Is a Job as a Loan Officer Right for You?

Considered pursuing a career as a Banker? This interview takes you through the ups and downs you can expect, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to DiversityJobs and is one of many interviews with financial planners and bankers. I am a loan officer. My specialty is mortgage loans. I have been in this line of work since March of 2006. I help people accomplish financial goals. Sometimes that means I have to help people see the unpleasant reality of their particular situation. For instance, when a customer comes into my office asking for a mortgage to purchase a home he cannot afford, I have to explain reality in a positive light. The goal is to make things so clear that the customer ends up agreeing with the loan decision. I also make auto and personal loans. I take loan applications in person and over the phone. I evaluate client budgets from the perspective of debt to income ratio. I cannot approve a loan that sends the ratio over the 50 percent mark. I will not approve a consolidation loan that does not help the customer. I must have a deep understanding of loan programs. This includes all government-sponsored and in-house programs. Sometimes a customer comes in expecting to take one kind of mortgage, but ends up in a different program. If I did not understand the programs, I would not be able to help many customers find a solution. Before I was a banker, I thought that if I was polite, and showed my great attitude, I would get the loan. Sometimes I wonder if people realize that even the rudest, worst dressed, stinky customers get loans when they are qualified to pay them. Customers take decisions personally, both good and bad ones. Bankers receive annual audits. It does not matter how much a banker is convinced of a customer’s willingness to pay; approving unqualified applications can get me into big trouble. Even when the customer’s integrity and desire are so big that he makes every payment on time, if the application was unqualified, I have placed the client into a risk situation; that is illegal. I love my job. It is a thrill to see the smile on someone’s face when I have just approved a consolidation loan that saves the customer $300 per month and gets her out of debt five years sooner. One of my greatest pleasures is receiving a tour of a home built using funds from a loan I originated. I am bilingual in Spanish and English. Many of my customers prefer to do business in Spanish. I love being their go-to person. My clients enjoy doing business with me because they can ask questions directly, without having to get their child to interpret. I got my degree in financial accounting. I worked full time at the bank while studying online. I was a back-office employee. I had a job called “doc-prep.” The name of the position is short for “document preparation.” I wrote loan documents for lenders like myself. Now, I order loans from the same department. One time I was helping a customer with a mortgage loan for buying a home. These loans go through underwriters for approval. My underwriter made a miscalculation, and approved the loan. I told everyone involved the news of the approval. The next day she called me back to tell me she had made a mistake; the loan approval was still good, but the customer needed to bring $2,000 to closing. The money had to be in the client’s account, and verified by underwriting days before closing. My customer did not have the money. The realtor called me every 15 minutes threatening to sue me, and the bank. She threatened to complain to my boss. I wanted to say, “Come and get me,” but what about my customer? I ended up loaning my customer the money out of my own pocket, saving the day. The customer and I are still great friends, but I will never look for business at a certain realtor’s office again. In school, you take a test for a grade; in the working world, your success depends upon passing the little tests that come your way on a daily basis. One strange thing that has happened to me on the job was that I had a customer go into labor in my office. Fortunately, I got her to a taxi on time. I love meeting the public. I enjoy forming relationships. I am proud of the fact that the bank created the position for me personally. My office has high visibility signage announcing, “Spanish is spoken.” I like the trust my customers place in me. My clients know they are welcome to show up at anytime and for any reason. I help them to understand loan issues, deposit account questions, insurance, and more. Occasionally, I even go with customers to interpret somewhere else, such as the social security office. First-time homebuyer loans are stressful. The client must provide a long list of documentation. There is usually a realtor involved. My job is to represent the bank well. I have to maintain a positive tone at all times, this makes customers think that the deal is going to close no matter what; that is wrong. Anything I request from the customer could send the deal down the tubes. Anything I request from the realtor about the home could have the same result. I am the only one who is acutely aware. I really cannot give any indication to the other two parties, because if I do, they will take their business to a bank that can smile through the stress. I get paid on a salary plus commission plan. The average income in my line of work is between $45,000 and $60,000 per year. My most successful colleagues earn six figures. I would love to earn more money. I take three weeks of vacation per year, which is plenty. I like to break it up. I take a few days close to the holidays, while my children are on vacation from school. Then I take a couple of weeks in the summer, sometimes I split those two weeks. I have a bachelor’s degree in financial accounting. I have seen people in this job who have a lot of bank experience, but no degree. It can happen, but having the education is always a plus on the resume. I would tell a friend that if she likes having a lot of responsibility, being capable of working very independently while also working on a team, this job is for her. I would be doing what I do now, only my production would be so high that my income would be over $10,000 per month. Loan officer job image from Shutterstock

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