Four Essential Day-to-Day Improvements For Your Accounting Department, From A Former Controller

March 31, 2023

Being in the mortgage industry for a lot of years, you pick up a few systems. You learn the tricks of the trade, so to speak. And when you’re in an area like mortgage accounting, the tricks can make all the difference when it comes to gaining efficiency. So, when Carl and Haleigh asked me to jot down some insights surrounding efficiency in your mortgage accounting departments, these ones quickly came to mind:

1. Your Staff

This has always been my FIRST and HIGHEST priority. How many times have we heard that if you take care of your people, they’ll take care of your customers? No doubt that staff is not only a company’s biggest asset, but also a leader’s biggest headache. Not everyone is a Rock Star, now are they? But training and empowering your staff to be leaders and thinkers is crucial to having a staff that rocks! I encourage you to ask your team what they want to learn and do, elicit questions, and broaden their vocabularies and knowledge bases. It’ll pay you back many times over in the long run. Two books that were mandatory reading at a former gig of mine, that I highly recommend to everyone: “Turn the Ship Around” by David Marquet and “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Both are excellent, and I tend to refer to them often. I also recommend extreme transparency with your staff. If everyone knows the direction and the intended target of the boat, there’s a much higher degree of everyone rowing in the same direction. Unclear direction will ultimately lead to disengagement.

2. Checklists

We ALL have them, don’t we? On sticky notes on the monitor, in Word, in our heads….But if it isn’t written down, it’s a wish. Make a month end checklist if you don’t have a master list already. I found that having one in Excel, on the server (available to EVERYONE), with assigned names and due dates (can we all say ROCKS?) worked for me. Make sure part of the list is specific to your AP guru – what are the monthly loan level bills that come in? Create a methodology for accruing the ones that don’t come in by the second business day so that you can close your books faster (did you know Loan Vision can do this?).

3. Financial Statement Sniff Tests

Anyone who’s been in controller shoes likely already does this, but it bears repeating, and it’s important for staff. Run your financials in Excel before you hand them off – do the totals total correctly? Run your income statement with a 12 Month view – what extreme variances are you seeing? Someone is going to ask you about it so you might as well get an answer now. Do they READ easily? If non-accountants are going to look at them, did you reverse the credit balance accounts signs?

4. Keep Learning

I routinely listen to webinars from a host of thought leaders within the mortgage industry and beyond. I have challenged myself since my college years to not only notice something new every day, but also to learn something new as often as I can. If you’ve never listened to Tony Robbins’ podcast on Raising Your Standards, what are you waiting for? I challenge you to write a learning list of books to read this year, things to accomplish, places to visit, new things to learn.

Once I got going, I just couldn’t stop. So, here’s 3 more bonus pieces if you’re a Loan Vision user or if you’re someone looking to become a Loan Vision user *wink wink*.

5. Utilizing Loan Vision Schemas

One of my earliest challenges was getting the hang of writing schemas. I wrote more faulty ones than good ones because, let’s face it, my degree is in Accounting, not IT. However, within six months, I could write a schema like a champ! As accountants, not all the dimensions and hierarchies and IT-ishness makes a lot of sense initially, but man, can schemas save time and effort! I challenge you to learn to write these little efficiency monsters, because pulling in 1,200 lines of appraisal invoices in a second is WAY easier than coding them by hand. Make sure that you are booking EVERYTHING loan related at a loan level. Keep asking vendors for Excel files of bills until someone figures out how to give it to you (a prior appraisal desk manager had no idea that the appraisal software could actually spit one out).

6. Learning How To Write Conditions in Loan Vision

I’m a big fan of straight through processing whenever possible, so setting up conditions within the Loan Import process for everything from branch margins on individual products to LOS per file fees is a no-brainer. Reducing the number of month-end adjustments will free you up for some other critical areas and having the process on autopilot also reduces the number of human fat finger errors. I would encourage you to have naming and numbering conventions that make sense to a wide audience, not just yourself. If you’re writing a branch margin condition for Branch 100, name it something like BR100 MGN not MARGIN3. I also use the rows for assistance – if I’m writing something for Branch 3000, I’ll start on row 3000 with their specific conditions. It makes future editing and additions much easier.

7. Run Some Loan Level Reports

Create some quick and dirty reports for upper management showing loan profitability. You will need to book everything at a loan level (ALL expenses including commission and revenues), but these are super inciteful and useful since you can run them in a number of different ways with filtering. I also liked to do some dimensional reports showing branch or LO production head-to-head, or by product.

Accounting and month-end are stressful, especially during our current market conditions. Work smarter, not harder, if possible. Efficiency starts with the KISS principle (Keep It Stupid Simple). I challenge all of you to learn as much as you can regarding the capabilities of Loan Vision. The Tips and Tricks and Refreshers are great sources of free information.

Tracey Jeffries

Senior Consultant
About the Author

As a Senior Consultant on the Support Team, Tracey Jeffreys is responsible for answering support tickets and helping out where needed. What Tracey loves most about Loan Vision is the team in general and the family-like atmosphere the office has. Tracey also loves the software itself for the powerful insights into a lender’s financial processes it gives. When Tracey is not at Loan Vision, she enjoys traveling, hiking, biking, and playing with her grandkids.

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