Distinguishing oneself from the pack during a changing landscape has become a top priority as originations, following a record-setting, two-year streak of abundant refinancing, take a hit. At one panel discussion at the recent Fuse conference – an annual gathering of Association of Independent Mortgage Expert members – brokers spoke of the importance of setting oneself apart in an increasingly challenging market. It’s a personal form of marketing oneself, panelists agreed.

It could start with one’s trademark look. Impeccably dressed in a tailored bright blue suit, Porch Point Mortgage president and CEO Darius James said his fashion choices helped set him apart from the crowd. Personal branding – “a nice flashy suit,” in his words – comes down to the first impression in the way he dresses. He strode among the crowd with a confident gait at Paris hotel and casino with his equally resplendently dressed wife and trusty assistant at his side.

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Mike Cox noted his identity is rooted in education – particularly given his role as vice president of education for AIME. He’s also not ashamed to describe himself as a nerd – with eye-catching brand awareness that has all but made his Mortgage Nerds a household name in some parts. Cox has been in the wholesale channel for more than a year, and is broker owner of Mortgage Nerds after years in the retail channel at GSF Corp.

While acknowledging the power of his own branding, Cox stressed aligned dynamics have to be reflected in a company’s mission statement – “not what is your selling proposition,” he said. “For our company, we spent money and time trying to figure out why we do what we do. Our mission statement is to make the mortgage experience the best part of buying a home. It all comes together with vision,” he noted, adding that his borrowers are able to count on his firm’s guidance and expertise. “Everything flows from your vision, your values,” he said. Absent such a credo, one cannot stand, he suggested: “You cannot build a longstanding business without them.”