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Geared for the Future

TULSA, Okla., May 26, 2020 – Scott Gesell has been an integral part of Gateway First Bank’s leadership since 2013. During his time at Gateway, he played a leading role in the merger of a 100-year-old community bank with a 20-year-old mortgage company to become Gateway First Bank. Last year, the company achieved the best production year in history, funding over $7.7 billion in mortgages. Now, as the CEO, Gesell is poised to lead the company through the COVID-19 pandemic that is impacting customers, employees, and the industry in ways unforeseen. 

Prior to stepping into the CEO role, Gesell has served as the Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel of Gateway First Bank, where his management responsibilities included legal, corporate governance, human resources, communications, compliance, internal audit, licensing, vendor management, facilities, and insurance. Prior to joining Gateway in 2013, Gesell’s senior roles include Colorado National Bancorp, American Residential Communities, Affordable Residential Communities (now Hilltop Holdings, Inc.), First National Bank, First Gibraltar Bank, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. 

Gesell recently spoke to MReport on Gateway’s merger, what that means for its future and growth, and current trends in the housing market. 

M // What are some of the challenges within the mortgage and housing industry that you’re looking to tackle in the near future? 

GESELL // In reflecting over the past month, I am amazed at how the Gateway team has stepped up to the plate in the face of adversity. In just four business days, we moved most of our 1,300 team members to work remotely. This was smooth and successful thanks to the leadership of our IT team, managers, and the flexibility and understanding of all our team members. We still have a limited number of employees working in the bank branches, but the lobbies are closed, except by appointment for things that cannot be handled through the drive-through windows. Likewise, our corporate and mortgage production offices are operated with reduced on-site staffing. 

We have seen so many terrific examples of a strong work ethic and teamwork during this time. Even with the challenges of working remotely during a time of record-breaking volume, the team continues to hit deadlines and ensure our customers receive outstanding customer service. 

It is a fascinating time. While the stock market bounces all over the place, interest rates are still very low. It still makes great sense to refinance and lower your monthly payments when possible. Depending on personal circumstances, the low interest rates can make homeownership an even more affordable proposition. Customers who were not thinking about refinancing are now looking into the possibility as a way to increase their savings in light of the economic uncertainty. We also have customers who are looking for different investment options such as CDs and high-interest savings accounts. 

Unfortunately, we have customers who are being furloughed and laid off finding themselves in difficult financial circumstances. We are working with those customers to help them decide if forbearance is a good option. At the end of their forbearance period, we will have options for payment deferral, loan modification, and repayment plans. Even if the pandemic curve flattens in the next few weeks, it will be several months or longer before we see a return to financial normalcy for many of our customers. 

M // What technological advancements will lead the way this year? 

GESELL // Upgrading our technology platforms has been and continues to be a priority. We’ve been focused on getting the Blend platform in place, and that’s been a terrific point of sales tool for us. We signed a contract with Black Knight to convert to the Empower platform, and that process is well underway with implementation expected in Q2 2021. 

While we were already focused on upgrading our technology platforms, I think we can all agree that the demand to expand technology has exploded in the past few months. We were already working on eClosing but have fast-tracked that process in light of all the communities now under shelter-in-place orders. We are continually looking for ways to use our technology to help bridge the limitations imposed in the current business environment with the needs of our customers and communities. 

For the industry overall, it is increasingly important to offer a streamlined customer experience, especially during the current pandemic. Digital originations with eClosings are critical to channeling customers from the internet to our originators in the field. Implementing technology to monitor analytics is also necessary as big data is going to be very important in determining how lenders uncover opportunities to better serve their customers. 

Lastly, we are investing in expanding our online digital banking experience and mobile app development. 

M // What are your thoughts on the current state of the housing market? 

GESELL // Inventory and housing prices have been a challenge in many markets around the country. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is the additional issue of borrowers not being able to pay their mortgage due to unemployment. We are hoping this will be a temporary issue since companies are making the switch to working remotely. We are also praying people will be able to get back to work sooner rather than later. While the pandemic has had a positive impact on interest rates, its impact on the home sales market is something that remains to be seen and will impact the mortgage lending activities for new home purchases as well as new home construction activities. We continue to monitor these closely. 

In the next few years, I think we’ll begin to see more of the baby boomers retiring and downsizing their homes. We already have quite a bit of that going on, but I think that trend’s going to accelerate. It’s going to provide more housing stock for the younger generations. The pace of that transformation is really important to allow the younger generations to get into housing. 

The original article was published by MReport and can be found here.

About Gateway First Bank 

Gateway First Bank is a leading financial institution that provides banking and mortgage services for consumers and commercial customers. Headquartered in Jenks, Oklahoma, Gateway is a $1.9 billion asset sized bank with a strong mortgage operation.  Gateway is one of the largest banking and mortgage operations in the United States with six bank branches in Oklahoma, over 160 mortgage centers in 42 states, and almost 1,600 employees.  Learn more at Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender (NMLS 7233)

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