What a 30-Year Mortgage Veteran Has Learned About Innovation, Survival and Growth

quote from Stan Middleman, Founder & CEO, Freedom Mortgage

Transforming Your Mortgage Company to Thrive in the Face of Change

For years we’ve been talking about how the world is changing – our customers, how they do business, where they do business and what they expect when they do business. Change is nothing new for most mortgage companies.

Many lenders adapt to change and survive. But few thrive in the face of change. So, what’s the secret? How do they not only run a successful mortgage company but thrive in the face of constant change?

Freedom Mortgage Founder & CEO Stan Middleman recently made a guest appearance in our Risk & Compliance Webinar Series, where he offered up practical insights around these questions.

Armed with knowledge gained from 30 years as a leader in the mortgage industry, Stan Middleman is no stranger to change. He’s led his independent mortgage company through the bull run of the 90s, came out of The Great Recession stronger than ever, strengthened his compliance team in during the regulatory restructuring of the 2010s and has led two acquisitions in 2020 alone.

Below, we’re sharing three lessons you can learn from Stan Middleman about navigating change and creating a culture of innovation in your mortgage company.

1.      Stop Thinking about Innovation Just in Terms of Technology

When people talk about “innovation,” they usually mean new or improved technology. However, what defines innovation isn’t technology, but the reasons humans create new technologies in the first place. Tools are, and always have been, a means to an end.

And according to Middleman, the end goal of technology is to improve process. Middleman says, “The tools always change. They have always changed. They will always change. They’re just changing a little faster now.” He suggests thinking about your business in terms of process – manufacturing, cost control, managing your business – and considering key components of your business operations before taking advantage of the tools that are available to you.


2.      Find Your Niche

Middleman recalls entering the mortgage business at a time when the mortgage industry still relied heavily on relationships to drive new business. As a new mortgage lender, he knew the company would need a different way to market their products if they wanted to thrive.

This prompted the company to lean into their core values of inclusion, diversity and equality, and for his team to ask itself what would make it easier for their consumers – for the members of the communities they served – to achieve homeownership.

Middleman was also concerned about:

  • Property values
  • Private mortgage companies
  • Repurchase responsibility through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

He wanted to get out from under constraints he believed might hinder the company’s growth.

And that’s just what he did.

The company made the bold decision to specialize in government-backed loans at a time when government lending accounted for just 2% of the entire market. With the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, it turned out to be the right move. Freedom Mortgage was one of few individual mortgage bankers that not only survived The Great Recession but thrived in the years after.

There are two key takeaways here for mortgage lenders. The first is lend money like it’s your own… because in the end it is. Do this, and you’ll survive.

The second takeaway is to find ways you can cater to targeted markets that are often overlooked, underserved or even disenfranchised by larger competitors. Do this, and you’ll thrive.

3.      Make Change an Opportunity, Not a Threat

There have been many times in Stan Middleman’s illustrious career in the mortgage industry where he has been faced with change. He knows better than most you can’t always control what’s happening in the world around you, but understands that in order to run as successful mortgage company, you must embrace opportunities amid calamities.

Take, for example, this past year. He says work from home has been one of the greatest opportunities of his career. No longer burdened by the more trivial parts of running a business – walls, chairs, desks, parking spaces – he has never felt more connected to the people who work for him.

And no one sums it up quite like him: “We’re a mortgage company without boundaries. We’re not limited by constraints of space and physical being. What a wonderful time to be alive!”


The end goal is the same for any mortgage company: make the homebuying process more efficient for all involved, so families can achieve their version of the American Dream. Let the lessons and insights above serve as inspiration as you plan for the future. After all, a very wise webinar guest speaker once said, “We’re able to take bigger leaps, faster, because we’re standing on the shoulders of the things we’ve done before. And we’re standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Watch the Full Webinar on Demand

This was just a short recap of some of the most notable takeaways from “Risk & Compliance Webinar Series: Interview with Stan Middleman, CEO of Freedom Mortgage.” Watch the full webinar on demand, and you’ll also learn:

  • How to maintain a culture of compliance during times of growth.
  • Insights for future-proofing your business.
  • Predictions on innovation in housing finance.

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