Listen to Byte client Erin Dee, COO of LoanPeople featured on the Lykken on Lending podcast as they discuss starting a mortgage company from the ground up.

Learn why savvy independent-thinking lenders love using Byte.

About Erin Dee, COO – LoanPeople

For over 20-years, Erin has worked in financial services in a wide range of capacities, which include: underwriting, compliance, secondary marketing, LOS admin., training and operations management. In her role as the COO of LoanPeople, Erin is responsible for the overall corporate operations of the organization. She participates in industry advocacy groups and currently serves as the secretary/treasurer for the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association Board of Directors. Erin earned her B.S. in Finance with University Honors from University of Central Florida, and her M.B.A. in Finance from Nova Southeastern University

“We looked at, I think ten or more different loan origination systems…Byte quickly rose to the top. It was the beautiful baby of both where it was simple, easy to use for an originator, but it was compliant. It was fast, and it was configurable, and we just fell in love with it.” 

Erin Dee
COO, LoanPeople

Listeners, we’re in for a real treat. I know I say that all the time. But we really are today. We’ve got Erin Dee, she’s 20-year veteran of the Financial Services area, she’s worked in a number of companies in a wide range of areas. She is the COO of Loan people. And we’re very excited to have her and who’s really sponsoring this all of every one of our sponsors, every podcast, but it’s really Byte never really said, you need to have Erin on now, I’ve known Erin for a number of years. He’s truly one of the top professionals in our industry. And I got to meet her earlier in her career and her journey. And there’s just someone when you meet them, you spot them, you go pay attention to this person, they’re going somewhere, and she has it is. So one of the I was wondering if you’re in the industry 50 years, and you’re there 20 She’s one of the up and comers you said 20 years, is she really an up and comer seems like she’s well established from from my perspective, 50 years, she has a lot more to give into our industry. And so we’re really excited to have a couple of perspectives coming out. First of all, she started with a partner in the business. And we’re going to hear about that. And there’s many phone calls that are coming into me right now and 2024 that we want to start your own, our own business. And is it possible what do we need to do? So we’re going to hear from someone that’s two years into their journey, I believe they get that correct. And we’re getting if four years into their journey, oh my gosh, four years into your end of the journey. And we’re gonna get some perspective on that and all of what it takes to get a business up and running. Erin Dee, So good to have you here. Joining me on the microphone today. What a pleasure.


Thank you. I’m so happy to be here. It’s great to see you again.


You and I know each other and I think a good number of people do know who you are. And you’ve been involved in the MBA you’ve been involved in at conferences and things like that. But for those that do not know you, if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself, to our listeners a little bit about your background and your journey to where you’re at today.


Yeah, absolutely. I would love to. Hello, so as David said, I’ve been in the business for a little over 20 years now I was one of those few people that got in on purpose. I took a real estate law class at the University of Central Florida Go Knights fell in love with it. And so very intentionally sought out a position when I graduated and I was lucky enough to obtain a position with option one mortgage as an underwriting trainees. Those of you who were around during the subprime days probably remember that name, we had all the best swag in town at the time. So they taught me how to be an underwriter and we had to do it with basically a breath and a credit score above 500 trades. Those of you who learned exactly what I did, there was no ADUs when I learned how to underwrite, we had to do legit credit risk analysis. Since I learned from some of the best in the business at option one, I was actually there until they turned the lights out in December of 200. Yeah, I loved working for them love the people I met and I learned amazing lessons there. And then from there, I went back to school to obtain my MBA in finance and then started working moved to Austin started working at a local company here in capital markets. And from there, I really just built a career on finding a need and filling it really just raised my hand anytime somebody needed something. So that taught me how to become an LOs administrator that taught me how to obviously capital markets and secondary, I was able to get into investor relations, operations, management, compliance, all of those really just raising my hand whenever somebody needed something has led me to this day where now I’m co founder and chief operating officer here at Loan people in Austin.


Love the name of the company going back to your option one days, I got to give a shout out to my old buddy Bob, we both have mortgage companies doing the same thing. Back in Southern California, Bob was just one of those people I’ll never forget, we all showed up at the same subprime conference. At the beginning of when the whole subprime thing started. It was based out of the Southern California market where I had a mortgage company as partner in the mortgage company back then, and we met Bob of all places at one of the conferences out on the Florida Keys at Key West and she went to a really decent human being as a great leader. And I hope he’s still doing well I’ve lost touch with him and definitely want to talk to him a bit his slide deck that he did providing information about the subprime crisis is one it was little used in the movie The Big Short his slide deck was actually the one used in the movie. So there’s a lot of stories around about that. If you go back to the time where we did not have a you and you learn by the old fashioned way. Now granted, optional loans underwriting standards were different deviated from Fannie Freddie, but it was still it was written underwritten from a credit basis. And it was underwritten from a chance they were a just outside of agency lender more of a plus instead of the BC hard BC money, but it was such a great career. And so I go back and as you talk about that, it’s just brings back some wonderful memories of many years ago. What did you learn from those experiences? And again, all the subsequent experiences you had you went through and have been very purposed about your education, purpose in your journey, I’m impressed that you decided to get a mortgage lending and there wasn’t an accident that makes you unique and unusual in that sense, in a positive sense. But what are some of the things that you’ve learned along that journey, starting with option one that you would say has been really contributing to your career where you’re at and success that you’re enjoying today?


Yeah, first, I’ll say I’m Bob. He was amazing. My first day at option one, he sat and drank like an entire beer with me and just talk to me. And here I am a newbie, to fresh out of college and the CEO of the company is talking to me, him and Steve, they both just were amazing, a great impression for me on day one, and taught me like, Hey, you can run a company and be a human being. And it was just a wonderful experience to be with them. And it was really great working in option one, because I realized that I was helping people who normal banks, normal lenders would turn down and that couldn’t get a loan. I was helping them achieve the American dream. And that really made me fall in love with what we do, and realize how important at the end of the day, you’ve got emails and this and that. But at the end of the day, what we’re doing is helping people achieve wealth and achieve the dream that they come here from all over the world for so I just absolutely love that. During my interview, Tom, I believe interviewed me and he said, I hope you’re ready for this industry. It’s crazy. It’s a roller coaster every month, and every year, it’s just your ramp up, you get crazy busy. And then it’s the first of the month and nothing again. And for me something about that I’m an adrenaline junkie. And I was like, Yes, that sounds amazing. Let’s go to me, I’m like similar to like engineers, they’re like born to do a certain job, like an engineer couldn’t be a cook, right? Like, it just doesn’t work. For me, I’m born for mortgage, that’s just the way it is. There’s no other career for me. And along the way, really a couple of things I learned one is this is a very small industry, don’t burn any bridges, because it’s a big country, but a small industry. So always treat the people that you work with the utmost of kindness and respect, because you never know when you’re going to come along that person again. And I still run into people that I’ve met throughout the entirety of my career. And for me, remembering to just always be kind and humble. And remember, it is a small industry. I think that’s one. I think also, hard work really does pay off, you can come to mortgage and make more money than doctors. Without a degree, I have hired people, some of my best employees that didn’t graduate high school even right, they come in, they put their nose down, they work really hard. And to me that’s another thing is mortgages are really great industry with a very low barrier to entry, where you can make an amazing living for yourself, you can make a million dollars in mortgage without a college degree. So the hard work really does pay off. Then also, like I said before, just find a need and fill it always raise your hand in this business. There’s very few people that do that. And you can take yourself in your career very far by just saying, hey, I’ll help out with that project. Hey, I’ll do this. That’s literally how I got to where I am.


Yeah, I love it. I had a doctor who had a supplement line, he called it phenoxy. Find a neath and fill it. And so he made that an acronym for nothing. I like that. It’s so true. And I really share your passion about what this is all about. And I think we lose sight of that. And yes, you can make great money and that is wonderful brings benefits of it gives you privileges that you wouldn’t otherwise have, sir, like I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, I’d rather be rich, thank you very much. But what really gives you the big greatest amount of fulfillment is putting someone in a home for the first time and doing so in a responsible way. You say yeah, that was the subprime days that then that come back and Byte and people that ain’t got insane people. One of the problems of the day that I think is we’re not going back to what some of the products option one offered, we need to get back into that now. We’re seeing a resurgence of the non QM, which is a good thing. I think if it’s done responsibly and done in an intelligent way. So I think for those who want to go back and look at how it was done, right, at least in the earlier days, go back and study option one story. It’s a very important one. I think then you talk about some of your journey through the Educate how important is getting a master’s degree in this? I know we I should give a shout out to Andy Schell, my old business partner, who is your thank you. He’s an advisor to serve as your board. Also your contract CFO, if I understand correctly, your friend one of the brighter guys out there, he’s working on a second doctorate degree right now. And I always tease him about that people die by degrees. But how important is that? And I’d love to get your perspective.


Yeah absolutely. And I’m sure there’s educators out there that will scream at what I’m about to say but I find the degree has been better for me in terms of hate, like I have legitimate credentials, right? So it helps some people look at me in a way like okay, she went through this, she did this extra she’s somebody to be taken seriously. And as somebody who’s a general goofball, I need all the help I can get and taken being taken seriously sometimes. Anybody who knows me knows that did mostly 95% of what I say is a joke. So that helps. But also honestly going through and getting my master’s degree, I did learn a lot specifically, how do I work with people of differing opinions, different viewpoints, different thoughts, right. So for me, the collaboration aspect of it and learning how I can work with people who have different backgrounds, different ideas, and different opinions, and take that in for what it’s worth, learn from it, grow from it, and also on a team, leverage that and people’s different strengths to do things, I’m not good with words, if you ask me to write a paper, it’s mostly just going to be bullet points and hope I get away with it. But I have other strengths that are really great. And so really learning how to work with teams and saying, hey, I can help with this. If you can help with this. And really, in business and anywhere in life, being able to collaborate with other people and see other people’s differences and their strengths. And you see how you can use those along with your strengths is really critical. And that was something that I absolutely got out of the master’s degree.


Yeah, there’s so much within the MBA educational programs and all of the stuff that’s going on, we could go on and on about that. But I really want to start getting into the journey of you launching your own business with your partner. What was the catalyst for that? Was it just something that you had to do you just felt that was in you? What drove you to launch? Loan people?


Yeah, absolutely. So I have always had a bit of an entrepreneurial bug about me, I’ve always wanted to do my own thing. I think my mother would probably say it was more like a dislike of authority. But I always had that bug. And I was always scheming in my head, if I could do it this way. If it was my company, this is what I would do. But as an operator, granted, I feel a very sales friendly operator, but an operator nonetheless, started my own company without the sales piece was always a challenge clearly, right. That’s what you need. You need customers, you need revenue. So in 2018, a local originator Max Lehmann, who is a top producer, he has been at the top of every Scotsman list ever respected in the community. He is here in Austin. And we had met each other a couple times. He reached out to me and said, Hey, I want to go grab a beer. And he texted me out of the blue. I was like, oh, what’s going on here? So we met up, and he said, here’s the thing, I want to start my own business. I think this is something I’m ready to do. And I think you’re the person to help me do it. And the one thing I love about Max is he’s very honest about his strengths and weaknesses. And he’s, I’m a really good originator, I can bring the loans in the door, but I don’t know what I don’t know about the rest of it. We talked for a couple months, we really spent time to make sure that he and I had similar viewpoints, perspectives, all of that I’ve made mistakes in my career where I jumped into something a little too quickly without vetting it out properly. So we took a good six months to just get to know each other, make sure we have the same vision for what this new company could look like. And then finally, in May 2019, I took the risk and left a very secure job with a wonderful company, and came to start Loan people. So we spent the latter half of 2019 getting everything set up and run Max was still running his team at his other company and we basically lived under the threat of okay his other company could find out at any given time, so everything had to be done quickly in an in secret. So I had to do everything from get my own license. So the company could be licensed to finding systems or finding people to hire it getting an office space health insurance, everything from May to December 2019. We somehow made it all the way to the very end. And on January of 2020, we were able to start as a full fledged banker and we were not brokering they have warehouse lines, investors. And it was just absolutely amazing to see something that started out as literally like scribbles on a cocktail napkin at Bartlett’s in Austin, Texas become this full fledged company. It was amazing.


It’s such an exciting journey, I’ve had the privilege of helping so many people go through that journey, have gone through three times myself. And it’s just so exciting to do that. And when you own your own baby, I think that’s what’s so compelling. So anyone listening to this, and I gotta tell you listen to the journey, look at this into the preparation, there’s so much about that. And we probably have another podcast. But one of the things that goes into this really gets to the Byte sponsorship of this podcast. And the reason we’re sitting here, I would love to interview you anytime because of this, but they said you got to really interview Erin Dee because of how she went about establishing this company. And the selection of that now you had been an LOs administrator of other companies. And so a lot went into this and the tech stack is such a critical thing these days. And I want to get to why did you select Byte and having the experience that you had with other companies and other technologies?


Yeah, absolutely. The easy answer and like you said, there’s so many decisions that have to be made in order to go live. It really honestly would have been the easy solution to go with the LOs that I had seven years experience administering, Max had a years worth of working in, that would have been really the easy decision to make right? In the short term. In the long term, that was not the right decision. And we’re so glad we did not go that way. So what we did is really Max came at it from a, I need to be speedy, quick, fast for an originator Max thinks and the number of clicks it takes, but how can I get 15 estimates out to this one client in under five minutes, right, that’s what he’s trying to do. For me, I’m trying to have a system that I can administer in a compliant manner that I can configure to make it so that Max has fewer buttons to click. And that can easily seamlessly work talked to all of my other partners that I want to integrate with and we sat down and from his perspective and my perspective, we looked at, I think, 10, or more different loan origination systems, we had them do proofs of concepts. We got into test environments, we played around Anons, Max beat them all up. Yeah, it was incredibly thorough, and we couldn’t make many other decisions on other tech until we had this one dialed in. So that was like a really big priority for us. It’s super funny because he was doing his part in secret and he would log into these webinars and demos as some other name. It was super funny. These guys had no idea they’re talking to one of the top loan officers in the country. It was great. But we really came at it when both of those perspectives that we had Byte quickly rose to the top of kind of the marriage of the easy to use people just love point calyx everybody. Originators love that one was super easy to use, the marriage of that and some more some other kind of maybe more sophisticated systems. It was the beautiful baby of both where it was simple, easy to use for an originator, but it was compliant. It was fast, and it was configurable, and we just fell in love with it.


Yeah, when you look at the cost structure or other LOs is comparing it to Byte did that enter into your decision at all?


No, it did not. It was a happy result. However, because Byte was also the most affordable of all of them. My monthly PPE bill is more than my monthly Byte bill. And that is correct.


That is a major test, especially when you consider the product leader out there is at least they’re the biggest the number of installs, their costs are through the roof. And that’s one of the things I like pointing out when you’re looking at Byte that it’s affordable. And it’s good for a startup, we have some of the largest companies, CMG, Atlantic Bay, other big companies, enterprise companies, that not that you’re big, not that you’re growing fast and do well but you went from startup picking that. But it also works at the enterprise level, I think that’s really an important point to bring out about Byte. And then also talking about the configurability of it, the API integrations if you could talk about how important was some of those attributes that they have to your decision?


Yeah, again, as a seven year prior administrator, I knew I was dialed in on what I wanted to be able to configure again, I don’t like authority, I don’t like being told what I can’t do, I want to do what I want to do. And as an admin, that was incredibly attractive to me about the bytes system, and that the API was so easy to use. So much easier to use than other systems I’ve worked in, that we did not have the restrictions or limitations it was here you go, do it, have fun, you’re allowed to do what you want to do. And that has been absolutely wonderful. We’re able to create our own business rules. We’re not limited on the business rules that we can do custom fields, custom screens, custom printed forms, macros, things like that calculations, we were not limited at all in what we were able to do. So we were able to build our own very sophisticated system out of this amazing, very affordable LOs base, and it’s wonderfully compliant. We don’t have compliance issues, any of that. So we really got the best of all worlds with it. And we’ve just been so happy.


There’s many wonderful benefits of having that. And how would you say, do they partner with you? Do you sense? Is it a true partnership? Because I know some of the other ones that are out there. The biggest one is I’m sorry, this is the way it is the partnership sense is not there. Talk about it with Byte. How was that?


Yeah, that was really important to us. And really quick. One thing on the configurability I forgot to mention is they offer when you go to purchase them multiple different levels of assistance and getting set up. And so for me is literally it was just me for a while. And then eventually I had two other people to help me. But with everything else the three of us had going on. They had this like super high level, it was a little more expensive, but it was worth it because they helped us build pre made business rules, things like that, which was awesome. And then but if you have a more sophisticated team, you can get the less expensive package and kind of do it on your own. So a configurability like they offered us those options, which was nice. So in terms of the partnership and the support, again, it’s unlike other LOs that I have worked with. I actually know the names of the people on their support desk and they’re fantastic. They’re amazing. They know my name I’ve talked about oh look you just went to Fort Worth, that’s so cool. That’s not far from us. And so you build a relationship with these people who and they’re just there for you. They’re there. They help you. They talk through things. They’re supportive. I’m part of a key group where they’ve connected us, with administrators from other companies around. So we can actually sit there and talk and they come to us for ideas. Hey, what do you guys think about this? Or what do you think about this, and that’s a kind of sense of community that like I felt was almost dis not encouraged in with prior regimes I’ve worked with and I really love that I know I can get on the phone and call Mark if I need to. I don’t do that. But I could if I needed to write Bobby’s around the fact that I have easy access to people that run that build the LOs I use day in and day out. And I feel comfortable calling them by their first name and that they’ll respond to me, it’s been great. They really are all about building a community without doing big expensive events that just add to the cost of my doing it. I really like the way that thread the needle there and building a community, but doing it in a way that keeps their system very affordable.


Yeah, there’s so many things we could talk about that but I want to go back to talking about you launching this business, and the journey you’ve had over the last four years. What was things that you’ve experienced that you go, I did not anticipate this? Fortunately, you launched this thing at a particular time where you had such wonderful markets, and this and now the last 18 months has been a bit of a challenge to that. But talk a little bit about what are the things that went according to plan and what didn’t? And what are those things that did?


Yeah, absolutely. I would say according to plan, we were able to get rolled out on the timeline that we wanted to that to me was probably the biggest coup of the whole thing. We all know in this business. Nobody keeps anything quiet and secret in the fact that we were able to somehow stand up a company in secret with warehouse banks investors at full LOs accounting system bla bla bla bla bla bla bla, with without being caught and doing it on our timeline. Honestly, that was to me like a miracle of God in and of itself, right, it was so great that we were able to get that accomplished in this business. That being said, I think obviously, the pandemic, we did not expect that and we went live January 3rd 2020. We on boarded 26 people for Max’s team. So literally overnight, we went from a company of three people to a company of almost 30 people, when and that was another great thing about Byte is having to train 30 people in one day, some process or some underwriters loan officers, closers, funders, we had to train all these people literally in a couple of days, so that they could just start doing loans and access team as a high producing team. We locked five loans our first day going live, but it was that easy to teach people they were able to come in and learn so quickly, that helps make our ramp up hearing not so bad also. But then you go into the pandemic, right? If your plans are, OK, I’m going to start originating, then I’m going to go, I’m going to start as a best effort basis, then I’m going to go hedging, and then I’m going to do this and then I’m going to do that and you have a natural progression of things, then the pandemic hits, and now all of a sudden, everybody’s remote, and we’ve got more business coming in, then we know what to expect with and then the Fed drops rates to zero and right at the time we’re wanting to make that journey of flipping from best efforts to hedging and mandatory. There were no broker dealers that were willing to even talk to me, I will always love Jerry Levy, he spent an hour and a half on the phone with me and let me tell our story. And he gave me my first $10 million trading line. And that allowed us to start our hedging journey and then the warehouse, some of the warehouse banks started cutting capacity. And so that first year, were we trying to just get a business going sell loans that we did not have defects, make sure we were being compliant, making sure people knew how to use the system, all of that. Then you get all of these other things just in the broader economy, dealing with a pandemic dealing with these crazy interest rates, businesses, hedging, all of that was also thrown at us at the same time. And it’s the easy answer for me to say what went wrong, and ultimately, it went great. And we did great fundings and we shoved every single penny we made in the bank, we didn’t take anything. So we put it on the bank. And that’s because we knew this time was coming. And so that’s allowed us to sustain ourselves and still be in a really strong position today, even after the last 18 months.


I think that’s a really strong point. A lot of people spend during the good times they enjoy that they spend their earnings they do not put it away for the signs. This is a very cyclical market man. This has been such a pronounced reminder this last 18 months of just how severe things can turn and change. How’s business going today? How are you doing overall? How are you doing?


I’ve stopped drinking as much. I’m just kidding. I haven’t. I’m not a chicken counter. I am hoping for the best that November was the worst of it. I just went through all of our statistics yesterday. I do it every day. Yesterday. We’re up 80% month over month on leads. We’re up big on locks. Our pipeline is over 10 million more than it was this time last year. Locks leads by They’ve all been stronger than they have been. I’m a little concerned that about the bond market a little bit. But I think that it’s starting to feel like we’re coming out. And I don’t think it’s going to be a quick come out of it. But I’m hoping that we’re starting that climb back up to a more normal sense of the business.


You guys have been so successful. And I love the intentionality of this. I love how your career path intentionally got in the business, intentionally prepared yourself for this, you got attention, we got into some great companies starting with Option one, learn some basics, you continue to reach out to get some great and counsel and advice Andy Shell, a business partner tear dear friend of mine, I love that guy. I’ve won smartest brains in the mortgage industry out there. And it’s been just such a great asset to you as you’ve gone through this. And I think you just can’t surround yourself with enough good counsel, when it comes, especially in the markets that we’ve gone through here just recently, because those of us who have been at it for as long as we have been, do have bring a perspective. But it’s so refreshing to find something like you that you and Max had decided to make this decision to move in and open up your own business. So excited about moving for where do you see Loan people going in the future is the vision to become the biggest mortgage company? I think this is important, especially as I’m talking to so many new businesses that are starting up. What should they dream about? Is it the next two years, five years? Or is it important to have the big B-hag? The big hand hairy, audacious goal that’s out there? What’s your thoughts on that, Erin?


Yeah, so first, I just want to say I agree with you completely on Andy. He was literally the first phone call that I made when I knew we were going to do this. And I was like, Andy, I need your help. He’s absolutely fan fantastic. And I love that you use B hag, I actually use that with my loan originators every year when I talk about their business planning. And they’re forecasting. I’m like, Alright, what’s realistic? And then what’s your B hag? Let’s try to get there. But what can we realistically do? So I love that you use that expression as well. I think it’s different for everybody. Honestly, for us here at Loan people, we know that at a certain point, when you get to be so big, you lose your soul really like you’ll lose who you are, you lose your founding principles, you lose why you really did this in the first place. Unless the reason you do in the first place is to get super big and go public and move on. Great. That’s some people’s goals. But for us, we built something that we intentionally left other companies to come and build something that we believed in, to follow a philosophy. And so really, our goal is to be able to be big enough that we can surround ourselves with those people and people around the country originators and operators, both that follow our same philosophy and make really good livings for ourselves, right. And we don’t need to be $100 billion a month, but 5 billion would be great. That’s to me is a really nice size, where you’re not losing your sense of who you are. I love that I know everybody’s name at this company. I love it. I don’t get to talk to everybody every day. But I love that I know everybody’s name. And to me, I want to continue in a way that allows us to stay true to our founding principles, but still grow big enough to where we’re able to make good livings and do good things for our communities.


That’s awesome. How can people get a hold? Do they want to learn more about you and your business and possibly join your company? What’s the best way for them to reach out to Erin?


Yeah, it’s my email address is  I am constantly on that email and happy to respond. So that’s really the quickest and best.


Thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy day to join us and sharing the journey that you’ve gone through literally from the very, very beginning and forgotten that you’re at Option one, New Bob. So Well, that brings back some wonderful, great memories from my days in Southern California. We wish you the very best you, Max and continued success. And I know that as soon as the one guy say see you at the top I’m certainly we will be seeing you at the top you’re continuing to grow. And kudos to you and your success and hope we can stay in touch. I’d love to have you back. There’s so many parts of your story that I want to go back and dive deeper into and share. Especially as we’re seeing a new season opened up where so many new companies are forming because they’ve become disillusioned with the lack of vision and how problems are handled. What I like about what’s in the middle of your name is people and it’s a loan people but it’s people it’s a people based solution. So way to go Erin wish you manage the very best thanks for jumping in a call with me today and the audience.

Anytime for you sir. Thank you so much.

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