A Lifelong Banker

Mark Vis | First State Bank Southwest | Worthington, Minn.

Homebuyer referrals, including from first-timers, drive Mark Vis’ success in originating mortgages

By Howard Schneider

A mortgage originator who brought in 148 loans in 2012 has to be special. That record is even more impressive when you find out that just one processor assisted him and that those two people also performed their own closings and were involved in loan servicing.

But it becomes amazing when you realize that the mortgage lender—Mark Vis, of First State Bank Southwest in Worthington, Minn.—originates half his business with borrowers who speak little or no English. (That processor in the equation is Vis’ colleague Linda Rossow.)

Vis wishes he could “speak 10 different languages.” Yet he overcomes communication barriers by working diligently, and knowing how to match consumers to a loan they qualify for.

“Soft-spoken and a great listener” is how Greg Raymo, the $225 million-asset bank’s president, describes Vis. “People gravitate to him.”

Worthington is home to 13,000 residents, and its growth over the last decade has come as immigrants from around the world find work at the town’s JBS Swift pork plant, which employs a staff of 2,400 while processing 20,000 hogs daily.

Often Vis will meet numerous times over a period of years with prospective homebuyers before actually taking a loan application. “It’s rewarding if someone can come in the bank and qualify right away,” he notes.

“But it’s tenfold more rewarding when they’ve been working hard with you for several years and now are ready to buy,” he adds. One memorable borrower of his was a 50-year-old man who was the first person in his family to purchase a home. The borrower was so happy getting the keys to his house that day that it arguably made the experience as rewarding for Vis, he recalls.

Vis, 34, regards his role in helping potential owners establish a credit rating, build savings and document a job history as that of a “mentor.” He’ll often encourage prospects to take first-time homebuyer classes offered by a local nonprofit agency.

Such hard-working service results in referrals. One client of Vis’ proceeded to bring eight friends and relatives to First State Bank Southwest to obtain mortgages. The client also helped them get through the process by serving as a translator.

Vis has worked hard to master all available mortgage programs since starting as an originator at First State Bank Southwest seven years ago. Minnesota Housing Finance Agency loans and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development program help with challenging applications. Vis says they work hard to educate their customers about the importance of credit and paying bills timely. So it is not a surprise that he says that they have had very few issues with their mortgages.

Vis also has developed “very strong relationships” with local real estate agents, Raymo says. Vis agrees that he views the agents he works with “like a second family.” He regularly speaks with them to provide updates on loan programs.

While growing up, Vis saw how people would thank his mother, who worked in banking, for helping their families. Today, he’s experiencing that same appreciation in Worthington. “I see myself as a lifelong banker,” he affirms.

Howard Schneider is a writer in Ojai, Calif.