Rick Vujovich definitely has learned the value of being able to adapt during his 25 years as a loan originator. His diverse background, from a savings and loan to mortgage broker and net branch to retail, has given him the perspective and experience to succeed long-term.
Vujovich, a retail originator at Wells Fargo in Redwood City, Calif., got his start in real estate finance as a teller for Barclays Bank and then as a Realtor for several years. He later became a loan officer at Glendale Federal Savings, where he learned the fundamentals that enabled him to make a smooth transition to a mortgage broker. “For 16 years I was a broker-owner with 10 originators/support staff and really enjoyed it,” he explained. “Of course, there were challenges; for example having to get the company as well as all of the originators approved with each lender with whom we worked. I later became associated with a net branch firm, which of course, didn’t require us to obtain individual licenses. In addition, one of the benefits with this net branch affiliation was that it was an in-house lender for a Realtor.”
While the mortgage industry crisis unfolded, Vujovich had to reevaluate his future. “Like others, I took a careful look at what was happening and considered my future directions. I knew it wouldn’t be easy continuing in a broker/net branch role,” he said. “I felt that those doing well in the future would include proactive lenders and knew Wells Fargo would probably be one. So I thought it would be a good time to return to the retail side.”
Other factors also prompted his move. “My work location would be closer to home than previously and this offered the opportunity to continue coaching high school softball, which was very important to me.”
He joined Wells Fargo’s Redwood City branch in 2008 and has since established a steadily growing business in the San Francisco Bay area.
Vujovich probably has found it less difficult adjusting to the stricter loan environment than many others. “When I started at Glendale Federal, we were doing business the same way that we are now,” he said. “For example, that meant full documentation was required to demonstrate quality loans. Good credit was a given. It was the way I was initially trained.”
He has devoted particular attention to addressing customers’ concerns regarding changes in the loan transaction process. “One of the loan originator’s more recent challenges is spending extra time assisting customers who don’t understand the changes. It isn’t as much of an issue for first-time borrowers who aren’t aware of the previous “system.” However, it is often more of an adjustment for repeat/refinance customers who had transactions prior to 2008, before the tighter regulations were initiated. Most accept the situation, yet some will ask why we need so much documentation and wonder about the longer time period.”
Vujovich takes extra time to explain the required documents and answer questions. “The key is asking for upfront documentation so that they understand exactly what is required. People naturally get frustrated when they are repeatedly asked for information. So we provide a complete checklist at the beginning.”
Vujovich noted that emphasizing the customer benefits makes it easier. “I always point out why it’s important to provide the docs that will enable them to get the best possible rate and in a reasonable time.” He has also learned the importance of highlighting the difference between an interest rate and the customer’s monthly payment. “Many customers tend to focus on the lowest rate, but we always explain that whatever the rate, they have to be comfortable with the ongoing monthly payment. I always highlight the options but stress that the decision is theirs.”
He added that loan originators have had to make major adjustments as well. “For brokers and others to succeed, they have to adapt to a changed industry. I have friends (brokers and lenders) who are doing well because they have adjusted to the changes. I have learned that nothing is constant for 25 years; there will always be ups and downs, so you need to have options. It is just like in sports; you need to know the rules change and if want to stay in business and make a career of it, you have to keep learning.”
Vujovich’s diverse experiences in the lending profession have also encouraged him to continue looking for ways to help his customers. “We all have to become better at what we do,” he said. “Part of that is anticipating what will be needed in each transaction. After every file, I review what I did right and what I could do better for the client.”