CHAPEL HILL – Corporate Investors Mortgage Group at Chapel Hill is a rarity among mortgage lenders. When the double blows of the 2008 financial crisis and the Dodd Frank regulation of 2010 forced smaller mortgage lenders out of the industry, CIMG weathered the storm and became a major player in the region.
Robby Oakes, who has been with the Lenders for 16 years, has been the top producer of CIMG and since its inception was was named “Rookie of the Year” in 2004 by the NC Association of Mortgage Professionals. Now he also tops the list of producers in North Carolina as the Scotsman Guide named him the No. 1 purchase volume producer in the state and No. 3 in the Southeast (after two lenders in the booming Florida market).
Oakes had a total volume of $ 155 million in 2017 and a total of well over $ 1 billion in his career to date. When the 2018 numbers are finalized and released later this year, he’ll likely top the list again, as he did for North Carolina for the past two years.
Oakes started at Northwestern Mutual straight out of college after completing her senior year at UNC-Chapel Hill. But after 11 months selling life insurance and financial products, he saw an opportunity to get into the real estate industry and jumped on it.
“I always knew I wanted to do something related to real estate,” Oakes told the North State Journal. “A good friend of mine left CIMG to work for Edward Jones. I was very interested in what he was doing, and at 23, Corporate Investors Mortgage Group sounded really important. So I was kind of lucky because they hired me to take his place. “
ÖAkes said that as a life insurance seller, every sale had to be tracked and rarely would a lead just call you. “You always try to find people to sell them something they need, but they really don’t want to talk about it,” Oakes said. However, when he moved on to mortgage lending, he was pleasantly surprised when his phone started ringing.
“When I got into the mortgage business, someone called me on the second day. I thought, ‘Wait a minute. In this business people are calling out to me. ‘ And I knew immediately that this was the right place for me. ”
This early stage before the 2008 financial crisis offered many opportunities, but many mistakes were made in the industry, too, according to Oakes. The reason CIMG survived was because they only dealt with “A paper” known as Prime Loans.
“When I started in the business, it was really true that if you could fog up a mirror, you could get a mortgage,” Oakes said. “There was a lot of irresponsible lending that led to the financial crisis. I’ve only given one sub-prime loan in my career. We never saw the need to switch to subprime products and that’s why we’re still here. We have focused on smaller margins, high quality loans and volumes. “
They survived the financial crisis when every other locally owned and operated mortgage lender in the triangle went out of business. All others have either left the industry or been sold to a large national company.
Although they survived, the regulations that came after the crisis made the cost of compliance soar. In less regulated times, CIMG could only get by with a handful of staff. Oakes only had one employee, and only to “handle the sheer amount we were doing at the time”. After Dodd Frank signed in 2010, it became necessary to hire a team of full-time professionals to manage all of the paperwork which he says “carefully documents all elements of the mortgage process”.
“We certainly needed a lot of regulations. I’m not sure which ones you could really cut at this point. After we got that hand, we just learned how to process it and use it. But we got it ourselves and the pendulum always swings too far in a regulatory environment. It certainly prevents large banks from effectively mortgaging and keeping smaller banks completely out of the industry. ”
But CIMG and Oakes have succeeded in this environment. Being in a booming real estate market like the Triangle has contributed to Oakes’ career, but he says it’s a “double-edged sword”.
“It’s certainly a hot market, but that has also created a lot of competition because national lenders see Raleigh first.” place they want to open a shop. ”
Oakes says there is “no magic formula for success”. Being with the right company made all the difference, he says. CIMG has been in the local business for 22 years, adding a level of stability not often found in the mortgage industry, and building credibility and trust.
The close bond with the community is another key – a value that he says has been “lost in this day and age”.
“Not many young professionals start their own businesses, nor do they get involved in civic organizations in their community,” said Oakes. “That is the kind of social engagement that I consider to be a big thing. People want to know personally who they are dealing with and whom they can trust when making what is probably the biggest financial decision of their life. ”
A native of Chapel Hiller, who attended Chapel Hill High School and UNC Chapel Hill, and is involved in multiple community groups, Oakes has roots in his hometown. These ties, along with finding a great company and believing in “callbacks and enforcement,” are what he believes are what led him to his success.