Under Bill Lowman’s leadership as APM’s CEO, the company has grown to be licensed in 49 states and funded $24 billion in 2021, making APM one of the largest independent mortgage banks in the country.
Question 1: How Did You Get Your Start in the Mortgage Industry?
BL: If you know anyone who started out saying they wanted to get into the mortgage industry, I’d like to meet them because I’ve never met that person before. Most of us have accidentally gotten into the business. And once you get in, you don’t get out because it is such a great and rewarding career.
After graduating from college in Buffalo, New York, I worked as a bank collector, collecting on personal car and mobile home loans, and then started doing loans myself. From there, I became a branch manager of a company that I spent about a decade with. I moved to Louisville, to Southern California, and then landed in Northern California in 1995, where I’ve been ever since.
It was then that I met our company founder and chairman, Kurt Reisig, on a Little League Baseball field. His oldest son and my middle son were very good friends starting in third grade. Kurt said in 2002, “Why don’t you come over and start running our branch at Big Valley Mortgage?” which I did from 2002 to 2004.
At the time, our company was probably 40 or 50 branches and maybe 300 employees. I became president of APM in 2004, became CEO in 2016, and here we are today with over 300 branches, 3,600 employees, licensed in 49 states, and a top 10, top 12, retail lender in the country. So it’s been quite a journey. The company has been a special thing to be a part of.
Question 2: How Do You Make Yourself Relatable as a CEO?
BL: It’s a shoe thing—I have a love for sneakers that goes back a long time. It became a thing with my three boys, who are all adults now, and me. We used to go shopping, and we’d load up on sneakers. It’s something I’ve always liked, but up until the pandemic, I was wearing dress shoes to work. When everything tightened up, I wanted to be me and be authentic in my day-to-day dealings.
So I started showing up in sneakers, and it became a thing. Even when going out in front of hundreds of our branch managers and loan officers, I’d put on a special pair of sneakers. At APM’s Summits, there is meaning behind the sneakers I wear. I do that to set the tone for a meeting, presentation, or whatever day it is. Each pair has meaning to me, and I share that meaning with the audience.
Question 3: How Important Do You Think It Is for Leaders in Today’s Market to Be Transparent and Authentic?
BL: Going back to the very beginning of the pandemic and all the changes and uncertainty going on, we saw historically low rates, which created operational challenges. Our workforce was at home, and we saw changes in guidelines and programs daily.
During that time, our chairman, Kurt, and I did a video nearly every day to be transparent with our employees. I had a branch manager say, “Whenever I’d see your video come out that day, it made my stomach turn because I knew there would be bad news. But I appreciate your transparency in giving me the information I need to know to run my branch and support my family.” That reinforced to me why transparency is so important.
And we’ve kept going with weekly videos to keep our loan officers informed of what’s happening in today’s market, the changes we’re experiencing, and the moves we’re making as a company. I know that’s something they really appreciate.
Question 4: How Do You Encourage and Motivate Loan Officers in This Environment?
BL: That’s a great question, and my answer is tied to the shoes I’m wearing today, the Kobe Sunshines. Kobe Bryant was known for his “Mamba Mentality,” which means to trust the process, outwork everybody, and win at almost all costs.
In today’s market, you’ve got to fight to win. And that’s what these sneakers represent. Let me tell you, it’s been a heck of a year. Volume is down over 40%. Market share wars are going on, and we’re fighting them. And I think to win in a market like this, you need the Mamba Mentality.
Don’t be managed or ruled by fear. Be obsessed with winning.
Question 5: How Do You Continue to Foster a Strong Company Culture During the Shift Happening in the Market?
BL: The culture at American Pacific Mortgage is so important to me, and it’s so important to the leadership of our company. I think we really put an exclamation point on culture when we converted 35% of the ownership of our company to an ESOP—employee stock ownership plan.
There is so much going on in the industry right now, and a lot of consolidation is happening with private equity firms buying up as much as they can. That changes the culture of a company and creates unrest and unease with employees.
What we did is we made a commitment to our employees by gifting 35% of the company to them. Now I’ve got about 3,500 fellow owners, and I think that helps align our interests—we’re all working for the success of the company, and that’s such a powerful thing.
Question 6: You Do a Lot of Advocacy Work for the Mortgage Industry. Why Is It So Important to You?
BL: Coming out of the last financial crisis, there was a lot of regulation thrown at us, and I sat there and moaned about it. But then I decided that I should use that time as an opportunity to try to help shape regulation. I could use my voice and position at APM to get a seat at the table and try to make a difference.
I spent a lot of time networking and putting myself in a position where I served on boards. When key issues are discussed, whether it’s the changes that have gone on over the past couple of years or tackling affordability and closing the racial minority homeownership gap, it’s important. Rather than shake my head, I get a seat at the table and can make a difference.
Question 7: How Does APM Continue to Grow in This Challenging Market?
BL: I love these markets, and if you look back at APM’s history, we’ve gained market share every time we’ve had a market like this. This is an opportunity for companies like us, and it’s become a market share game.
We’re all going to do less volume than we did in 2021, but are you going to pick up market share? There’s going to be a lot of consolidation happening. You’re seeing companies being challenged with profitability, creating opportunities for companies like APM. We’ve added close to 50 branches at the midyear point. We’re looking to partner with other mortgage companies and merge together. We get better by collaborating and working together.
We want our branches that come on to have the freedom and flexibility to brand how they want to express themselves in their community. Their name doesn’t change, so when the loan officer wakes up after that company becomes part of APM, it’s still the same name on the wall, on the business card, and in the community they serve. We are focused on how we support our branch managers and how we deliver resources to our loan officers.