Melissa Medeiros is one of our rising stars in Residential Underwriting. This is how she turned a Psychology Degree into a thriving career as an Associate Underwriter.
What brought you to First National?
I started here in 2011 and before that I was a legal assistant at a law firm. As law firms often do, the one I worked for dealt with residential mortgage files. My sister-in-law is the manager of First National’s training department and based on my time at the law firm, encouraged me to submit my resume because, as she said, there were plenty of opportunities here for growth.
Did you come to First National with a career objective in mind?
Not really. I went to school for child and youth work and so you could say my career took a different turn than what I envisioned in college. But when I started at the law firm, I really liked working on mortgage files and so the move to First National, in that context, was a step along a different, and for me, better career path.
What was your starting role at First National?
I worked in the Customer Care department as a Customer Care Specialist helping new customers set up their online mortgage accounts and addressing any questions or concerns they had. I spent three years in that role. From there, I moved into Funding for six months and then on to my current position in Junior Underwriting.
How did you find the Customer Care experience?
It was a great way to start my career because I learned about First National and our policies as well as what happens to a mortgage transaction after it closes. It really prepared me for my current position.
What caused you to move from Customer Care to Funding?
Funding was the interim step we took before moving to Underwriting. Funding involved working with solicitors. I knew a fair amount about that because of my previous job at the law firm so I had a good understanding of the documents I reviewed from day one. That allowed me to move along a little faster.
You have been in your current role as an Associate Underwriter for approximately seven years. What does a day in the life look like for you?
It’s never dull, I can say that for a fact. Even on a slow day, I will review 20 or so mortgage files and on a busy day as many as 50 or 60. In every case, my main objective is to provide the very best service I can to mortgage brokers who submit deals to us. To manage my workflow, I do have an approach I use. When I log in to work in the morning, I begin by prioritizing mortgages that are scheduled to close soon. I work on those first and then move to other transactions to gather documentation that is required as part of our underwriting process.
You use a triage system?
To a degree yes, but I don’t ignore files just because a mortgage may not close for a few months. I try to keep brokers informed about the status of all deals because I know they have clients waiting on them for news.
What makes a successful Associate Underwriter?
The ability to learn, multi-task and move quickly to provide great service without sacrificing attention to detail. It takes about a year to become proficient in this role and even after that, there are still things to learn as underwriting policies change and I encounter different types of client situations. In Funding, I caught on quickly but in Underwriting, no file or client situation is ever exactly the same. What I see today on a file may not be what I see tomorrow. For example, I just recently worked on an estate sale with some interesting twists. The varied nature of applications is what makes the job interesting and engaging.
What sort of support is available to those who start in Underwriting at First National?
When someone joins our team, they are put into a dedicated training program. I call it basic training because it includes everything you need to know about our systems and policies and introduces documentation concepts. From there, newcomers job shadow with an experienced Associate Underwriter. Job shadowing is the most important part of the onboarding process because it takes the theory of basic training and translates it into real-life practice on a live deal. It’s the chance to ask questions and gain the knowledge you will need when you go solo on your first transaction. Job shadowing is also great because you form a bond with the person training you, so you will always have a colleague ready to help as you progress. I’ve worked in organizations where training lasts two days and then it’s sink or swim. That is not the case at First National. Everything here is done to support your long-term success.
As an experienced Associate Underwriter, do you provide job shadowing support to newcomers?
Absolutely, I’ve done it many times and today, whenever someone joins our Underwriting team, I’m the go-to person. Getting chosen as a trainer is based on experience but also performance during periodic audits that are conducted to ensure everyone is following the appropriate steps. Obviously, you can only be useful as a trainer if you are teaching the right way to do the job.
Do you operate with personal goals and if so, would you care to share those?
My goal is always to learn new skills and to develop my knowledge. I’m obviously knowledgeable about my job but I don’t stop at just knowing my job. The next position after mine is Underwriter and I take the time to learn about that role as well. I like to show initiative by helping the Underwriters on our team with their tasks which is a way for me to challenge myself, develop additional knowledge and position myself for promotion.
What sort of person would enjoy Underwriting?
A people person with good communications skills and the ability to provide excellent customer service. Being reliable, self-motivated and optimistic are important as are the abilities to prioritize, organize and multi-task.
All lenders employ Underwriters; what makes First National different or better?
I believe First National provides a wonderful training program that will not only teach you about your own role but the importance of what you do in the context of the duties of those around you on your team. Our company also provides a huge amount of ongoing support and access to everything you need to succeed. I also think First National structures the job in a way that reduces stress. Some lenders combine the roles of Funder, Associate Underwriter and Underwriter whereas here those roles are separate and the workload is balanced. I think our approach is superior.
What would you tell someone who is thinking of applying to First National?
I would say take the plunge. There are a lot of great opportunities for growth within our company and in Underwriting you have the chance to make a contribution that’s important to our customers while learning important personal life skills like how to use credit properly. The training and support you get is second to none, the compensation is excellent and First National is the place to be if you want long-term sustainability.