In honor of Black History Month, we reached out to several prominent black leaders in the mortgage industry to celebrate their success, learn from their experience, and gain insight into the challenges facing the mortgage industry today. Today we’re excited to share this interview with Kristy Fercho, Flagstar Bank Executive Vice President, President of Mortgage.
Kristy shares advice on how to achieve success when you stand out in a low-diversity environment, how to maintain passion by shifting perspective, and how her faith helps her persevere through adversity.
You’re the first black female president of a major mortgage company – which speaks volumes to your drive and incredible accomplishments. It also speaks to the lack of diversity in this industry. What advice can you give others looking to forge a path in similar situations?
I always viewed the lack of diversity as an opportunity. When you don’t look like everyone else, you stand out. I always took advantage of that by working hard, being a team player and elevating the work of the whole team. This got me recognized and presented opportunities for me to take on more responsibility. So, my first piece of advice is: “every challenge presents an opportunity – figure out how to seize it!”
My second piece of advice is to “find work you are passionate about.” I love what I do and have found that passion in your work makes all the difference. Passion fuels a belief and that belief fuels your behavior. Behavior fuels your actions, which in turn fuels your work. And we all know that your work is a megaphone to tell the world what you believe and what you are capable of doing.
Finally, I would advise people to “build strong mentor relationships and seek sponsors who can help guide their careers.” As the “only one,” it can be lonely. So forging mentor relationships really helps you feel connected to others and the organization. I have been so fortunate to have a number of amazing mentors and sponsors in my life and it has made all the difference in my career.
As an organization gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the inspiration. How do you keep this from happening and reinforce Flagstar’s principles and STAR values?
There’s no question that’s a challenge. That’s also why I believe having passion in your work is so important. I am so passionate about what we do. When I first took over at Flagstar, the leadership team and I created our mission statement of “crafting financial success one home at a time.”
I tell my team all the time that we have the unbelievable privilege of helping people achieve the American Dream. It is a gift to have that level of giving back to others tied into our daily work. I wanted to make sure we didn’t forget that, so I translated our yearly production goal into families. So instead of achieving our goal of funding $33.1 billion in 2019, we say we helped 114,924 families have a place to call home!
This is why we come to work and that provides inspiration every day for our employees to realize they are not only having an impact on the business but more importantly impacting the lives of others.
Who are your role models or mentors and what lessons have you learned from them?
I am blessed that my two most important role models have been my parents. My father was a track coach who instilled in us the notion of being excellent and always pushing to do our best work. So even when I didn’t think something was possible, my dad would say, “I am going to hold the space until you believe.” And an amazing thing always happened: I was able to achieve it! That unwavering belief in what could be achieved led me to develop a mindset that nothing is impossible! My mom taught me perseverance, tenacity and never accepting no for an answer. These traits have served me well not only in my career but in life.
As a leader, when you go through a challenging time or situation, how do you get yourself back on track?
The first thing I do is pray. My faith is a significant part of who I am, so I incorporate it into everything I do. Prayer allows me to set my intention and turn it over to God for more wisdom and guidance than I could muster on my own.
Second, I try to get up on the balcony. Ron Heiftz introduced a concept called the Balcony and Dance. Often when we are struggling with a situation, it’s because we are in the middle of the dance and unable to have the right perspective. Getting up on the balcony allows you to see the entire situation – the entire dance floor and what is going on holistically. Whenever I do this, the path forward becomes clearer.
Finally, I put the plan in place and keep moving forward. Psalm 23 says, “Yea, though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death…” The persistence and tenacity to walk through the challenging time or situation often reveals a better outcome than I expected.
Anything else we should know about Kristy Fercho?
I am someone who is positive, energetic and has a thirst for life. I wake up every day believing I have been given a gift and try to be my best self and live my best life. I am inspired by giving back to others and making the world a better place.
The opinions and insights expressed in this Q&A are solely those of its interviewee, Kristy Fercho, and do not necessarily represent the views of either Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation or any of its parent, affiliates, or subsidiaries (collectively, “MGIC”). Neither MGIC nor any of its officers, directors, employees or agents makes any representations or warranties of any kind regarding the soundness, reliability, accuracy or completeness of any opinion, insight, recommendation, data, or other information contained in this blog, or its suitability for any intended purpose.