Five Questions With: Kevin Roche

A veteran of the mortgage-banking industry, Kevin Roche started his career at Home Loan Investment Bank in 1996 as a loan representative and loan officer trainee. He was promoted to loan officer in 1997. After becoming a top producer for six years, he earned the position of executive loan officer. From 2003-2009, he served as sales manager and director of recruiting and sales training, managing up to 15 loan originators, maintaining deals and assisting with loan processing.

In 2009, Roche joined Citizens Bank as a premier home loan adviser and officer, receiving the industry’s “five-star mortgage professional” award. In 2014, he joined BankNewport, where he was responsible for originating mortgages and business development in Newport and Coventry. Then, in June 2016, he rejoined Home Loan Investment Bank, serving in his current position as vice president, residential mortgage origination.

He is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island. He lives in East Providence with his family and is active in the town’s youth sports.

PBN: As you see it, what makes for a good mortgage loan officer?

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ROCHE: When hiring, I look for loan officers who are entrepreneurial, self-motivated professionals who not only market themselves but also promote the bank as an ambassador in the community. The best ones are passionate, deeply knowledgeable of loan product and always keep the customers’ best interests in mind when laying out a plan for a home purchase.

PBN: From your experience, what was the collapse of housing markets like a few years ago, and has it changed the mortgage business today?

ROCHE: The housing crisis was the fallout of the perfect storm of a booming economy, loose credit, light regulation and a lack of financial responsibility from all participants. Today, we have much greater emphasis on consumer protection – banks are accountable to the customer and have a responsibility to protect them from making poor financial decisions. The role of a mortgage bank has evolved into more of a financial consultant than a salesperson.

PBN: What is the bank’s expansion plan for the Braintree, Mass., area and why focus there?

ROCHE: Home Loan is well-established in Rhode Island, with seven mortgage loan centers in the state and one north of Boston in Methuen, Mass. In Braintree, we found an excellent opportunity to onboard a team of seasoned mortgage professionals who already have a good market presence.

By establishing an office in Braintree, we are connecting our Rhode Island and Methuen territories and expanding our brand presence south and west of Boston. We still see tremendous growth opportunity in Rhode Island and we are in constant pursuit of the best mortgage professionals to join our team.

PBN: From a regulatory or interest rate perspective, what do you think the home-mortgage industry needs or doesn’t need?

ROCHE: Interest rates are unpredictable. For example, the [Federal Reserve’s] recent increases of short-term borrowing rates have had less of an impact on mortgage rates than most expected. The mortgage industry will adapt, as it always has, to future rate movements, but ultimately the market will decide what the price of homes and cost of mortgages will be.

As a result of the reforms enacted after the mortgage crisis, the current lending environment is strong – balancing safety with credit availability. Many vital loan programs were maintained, particularly those for first-time homebuyers and veterans, thus making home ownership a possibility with little to no down payment. The industry is in a good place right now, so I see little need for change at this time.

PBN: Are you concerned about housing price bubbles in certain New England markets?

ROCHE: For the most part, housing prices in New England are staying in line with salary increases. The majority of homes being purchased are going through the conventional loan process that has a very high lending standard.

Home prices will always rise and fall, as will interest rates, and these fluctuations are unavoidable. However, when lenders perform due diligence with buyers up front, they can have confidence in the loans being funded.

The bigger challenge I see is that first-time homebuyers are having a tougher time transitioning out of the rental market because there’s a shortage of homes listed for sale in Rhode Island and neighboring New England states.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@pbn.com.