“I actually started originating right after college,” she told MPA. “I had worked for a financial planner and got bitten by that bug.” The financial planning world made for an easy segue into the mortgage field after prompting from a real estate broker connection. Entering into the unknown, she had a powerful ally: “Though I didn’t really know what I was getting into, my dad was a real estate attorney, so I definitely grilled him with questions,” she said.

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Some two decades later, the nationally ranked loan officer is as enthusiastic as ever: “I just like it,” she said. “It’s fast-paced, and it’s interesting. I’ve been doing it for 20 years, and I love it.”

She survived the Great Recession through “perseverance and grit,” she said. The same attributes helped fuel her entry into the wholesale market in June after having spent years in retail – joining a growing trend in the process. According to the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), of which Richardson is a member, 6,353 loan officers who left retail joined the independent mortgage community last year. In the first nine months of this year, per AIME, more than 7,000 loan officers converted from retail to wholesale lending. Another eye-opening stat: The wholesale channel has gained some 18,000 loan officers to date as of September – “a rate of growth in the wholesale channel we’ve never seen before,” one AIME executive told MPA.

The shift has prompted a pivot, as loan officers act more like trusted advisors to their clients – particularly in light of the current economic climate. “It’s very compelling, particularly in market shifts like this,” Richardson said. “And also how technology, how marketing, has changed. It lends itself to being able to build more of an autonomous platform versus relying on the company brand,” she said. “And then you’re looking for that platform that offers the programs you need to be able to meet your clients where they are.”