In Big Comeback, Mortgage Operation Is Recognized

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A new mortgage lender at Air Academy FCU was named "Rookie SuperStar" of the Year by Mortgage Originator Magazine after doing $2-million a month in mortgages, according to Steve VanSickler, AAFCU's VP of mortgage banking.

The award is special for two reasons: this is the first time the magazine has recognized a credit union, and AAFCU had to overcome a serious setback to even have a mortgage presence in the first place.

Loan originator Debi Bazzo was selected as "Rookie SuperStar" for consistently selling more than $2-million in loans per month in her first year. Bazzo, originally a loan processor with five years experience, entered origination to help replace the department's staff after it literally left AAFCU in the dead of night to start up operations at another financial institution.

Since then, the credit union has gone from counting its losses to ranking first in mortgage volume for institutions with $100 million to $250 million in assets, according to Callahan and Associates' 2000 study.

This year the $205-million, 41,000-member AAFCU processed 50 to 100 first mortgages per month with 10 loan officers. The CU closed $55-million in 2000, $100-million in 2001 and projects $150-million in 2002.

The credit union's focus on building a strong sales and mortgage banking structure is the reason for its success, VanSickler said, adding that Bazzo shares that philosophy.

"She not only knows how to put loans together, people like her," VanSickler said of the Australian-born loan officer. "People like to talk to her. Realtors and members like working with her."

Shannon Forsyth, AVP-mortgage banking and sales, said AAFCU sells its loans, gathers SRP, pays healthy commissions to originators, and offers performance pay to support staff.

"(Bazzo's) production doesn't come from phone sitting but by developing the Realtor base that she already knew and vigorously going after realtors that she works well with," Forsyth noted. "What does Deb do differently? Nothing-she simply does it right."

Forsyth said that MOM intends a follow-up white paper on the credit union's mortgage banking operation.

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