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Inside the mind of a top producer--Keith Coolahan.

KEITH COOLAHAN, SENIOR LOAN OFFICER WITH CITIZENS BANK, is a resort home specialist serving the Jersey Shore as well as his client's primary home needs in the greater Philadelphia area. As the third-oldest of nine children, he was raised in a household built on hard work, dedication and eternal optimism.

He puts his heart and soul into his work, and the core values instilled at a young age are reflected by his 2013 production of more than $83 million.

He also has an impressive track record at Citizens Bank as a member of the Circle of Excellence since 2010 and a member of The Presidents Club for the past four years. He also has been named the top purchase producer at Citizens Bank since 2010 and the No. 1 producing loan officer at Citizens for the past two years. With such a strong history of success, Coolahan is on track for another banner year in 2014.

He became a loan officer in 1982 and after a few years left the industry for pharmaceutical sales--but returned to what he loved best (originating) in 1998. He shared with me why this hiatus turned out to be a blessing for his current business. He also offered his best advice for loan officers today.

The first facet of Coolahan's advice focused on a fierce commitment to the business that he stressed by saying, "You can't be half-in." The mortgage industry requires a 24/7 mentality, and he practices that commitment by getting out in the field four to five days a week.

This time commitment keeps him busy but ensures that he achieves the production goals he sets every year. Once he meets with his clients or referral partners, he honors the process by getting the loan done quickly and efficiently every single time. "If I can't get it done, then it can't be done," he says.

Because of his investment in his clients, they in turn give him their trust. "Once people understand that your focus is for them and their benefit, then they become invested in you," he says.

He urges other loan officers to undertake the same all-engrossing commitment to their borrowers but admits it can be challenging. "So many loan officers give up right on the cusp of greatness," he says.

Coolahan's unwavering devotion to the business wouldn't be possible without support from Linda, his wife of 30 years; his three children; and his staff, he says. He employs two assistants-- one focused on operations and guiding the loan from start to finish and the other assisting with title insurance, approvals, customer interfacing and prequalifications.

Coolahan takes the pre-application before passing it along to his team, saying, "I go through all the nuts and bolts because I want to understand the entire deal." After reviewing the application, he sets the timeline and expectations for customers and walks them through the entire process. He stresses the importance of letting his assistants do their jobs while he remains available for his customer.

"If you don't have some level of help, then you won't be able to scale your business in the way that you want it to," he says.

After so many years in the business, his devotion doesn't waver. He spoke about the danger of getting too comfortable in your business, explaining, "Sometimes people have a good month, then they take their foot off the pedal. Forty to 60 days later, they're production is back in the tank again." Serious players have their foot on the pedal 365 days a year, he says.

His next piece of advice is for loan officers to have a passion for the relationships and people that help fuel your success. His main sources of business stem from a core group of Realtors[R] with whom he has worked for several years as well as financial planners, CPAs and attorneys.

Each year his network continues to grow by three to five key referral sources. He maintains these relationships by making people his first priority. "The hardest part of marketing, I believe, has nothing to do with mailers, fliers, emails and things like that. I think it's the grit in developing relationships and relationshipbuilding," he says. Coolahan's customer service philosophy not only applies to his clients and referral partners but also the processors, underwriters, managers and every person who touches the deal.

People should be the first priority, and a genuine investment in the people he works with is a huge part of his continued success.

Finally, he spoke to me about the importance of professional competency in a complex business. He believes in not only being absolutely available to his client but being competent in his field to the highest degree. According to Coolahan, this is a necessity in today's market. "There are so many moving parts, you have to have competent eyes on the deals as they go through the process," he says.

Price objections will always happen, and you can overcome them by offering the highest-quality loan application and expertise possible. Coolahan challenges loan officers today to constantly maintain their knowledge of their field--and if they aren't managing to keep up, to ask themselves why.

A lot of his sage knowledge was gained during his time as a pharmaceutical salesman. Time in another industry proved invaluable because, as Coolahan says, "I don't think the mortgage industry as a whole spends a tremendous amount of time training people."

As a pharmaceutical rep he was given a strong platform in selling skills and management that has served him well throughout his career. One key skill that crossed over to his work as a loan officer was the ability to get past the gatekeeper and connect with the decision maker in an office.

He also has taken advantage of several other mortgage-industry-specific training

opportunities since returning as a loan officer. His last bit of advice is to urge other loan officers to seek ongoing training in their business--this is "absolutely necessary," he says.

Coolahan is someone who seems born for what he does, but even after so many years in the industry his disciplined and consistent business practices are ultimately what keep his business flourishing. When asked what motivates him, he answered it was his incredible family, the relationships he has forged with business partners and the families of his clients.

"We have an obligation, and this sounds kind of corny, but people that are buying houses ... they're building memories for their families."

This column only covers a fraction of our discussion. To hear my entire interview with Keith Coolahan, go to and join our free Member Resource Center.

Casey Cunningham is the chief executive officer and founder of Alpharetta, Georgia-based XINNIX, The Mortgage Academy, a provider of leadership development and mortgage sales training with comprehensive programs designed to enhance productivity, manager effectiveness and overall company profitability. She can be reached at
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Title Annotation:THE RIGHT STUFF; dialogue with loan officer
Comment:Inside the mind of a top producer--Keith Coolahan.(THE RIGHT STUFF)(dialogue with loan officer)
Author:Cunningham, Casey
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Article Type:Interview
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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