Risha Kilaru’s secret weapon is her underwriting background. Kilaru worked her way up the banking system from a teller to an underwriter. The intimate knowledge her background as an underwriter has given her into the lending process has contributed considerably to her success, she says.
“Most originators don’t have that background, and it’s like (they’re) hoping that they will submit a loan and it will work,” she says. “And I’m exactly the opposite. I will never submit a loan unless I am 100 percent certain. So my preapprovals are regarded almost as a full approval.”
Kilaru has put her underwriting experience to good use. In Scotsman Guide’s 2016 rankings, Kilaru ranked No. 19 for top purchase volume, No. 28 for top dollar volume and No. 20 for top HELOC volume. Kilaru, now vice president of mortgage lending for Guaranteed Rate, was with HomeBridge Financial Services in California in 2016, when the rankings were compiled.
Kilaru is a Gemini and says she considers the duality associated with that astrological sign a perfect illustration of the personality traits that make her a successful mortgage originator.
“I have two sides to me,” she says. “One is the analytical side, which is the underwriting piece. That’s what I thrive on. The other side to me is the social side. I love talking.”
Even her educational achievements reflect that duality. In her native India, Kilaru obtained two bachelor’s degrees — one in finance, the other in fashion design.
“It’s that personal side which, combined with my analytical side, I believe is part of my success,” she says. “And that’s what makes me get up every day, knowing that I will meet new people and hopefully be able to help them.”
One of the most crucial pieces of advice Kilaru has for new originators is to set boundaries in a world where boundaries are diminishing.
“Our industry is very ‘insta,’” she says. “One click, Instacart, Instagram — it’s all ‘insta.’ And every borrower expects instant results, from when they call us or text us or e-mail us. Nobody wants to wait anymore.”
That can lead mortgage originators to never fully clock out, she adds. They want to be available to their clients 24/7, but Kilaru cautions that providing such unfettered access can burn originators out.
“Don’t think that you’re doing yourself a favor by being available 24/7,” she says. “I never, ever did that. I always work 9-5, 9-6. I’m not a 7 a.m. gal.”
She enjoys spending time with her husband and two teenage boys, she says, and when she clocks out, she truly clocks out so she can spend quality time with them. “I leave work, I’m done with it,” she says.
That’s not to say that Kilaru won’t respond to texts or phone calls if something urgent comes up. But all too often in the mortgage industry, such calls are driven by a false sense of urgency, she says.
“The best advice I give, and I tell this to everybody, is, ‘Nobody dies in a loan.’ Nobody. It’s not a life and death (situation),” she says. “What’s the worst thing? You lost a deal. Who cares? You’ll make it up elsewhere, right?
“If you look at it from that perspective, you’ll make better decisions,” Kilaru says. “But if you think of everything is life and death, you’re going to start panicking, and you’re going to start making mistakes.”
For the eighth year in a row, we compiled the industry’s most comprehensive list of the nation’s top mortgage originators. The rankings include not only the originators who are closing the most dollar volume and the most loans, but also the leaders in niche areas, like Federal Housing Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Agriculture loans as well as home equity lines of credit.