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Best Mortgage Employers

Quicken tops Fortune ranking

January 10, 2006

By COCO SALAZAR


photo of Coco Salazar

More than one in ten of the best places to work is mortgage-linked.

FORTUNE magazine's latest 100 Best Companies to Work For recognized several mortgage-industry companies, including those with the best pay and the best benefits in the nation.

Developing the list included the process of evaluating the responses of at least 400 randomly-selected employees in each of the approximately 1,500 companies that either applied to FORTUNE or were recruited to participate. Two-thirds of a company's ranking score was based on the responses derived from the 57-question survey that asked employees about things such as attitudes toward management, job satisfaction and camaraderie within the organization. The remaining one-third of the score was based on a review of the entity's demographic make-up, pay and benefits programs and culture, according to an announcement.

HomeBanc Mortgage placed 14th, earning it the silver medal amongst the mortgage-related companies. Its third consecutive appearance on the ranking improved from No. 20 and No. 39 in the respective previous two years. What makes the Atlanta-based mortgage banker so great is that prayers frequently open its meetings, FORTUNE said, further noting that HomeBanc has a "chief people officer," a former pastor who reports directly to the CEO and "shepherds the company flock."

"It has always been my belief that the foundation of a great business that offers shareholder growth and stability are the people who work there every day: the stewards of that business," HomeBanc Chairman and CEO Patrick S. Flood said in an announcement.

Underwriters receive an annual average salary of $57,942 and customer service specialists, the most common hourly job at HomeBanc, receive an average $36,871.

HomeBanc, which reportedly increased mortgage volume to $5.6 billion in 2004 from $0.5 billion 10 years earlier, says it offers its staff a full portfolio of benefits, an "Associate Emergency Fund" that is funded by the staff and designed to help employees facing extraordinary needs such as unexpected medical bills and emergency travel expenses. Other extras include, a corporate chaplain in each region and a number of "Corporate Holidays" in addition to standard business holidays.

After being the top mortgage-related entity on the ranking two years ago and a no-show last year, brokerage firm Edward Jones earned the mortgage industry's bronze medal with its reentrance at No. 16. The magazine highlighted that "education never ends" at the parent of Edward Jones Mortgage. The financial services company spends 2.5% of payroll on training and has a mentoring program that pairs new brokers with veterans for a year, and has lots of workers who take subsidized business school classes.

Stepping away from the throne as last year's best mortgage company to work for, Republic Bancorp moved down 14 spots to No. 17 this year. However, out of the most common salary jobs in all 100 companies on the list, the Owosso, Mo.-based banker's mortgage loan officers receive the fourth-highest average annual salary -- $165,000. Additionally, FORTUNE recognized Republic as having the ninth largest percentage -- 75-- of women in its workforce, which consists of a total 1,190 U.S. employees. The magazine said a "rah-rah atmosphere pervades" at the 20-year-old bank, where "anyone can submit questions to the CEO's monthly TeleRap conferences or nominate a co-worker as a 'local hero.'"

"As a company, we firmly believe in individual recognition and providing our employees the opportunity for financial and professional growth," commented Dana M. Cluckey, Republic president and CEO, in an announcement. "All of our employees are shareholders."

Republic was also among the 10 best companies where employees feel "encouraged to balance their work and personal life," and so were HomeBanc, Edward Jones and Standard Pacific, the homebuilder parent of Family Lending Services Inc. that placed 74th on the overall list.

The remaining half of the ranking included Goldman Sachs, which placed 26th on the list and was recognized as paying its analysts/associates the 11th-highest average annual salary -- $127,000, and at No. 37 was American Express, which offers mortgages through its banking subsidiary.

Making its ninth appearance on the ranking was Synovus Financial, which fell seven spots from last year to No. 57. The bank holding company was commended for the feedback it seeks from employees by soliciting their opinions via an Intranet that can be accessed from home and for surveying workers online every month.

"Our desire is to make Synovus a workplace that attracts, rewards and retains the kind of talent that is engaged in our business strategies and able to drive continued growth," said Richard Anthony, Synovus CEO, in a statement.

Spots No. 85 through No. 87 were respectively filled by Tennessee-based First Horizon National, Principal Financial Group and Washington Mutual, reportedly the third largest originator in the nation.

The best mortgage company to work for in 2006 is Quicken Loans, which at No. 13 on its third consecutive appearance on the list placed one spot below its rank a year ago. FORTUNE commended the Livonia, Mich.-based lender for its "supercharged mantra culture rules," which includes sayings such as "EVERY CLIENT, EVERY TIME and NO EXCEPTIONS, NO EXCUSES," on posters, T-shirts, travel mugs, notepads, and portfolios.

"We set out to create and operate a company that removes the typical 'corporate shackles' that prevent people from executing on their good ideas and achieving closer to their potential," Quicken chairman and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said in a statement. "It's great to see that our lit up and dedicated workforce feels the same way."

Within Quicken's staff of 2,951, the most common salary job is a Web banker and the most common hourly job is a loan analyst. The two jobs respectively pay an average of $76,400 and $43,825 a year, FORTUNE said. The salary average includes additional cash compensation.

Quicken, which says it is the largest online residential lender and boosted volume 33% to $16 billion during 2005, had a 60 percent job growth rate last year, making it the fastest-growing company on the list. The financier indicated its workforce has grown to 3,400 team members since the time of the survey and that it is continuing to hire 200 new people per month.

Quicken boasts employees dig working for the company because its culture encourages them to take initiative and get rewarded for their accomplishments. To create such atmosphere, Gilbert and Chief Executive Bill Emerson spend an entire day discussing Quicken's culture and philosophies with all new employees as part of "a world-class, intensive two-day orientation." Professional and personal development programs include more than 200 hours of training per year for each employee, a personal empowerment coach, leadership training programs and tuition assistance for higher education.

In addition to a "generous" performance-based pay and annual bonus plan, Quicken says "Team Leaders" are able to grant spot bonuses for exceptional performance. Staff members can also win trips, such as a recent four-day cruise to the Bahamas for 400 people, and a trip to Miami. Other family-friendly perks include home loan discounts, free computer loans, child adoption assistance, a scholarship program for employees' children, and gift certificates to employees and their children for their birthdays.

"We treat people with respect," Emerson said. "We realize that everyone has an innate, human need to be recognized and appreciated."


Coco Salazar is an assistant editor and staff writer for MortgageDaily.com.

e-mail: [email protected]


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