By Laura Brandao, Contributing Writer, Mortgage Women Magazine
This month, I have the pleasure of spotlighting Christy Moss. Christy is chief customer officer at FormFree, a company whose technology gives lenders the information needed to understand borrowers’ ability to pay and process mortgage loans in a timely and efficient manner. FormFree is based in Athens, Georgia.
Christy, how did you get your start in the mortgage industry?
A. My first industry role was as an account executive with GE Capital in 1987. While there, I specialized in marketing non-agency products, initially to brokers and later to correspondent lenders and bulk acquirers.
Believe it or not, I literally started because I needed a job and was able to get one from an old-school ad in the paper.
What does being a trailblazer mean to you?
A. A trailblazer is a leader with a clear vision for the future. They are someone whose determination and drive will push others to achieve great things and who will serve as an example and offer support along the way. This person will clear a path for others to benefit their communities.
Where do you see yourself and women in the industry over the next five years?
A. My current focus is on improving the industry-wide adoption of technologies that expand home financing opportunities for underserved communities and educating lenders and borrowers with respect to equitable lending practices. Part of achieving that goal is working with legislators and regulators to enact policies that will enable more families to purchase their own home.
I see women becoming far more visible in our industry. Over the past five years I have seen a significant uptick in leadership opportunities for women in the higher levels of our industry, and I am very optimistic that trend will continue over the next five years.
The doors of many organizations are opening wider for women in part due to the efforts of the Mortgage Bankers Association (especially with its creation of mPower) and Mortgage Women Magazine. These platforms are elevating the voices of women in what is still predominantly a male-dominated industry, and it is so encouraging to see the greater professional mortgage community come together to support women in advancing their careers and achieving their goals.
What is your professional superpower?
A. I believe my professional superpower is my ability to connect like-minded people with each other so they can combine their best attributes to the benefit of others in the industry and the community at large.
Being a great “brag buddy” is part of my process for making lasting and successful connections. A brag buddy will impart to others the strengths and achievements of a person they should know better. This is also a wonderful way to encourage colleagues to advocate for themselves and be proud of what they have accomplished.
Tell us something about your career in the mortgage industry that was pivotal to your achievements today.
A. In 2018, I attended an mPower event about finding your voice and advocating for your own worth. The amazing speakers opened my eyes to the potential we all have for controlling our own futures and convinced me that it takes active planning to achieve your goals. I came to realize that not asking for what you need and deserve is being passive, and that means settling for whatever happens to come your way.
Another career milestone for me was earning my CMB (Certified Mortgage Banker) designation from the Mortgage Bankers Association. This is the highest professional designation in our industry. Completing the required coursework helped me see our business more holistically and got me thinking about new opportunities to improve how we serve our clients.
Another pivotal item was the introduction of Fannie Mae’s Day 1 Certainty, which invigorated my sense of professional purpose. When I worked at Fannie Mae, I had the great pleasure of educating lenders about Day 1 Certainty and providing technological direction for an initiative that has changed the way we all do business today.
What advice would you give to a woman entering or trying to move up in their mortgage career?
A. First, you must understand your “why.” You need to discover what motivates you. Only when you know the destination can you map out where you want to go and how you plan to get there.
Next, become an expert in whatever area interests you. Learn how your field of expertise interacts with the industry as a whole, then develop that expertise to the point that you can position yourself as a trusted advisor to your colleagues and peers. This will inevitably lead to more and better opportunities as you move through your career.
What does success mean to you?
A. I think of success as both a team sport and an individual sport.
If I am helping my team to reach our goals and grow professionally, I consider that a successful outcome.
On a personal front, success means being able to say I am proud of the work I have done and the contributions I have made to my industry and the people in my life (and that I’ve had fun and made new friends in the process!).
What do you enjoy doing outside of the office? Tell us about your family.
A. I have been married for 37 years, during which time we raised a son and a daughter. Our daughter, Jenny Moss is also in the industry working with Depth PR as client services director. Our son, Morgan, lives in south Georgia with his wife. We have a huge extended family, so much of our off-work time is spent with them. We enjoy family dinners, time at our lake home and watching SEC football with friends and family.
How do you recommend navigating change in an industry that is always changing and growing?
A. I only have one piece of advice for this: keep learning. Read, listen to podcasts, and talk to people. Keep up with technology, market and policy changes and how they impact the needs and challenges of clients. You cannot allow your knowledge base to stagnate if you want to grow professionally in the ever-changing mortgage industry.
Do you think it’s important to have a mentor? Do you mentor and what does it give back to you?
A. Having a mentor is critical to succeeding in any profession, especially the mortgage industry. In fact, having several mentors is even better if you are lucky enough to find them. Mentors offer guidance, perspective and advice that can broaden your base of knowledge and provide you with a way to make better decisions both professionally and personally. A good mentor will use their influence and experience to pull others up the ladder and teach them to advocate for themselves in a strong and confident voice.
Beyond mentors, we should each have a tribe of people we lean on as we navigate our careers. And, most importantly, we should remember to pay it forward and act as mentors and coaches to each other. A strong network benefits everyone in the circle in many different but essential ways.
What do you want to be remembered for in our industry?
A. I want to be remembered as someone who played a role in democratizing lending and expanding access to home ownership. I want to leave our industry better than I found it, and, for me, that means increasing the number of people who can purchase a home without increasing risk. There is a balance and I want to be remembered for leading the innovation charge to improve access to credit for all.
I believe in a holistic approach to determining creditworthiness that reaches beyond a credit score and tax receipt to consider the entire spectrum of a potential borrower’s financial portfolio. I want to see a person’s income, spending history, rent payments and other factors considered when assessing whether they can borrow and how much. The current narrow scope of assessment limits opportunities for many who might have no trouble affording a home but are denied because they don’t check all the traditional boxes on a lending form.
How do you find your voice?
A. Surround yourself with people who root for you so you can learn to see yourself the way they do. As you gain confidence from your successes, you will begin to understand your worth and be better able to communicate that to others.
What is your biggest fear and why?
A. My fear is that by failing to pivot rapidly, our industry will fail to reap the benefits of policy and technological advancements. These changes appear so quickly, but I fear our industry does not always embrace them in a timely fashion and may risk falling behind as a result.
There are approximately 109 million renters in our country right now. Polls indicate that a full 76% of them want to own a home rather than pay their landlord’s mortgage. I am concerned that we are not moving fast enough to serve the people who can afford a mortgage because we are mired in old and outdated processes and mindsets when we should be switching to more creative and inclusive policies.
The current market is particularly challenging, with interest rates and inflation in conflict at a federal level. Now is the time for our industry to lead the charge for affordable and fair lending practices using technology we already have at our fingertips and common-sense policies that consider our clients’ entire financial picture, not just outdated plot points on a graph.
We have the tools to make the dream of ownership possible for so many more people if we can only embrace the notion of financial data aggregation and understand our clients in a financially holistic way.
What is your favorite book or podcast that you would recommend and why?
A. Most recently, my favorite book has been Mel Robbins’ The High 5 Habit. She shares the idea that for others to see the greatness in us, we need to see it in ourselves. The act of high fiving yourself can help you affirm and invigorate you and reminds you of how much you can achieve when you have a positive and motivated mindset.
How do we propel more women into leadership roles within our industry?
A. It is vital that as colleagues and mentors, we take an active interest in the advancement of our peers and helping them to achieve their professional goals.
We should all be watching for opportunities for women to advance and sharing that information with each other along with offering our advice, guidance, and experience. Holding out your hand to pull another up the ladder is a privilege and an obligation that we need to meet to encourage more young women to work toward leadership roles in the future.
This article originally appeared in Mortgage Women Magazine.