Nicole Berg: 10 Skills You Need to Move from Processor to Underwriter
(Nicole Berg is Vice President and National Underwriting Manager with Planet Home Lending LLC, Meriden, Conn. She joined Planet Home Lending in 2013 as an underwriter. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policy, or position of Planet Home Lending LLC.)
Processors who want to advance their careers, have decision-making authority and potentially earn more, can grow into underwriting positions. To make that climb, a processor has to work for a company with on-the-job training and a willingness to supervise and mentor the processors.
There is more to being an underwriter than learning guidelines. Based on my experience managing people moving from processor to underwriter, there are hard and soft skills you need before you can transition from Processor to Underwriter.
Here’s my list of the 10 critical skills you need to move successfully from processor to underwriter:
#1 Attention to detail
As an underwriter, you look at documents in detail to ensure the borrowers meet lending guidelines. That requires you to pay strong attention to the details. A processor is ready to learn underwriting when they consistently send over loan files that are complete and accurate, with no errors. An error-free conditions list tells me you’re paying attention to detail at the level required of an underwriter.
#2 Multitasking ability
High-producing processors are organized and know how to work their queue. They can juggle and multitask, switching from working in the origination system to speaking with borrowers to real-time communication with loan officers.
Underwriters also manage large queues with multiple tasks. Underwriters are regularly working in the originations system while doing their due diligence in multiple portals, all while working closely with the mortgage processors and loan officers.
#3 Audit-worthy proficiency
When you’re a processor, an underwriter checks your work. When you become an underwriter, you are making the decision on the file. Your employer must to be able to trust your work, and will also verify it. The quality of underwriters’ production is constantly reviewed during quality control, audits, and even exams .
As a processor who wants to advance, you must evidence that you can process with minimal findings by quality control auditors. Create insurable loan files with no program guideline inaccuracies.
#4 Sound judgment, even in a fast-paced environment
As the underwriter, you’re responsible for the decisions made on files. Periods of high volume, like the refinance boom we’re in now, puts stressful pressure on processors and underwriters. The difference is that once you’re an underwriter, you will be the one responsible for determining if the risk of offering a mortgage loan to a particular borrower is acceptable. Strong ethics are crucial when becoming and underwriter as you must comply with applicable federal, state, and local regulations including the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Fair Housing Act requirements.
#5 Thorough understanding of mortgage documents
A good rule of thumb, is that a processor have a minimum of four years’ experience before becoming an underwriter. That ensures they understand credit documents, income documents, and other mortgage documents the borrower signs, including disclosures.
Mistakes in application documents or disclosures can be costly from both a compliance and a reputational perspective. Processors who can proofread and quickly spot errors, typos, or miscalculations are likely ready for the next level of their career.
#6 The agility to learn and retain training
Guideline changes are constant in today’s market. Automated underwriting systems handle the routine approvals, leaving underwriters to sort thru manual underwrites or exceptions.
To excel, you must be up-to-date on guidelines. And you have to be able to interpret and apply the rules. Knowing when it’s OK to use judgment and when you need to seek a second opinion is a crucial underwriting skill.
At Planet, our processors also can opt to become subject matter experts who act as a resource to others in the fulfillment pipeline. Excelling as a subject matter expert shows you can learn and retain training and that you’re someone that others can lean on for advice.
#7 Efficiency in communications
Mortgage underwriting requires a constant flow of communication and productive team effort. The loan originator, processor and underwriter all play a large part in the mortgage loan process. It is the underwriter’s job to communicate efficiently to the loan officer and processor when file decisions are made. Therefore, when promoting a processor to an underwriter position, management is looking for strong communication skills.
#8 A Goal-oriented attitude
Mortgage underwriters are often reviewed based on the company’s loan goals. The ideal candidate for this type of position is someone that is determined to work hard to achieve set goals. It is essential that underwriter candidates be self-motivated and driven towards success. When a processor wants to move into underwriting, management will review their previous production as a processor to determine if that candidate has the self-motivation required for the underwriting position.
Professionalism is another characteristic soft skill needed to excel in underwriting. Professionalism, which shows up in our interactions with customers, teammates and business partners, is a key factor for success. Professionalism leads to excellence, a strong professional reputation and a high level of work ethic.
#10 An employer that helps you grow (and the desire to do so)
While not all companies offer an internal promotions track for processors, Planet has a preference for promoting from within and training to support those who want to move from processor to underwriter.
And not all processors wish to go into underwriting, and we support that, as well.
Underwriting is a challenging position because you make decisions about lending your company’s money. Maybe you don’t want that responsibility. Perhaps you’d rather have someone backing you up and checking your work.
There are many career paths in the mortgage industry that will give you the ability for personal growth in your career. If becoming an underwriter is on your career to-do list, know that it’s a natural extension of the work you do now. People in loan setup become familiar with documentation, then move into processing. Once you’re in processing, you start to see more income documents and credit documents. You learn with those experiences, and by the time you go into underwriting, you will have the foundational knowledge you need. Add these 10 skills, and you’re sure to find success.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at email@example.com.)