July 18, 2013

Doing more with less has become the mandate for many in the banking industry in recent years, and many institutions are finding creative ways to meet that mandate. One such institution is Gulf Coast Bank, which increased its loan volume in its mortgage operations by 30% this past quarter compared to the same period last year while reducing their mortgage origination staff by 25% over the last year, says Jeff Rousseau, the president of Gulf Coast’s mortgage division.

Gulf Coast (headquartered in Baton Rouge, LA) has achieved that efficiency by working with Mortgage Returns, which provides a mortgage CRM and lead generation tools for mortgage originators, on increasing its retention rate from .6% to 4% and cross-selling loans to its retail banking clients. The bank’s path to higher efficiency began after reallocating a number of staff last year, Rousseau says, and then cleaning up its database.

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“We wanted to focus on our key originators and give them the tools to succeed. Rates were good and we knew that if we used Mortgage Returns better we could take advantage of a great opportunity,” Rousseau recalls. “We started by cleaning up our data, looking to make sure that none of our customers weren’t assigned to an agent or assigned to two agents.”

The bank then zeroed in on loans that had originated in 2004-2005 and worked with Mortgage Returns to develop a multi-email and mailings campaign to reach out to those customers with a refinancing opportunity with a fixed rate. “We had a closing rate of about 2.5%. The return was amazing,” Rousseau remarks.

After a review of the bank’s existing retail customers Gulf Coast then focused its next campaign -- launched at the end of the first quarter of this year -- on cross-selling loans to retail clients. Although it’s still too soon to release official figures on that effort, Rousseau notes that the mortgage division had its best quarter in terms of volume during the second quarter with the cross-selling campaign.

Using Mortgage Returns system has also helped Gulf Coast stay front of mind for its loan customers by sending regular communications to its customers over the course of the year. These mailings and emails, which Mortgage Returns helps design, include a picture of their loan agent and their personal contact info so that when the customer starts thinking about refinancing their agent with Gulf Coast is the first person they reach out to, says Jim Blatt, the CEO of Mortgage Returns. In Gulf Coast’s case its regular mailings and emails include birthday cards, quarterly newsletters and even Mardi Gras cards that include parade routes for the celebrations.

As a result of its work with Mortgage Returns, Gulf Coast has made great headway in improving its retention rate, Blatt notes. “They’re now in the low 4’s but I think we can help them get to 12%. We have a path to get there; we just need to stay in tune with the customer and the marketplace,” he adds.

Mortgage Returns does a quarterly review with Gulf Coast to go over data and make strategic adjustments based on market conditions, regulations and rate changes, Blatt says. With opportunities for refinancing drying up the bank is now focusing its efforts on the realtors that it has relationships with for reconstruction loans.

The bank has also launched a new voucher campaign that provides $500 off the closing costs of a new loan for current customers or referrals, Rousseau mentions.

Beyond the results in increased loan volume and better retention rate, Mortgage Returns’ tools have helped Gulf Coast in retaining its top originators and hiring younger talent. “It’s a big help when we go to new loan officers with this tool; it shows how we’re catering to them,” Rousseau explains. “We’re also trying to bring in some younger staff. They’re more technical and savvy. This automated marketing system helps attract them.”

Mortgage Returns system has allowed Gulf Coast’s loan staff to focus on their business results and not get bogged down in customer marketing and compliance, Rousseau says. “We’re a lean bank and our mortgage experts aren’t marketing directors. We’re not experts on terminology, presentation and compliance. That’s what Mortgage Returns does.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Camhi is a graduate of the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism, where he focused on international reporting and interned at the Hindustan Times in Delhi, ...