Delivering relevant services oriented to customers at a personalized level rather than fitting the needs of every client in a box and accommodating their needs to cater to their experience, realizing convenience, is what consumers expect in modern competitive prospects.
Thriving with this competitive nature of the market for 25+ years and helping borrowers with their personalized homeownership needs, Donna Schermerhorn is an experienced Mortgage Loan Officer at TD Bank with a demonstrated history of working in the banking industry, skilled in Construction Loans, Construction Finance, Medical Professional Loans, Banking, Sales, and Credit Analysis.
Donna’s experience and professionalism help her clients with the entire process of a loan, and as a result, the borrowers and builders that she has worked with value her expertise, along with TD Bank’s best-in-class loan facilities.
In an interview with CIOLook, Donna shares her unique approach to critically solving clients’ needs which makes her the successful mortgage loan officer that she is today.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a staunch woman leader up until your current position at TD Bank. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
Your question about my journey as a “staunch” woman leader is much more relevant than you may think. The word staunch has two primary definitions. The first is “committed and loyal in attitude,” and the second is “strong or firm conviction.” My commitment and loyalty coincide with being strong and firm in the decisions I make. This makes the execution of any game plan fluid and allows me to continue a successful run. If either were absent from the equation, the road would have been a lot different.
Growing up in the south was much more than just a punchline; it was a way of life. Watching my parents and grandparents taught me that working hard was not optional – it was a necessity. I learned early on that working hard and applying myself could bring monetary gain, but it also provided the fulfillment of competing and winning. I swam competitively when I was young. Winning a race was not just about external competitors – it was about my biggest competitor, myself. I set personal goals to improve my performance each time I swam, ensuring that I always pushed harder. I have tried to maintain that attitude throughout my life.
And more importantly, as a Christian, I do my best to follow God’s plan for my life and to run with endurance the race that God has set before me.
I started in the mortgage business like everyone else. I was full of hopes and dreams and quickly realized that no matter what, it would be an uphill battle. As a woman maneuvering through an industry dominated by men, it became apparent that as my success increased, so did the opposition. I am greatly encouraged by the strides women have made in our industry over the years, and I would like to think I played some small but significant part in that. I believe that this encouragement is what keeps me going on a daily basis.
Finding a niche in any career is really the secret to success. While being good at a lot of things might bring kudos and accolades, being great at something brings success. My definition of success is to bring fulfillment in one’s soul and financial gain together. I found over the years that construction loans and the entire process were not only enjoyable to me; I was really good at understanding and completing the work. When you are “really good” at something, the cream will rise to the top. I did just that and will be forever grateful to this industry and all those that helped and shared in my success along the way.
Tell us about TD Bank and its foundation pillar.
TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, is one of the ten largest banks in the U.S., providing more than 9.5 million customers with a full range of retail, small business, and commercial banking products and services at more than 1,220 convenient locations throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Metro D.C., the Carolinas and Florida. In addition, TD Bank and its subsidiaries offer customized private banking and wealth management services through TD Wealth® and vehicle financing and commercial dealer services through TD Auto Finance.
Over the years, I’ve worked for a variety of incredible institutions, and TD is no exception. But what ultimately attracted me to TD is construction lending, which, as mentioned before, is not only a passion of mine but also a type of loan that I’ve built a strong knowledgebase of over the years. In my experience, TD is one of the premier lenders of construction loans in the industry, so being affiliated with them is a good fit for both me and TD.
Enlighten us on how you have impacted the Mortgage Industry through your expertise in the market.
Making an impact in any career or market simply means that you have left a mark in some way. I would simply say that by being successful, I have made it clear to all striving for success that it can be done. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, being successful came with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. As my regional manager, Jeff Brown, says, “The mortgage business is not for the faint of heart.”
Anyone can win at any time; however, winning consistently takes deep roots, a good reputation, and influence in your market. My impact in this market has been a successful one, and I believe that’s due to my motto of always putting the client/customer first, a commitment that is core to TD’s operating model as well. Further, I’ve always believed that when you put money first, you’ll fail, but when you put people first, the money will follow.
What methodologies do you implement that contribute to new growth opportunities?
My methodology and system of work have been the same since my first job in a shoe store. If I can put the needs of the customer first, everything else will fall into place. How does this apply to the mortgage business? Well, you first have to know your product. Knowing the product and how to help the client is the key to success in the mortgage industry. This translates to trust in the referral source because they know that when they turn their client over to me, they will be treated professionally and with their best interests in mind. Referral sources are my lifeline. I take it personally when something goes awry, and I do not stop until it is fixed, rectified, or at least addressed to the best of my ability.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
Technology is that one word that makes everyone’s ears perk up. They feel as though there is some secret sauce that can make loans flood in and bank accounts swell. The main technology when I started was a telephone – a landline, to be exact. The use of technology for me now still revolves around the telephone. Being able to speak to clients verbally eliminates any misunderstandings that can arise from texts, emails, or notes. I use these things to enhance verbal communication, not take their place of them.
I still use the Franklin Covey, handwritten daily planner, not because it is easier, but because it is what I am used to – and it works! Computers are essential in communication with my team at TD. While emails are the primary way we communicate, we still end with a good old-fashioned phone call to verify the information sent.
What change would you like to bring to the Mortgage Industry if given a chance?
This question of what change I would bring is the same as “if I were queen for a day.” Making rules is really the opposite of what I would bring. While anarchy is not the suggestion, by any stretch, flexibility is. Each client is different, and the dollar amounts of each loan will suggest a different approach. When we put our clients in a box, we are taking away their individual needs and trying to produce many of them the same. Each person is individual and unique, as are their needs. Shouldn’t we approach them as such?
What, according to you, could be the next significant change in the Mortgage Industry?
I can see technology taking a much more significant role in the loan process. In the same way, going to a restaurant and ordering through a kiosk has now become acceptable; perhaps there would be no need for a loan officer to help the client. That said, I believe this would damage the reputations of banks and financial institutions, at least early on, as the idea of personal service would become a memory. When we spend money on a home, no matter how much it costs, it is one of the most important transactions in our lives.
After all, it’s a huge investment and doesn’t come easy to most, so it should elicit special feelings. In my opinion, relying on a computer instead of assistance from a human is not the way to go. But buckle up because I believe something that resembles this format is in our future.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals with TD Bank?
Having been a manager of a branch office at another institution and leading a team, the idea of doing that again has some appeal. However, as someone who enjoys the freedom of being able to approach my life as I deem necessary, that would indeed hamper my ability to move around freely on a daily basis. They say, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” Well, as far as I can see, this isn’t broken, so I would assume that my long-run and future goals all coincide with the track I am currently running.
The one thing that has led me here would be the same thing that would inspire my long-term goals with TD, and that is the opportunity for success; whatever picture that paints is how I choose to address the future.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the Mortgage Industry?
Having brought a few “newbies” into this industry, my advice has always been the same. If you take shortcuts, you hurt yourself and your goals. If you hurt yourself and your goals, you are hurting those you have chosen to help you. There are NO shortcuts to success. Remember, as I stated before, anyone can win at any time, but consistent success requires focus and planning.
If you think you are here for the money, don’t do it. If you think that sacrifices will not be required for success, don’t do it. If you desire to put your clients first at every turn, do it and do it to the best of your ability – that’s how you’ll succeed. And that doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect. The best way to succeed is by making good decisions; to do that, you have to make a few bad ones and learn from them. But always acting in the best interest of your client will keep you on the path to success.