MBA Diversity & Inclusion Summit: First Step in Worthwhile Journey
Brian Simons

DENVER, Colo., February 1, 2017 - In November, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) held its first-ever Summit on Diversity and Inclusion in Washington, DC. The two-day event brought together dozens of industry leaders for a series of in-depth discussions and action planning around promoting inclusive practices in the mortgage industry.

I was honored to participate as a speaker in the “Leading by Example” panel along with MBA Chairman-Elect David Motley, Patty Arvielo of New American Funding, Byron Boston of Dynex Capital and Niki Scott of SunTrust Mortgage.

I feel passionately that the way to build a successful business is through diversity. Mortgage companies with diverse workforces benefit from the varied experiences, skill sets, competencies and viewpoints of their employees and are often better equipped than their counterparts to understand and serve the needs of an increasingly diverse consumer base.

I was pleased to share the story of Altavera’s diversity and inclusion journey with an audience of industry executives and decision makers. Since Altavera’s founding in 2013, we have sought to create a diverse, inclusive and women-led culture with a special focus on the proactive cultivation of leadership opportunities for women and the removal of traditional barriers to women’s advancement, such as the typical career deceleration experienced by those who play the dual roles of employee and mother/caregiver.

For example, we offer full benefits to domestic/civil partners and an adaptive work culture that doesn’t merely offer remote work (i.e., work from home) opportunities, but also offers flexible scheduling options that allow employees to succeed wherever and whenever they work. To equip and prepare personnel for steadily advancing leadership roles, Altavera provides a six-month management and leadership development program with more than 150 courses, which helps us grow a diverse leadership team from within. 

Altavera is characterized by a “lead by example” mindset. To that end, we have engaged employee demographic analytics, salary comparisons and recruitment strategies to ensure our diversity intentions are fully institutionalized, tracked and accountable. Success metrics are keyed to achieving at least 50% women both across staff and in leadership while sustaining overall diversity that tracks with state and national racial demographics. A critical element of Altavera’s diversity and inclusion commitment has been our crusade to close the gender wage gap through mission-focused measurement and decision-making. Its success is borne out in Altavera’s diversity and compensation achievements, including:

  • Altavera’s management team is 80% female
  • Companywide, Altavera is 85% female
  • Companywide, Altavera’s is 35% non-white
  • Altavera has achieved complete wage parity throughout the firm

My single reservation to an otherwise glowing review of the MBA’s inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Summit would be that, at times, it seemed we were preaching to the choir. The speakers were top-notch, and the discussions were engaging — but by and large, the event’s attendees are already leading the charge with their progressive diversity decisions.

When I shared this observation with Altavera Chief Operating Officer Debora Aydelotte, she agreed that our industry should broaden its outreach and education efforts, noting, “We need to engage those companies that need help developing diversity policies and bring them together with those who have blazed the trail.”

That’s the sign of an idea whose time has come: the need to persuade has been replaced by the need to evangelize. In this case, our industry has correctly identified diversity as the key to seizing its opportunities and overcoming its threats. Having assembled a group of leaders and given voice to our convictions, it is now time to share the benefits of our experience with our peers. That will be our calling for 2017.