Why Laura Bowles chose Movement Mortgage
Laura Bowles had worked in senior consumer lending jobs at three big U.S. banks before joining Movement Mortgage LLC, a fast-growing Charlotte-based lender, as chief financial officer earlier this year. Her father-in-law, Charlotte investment banker Erskine Bowles, urged Movement co-founder Casey Crawford to consider her for the job. At the time Laura Bowles was head of consumer and small-business lending products for New York-based Citigroup Inc.'s Citibank unit.
Lisa Davis, a contributing writer for Business NC, interviewed Laura Bowles for her article, “Catching a break” in the July issue. The following excerpts have been edited for brevity and clarity.
We met, and it gave me a chance to learn more about Movement Mortgage and what they did and what was unique about the company. And I talked a little about my experience with larger banks and some of the challenges that they face in the evolving regulatory environment and through some of the legacy issues from the financial crisis. We met periodically, talking about some of those things and got to know each other.
Toward the end of last year, beginning of this year, Casey was starting to feel that he needed to bring in someone with the expertise and somebody he was comfortable with to help drive the company to the next level and be able to realize the high level of growth the company has seen to date.
I lived in Charlotte and spent a lot of time in New York, that was really where all the people who worked for me were, it was where the bulk of what I needed to do was, so I spent a lot of time back and forth. I have a husband and small children, so the commute starts to wear on you.
The company has tremendous growth potential and prospects. I think the business model is unique relative to other independent mortgage companies given the very strong realtor relationships and the heavy purchase focus, and the high level of service that the company offers to its clients to its employees. It’s consistent in the culture throughout the company, so I think the business model is in an industry where I think companies struggle a little bit to differentiate themselves. That was very intriguing for me - that the prospects are tremendous because there is so much change in the industry. To have a differentiated model, to have realized such strong growth, is a tremendous opportunity.
A smaller company is able to be more nimble and that is something that I think is great. The larger companies have many more established processes, which can be a benefit at times and can also be a hindrance. I think given where we are in terms of the mortgage industry, to be able to be nimble is a huge advantage.
A lot of the things that are a challenge for more entrepreneurial organizations as they mature and become more established is being able to preserve the great culture that attracts a lot of people to it, while also developing a little bit more structure in process so that they can grow in a way that is efficient, particularly this highly regulated industry. So my goal is both to be able to continue the high level of growth while also developing more of the processes and efficiencies that you have with more established companies.
Biggest industry challenge
Since having been at the banks, I’ve really gotten to see how changing regulation has impacted the industry in such a big way. One thing that has been a benefit to Movement Mortgage is that the company was founded in the post-crisis environment where we’ve been fortunate to be able to build the business at the time the regulation was being formed, as opposed to having to retrofit the business to changing regulation, which for a large organization is very, very hard. It’s hard to move that fast, so I do think the continuously evolving nature of the regulation will be a challenge because it requires a lot of oversight and a lot of attention on the part of the leadership.