Fremont Investment and Loan: Confirming the capabilities of loan underwriters


It’s all about loans at Fremont Investment and Loan (FIL) in Brea, Calif. The financial services company underwrites residential loans through mortgage brokers in 45 states, and then sells them to investors. To attract investors, the company must underwrite those loans in ways that comply with Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) regulations and investors’ guidelines. Anyone who underwrites loans has to be carefully trained in how to do it right.

It’s so important to the health of FIL that many employees – such as underwriters, account executives, account managers and quality control auditors – have to pass tests in these procedures with a certain score. Some can’t get promoted unless they do so. So Questionmark plays a big part in making FIL successful.a

Compliance and Promotions

Donna Neelis is a data analyst in FIL’s learning and development department, which uses Questionmark to create assessments for required procedures in underwriting, fraud detection, regulatory management, and funding, among others.

Neelis says there are about 15 different assessments in various areas, and the stakes are high for many of them. Underwriters must pass an assessment in underwriting procedures, and must be retrained if they don’t. If they don’t pass the assessment the second time, their underwriting and conditions approval authority will be suspended.

The Underwriting, Account Manager Conditions, and Account Manager assessments are all part of the account manager training. Account managers must achieve a certain score on all three assessments in order to be promoted to Account Manager III or to Senior Account Manager. The assessments for promotions require more security, so they’re delivered via Questionmark Secure – which locks down computers and makes it impossible for test takers to access the Internet, print the test or use other software programs.

Trainers use Questionmark Coaching Report to tell trainees which areas they need to improve on to pass the assessment. They also use the Item Analysis Report to make sure the questions are performing properly, are not too difficult, and don’t have the wrong answer coded as correct.

Not Just Assessments

FIL also uses Questionmark for education and compliance tracking. Questionmark is integrated with learning management system (LMS) SumTotal, and Neelis’s department uses the LMS to push content to employees about policies, such as the company’s laptop security policy. Employees must read the document and then answer a question in Questionmark to confirm that they read it.

Eventually, Neelis says, evaluations are also going to be delivered via Questionmark so that employees can express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their job training or their learning paths.

When the company upgrades to SumTotal 7.2, Neelis says, Questionmark will be more integrated with it. Currently, anything developed in Questionmark is deployed via SumTotal, which tracks whether assessments have been taken, employees’ scores on those assessments, and other statistics. But those assessments can’t yet be a part of the learning itself. Neelis plans to make assessments and evaluations part of any learning in SumTotal. “We’ll use Questionmark even more once the upgrade is complete,” Neelis says.

Return on Investment

In an analysis of growth and performance by job, Neelis has found that as the number of employees trained went up, so did certain measures of FIL’s success, such as the number of residential real estate submissions, fundings and closings. That means growth and ultimately profit for FIL. Questionmark also helps FIL save costs by eliminating the need for travel to administer assessments.

“Eventually we’re going to re-certify everyone to bring up the quality of our underwriting even more,” Neelis says. “Questionmark helps us create an audit trail and prove that we’re meeting the guidelines and regulations that make our loans a good investment. We make more profit when we have confident investors.”