Brian Vieaux of AXIS Lending Academy: Diversity is Key to Success in Real Estate Finance
This is part One 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 includes pieces authored by AXIS directors Kevin Peranio, Brian Vieaux and Sue Woodard.
Brian Vieaux is a director of AXIS Lending Academy. He is also the president and COO of FinLocker, a provider of next-generation, digital, consumer-permissioned personal financial assistance tools. He has three decades of home lending experience and has held leadership roles at Citigroup, Flagstar and IndyMac Bank.
MBA NEWSLINK: In your own life, what has been your experience with diversity, equity and inclusion?
BRIAN VIEAUX, AXIS Lending Academy: A few years ago, I was introduced to a non-profit in the city of Detroit called the Downtown Boxing Gym (DBG) Youth Program. DBG is an after school academic and athletic program that gives underserved kids the tools and resources they are not getting from their own school. As a board member at DBG, I have become aware of the differences in resources available to kids in lower income districts compared to their peers in higher income districts, mainly in the suburbs. DBG is on a mission to bring equity to education and give the kids that we serve a chance to compete. The mission of DBG is all about DEI, and I have made it part of my mission to advocate, promote and live a life of DEI.
NEWSLINK: What has been your experience in the mortgage industry when it comes to DEI?
VIEAUX: I’ve spent my entire professional life in and around the real estate finance industry. Sadly, for the first two-thirds of that time, there really wasn’t much thought put into hiring and team building, outside of specific job skills and experience. No one talked about hiring a diverse workforce or creating a pool of qualified, diverse candidates. As I reflect on those early years, it is clear to me that the same types of people were hired and promoted to leadership roles, which led to an extremely non-diverse industry. The last decade has brought much needed energy around DEI, which is very encouraging.
NEWSLINK: What is the benefit to the industry of being more diverse, equitable and inclusive?
VIEAUX: There are a number of benefits. Besides being the right thing to do, it is good business. A growing segment of first-time home buyers are consumers who come from more diverse backgrounds. The industry and the companies within it will benefit by having employees in all roles who more closely mirror society as a whole. As workforces begin to look similar to the populations they serve, these businesses will find success happens naturally.
NEWSLINK: In what areas does the industry get DEI right?
VIEAUX: There are great things being done within MBA, including awareness and training for its membership. Other organizations are also focused on DEI. Tony Thompson and the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America are bringing a much needed attention to DEI and are also helping to attract new people into the business with its Mission 2025 initiative, through which NAMMBA plans on recruiting 50,000 recent college graduates into the industry. The recently launched AXIS Lending Academy, which offers free training for a mortgage career to professionals of different backgrounds, is another exiting development. There are also a multitude of conferences (in person and virtual) that are focused on DEI, which have brought more resources and awareness to the cause.
NEWSLINK: What DEI improvements are needed in the industry?
VIEAUX: I don’t know that improvements are needed as much as increased effort from all industry participants. We tend to see the same companies and people promoting DEI and doing the important work needed. Along with organizations like NAMMBA and AXIS, we need more companies and even more people actively engaging in this effort.
NEWSLINK: At your own company, what is being done to improve DEI?
VIEAUX: Our leadership team is intentional with our recruiting and hiring plans. We focus on recruiting a diverse pool of candidates for all roles in the company. That’s why we joined forces with AXIS. The work that AXIS is doing will help all companies attract prospective employees who not only come from diverse backgrounds but who are also prepared to excel.
NEWSLINK: What steps would you like to see individual home lenders and service providers take in order to enhance DEI?
VIEAUX: Partnering with organizations like AXIS is one specific thing that lenders and service providers can do to promote DEI. Another step is for every company to create hiring and promotion policies that ensure diverse candidates are considered for all positions with their organization.
NEWSLINK: What motivated you to join the AXIS Lending Academy board and contribute your time and resources?
VIEAUX: AXIS is addressing a need and approaching it in a way that I believe in. Through education and training, AXIS learners will be both technically proficient and emotionally prepared for success in the mortgage industry. As more companies seek to create workforces that reflect the communities they serve, AXIS graduates will have more opportunities available to them in which they can contribute, leaning on their learned skills and mindset to help us build stronger, more successful industry.
(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 email@example.com; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
For more information about the MBA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resource Center, visit https://www.mba.org/news-research-and-resources/diversity-equity-and-inclusion.