Paul Gigliotti of AXIS Lending Academy: How Diversity Efforts Can Reach Critical Mass
Paul Gigliotti is a veteran mortgage leader with more than 20 years of experience in the financial services and technology industries. He has held executive roles for multiple mortgage lenders and has a distinguished track record of growing lending platforms and streamlining internal and external operational processes. He currently serves as chair of AXIS Lending Academy, a non-profit education program that offers free hybrid education training to people seeking a career in the mortgage industry while helping home lenders diversify their workforce and lower costs. He also serves as COO of Pinnacle Home Loans. He previously served as executive vice president of operations for West Coast Mortgage, where he led several technology initiatives. He also serves on the board of directors for the California Mortgage Bankers Association. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This is the last of a four-part series, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Mortgage Industry. In addition to a closing piece written by AXIS Chair Paul Gigliotti, the series included pieces authored by AXIS directors Kevin Peranio, Brian Vieaux and Sue Woodard.
Every so often, we experience major societal changes that happen at an almost dizzying pace. For example, it took less than a decade for smartphones to revolutionize our lives. In fact, one can say the same about many of our most popular innovations, from the telephone to the radio to TV to streaming video.
Most of the time, however, major social changes happen over time. For example, in spite of the racial reckoning that took place in 2020, the effort to create a more equitable and colorblind society has taken centuries, and we still aren’t anywhere close to that goal.
I bring this up because our own industry has embraced diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at a rapid rate over the past several years. At the same time, we only have to look around ourselves to see that we still have a long way to go, especially at the leadership and boardroom level.
Why Diversity Works
There are countless quantifiable benefits to promoting diversity. It’s no longer a secret that companies that are serious about diversity are typically the most successful companies in our industry, as a growing body of research has demonstrated. We also know that hiring and promoting people of diverse backgrounds cultivates a greater diversity of thought and innovation, which fuels new business opportunities.
Being intentional about diversity and inclusion also shows the communities in which we do business that we are serious about creating equal opportunity for homeownership. Borrowers who see their community reflected in a company’s loan officers and branch managers are more likely to believe homeownership is actually achievable, and not just a dream.
But most importantly, building a more inclusive industry transforms the lives of the people who work in it, as well as the people we serve. By opening up our industry’s doors to new generations of mortgage professionals from different backgrounds, we’re showing that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from—there is room in the mortgage business for you.
Progress Worth Celebrating
When I got started in the mortgage industry, there was very little time and effort put into building and hiring diverse teams. Today, conversations about DEI are taking place in the boardrooms of every major lender in the industry.
For sure, there has never been more focus on diversity in our industry than exists today. Thanks to the longtime advocacy of groups like the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and the National Association of Professional Mortgage Women, as well as the contributions of many other forward-thinking industry leaders, there are more training opportunities, scholarships and events promoting DEI in our industry than ever.
However, we can’t stop now.
In spite of the growing attention and resources being spent on diversity among trade organizations and within individual companies, the effort to create a more equitable mortgage industry is just getting started. You only have to look at the boardrooms and leadership teams to understand our industry is still not even close to reflecting all the people who work in it, let alone the borrowers we serve.
What We Still Need to Do
In short, this is no time to ease up on the gas pedal. Those of us who are personally and professionally committed to building a more equitable industry need to keep our focus on that task and continue taking action. That means raising even greater awareness about the benefits of DEI and having more conversations about existing inequities, as uncomfortable as those conversations may be. It means consistently looking for new ways to widen industry onramps to talented people from all kinds of backgrounds, including those who may never even have thought about a mortgage career.
In particular, we must educate, encourage and support leaders of organizations–both large and small–to be thoughtful and intentional about their DEI initiatives and see them through. We can’t create a more equitable industry without buy-in from those at the very top. Real change won’t happen until we get all C-level executives and industry stakeholders openly discussing and sharing ideas about diversity until it becomes habit-forming.
But most importantly, we need to help organizations that are struggling to create a culture of diversity take the first steps toward meaningful action. The best way to do so is to develop new strategies for attracting people from different backgrounds and cultures to the mortgage industry, and then training them for a successful mortgage career.
For example, mortgage lenders can partner with organizations that provide educational programs and initiatives specifically designed to promote DEI by offering affordable training, internships and job placement to people seeking a career in the mortgage industry. These programs can be extraordinarily helpful for lenders and service providers that truly want diversity and need a practical way to get started.
They can also help lenders save money. When origination volumes rise, lenders typically often increase salaries and offer large bonuses in order to recruit or retain experienced staff. A more affordable option is to hire newly trained and highly motivated people seeking a mortgage career. It also gives them access to all the other benefits that come with developing a more diverse organization.
People who are new to the industry aren’t burdened by traditional ways of doing things and bring different perspectives and ideas to the table. The lenders that seek out these people will find a greater diversity of thought, which will help them find better ways to sell and manufacture loans and grow business.
Yes, there is much work left to do. Building an industry that is more reflective of our society was never meant to happen as fast as smartphone adoption. But if we keep at it, the effort will eventually reach critical mass and change our industry’s trajectory. Similarly, it will change the trajectory of the lives of the people who work in it, as well as the lives of those yet to discover how uniquely rich and rewarding a mortgage career can be.
(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.)