Guaranteed Rate Affinity (GRA) is making a big push in California. The joint venture between Guaranteed Rate and Realogy Holdings Corp. is looking to expand its origination team in the state and drive significant purchase volume its way. To spearhead those efforts, GRA has hired Gurp Bhandal, a 20-year veteran of the mortgage and finance industries. Most recently, Bhandal served as area lending manager for San Francisco/Marin & Oakland at Citi. Now, Bhandal has shared why he decided to make the jump to GRA and how he plans to build a new team of originators that can take on California’s complex and challenging market.

“It was their culture and the core values the company stands for,” Bhandal said when asked why he joined up with GRA. “They’re really focused on the employees, the client, and the referral partners. The best-in-class technology platform was a serious draw, but the core reason came down to people and culture.”

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Bhandal now has to play evangelist-in-chief for GRA’s culture and people-focused approach as he builds out between six and seven regional teams across the state. He’ll draw on his experience at Citi, building what became their number one nationwide sales team in his previous role managing the Bay Area market. GRA’s goal, he said, is to become the number one lender statewide, and they need people with experience building winning teams.

Now seems like the ideal moment for Bhandal’s experience to come to the fore, too – as the refi boom begins to tail off his commitment and expertise in some of California’s most competitive purchase markets will prove invaluable. Having worked with homebuyers in the Bay Area, he knows how stressful purchasing a home can be. He’s a believer in closing loans in under 21 days and knows that in a market as competitive as California, that speed is essential.

In addition to speed, Bhandal wants to build a team with deep local knowledge and the kind of product flexibility that suits a market like California. Knowing how to ensure offers get accepted with no contingencies, or how to ensure that your client is getting the right product based on other aspects of their income, such as stock options, will be key skills in a team aiming to pick up serious volume in the state.

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Bhandal thinks, on an individual basis, he can help originators grow. He’s looking to build his team with top talent from other organizations who are looking to grow their volumes. He’s known for taking the $50 million producer up to $100 million and plans to do exactly that with his new team at GRA, noting that delivering that growth means more than just posting motivational quotes on a team Slack thread. He’s committed to strengthening the marketing and processing sides to make sure that originators can operate freely and with trust in their wider team.

“What GRA brings to the table is the efficiency for loan officers to double and even triple their volume,” Bhandal said. “You don’t have to stalk your transaction to get it to the closing table, because we have all the tools and resources already here. On a personal level, too, I want to find out what an originator’s goals are. From there, we aren’t going to stop until we reach that goal, be it $200 million, $300 million, whatever the number is.”