Matt Levison discusses breaking records and thriving with exceptional customer service and hiring practices
Delmar Mortgage has completed its most successful month in its 53-year history after a record-breaking spring lending season. All of this success has the team in good spirits and the energy in the air is palpable at our St. Louis headquarters. We sat down with Delmar Mortgage president Matt Levison to gain a bit of insight into the company.
Over the last five months, Delmar Mortgage has been breaking records. In fact in August 2019, Delmar closed more loans than ever before in its 53-year history. And now, in September, we’ve beaten that record again. What do you think has contributed to this success?
I think it’s our people, really. I’m so proud of the group that we have now – more so than ever before. We’ve got great originators, and we’ve got an amazing support staff. Additionally, we’ve expanded into a lot of new areas and invested in the most advanced technology in our industry – all while still focusing on growing at a sustainable rate.
Obviously, it helps that rates have dropped, but our purchase volume continues to increase year after year, month after month, which translates to helping more people get into homes. We’ve got a solid foundation of referral-based relationships, trust with our clients and goodwill in our communities that keep us top of mind when rates fall. When our past clients are buying a new home or when it comes time to refinance, to lower their payments, to take cash out to fund their child’s education, to do home improvements … whatever it is, that great relationship from the initial transaction allows us to be there for the subsequent ones.
During your time as president, what has made you the most proud of Delmar Mortgage?
I’m most proud of the ways in which we find financing solutions for people, and I’m most proud of our employees. Those both go hand-in-hand. Having the best employees allows us to serve more people more efficiently. I love seeing everybody come together and find ways to solve problems. I’ve heard stories about clients who are at the closing table, literally crying tears of joy because they did not expect to be able to buy a home. It might not be something that you get immediate gratification from. You might not be able to get a loan for a client that month, but to coach them and counsel them over months, over years, to eventually be able to do what they dream to do is really the best thing. I love solving problems, you know? Sometimes on a day-to-day basis, you do what you do and forget how important that is for people. You’re helping someone buy a home. So to be reminded of that from time to time really is special. We’re able to help somebody with the biggest transaction they may ever make. And that’s why this business has never lost its luster to me. Some days you deal with an ancillary thing that can take you away from the important stuff, but doing what we do for the customers is really what drives everything.
How has Delmar evolved in order to stand out within this rapidly changing industry?
We’re nimble. We stay in touch with what customers want, which is to say we mirror the current demands of the market. Our customers prioritize efficiency and convenience and a relationship with their lender and loan officer. So we embrace and invest in technology to speed up the loan process, and we hire the absolute best staff.
We also stand out for our hiring practices. Some companies will bring in people when business picks up and lay them off when it slows. We want to maintain our culture, so we really don’t do layoffs. We bring in people when we feel like we can sustain them long term. People know they have a place here; our goal is to treat people like family. So maybe that requires a little more overtime, but it allows our people to know they’ve got a place and not be worried about what’s going to happen.
What do you look for in a new hire?
We look for people who will lift their teammates up and provide the highest level of service to our customers. And that’s exactly the staff we have. I love seeing how our different departments interact. There are always emails flying between them where they share issues that they need to tackle. There’s some friendly competitiveness going on between originators, sure. Everybody loves to have their best month. But there’s constant cooperation. Everyone’s looking out for each other. And I love seeing the emails that go out. An originator will write, “Hey, I have this situation,” and then you’ll see different responses on how to solve it. I love it when our underwriters can help, but I love it even more when other originators can help each other learn and grow.
What is one thing you want everyone to know about Delmar Mortgage?
We truly believe that treating the customer the right way is the best way to go about business. I had a great conversation with a client who I closed a loan with this morning. Years back, she was two weeks from closing a loan with one of our competitors. When her financial advisor saw that her loan was 4.875%, he said, “That rate seems ridiculously high. Call my buddy Matt over at Delmar.” So she calls me, and I quote her 4.125%. Since it was so close to the closing date, and it would have been a pain to move companies, I told her what I tell lots of people. Let me take a look at your lender’s estimate. I’ll let you know if it’s a good deal, and you’ll feel comfortable closing where you’re at. If it’s not a good deal, close with us, and I’ll save you some money. Or just bring my rate to your lender and get them to match it, and in the future, you can call me. So that’s what happened. In this case, the other lender took the rate down from 4.875% to 4.125%. And she said the look on the loan officer’s face … Let’s just say he was upset about it. But he did it. Sometimes the market changes, and the rate is 1/8 or 1/4 lower. That happens. But to be 3/4 of a percent lower shows that he wasn’t giving her a good rate from the start.
So she closed there several years ago, and today marks the third transaction I’ve closed with her. If there’s an option out there that’s better than what we can do, we let our customers know. Some people in this industry lose sight of serving the customer, and they want to do whatever makes them the most money. Nine times out of ten we can do what’s best for the customer. And if we can’t, we tell them. I think you gain credibility, appreciation and long-term relationships that way. You treat people how you want to be treated.
What do you do outside of work?
I’m either here or doing stuff with my kids. I’ve got four of them, so my wife and I stay busy. My house is one mile away, so I’m always in the area. I love the Cardinals, the Spurs, the Blues; I’m not gonna talk about football because I don’t watch anymore at all [laughing]. I’ve seen two football games since the Rams left. But no, I love sports. My phone is always on, so I’m always taking care of work on nights and weekends, but I love the flexibility of this job. I can go to all my kids’ baseball games, soccer games, basketball games, school plays and concerts – all that stuff. That’s pretty much me; I’m boring. Mortgages and family are pretty much it.