Being at the helm of A and N Mortgage, has been an incredible journey for Neena Vlamis who founded the company 19 years ago. She has helped grow A and N from a handful of employees to more than 100. For industry partners, A and N is a company with answers, support, and transparency. For its sales staff, it is place where one can learn, grow, take risks, and build the business with the best pricing and products in the Midwest. “We are licensed in 8 states and continuing to grow,” says the company. Neena is excited to be opening a new branch soon in New Buffalo, Michigan!
On Impactful Leadership
Neena asserts “Security and trust are very important to me. Those elements are key to a strong foundation. And that’s why I’ve built A and N Mortgage to be a bedrock in Chicago.” The company provides a tightly bound and solid staff that will ease the potentially stressful and often overwhelming storm that can be the mortgage process. “We get to help people get into homes they can be proud of, and that is an incredible feeling,” says Neena.
Leading by example and having an open mindset is the key. Neena tries to lead by example on a daily basis. Her mother worked in the mortgage industry and her father, a refugee from India, taught her early on that to build wealth is a gift. It requires hard work and dedication. In junior high school, she helped her dad manage rental properties. According to her, it wasn’t always how she wanted to spend her weekends, but in retrospect, she feels very grateful. Neena states, “Giving me this responsibility showed great trust. And trust builds confident leaders. I believe leadership doesn’t stop with me. I want to foster more leaders within A and N. We have a fantastic company culture and employee camaraderie where everyone is encouraged to contribute, grow and strengthen their skill sets.”
Stable Steps in Pandemic
“As with many industries, the pandemic has highlighted both our strengths and our pain points, or as I like to call them, learning points,” says Neena. A and N found it challenging to remain connected to its employees as all employees moved into a remote environment. With the new technology and processes, A and N had to increase the training efforts and find creative ways to provide human connections in the digital landscape. While the company was pivoting to remain connected to staff and clients, the refi boom continued to swell. Meaning, the company had to take into account a growth mindset. According to the Neena, she hired new leaders to build larger marketing, recruitment, and business development initiatives to help ensure that the purchase business was still thriving, and the company had the staff to support this expansion.
Client Centric Mortgage Services
“With our loans, you are not alone,” says Neena. The company is leading with the quote “We are not a company that is looking to make deals, we are looking to build relationships.” Buying a home is very personal, very intimate and can feel overwhelming. A and N Mortgage has created a team of dedicated, talented people who will help homeowners through the entire process. With Covid-19, the company did have to pivot, like many other industries, to offer safe digital processes for both its team members and customers. It used automation and technology and still infused the same heart into every transaction. “We are proud of the fact that we have an impressive number of repeat clients and more than 715, 5-Star reviews,” says the company.
A and N is also a direct lender, which means its loan process is all under one roof, from start to finish. These investor relationships have lasted over a decade, earning A and N a reputation of trust as an industry leader. The centralized mortgage process and strength in investor relationships allows its referral partners to have peace of mind with every transaction.
Stay Positive and Focused
Until 1975, a woman couldn’t even sign a lease on a car or get a credit card without a male co-signer. And today, Neena has built a company with a billion-dollar book of business, a successful mortgage company in 8 states. “We’ve come a long way, and we have a long way to go,” says Neena.
Describing her challenges during her journey to becoming a successful business owner, Neena asserts, “During one of the many busy seasons, I was pregnant with my youngest. I was told I had to be on bedrest. I had a bed installed in the office, worked from home too, gave birth and closed more loans. You figure it out, you face a challenge head on and always come out stronger for it.” She further adds “I am an optimist. I see the light in even the darkest of moments. So, when I encounter sexism or racism – blatant or microaggressions – I move forward. My goal is to change the world with mortgages. I stay focused, I do the work, I make the change I want to see in this world through the work. When I trust too much or don’t see the situation as it is, I rely on my core group to let me know. It always helps to have other female leaders in your corner. Simply to talk about issues and realize you’re not alone.”
Learn, Grow and Support Others
On advising emerging business leaders/entrepreneurs, Neena says “Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions and learn instead of acting like you already know all there is to know. Once you are up and running, pull someone else up! Grow the people around you and teach one another.”
Expanding with Every Passing Day
According to Neena, A and N Mortgage is creating a leadership track program to ensure its employees have even more ownership and autonomy within the company. It is aiming to expand its reach by increasing state licensing and recruitment practices. The company is also collaborating with other industry leaders on exciting outreach programs. Neena closes with, “We are looking forward to continuing our exciting trajectory of growth and expansion and I cannot wait to see what this year brings.”