Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The feeling is mutual...

Late yesterday afternoon one of the loan consultants here in the office gathered everyone into the conference room. We only meet as a group for our weekly office meeting, and seeing as our manger was still on vacation in Hawaii, this was extremely out of the ordinary and quite perplexing. I thought there was something silly or funny going on out on the street. When I got to the conference room and saw most of the office was already in there, I knew it was nothing funny but still had no idea what was going on. Not a clue. Now I'm just worried that something terrible has happened to our manager or someone else in the office or the LFC had blown up...something awful but what I wasn't expecting what I was about to hear...

"Washington Mutual is shutting down all Home Loan Centers across the country."


Apparently our manager got notificaiton he had a conference call at 3pm on Monday. He was in the airport in Hawaii waiting to return home from his vacation with his family. He had no idea what was about to happen. After his conference call broke the news, he called a guy in our office so he could gather everyone together and let us all know asap. Whoa. We all knew the bank wanted to really focus their efforts on the BLC program (a BLC is a Bank Loan Consultant and they want to have one BLC in every branch) but no one expected the company to get rid of the Home Loan Centers, at least not the offices in established markets, like the Northwest. I mean, we're the freaking top producing HLC in the entire company for 2008. WTH!?!!

We did just get something like $7 billion from some TPG company. Some parntership was formed to where they now own a portion of the company and have a seat on our board of directors or something. An effort to offset our losses I guess. Suspicion around here is that the deal included a laundry list of demands in order for them to give WaMu the money, of which may have included getting rid of all the HLCs. Its all speculation but the timing of it, coupled with the company suddenly closing every home loan center in the country has to make you wonder...

Oddly enough, I was looking to move on from WaMu and if I could get some sort of early severance package worked out I was going to try and make April my last month. Turns out just about everyone in the office has been getting calls from other companies trying to lure them away. What they don't realize is the LCs here are only still with WaMu because of each other...not because WaMu is so great. They all thought this was the place where they could succeed and flourish and do great things but it turns out they were wrong...either that or the company is just so far from where it used to be that its not even really WaMu anymore...its some shell of its former self. Idk. I'm done with WaMu anyway so if they're done with me too, then everyone's happy.

The following day, yesterday, Tuesday, our manager was back in the office and gathered everyone together again to talk about what's next. He expressed his feelings about the whole thing, and how he felt moving the office as one cohesive unit was going generate more options than everyone seeking out new offices on their own. He also shared how he had come to realize that he didn't like working for WaMu so much as he liked the people he worked with. Apparently WaMu does this amazing job of fooling people into thinking its a great place to work, but once the initial glitz wears off you realize that its not so fantastic after all...but hopefully you've met some great people along the way who make the job worthwhile.

So now we're all looking for new jobs. Feverishly. People have already interviewed with other lenders. Those phone calls they got last month are now being returned in hopes the offers still stand. For me though, I don't think I'm going to follow the group, or even my two LCs. Lending is not for me. It was fun while it lasted, and the people in the office really are a special group. Sitting in the meeting on Tuesday, and listening to all the chatter about what is wanted from a new company (benefits, compensation, marketing support, office location, perks, etc), I fully understood just how unique of an office this is. People are laughing, and joking. Playing off each other. Referring to people I've never met but who they used to know "back in the day." Being serious about wanting to move as a unit. Missing those who were on vacation, or out of the office. It was really something amazing to behold. That's the kind of place I want to work. Doesn't matter who I'm working for, or even what I do, so long as I enjoy the people I work with. It makes all the difference. It makes up for a stressful drive into work, or an irritable customer, or a botched deal or even a crappy lunch. I want that.

And speaking of where to go next...I'm out covering the front desk and have taken about six calls from other lenders in the last hour. I'm not kidding. They're all calling to talk to my manager about taking the group. Why wouldn't they? They produce big numbers, all get along and would be more willing to bust their ass for a new company if that company allowed them to keep their office unity they all hold so dear. I also had three calls at the same time. All three lines. And the lady on the first line wouldn't stop talking so I could transfer her. One of those calls was a lender calling for my manager too. The phones are ringing again, but not from people wanting loans...instead its the loan companies looking for people.

Knowing what I know about the people in the office, I'm not worried about any of them finding work. They're all experienced, and the few who aren't as experienced will be looked out for by the group. Its just how they are. I hope they are able to move together though, at least those who wish to do so. I was talking to one of my favorite LCs in the office the day, and she was saying how she's now been here, with the HLC, for eight years. This is home. Her parents just recently sold her childhood house and she recently moved or something...and she never spent more than four years at any one school, so the HLC was really like home for her. So to have to suddenly up and leave is going to be so much more difficult than just finding a new job...it'll be finding a new home.

I was just recently reflecting on the fact that I was going to be with the company for two years in May and how proud I was of that. Considering I started as a teller after I moved to Seattle without having a job, and almost leaving after a few months, the fact that its now almost two years is pretty cool. I think so anyway...then again WaMu has pretty much volunteered to be placed in my little black book of evil things (no such book actually exists) by the way they've handled most anything as of late. Oh well. Guess that next chapter of my life starts sooner than I thought...

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