Katie Sweeney is a tireless advocate for independent mortgage brokers across the country as the CEO of AIME. She oversees the allocation of resources and technology, all aimed at growing the wholesale channel. As a millennial leader in the mortgage industry, Katie has leveraged her modern asset management and traditional industry knowledge to position brokers for a more substantial market share in a competitive housing environment.
As a mortgage industry leader, what trends do you think will determine where the industry goes from here?
Millennials and single women buying homes are extremely impactful in the industry right now. This means that blending digital and scalable business models with increased personalized communication and providing community-based experiences will be crucial for mortgage professionals to master.
Which supporting skills do you think are most important when it comes to leadership?
It’s crucial for leaders to invoke curiosity to find problems before they exist and to use creativity to solve them. Above all, leaders need to provide direction to teach others how to do both of those things themselves.
When there is a disagreement on your team, how do you handle it?
The best idea always wins. It’s not about ego; it’s about finding the solution that moves the needle in the desired direction.
What steps do you take to ensure that projects are completed on time, on budget, and to the proper standard?
It starts with setting expectations for the team up front by talking through the company goals, customer experience expectations, and explaining why they matter. From there, each initiative should drive towards one of those overall goals or objectives, with clear expected outcomes and objectives for that specific initiative.
Tell me about your approach to delegation.
Start by identifying items that are low risk to your business but provide ample learning opportunities for your team member. As their performance and comfort level increase, move towards mid-risk and eventually high-risk items to entrust to them.
How do you respond to constructive criticism?
I crave it. If I’m not being challenged or pushed, I’m not getting better, and neither is my team.
If a member of the team is under-performing, what steps do you take to improve their performance?
Challenge what was done by asking questions that allow a team member to identify where things could have (or should have) been completed at a higher standard. I think team members must understand why something isn’t meeting expectations by evaluating themselves instead of me merely stating it.
Why is it important to be part of AIME’s Brokers Are Better Network?
Brokers need access to enterprise-level technology solutions and integrations to compete more equally with their retail counterparts. Brokers are already providing access to the best rates and customized experiences, consumers win even more when we help level the playing field for brokers to be able to compete at scale.
What aspects of the mortgage industry do you hope to see AIME making an impactful contribution on next?
AIME is laser-focused on increasing broker channel growth through consumer education, advanced access to technology, and encouraging the industry to invest in the channel. We do this by spreading the word about career opportunities with our newly launched Spark, a small business grant, and Ignite, the mortgage career training programs along with spotlighting the benefits a consumer gains by working with an independent mortgage broker.
How have women reshaped what it means to be a mortgage professional?
Women have been on the cutting edge of developing new partnerships, initiatives, and training to make a more sustainable broker channel. This has made the process of obtaining a mortgage less complicated to a prospective home buyer and allowed our industry to build a diverse set of stakeholders. Championed by women, these core improvements will serve the wholesale channel well as we seek to transform our industry and exceed a 25 percent market share.
How have modern means of technology impacted the way the mortgage industry does business?
Mortgage as an industry is still lagging behind most B2C industries, but we are finally starting to pay attention to who our customer is and understand their desired experience. Technology allows brokers to couple their unique community perspective with access automation to scale and compete with larger retail shops, giving them a competitive edge that they wouldn’t have otherwise. We still have a long way to go. Nevertheless, we’re starting to see significant investment in how the industry interacts with customers and how to create a truly tailored and personalized experience for them.
If you could go back to your first day in the industry, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself to consider the source of any criticism or praise that comes your way. It’s easy to allow yourself to get distracted or discouraged by positive or negative critiques, but the source of that feedback is just as, if not more, important than the feedback itself. Positive feedback feels great, but it can inflate a false sense of comfort if you’re not careful. Negative criticism means nothing if the person it’s coming from isn’t a consumer or employer of your work. Don’t get overly distracted by the good or the bad; focus on your audience and work to create value every opportunity you can. You need all of the good, the bad, and the ugly to grow.
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