First National Financial LP

Why Natasha Bhim chose First National for a career in Underwriting

When Natasha Bhim started with us five years ago, she had no experience in the mortgage industry. Today, she is one of our rising stars in Residential Underwriting. This is how she built her knowledge and parlayed it into a career as an Associate Underwriter.

What did you do before joining First National?

I worked as a part-time sales associate at The Home Depot and before that as a receptionist at a Chrysler dealership while I was taking my Business Administration diploma. I knew absolutely nothing about mortgages. In fact, lending was a completely new industry to me. One thing I did know was how to check First National’s website. It impressed me to read that this was a company that emphasized personal growth. That was important to me; in fact, skills development and career growth were at the top of my list of objectives.

In the five years you’ve been here, has the reality matched the website advertising?

Absolutely, I feel like First National has really shaped me as a person. To its credit, the company has given me all the tools, training and knowledge I need to become a contributor. The support system here is second to none. My personal growth has been very consistent and satisfying. That said, I didn’t know what direction my career would take at First National when I joined so it’s been a constant learning experience and I’ve always paid attention to different roles within the company as they are posted on Arthur, our internal information system.

What was your first job at First National?

Back in 2017, I started as a Residential Customer Service Representative. Customer service is a great place to learn the trade and gain experience. Answering questions from borrowers helped me to understand mortgage concepts. After about a year and a half in customer service, I applied to the Funding department.

Why did you decide to move?

Customer service trains you in all aspects of the mortgage lifecycle after a deal closes. I wanted to experience the process from the beginning in the Underwriting department. Funding is the steppingstone into underwriting, which is why I applied. I wasn’t 100% sure I could do the job, not having deep industry experience but in talking to friends who had made the leap from customer service to Funding gave me the confidence to apply. They also helped me to prepare for the application process.

What did you do as a Funder?

Mortgage Funders work with lawyers to obtain fully executed client documentation and then ensure lawyers receive the funds to close the mortgage on time once all terms and conditions have been satisfied. Time management is one of the top skills you need in a funding role and you also need to make sure to give brokers and solicitors all of the correct information they need in advance to support the deal.

You spent a just over a year as Mortgage Funder. What happened next?

My experience in Funding just made me want more and made me realize I was capable of doing more. My manager at the time saw potential in me and became an advocate, which is why I’m an Assoicate Underwriter today.

In five years, you’ve grown into three roles. Was the progression difficult?

No, and the reason is that having Customer Service under my belt helped me to appreciate key processes. When other departments know you worked in Customer Service at First National, it’s a door opener because they recognize that you understand the reasons for why we do things the way we do and that you have a passion for helping customers. Remember that we still provide customer service in Underwriting, it’s just that our customers are mortgage brokers not borrowers. I also got to know many people; managers got to know me and knew how hard I worked, which helped.

What’s it like working as an Associate Underwriter?

It’s very fast-paced. In our busy season, we’re probably responding to 60 to 100 emails per day. We have to be well organized with time-management as a key skill. I’m pretty crazy about the importance of being organized so the role fits my personality. Critical thinking is a must as is the ability to relate to people. Every underwriting team works with an assigned group of mortgage brokers, which is key for building personal rapport . My brokers are amazing to work with. They are motivated and they want what’s best for the client. In addition, several hours every day are spent doing what we call our “verbals” when we reach out by phone to employers to verify the income of borrowers.

With that kind of volume, do you feel you are supported?

Very much so. Our managers are very careful about splitting up the work and taking advantage of the strength of the entire Underwriting team. I work closely with three people at First National and we look out for each other. If I miss something, a colleague will catch it.

You mentioned critical thinking and organization skills as important characteristics for your role. What else is important?

Confidence. When I started, I was nervous and reluctant to ask people for information. I had to get over it and being confident in my knowledge helped a lot.  

Where do you see yourself going from here?

Becoming an Underwriter. That’s a different level of responsibility and coming from my role in fulfillment as an Associate Underwriter, it’s a natural next step. Underwriters are responsible for approving the deals I work on, whereas my role as an Associate Underwriter is to verify and validate conditions as being true.

What makes First National different than other lenders?

I can only comment about First National but what I would say is that we get a huge amount of support. Whether it’s my training managers or co-workers, everyone has my back and wants what’s best for me. Based on my experience here, I think there is also tremendous upside for personal growth. The pay and benefits are competitive, there’s a good bonus structure, and overall it’s just a great company to work for.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of applying to First National?

If you want to challenge yourself, and find out what you are capable of doing, Residential Underwriting is the place to be.