HW+ Member Spotlight: Karen Mayfield

HW+ Member Spotlight: Karen Mayfield

This week’s HW+ spotlight features Karen Mayfield, head of National Retail Sales at Wyndham Capital Mortgage. In her role, Mayfield is tasked with expanding on the company’s digital roots into the retail mortgage environment. With more than two decades in the industry, Mayfield most recently served as a division lending executive at Citi, where she oversaw up to four of Citi’s six markets.

Below, Mayfield answers questions about the industry:

HousingWire: To start off, what is your current favorite HW+ article?

Karen Mayfield: There may not be just one article but part of my favorite thing about HW is how it’s a true advocate for the industry — from covering market moves to closing the housing gap and the latest in tech.

HousingWire: What is the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

Karen Mayfield: My weirdest job was also one that may have taught me the best life lesson. I worked as a telephone operator (remember those??) one summer during my late teens. The vast majority of my calls were from the local male prison since prisoners had to call collect. I had been forewarned this would be the case and as a young female with little life experience, I was nervous about taking these calls. My imagination ran wild about what crimes they had committed, how they would sound or treat me. When I think back, I wasn’t just nervous, I was freaking out, as teenagers tend to do.

But those nerves subsided quickly. It was a great example of why we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, because the prisoners became my favorite customers. They were happy to hear a different human voice than what encapsulated their every day and excited to be able to connect to the person they were calling. The “mean, scary prisoners” were the only customers who asked how I was doing, or wished me well before connecting their call. 

It was an odd job for a teenager to have, but it was a great life lesson to always be open minded. Let people show you who they are before you decide it for them.

HousingWire: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Karen Mayfield: If you really want to help your team, don’t let them — or more likely the situation — rile you up. 

When there are issues that need to be addressed, or decisions to counter, it’s important to remain rational and maintain productive communication. As you ascend in your career, you realize that how you say something can be more important than what you say. Some of the most effective communicators I’ve seen have incredibly calm demeanors. It’s ironic because often those individuals don’t get enough credit from their team for being their advocate because their team doesn’t see them get upset or passionate and assumes they’re not being “loud enough” to make an impact.

And for those who tend to be more passionate, like myself, it’s OK to “get mad,” just not when you are making a case!

HousingWire: What’s one thing that people aren’t paying attention to that you think they should be paying attention to?

Karen Mayfield: Loan officers. They are the soul of our industry and I’m concerned we’re taking them for granted.

I’ve heard peers at other mortgage lenders say “I have a digital customer experience and educational content on-line. So why do I need an expensive loan officer?” It’s not so different from what we thought would happen to the real estate industry 20 years ago. 

Having an online portal or sharing the advantages of a fixed rate mortgage on your site is helpful to customers. But just like people still go to the doctor after self-diagnosing on WebMD, people want to talk to an expert about their specific financial situation.

I recently left the banking world after 20 years to join a fintech mortgage lender because I’m passionate about using technology to help make loan officers more efficient and effective for a better customer experience. Homebuyers still want to work with people. They may start online, but typically a loan officer gets involved along the way.

To attract top young talent, we need to endorse innovation and leverage automation so loan officers can do what they do best — sell. But it’s also just as important to help our industry veterans get on the social media bandwagon, use automated marketing tools and appreciate the digital age vs. competing against it. 

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