Loan Officers and Counselors Career Information
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Significant Points· Loan officer positions generally require a bachelor’s
degree in finance, economics, or a related field; training or experience in
banking, lending, or sales is advantageous.
· Slower than average employment growth for loan officers is expected because technology is making loan processing and approval simpler and faster.
· Earnings often fluctuate with the number of loans generated, rising substantially when the economy is good and interest rates are low.
Nature of the WorkFor many individuals, taking out a loan may
be the only way to afford a house, car, or college education. Likewise for businesses,
loans are essential to start many companies, purchase inventory, or invest in
capital equipment. Loan officers facilitate this lending by seeking potential
clients and assisting them in applying for loans. Loan officers also gather
information about clients and businesses to ensure that an informed decision
is made regarding the quality of the loan and the probability of repayment.
Loan officers usually specialize in commercial, consumer, or mortgage loans. Commercial or business loans help companies pay for new equipment or expand operations; consumer loans include home equity, automobile, and personal loans; mortgage loans are made to purchase real estate or to refinance an existing mortgage. As banks and other financial institutions begin to offer new types of loans and a growing variety of financial services, loan officers will have to keep abreast of these new product lines so that they can meet their customers’ needs.
In many instances, loan officers act as salespeople. Commercial loan officers, for example, contact firms to determine their needs for loans. If a firm is seeking new funds, the loan officer will try to persuade the company to obtain the loan from their institution. Similarly, mortgage loan officers develop relationships with commercial and residential real estate agencies so that, when an individual or firm buys a property, the real estate agent might recommend contacting a specific loan officer for financing.
Once this initial contact has been made, loan officers guide clients through the process of applying for a loan. This process begins with a formal meeting or telephone call with a prospective client, during which the loan officer obtains basic information about the purpose of the loan and explains the different types of loans and credit terms that are available to the applicant. Loan officers answer questions about the process and sometimes assist clients in filling out the application.
After a client completes the application, the loan officer begins the process of analyzing and verifying the application to determine the client’s creditworthiness. Often, loan officers can quickly access the client’s credit history by computer and obtain a credit “score.” This score represents the creditworthiness of a person or business as assigned by a software program that makes the evaluation. In cases where a credit history is not available or where unusual financial circumstances are present, the loan officer may request additional financial information from the client or, in the case of commercial loans, copies of the company’s financial statements. With this information, loan officers who specialize in evaluating a client’s creditworthiness—often called loan underwriters—may conduct a financial analysis or other risk assessment. Loan officers include this information and their written comments in a loan file, which is used to analyze whether the prospective loan meets the lending institution’s requirements. Loan officers then decide, in consultation with their managers, whether to grant the loan. If the loan is approved, a repayment schedule is arranged with the client.
A loan may be approved that would otherwise be denied if the customer can provide the lender with appropriate collateral—property pledged as security for the repayment of a loan. For example, when lending money for a college education, a bank may insist that borrowers offer their home as collateral. If the borrowers were ever unable to repay the loans, the homes would be seized under court order and sold to raise the necessary money.
Loan counselors, also called loan collection officers, contact borrowers with delinquent loan accounts to help them find a method of repayment to avoid their defaulting on the loan. If a repayment plan cannot be developed, the loan counselor initiates collateral liquidation, in which the collateral used to secure the loan—a home or car, for example—is seized by the lender and sold to repay the loan. A loan officer may also perform this function.
Working ConditionsWorking as a loan officer usually involves
considerable travel. For example, commercial and mortgage loan officers frequently work away
from their offices and rely on laptop computers, cellular phones, and pagers
to keep in contact with their offices and clients. Mortgage loan officers often
work out of their home or car, visiting offices or homes of clients while completing
loan applications. Commercial loan officers sometimes travel to other cities
to prepare complex loan agreements. Consumer loan officers and loan counselors,
however, are likely to spend most of their time in an office.
Most loan officers and counselors work a standard 40-hour week, but many work longer, depending on the number of clients and the demand for loans. Mortgage loan officers can work especially long hours because they are free to take on as many customers as they choose. Loan officers usually carry a heavy caseload and sometimes cannot accept new clients until they complete current cases. They are especially busy when interest rates are low, a condition that triggers a surge in loan applications.
EmploymentLoan officers held about 291,000 jobs in 2009. About 9 out of 10 loan officers were employed by commercial banks, savings institutions, credit unions, and related financial institutions. Loan officers are employed throughout the Nation, but most work in urban and suburban areas. At some banks, particularly in rural areas, the branch or assistant manager often handles the loan application process.
Training, Qualifications, Adv.Loan officer positions generally require
a bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, or a related field. Most employers
prefer applicants who are familiar with computers, and their applications in
banking. For commercial or mortgage loan officer jobs, training or experience in
sales is highly valued by potential employers. Loan officers without college
degrees usually have reached their positions by advancing through the ranks
of an organization and acquiring several years of work experience in various
other occupations, such as teller or customer service representative.
Various banking-related associations and private schools offer courses and programs for students interested in lending, as well as for experienced loan officers who want to keep their skills current. Completion of these courses and programs generally enhances one's employment and advancement opportunities.
Persons planning a career as a loan officer or counselor should be capable of developing effective working relationships with others, confident in their abilities, and highly motivated. For public relations purposes, loan officers must be willing to attend community events as representatives of their employer.
Capable loan officers and counselors may advance to larger branches of the firm or to managerial positions, while less capable workers—and those having inadequate academic preparation—could be assigned to smaller branches and might find promotion difficult. Advancement beyond a loan officer position usually includes supervising other loan officers and clerical staff.
Job OutlookAutomation of many financial services and the growing use of online mortgage brokers are expected to have a significant impact on the demand for lending professionals. However, population growth and the increasing variety of loans and other financial services that loan officers promote will ensure modest employment increases for these professionals. Employment of loan officers is projected to increase more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2010. In contrast, loan counselors are expected to
The use of credit scoring has made the loan evaluation process much simpler than in the past, and even unnecessary in some cases. Credit scoring allows loan officers, particularly loan underwriters, to evaluate many more loans in much less time, thus increasing loan officers’ efficiency. In addition, the mortgage application process has become highly automated and standardized. This simplification has enabled online mortgage loan vendors to offer loan shopping services over the Internet. Online vendors accept loan applications from customers over the Internet and determine which lenders have the best interest rates for that particular loan. With this knowledge, customers can go directly to the lending institution, thereby bypassing mortgage loan brokers. Shopping for loans on the Internet—though currently not a widespread practice—is expected to become more common over the next 10 years, particularly for mortgages, thus reducing demand for loan officers.
Employment in banking generally is less affected by the upturns and downturns of the economy than is employment in other industries, contributing to job stability in banking occupations. Although loans remain a major source of revenue for banks, demand for new loans fluctuates and affects the income and employment opportunities of loan officers. When the economy is on the upswing or when interest rates decline dramatically, there is a surge in real estate buying and mortgage refinancing that requires loan officers to work long hours processing applications and induces lenders to hire additional loan officers. Loan officers often are paid by commission on the value of the loans they place and some have high earnings when demand for mortgages is high. When the real estate market slows, loan officers often suffer a decline in earnings and may even be subject to layoffs. The same applies to commercial loan officers, whose workloads increase during good economic times as companies seek to invest more in their businesses. In difficult economic conditions, loan counselors are likely to see an increase in the number of delinquent loans.
Median annual earnings of loan officers were $48,830 in May 2009. The middle 50 percent earned between $35,360 and $69,160. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,580 while the top 10 percent earned more than $98,280. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of loan officers in 2009 were as follows:
|Federal executive branch and United States Postal Service||$56,900|
|Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services||53,870|
|Management of companies and enterprises||52,260|
The form of compensation for loan officers varies. Most are paid a commission that is based on the number of loans they originate. In this way, commissions are used to motivate loan officers to bring in more loans. Some institutions pay only salaries, while others pay their loan officers a salary plus a commission or bonus based on the number of loans originated. Banks and other lenders sometimes offer their loan officers free checking privileges and somewhat lower interest rates on personal loans.
According to a salary survey conducted by Robert Half International, a staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance, mortgage loan officers earned between $30,000 and $100,000 in 2009, consumer loan officers with 1 to 3 years of experience earned between $30,000 and $35,000, and commercial loan officers with 1 to 3 years of experience made between $45,500 and $70,000. Commercial loan officers with more than 3 years of experience made between $61,750 and $100,000, and consumer loan officers earned between $25,500 and $50,000. Earnings of loan officers with graduate degrees or professional certifications are higher. Loan officers who are paid on a commission basis usually earn more than those on salary only, and those who work for smaller banks generally earn less than those employed by larger institutions.
Related OccupationsLoan officers help the public manage financial assets and secure loans. Occupations that involve similar functions include
Information about a career as a mortgage loan officer can be obtained from: State bankers’ associations can furnish specific information about job opportunities in their State. Also, individual banks can supply information about job openings and the activities, responsibilities, and preferred qualifications of their loan officers.
Sources of Additional Information
Information about a career as a mortgage loan officer can be obtained from:
State bankers’ associations can furnish specific information about job opportunities in their State. Also, individual banks can supply information about job openings and the activities, responsibilities, and preferred qualifications of their loan officers.