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So, it has admittedly been a little while since my last post.  Okay.  A long while.  This is the point where I tell you I’ve been busy, and you, my loyal reader or readers, admonish me for using that tired excuse.

But an interesting thread has popped up in one of my industry LinkedIn groups, and I think it merits comment and consideration.

I don’t claim to be a human resources or staffing expert.  Nor have I managed or built large title, settlement services, mortgage or real estate businesses.  I have gotten to know a pretty fair number and wide variety of real estate, mortgage and settlement professionals and executives over the past ten years, and I’ve heard their stories.  And I’m starting to wonder…do we eat our young?

I’m not asking if we’re cannibalistic, of course.  And I’m not making a criticism.  I’m genuinely asking the question—not implying anything.  As a marketing communications consultant, I don’t get to examine the books.  I’m not in my clients’ offices day after day.  I’m rarely advised about a firm’s human resources philosophy. So it’s not a rhetorical question.

But I have noticed that I don’t see a lot of young executives or upper level managers in our industry.  I see some, but not many.  And I don’t hear a lot about the development process for the next generation of leaders.  Perhaps many or most firms do have some sort of mentorship, recruiting or development process.  Perhaps I’m just not privy to it in what I do.  But I do wonder.

Clearly, ours is an industry of thin margins, hard work and changing schedules.  It’s labor intensive.  And many of the small to mid-size companies simply don’t have the time and/or resources to bring on young recruits and then develop them.  Many of these companies don’t have HR departments.  And, when times get tough, having inexperienced managers in training can be a luxury most can’t afford.

Experience is also important in an industry like ours, to be sure.  We are managed by ever-changing and unclear laws, regulations and ordinances enforced by a confusing array of agencies, bureaus and entities.  The public has little idea of what we do.  The mainstream media would like to believe it does…but usually paints a somewhat distorted and cynical image.  And the number of parties to touch each real estate/mortgage transaction to make it happen can be staggering.  It’s not a place for the faint of heart, and those who venture into the fray without a Sherpa and a compass are in for a rough time.

With that said, however, how do we nurture our next generation of leaders?  We all agree that the function of the mortgage and real estate industry is valuable to the economy as a whole.  We agree that what we do every day is critical.  So are we doing something to ensure that the lessons we’ve learned and the successes we’ve won will be carried on by the next generation?

It’s a genuine question.  I’d love to hear (generally—no need to give away the secret sauce) what businesses (especially small businesses) in our industry do to seek out, train and develop the “next generation” of executives and leaders.

Comments ( 2 )

    • Jeff Schurman, CAE says:

      Hi Brain,

      I agree with you. From my perspective of the settlement services industry (the vendor management space mostly), there’s a lot of hiring going on, a lot of churn in the ranks, and leadership that either a) bubbles up through the ranks, or b) gets plunked down into a leadership position through a merger or acquisition (i.e., We’re buying so-and-so, you’ll manage it), or c) moves to greener pastures from a competitor VMC (meaning they were fired of course).

      Encouragingly, many of the most effective young leaders set off on their own once they’ve acquired experience and/or plateau in their current situations. This should continue the post-bubble trend(ette) toward smaller local outfits competing with the big guys.

      Two professions I’m particularly concerned about are appraisal and title abstracting. As I’ve discussed in a series on the future of the appraisal industry in the Mortgage Third Party Risk Blog (www.mortgagethirdpartyriskblog.com), the average appraiser is around 50 years old. And there’s little in the way of young people coming in to the industry to repopulate the gene pool.

      The fees are too low, the future too uncertain, the use of lower-end valuation products (automated valuations, broker price opinions) too threatening, the turnaround times too restrictive, and the barriers to entry too high (college education/ clients opting not to allow trainees on their fee panels) to entice college grads to enter the industry.

      I suspect the title abstracting demographic, and certainly the downward fee and turn time pressures, are comparable to appraisers’. And like appraisers abstractors struggle to compete with automated search tools. Therefore, I suspect they’re facing the same challenges in bringing along the next generation of leaders.

      Absent some major reconsideration among the VM leadership of today there will be a critical shortage of appraiser- and abstractor-leaders tomorrow. Or worse. Unless the fee and turnaround time issues (and a few others) are resolved there may be no need to seek out, train, and develop the next generation… in these (2) industries at least. Other industries may find themselves in the same soup.

    • brian says:

      Thanks for your comments, Jeff. Well said. I particularly agree with your observation that many of the most talented leaders tend toward starting their own businesses. Although times are turbulent right now, the barriers to entry into the market have never been lower. Query whether or not title/mortgage/real estate’s young talent strikes out on its own more frequently than in other industries and, if so, is that because ours is not one to promote from within?

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