Anthony Casa has worked in the mortgage industry for about 18 years. He started the mortgage brokerage Garden State Home Loans then later the nonprofit Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME) before he left to start UMortgage, a Philadelphia-based national mortgage company. UMortgage wants to be ‘the Uber for mortgage professionals’.
“We want to be the platform that essentially, if you want to learn the mortgage business, this is where you learn it. We have a community where all of our loan originators are in where they help each other. There’s a lot of peer-to-peer coaching. And there’s a lot of encouragement too. We want to Uberize the profession and create an on-demand model that allows consumers more access to home ownership.”
UMortgage is experiencing rapid growth, Anthony says.
“We’ve been in business for about 13 months. We’re closing in on about 200 team members. We’ve been growing 50 percent each quarter. I have a big growth mindset. If you are a great leader and have clear vision, you can get people to do anything. And that’s really what we’ve been doing.”
Nurturing Next Generation of Mortgage Professionals and Customers
UMortgage wants to bring in more young people into the mortgage industry.
“The average age of a loan officer is like some 50-odd years old. It’s an industry where there’s a lot of money. This is a business I got into when I was 18 and made a million dollars by the time I was 22. You can make a ton of money. There’s a lot of people that would be interested in joining the mortgage business but there is a huge barrier to entry. Somebody has to bring you into it. There’s no college course.”
He is keen on creating the next generation of professionals and consumers.
“We want to be the bridge to bring a whole new generation of young professionals into the industry. We are building scalable education and coaching. Someone could sign up for our education platform, go through a couple of semesters of education, learn the business, pass the test and then have a year of coaching Teach them how to interact with consumers. We are the company that educates and trains the professionals that are going to communities across the country and educating people. We’re creating new home ownership opportunities, helping educate people on the wealth-creating power of home ownership and investment properties.”
UMortgage is betting on financial literacy to get a larger number of people onto the mortgage cycle early.
“Most people do not learn about anything related to homeownership or financial literacy till it’s too late. I think financial literacy is key. We are betting our business model long-term on financial literacy and we go really far up the funnel and get to the consumer super early in their lifecycle.”
Driving Education and Awareness through Influencer Marketing
Anthony recognizes that how consumers learn today is different from how they did a decade ago.
“What people really want is to hear from subject matter experts like Matt The Mortgage Guy. They want to follow people they trust and actually believe. For us, investing in that space was aligned with what we wanted our brand to be, which is essentially subject matter experts that are focused on serving consumers.”
He first experienced the power of influencer marketing while at AIME. Anthony noticed it was most effective when deployed with a long-term view.
“That was how we developed that platform. We went from zero members to 47,000 members in about two and a half years. It’s not an instant gratification business model but a long-term focused business model. We didn’t go into it to generate leads or clients. Rather, we gave valuable content and honest information to the audience. And if we do that consistently, over time, our brand will become a brand of trust and eventually generate leads and clients. You have to be patient with it. It’s about consistency and could take years before you see return on that effort”
Anthony’s found that for a mortgage company, influencer marketing is most effective when it is wielded as a tool for delivering value and not for lead generation.
“You have to be in tune with your audience. Be responsive to that audience. Build trust. The minute you try to sell them something, you’re going to lose credibility. You need to have an intentional strategy and say, ‘Before I ask for something, I’d better have built a lot of trust and capital with my audience’. It’s a long play. For us, the whole goal is that our audience is not the consumer but the professionals that we’re trying to make loan professionals for us in the future.”
UMortgage wants to show these young budding professionals what influencer marketing looks like and how it is an investment they can make that will eventually pay off in future.
“As a young professional, you should start to build this now when you are 23 years old. So by the time you are 33, you’ve had 10 years of this and this thing that hasn’t made you any money for a very long time will start being a lead machine for you because you’ve spent so much time on it. But you have got to start young and build an audience that is going to be the consumer of tomorrow. So to us, it is essentially a part of our personal and professional development for our salespeople to understand this should be part of their day to day.”
Banking on a Long-Term Strategy
He does not expect everyone UMortgage comes into contact with will be ready to buy a house immediately but he is willing to wait it out.
“There’s a lot of mortgage companies that will only talk to you if you’re ready to buy. Want to be different. We want to be the company that gives without the expectation of return. We want to be in a situation where people look at us like their family doctor. You go to your family doctor for your annual checkup for when you’re feeling ok. We want to be more of a homeownership advisor than a mortgage guy.”
Anthony is interested in building a long-term, personalized relationship.
“The world is running toward depersonalization and instant gratification. Using an app to order stuff. Fast and easy. The problem is if you want to learn about something as complex as a mortgage, you can’t get it fast and easy. You have to learn, be educated and understand the long-term benefits. I’m running toward relationships and personalization. People want high touch, to learn, to trust the people they’re doing business with. And when it comes to buying a house, it’s too big of an investment for it to be like, ‘Go to this website and then sign there’. That’s not the way it’s going to work. People won’t do that.”
Anthony Casa: Advice for Brands and Creators
Anthony advises that influencer marketing is most effective when there is a trust-based relationship between a brand and a creator.
“Most companies don’t try to learn about the influencer. They’re just saying, ‘You have this audience. I’ll pay you $5,000 or $10,000 a month and you put my link on your YouTube page’. It’s not very effective. It’s not a trust-building exercise. If you want it to be effective, you have to understand the influencer is not your brand and does not work for you. You are going to have to do a really good job of working with the influencer and underscore why you’re contacting them. Without that, it looks like a non-relational solicitation.”
While acknowledging the gap in mortgage and housing knowledge, he sees that as an opportunity to cultivate a close, long-term relationship through informing his audience.
“You’re going to get a lot of followers, a big audience. And they’re going to have a lot of questions. The good part is you are going to get people that are engaged. If you give them honest answers, they’re going to respect you and you’re going to build trust with them. But it might be years before they buy. You are going to put a lot of time into something that takes a long time. Buying houses is not instant. People need to save money to buy a house. They need to get their credit up. You really need to understand that it’s a long game.”
He has advice for creators as well.
“The biggest thing is being very intentional with what your value system is and making sure you don’t veer off it at all. So if you’re somebody focused on relationships, be consistent with that. Don’t try to do lead generation activity. People are going to come around and be like, ‘You got a little bit of an audience. I’ll pay you some money’. If you take that money and start promoting things, you are going to lose your audience and stop growing. Be consistent, have values and stick to your guns on your mission.”
Anthony observes that influencer marketing is constantly evolving and that is likely to continue well into the future. Brands have to adjust accordingly.
“What works today might not work in a year. The way people digest information, who they follow and how they follow is constantly evolving. You have to be everywhere and in every format a consumer could digest. Whether you’re doing YouTube or a podcast, then cutting it into a Tik Tok. You have to be very diversified and try a lot of different ways to get their attention.”
Within the next two years, UMortgage wants to expand across the country, grow to at least 3,000 team members and do more than $50 billion dollars in annual volume. Anthony also aims for the UMortgage business model to be more diversified and move aggressively into the education space.
Anthony Casa is President and CEO at UMortgage, a national mortgage company. He has 18 years-experience in the mortgage industry. He previously founded and led the mortgage brokerage Garden State Home Loans and the nonprofit Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME). He lives in Philadelphia, PA.