Thuan Nguyen reflected on his wild success in the mortgage business in 2020. The owner of Loan Factory Inc. in San Jose not only became one of the first mortgage originators to break the $1 billion mark in Scotsman Guide’s annual Top Dollar Volume rankings, Nguyen was the first to topple the $2 billion barrier. His production shot up from $507 million in 2019, a nearly 300% increase.
“There are a lot of originators out there — very smart, very good, very trustworthy, everything is good for them, too,” Nguyen said. “For me, what’s different is, I built my own technology. I have my own software. I have the ability to customize it the way I want.”
That’s the magic in the bottle that Nguyen believes helped catapult him to the No. 1 spot in the Top Dollar Volume rankings. He originated 5,216 loans in 2020, riding the refinance wave the housing market experienced after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 96% of Nguyen’s business last year was tied to refinances.
Nguyen overtook Guaranteed Rate’s Shant Banosian, who had held the top spot for the previous two years. Banosian placed No. 2 in the 2021 Top Dollar Volume rankings at $1.7 billion.
On average, Nguyen handled 14 loans a day for 366 days. He said he logged plenty of 16-hour days, but he couldn’t handle that scale of business without his in-house loan origination system, and other customized technology and software.
His platform is as self-service as possible, putting borrowers in the driver’s seat to fill out the application, track rates and pull the trigger. Nguyen aims to only spend two or three minutes with each client.
“When a client asks me for the rate, within 30 seconds I can give them the answer,” Nguyen said. “I can give them the answer quickly and accurately, and they’re usually shocked. That’s how I gain their trust. Once you have their trust, everything is easier.”
He also greatly bumped up his marketing budget last year, advertising “everywhere, everywhere, everywhere — TV, radio, newspaper, Facebook, Google.” He began making his own loan origination platform eight years ago when there weren’t many options available for purchase.
The technology was still evolving when the mortgage industry went through a refinance wave in 2016. From that experience, he and his staff were able to customize the platform to handle the scale of business seen in 2020.
Nguyen came to the mortgage business later in life. He purchased his first home in 2004 and marveled that the mortgage broker earned $4,000 on the transaction. Nguyen quit his job as a Morgan Stanley data analyst at age 33 and studied how to become a mortgage broker. He started originating loans in 2006 when the market started crashing in the Bay Area.
“I didn’t have any experience,” Nguyen said. “I didn’t have any customers.”
You shouldn’t think about yourself. You should think about your client and your staff.
So, he went to work as a software engineer for an insurance-industry startup, Guidewire. He continued brokering mortgages on the side and that business picked up when rates fell after the housing crisis. His company’s name was Himark Loans until about five years ago when he changed it to Loan Factory, which better reflects how his company operates.
Not everybody has the ability or resources to build their own loan origination system. (Loan Factory has grown to include 16 offices with about 100 employees, including 50 other originators.) Up-and-coming originators should understand that every business struggles at times, Nguyen said. Identify the problems you are facing, develop a solution and never let the same problem occur twice, he advises. Successful originators should put their own interests behind others, Nguyen added.
“You shouldn’t think about yourself,” he said. “You should think about your client and your staff. Make sure you work for their interests and you will be rewarded.” ●