Sherwood Lawrence: Does the LO Have a Future in the Digital Mortgage World?

Sherwood Lawrence is chief creative officer and chief marketing officer with Top of Mind Networks, Atlanta. One of Top of Mind’s original founders, he leads the company’s content and marketing strategies with a focus on innovative execution and engaging content that helps lenders generate revenue and awareness


When I first entered the mortgage industry in 2004, the digital mortgage was still a pipedream — a longshot notion that wasn’t even an aspiration outside of very small circles. I came from a software giant and was shocked at the technology gap between the software and mortgage industries.  The words, “Are you serious? It doesn’t do that?” were never far from my lips.

As part of a technology enablement team, I helped advance technologies that improved management and data acquisition processes for mortgage marketing programs. For instance, I created a cloud-based file scanning solution that leveraged optical character recognition (OCR) to transfer contact data and make PDFs easy to search and download. I also helped create an affordable way to audit the compliance profile of every loan file a broker or lender originated — a substantial  improvement over the standard (but wildly ineffective) practice of randomly selecting a 5-10% sample for review.

I share this origin story because many of you will remember those heavy paperwork days and may recognize even better than I do that the full end-to-end digital mortgage experience, once a distant wave on the horizon, has now finally reached our shores. Like any technological transformation, it has created an environment where those who ride the wave will gloriously surf onto the beach, while those who allow themselves to be overwhelmed by momentum will drown in the undertow. 

The digital mortgage revolution doesn’t take sides, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be casualties. The march toward efficient loan transactions will permanently redefine the roles of the mortgage lender and loan officer, radically transforming the entire production line of mortgage origination.

Five years from now, there might only be two kinds of loan officers: the efficient, behind-the-scenes laborer who makes an hourly wage funneling leads, and the highly visible, charismatic storyteller who earns a king’s ransom per loan transaction across a vast book of business. That’s because today’s consumers want purchase interactions to be immersive and entertaining — or, failing that, they want them to be ruthlessly efficient. Our industry is diverging toward these polar opposite experiences, both of which rely on technology and the realization of the end-to-end digital mortgage pipeline.

The difference for the mortgage originator is whether they are visible in the process at all.  As a business enterprise, which mortgage experience do you want to enable?  As a mortgage originator, how do you want to be involved in the mortgage transaction?  There are no right or wrong answers — just choices.

It’s my belief that the industry will always need competent, trusted professionals for what is typically the largest financial transaction a consumer will ever engage in. But highly competent, trustworthy professionals aren’t always expert marketers. Many worthy professionals need help developing their personal brand, building their network of advocates and growing their sphere of influence.  This work is the “true north” for any complete mortgage marketing platform.  A robust solution helps originators win new business, earn repeat business and deserve referral business; it lets originators be mortgage experts, not marketing experts.

Next time you evaluate your marketing and CRM platform, ask how it helps you develop your brand. How does it help you tell your story and create the atmosphere of trust and value that is required to compete with the model of ruthless efficiency and hourly order takers? How does it make sure you are the first call, always? How does it help you win the business, every single day?

(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