… I’m not sure if you’re aware, but commercial space is nearly a “penny” a dozen right now…And somethin’…Is better than nothin’…Just sayin’.

Also, what are you going to do to bridge the gap that has occurred in the personal interaction with your employees? Because, in our current world… where interaction with employees DOESN’T come through personal interaction…What are you doing?

Emails and Zoom meetings DON’T truly replace it.Are you thinking of ways to connect on a more “real” basis?Well, you should! This isn’t a problem that can be solved by just WAITING it out… Taking a “Things will be better than!” approach. Because in the world beyond COVID… how many people will even be in the office? Perspectives on people’s lives and lifestyles have changed… FOREVER… on what work and the work environment is. Adapt with that…Or for that gap, you’ll never find a bridge.

And on a business impact side, I’ll leave you with a couple more operational items…

The new URLA is coming March 2021… no, really, it should really happen this time. So, are you ready? But first, do you even know what the new URLA is?

Well it’s the universal residential loan application or Form 1003… that has been redesigned by the GSEs (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) to improve the borrower and lender experience. That’s a mouthful… feel improved yet? Well the application has been around 20 years old now… things were bound to be changed. The hope of which… is to capture better borrower data points and help continue the push to a “pure” digital mortgage. The challenge is to have your ducks in a row… to transition your current system(s) and procedures to accept the new format.

So I ask you again…are you ready?

Do you have a regular, on-going meeting of the “key persons” of management in your company? The decision makers/leaders from both operations and sales?

1) Don’t have? = Bad

2) Have… but the group is perpetually mired in indecision and lack of direction? = NOT Good.

3) Have… and it promotes needed feedback, cohesion, and allows better processes to evolve? = Great!

Because a team is only as good as the huddle before the play.Otherwise, no one will be in the right place to catch the winning pass and take it into the end zone.

My couple (plus a couple more) pennies.


Christopher M. Mason

(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policy of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Mike Sorohan, editor, at; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at