Expert Insights: D&I Recruitment and Retention

This piece originally appeared in the May 2022 edition of MReport magazine, online now.

Victoria Garcia DeLuca serves Guild Mortgage Senior Vice President of Marketplace Diversity Strategy where she leads the company’s long-term initiatives in promoting minority homeownership and maintaining diversity, equity and inclusion in loans.

At Guild, she is responsible for recruiting and retaining minority loan officers, developing new products for minority markets and liaising with Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs). She leads Guild’s participation in the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) and the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America (NAMMBA). She sits on the NAHREP Board of Directors and represents the Guild on the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) “Home for All Pledge”, the industry’s long-term commitment to addressing racial inequality in housing.

Of Mexican and Honduran origin, Garcia DeLuca is bilingual in English and Spanish. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry, creating programs for underserved markets in the Midwest and South. Previously, she served as a senior vice president at Federal Savings Bank, where she led a team supporting homeownership in Hispanic and Black communities, was director of sales at Wintrust Mortgage and director of sales, specialist various segments at Wells Fargo.

What are the two or three most important considerations when working to build and foster diversity and inclusion (D&I) with respect to internal team morale, employee development, and talent acquisition?
A number of organizations are creating Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), but we need to go further by fully understanding that the support needs of diverse employees may be different than those of non-diverse employees. Employee engagement surveys should be conducted to keep the pulse of the workplace atmosphere. These surveys help us gain insight into what’s working, what needs to change, and what employees need and want to know more about. Collecting this data and taking action on the results will help improve the employee experience. When we take these learnings and apply them to creating an employee engagement and retention strategy, it can also help us attract and retain top talent from diverse backgrounds.

Diverse workplaces are statistically proven to be happier, safer and more productive. But creating a diverse workplace doesn’t stop with the hiring process alone. It is essential that mortgage companies have a formalized plan not only for recruiting diverse employees, but also for retaining, mentoring and promoting them. At Guild Mortgage, we have access to many possible career paths for continued development, and we are committed to encouraging D&I throughout the company.

By adding a more diverse element to all levels of the business and prioritizing inclusion efforts, we can more accurately reflect the community in which we live and work. With a combination of employees from diverse backgrounds and experiences, we can demonstrate innovative strategies to benefit underserved communities.

In what practical ways can mortgage industry professionals help foster a more sustainable, equitable and diverse housing ecosystem for buyers/homeowners?
Our nation is becoming increasingly diverse, with people from diverse backgrounds making vital contributions to our economy. The latest census suggests that there will be no ethnic or racial majority in less than 30 years. Our country’s economy will benefit as long as businesses are committed to meeting the needs of these diverse communities as consumers.

Across all industries, businesses must embrace diversity with key inclusion policies to develop a strong market base.

To help the mortgage industry become a truer reflection of the diversity of our country, one strategy I focus on in my role as Vice President of Marketplace Diversity Strategy is lending diversification. I am dedicated to leading advocacy efforts and homeownership education to increase financial literacy and help build generational wealth in underserved communities. Through more inclusive recruiting, our team of mortgage advisors can better recognize the challenges faced by our potential clients in these unique markets. As a result, we can build bridges to increase access and meet the housing lending needs of these diverse communities. I sincerely believe that every borrower matters, and we must stand up to serve them where they are.

What practical lessons have you learned from your organization’s D&I initiatives or programs? What changes have you implemented as a result of these findings?
Leadership buy-in is necessary because change starts at the top. We have created a Diversity and Inclusion Committee that includes some of our executives and managers. For us, it’s not about ticking a box. We know these efforts are important and we have seen the benefits of having an increasingly diverse workforce.

What D&I lessons have emerged from the challenges of the pandemic?
Interestingly, for years we had labor supply issues where demand exceeded supply in the labor market, especially for skilled jobs. Yet companies really didn’t start tackling the talent crisis before the pandemic, when we saw how many people quit and find new jobs during the big quit. It really opened the eyes of the business world to the fact that candidates are really in the driver’s seat.

Candidates want more flexibility in when and how they work. They want to work for companies that have an identifiable mission and that have a social impact. They want to work for “Employers of Choice” who create strong missions by driving D&I initiatives, while aiming to achieve financial success for themselves and their stakeholders.

The Great Resignation taught us that:

  • We need to provide greater flexibility to employees. They want to work on their terms, not their employer’s.
  • A company’s D&I and social impact initiatives matter to people. Companies that generate social impact and D&I will be employers of choice. If candidates are in the driver’s seat and want to work for these companies, creating an environment that fosters D&I is a good thing from a talent acquisition perspective.
  • Companies that implement effective D&I initiatives are often more successful because there are so many benefits that diverse teams bring to an organization. Becoming a welcoming and open workplace for everyone is simply good for business.

For a company looking to build an internal commitment to D&I, where do you start?
Companies should start by learning what D&I is and why it matters. There are many online resources and business case studies. LinkedIn also offers free courses on the subject.

From there, companies should create a business case with specific data and case studies to show how D&I initiatives can positively impact their business.

This will help others more easily understand what is up for grabs and secure that important internal commitment and leadership buy-in.

Companies should also consider doing an analysis of what worked and what is happening in their organization today. We’re learning that many companies are stronger at D&I than they thought…they just never followed it. Some companies may find that they already have a diverse workforce, but have not supported it as they should or have never sufficiently differentiated it. In these cases, companies can analyze the good they have done and determine how best to support their diverse employees in the future.

At Guild Mortgage, we listen to our diverse employees to understand how we can better support them and our diverse customer base. Understanding the diverse needs of a homebuyer loan program and how to provide the most effective educational resources for homebuyers continues to be a priority for us. To reach new and diversified markets of potential buyers, a local and community approach may be necessary. We need to understand these differences in order to create the right support structure for our loan officers serving various markets.

As we move forward, diversity is an essential ingredient in building a strong, inclusive team and an organization built to last. A diversified lending strategy expands our market potential, while positively impacting underserved communities.