Is Anyone Interested in Executive Management Anymore?


A senior executive at an independent mortgage firm recently confided how hard it is to interest branch managers in taking executive-level positions. What he hears most frequently from branch managers is, “I wouldn’t want your job! Too many headaches!” I have heard similar remarks from other executives who believe employees are no longer interested in pursuing leadership roles as was the norm 25 years ago. While not necessarily surprising, it does not bode well for the future of our industry. As many senior executives near retirement age, where will tomorrow’s leaders come from if no one wants to be promoted to top leadership positions?

Certainly, the increase in financial rewards for originators and producing branch managers is one reason why the desire to climb the corporate ladder is not attractive because employees can earn outstanding income staying where they are. Branch managers can remain local and do not have to make the move to headquarters which are other good reasons to keep the status quo. Plus, higher executive positions require extensive travel visiting sales locations which often entails flight delays, missed connections, and bad hotel food.

But ultimately, I think that employees recognize that moving into an executive role is incredibly risky because those positions are the first to be cut when things go south as they invariably do in origination. Having a devoted group of referral sources is perceived as a more consistent income flow than being dependent on someone else’s efforts and skills.

Being a non-producing divisional, regional, or district manager is especially troublesome today in an industry that does not view management skills as important as production talent. On top of all these factors, remote working due to the pandemic has complicated the picture because employees are essentially managing themselves. If this trend continues post-pandemic, direct in-office managers may become an endangered species. While it is unclear exactly how this will play out, it is not a stretch to imagine a time when the day-to-day manager position eventually fades away.

As more executives contemplate their exit from mortgage banking after a windfall year, deep questions about quality of life, personal joy, and purpose have come to the forefront. The unfathomable human loss caused by the global pandemic has brought these issues into focus as so many of us are reminded just how short — and precious —our lives are. For senior executives, the decision about whether to walk away from a successful career is never easy.

However, there is one important thing I’ve learned from interviewing top executives for my Mortgage Manager Playbook podcast. When asked about the greatest victory of their careers, every senior manager has replied, “Managing and developing employees to succeed in business and life.”

I think cultivating success in others is the highest reward for managers at every level. Perhaps, branch managers can view an executive leadership position for what it really is — an opportunity to help change and improve the lives of others on a wider scale.