Open Mortgage CEO on Growth Efforts, Company Culture

A clearly-defined company culture, new technology adoption and a core footprint expansion are among the cornerstones that have turned Open Mortgage into a notable reverse mortgage lender in recent years. These are just a few of the topics discussed by Open Mortgage CEO Scott Gordon in the latest episode of The RMD Podcast, available now.

Initially trained as a computer programmer and engineer, Gordon discusses his path into the mortgage industry, how he identified opportunities in the reverse mortgage arena, as well as his thoughts on the industry as it stands right now. Beyond those topics are ones related to the important issue of having and maintaining a company culture so that employees find themselves happy to come to work, along with how having a technology background has assisted Gordon in thinking differently from a typical CEO.

Reverse mortgage entry, technology background

While his path to leadership at Open Mortgage came about from his service on the board of directors for a company called Open Lending – where Gordon was a lead investor – another board member asked him to fund a mortgage company as a partner, not just an investor. Gordon quickly ascended into a leadership position at the new Open Mortgage, and after being introduced to reverse mortgage products, saw them as an opportunity to both expand and potentially help a new segment of customers.

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“I actually was a software engineer for 20 years, so my thinking is, I hope, like an engineer,” Gordon says. “‘Where am I today? What are we doing today? What’s the next thing I should learn to do or get better at? How do we take the company to the next step?’ So, after we had many states licensed and had loan officers in a lot of locations, somebody presented the reverse mortgage to me.”

After being introduced to a Texas reverse mortgage professional, Gordon’s interest was sufficiently piqued.

“It just seemed like an interesting product to add to our other product mix,” Gordon says. “I know it’s a niche, but it seemed like it was a good product and that it really helped people.”

Company culture

Company culture is an important part of his leadership at Open Mortgage, but it’s not enough to simply have culture, he says. After thinking about all of the questions that are associated with defining company culture, it becomes just as important to have cultural alignment.

“Even though [Open Mortgage] is a reverse company and AAG and FAR are reverse companies, we all may choose to have slightly specifically different cultures,” Gordon explains. “But, the cultural alignment part is in making sure your employees know what your culture is.”

After defining a core value of company culture, it becomes necessary to discover how that value translates into employees’ behaviors at work every day, he says.

“So, if you develop your culture, know what your values are, and then make sure people know what that value really means and how [to incorporate it into] work every day, then you can end up with cultural alignment,” he says. “And, it just feels like a magic carpet where the company moves ahead better, because everybody’s aligned on what you’re trying to do, and why you’re trying to do it.”

Open Mortgage expansion efforts

Gordon also shared some of the thinking that goes into the company’s expansion efforts, which recently including picking up 50 new employees from a recently-closed reverse mortgage company, and the acquisition of Premier Home Mortgage in 2019.

“It’s funny that [while] 2018 was so painful for people, and 2019 was a good opportunity to acquire people, and 2020 is absolutely not,” Gordon says. “It’s gone from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market. But, in that moment in time, that worked out pretty well for us. It’s given us better coverage in some states. There’s the advantages of size sometimes, when the tools you’re selling are a little bigger, it helps get more attention from the investors.”

Helping matters further is having a good relationship with the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), informed by Gordon’s ‘engineer’ mindset, he says.

“In computer code, if your writing is wrong at all, [your program] just doesn’t work,” Gordon says. “So, when I got into mortgage and they said, ‘Well, there are these regulations. And there’s Reg Z, and there’s RESPA,’ as an engineer-thinking person, I just assumed we could never violate any of those rules. I was just thinking the ‘computer’ wouldn’t work if the code wasn’t written right.”

Listen to the full episode of The RMD Podcast featuring Scott Gordon now.

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