Many people consider owning a home a fundamental part of the American dream, and for Ricky Torres, witnessing his family achieve homeownership changed the trajectory of his life.
“As someone who experienced financial adversity at an early age, I learned that owning a home has the potential to generate wealth and opportunity,” he says. “I witnessed my single and determined mother benefit from homeownership, which helped provide the essentials for herself and her son. I believe each of us has a defining moment and for me it was several years of facing financial adversity and discovering the value of real estate at a young age. Since then, I’ve had a passion for the real estate industry.”
Torres took his passion and made it his career, and today is the Vice President of Real Estate Lending for Logix Federal Credit Union. “Mortgages and refinancing have the power to touch people’s lives. Whether it’s purchasing a first home or refinancing to consolidate debt, this industry can offer our members a road to financial freedom,” he says.
Here, he shares what he loves about Logix Federal Credit Union’s company culture, the keys to his success, and advice for those who want to work in financial services.
Tell us about your career journey, and what led you to your job at Logix Federal Credit Union.
My first job in financial services was as a loan originator when I was 19 years old. Throughout my career I’ve held numerous roles in sales and management that put me on my career path. I gained great experiences working for mid-sized and large financial institutions, but I always felt like something was missing. It turns out that the unique culture I found at Logix was the missing element. I was excited to blend my experience with a unique service-centric culture that I discovered at Logix.
What attracted you to work at Logix Federal Credit Union?
The culture! Logix is a people-centered organization with service at its core. The company as a whole is invested in helping our members and employees thrive. The first time I applied for a role at Logix, I was unsuccessful. However, the hiring executive personally called me during a major holiday week to explain that they’d decided to fill the position with a promotion from within the company. She suggested that I remain in touch because she felt that I was an ideal candidate for an upcoming role. Logix’s commitment to promote from within resonated with me as a candidate along with the professionalism exhibited by the entire staff. Around five months later, another opportunity arose, and I’ve been with Logix ever since!
What are you responsible for as the VP of Real Estate Lending?
I’m responsible for all aspects of origination and administration of the credit union’s real estate loan portfolio. These responsibilities include underwriting, processing, servicing, regulatory compliance, and quality control. I’m continuously strategizing to implement improvements to our loan products, processes, staff expertise, loan quality, and service for our internal and external customers.
What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?
We’re in the process of implementing a new Loan Origination System (LOS), which will enhance our competitive advantages and elevate our exquisite member service experience. This core system is allowing us to evolve our business model, create efficiency gains, and support growing volume. It’s creating a foundation of integrations for other opportunities, and that’s really exciting!
I’m also excited about the footprint that we’re making within our regional lending space. We’re showing that we can compete amongst the predominant national lenders. Our commitment to loan growth has ranked Logix 11th amongst mortgage lenders in LA County.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced since you’ve been at Logix Federal Credit Union? How did you overcome it?
One of my biggest challenge’s has been finding talent to support our existing and growing volume. We’ve overcome this challenge by creating roles for candidates with limited to no mortgage experience. We’ve also been able to mitigate capacity concerns by creating career opportunities within our department resulting in the promotion of two-thirds of our current staff.
Another challenge has been the rapidly evolving digital mortgage landscape and emerging fintech companies that are creating a revolution in our market. This is a factor and driving force behind our new LOS system. Technology coupled with our competitive advantages (white-glove service, products, pricing, employees who embody our one-of-a-kind culture) has positioned us to compete with the “Ivy League” of lenders. Enhancing and evolving our digital mortgage footprint will allow us to broaden our market share.
You’ve moved up the ranks since joining the company in 2015. What have been the keys to your success at Logix Federal Credit Union?
As I previously mentioned, Logix is committed to promoting from within. During the five years I’ve been with Logix, I’ve been promoted three times. I credit this upward mobility to a few aspects. One is my aspiration to learn and challenge myself, which has always been a driving force for progress in my career. To succeed as a leader it's critical to remain relevant and never complacent. Status quo is never an option.
Secondly, employee morale is the key to my success. I ensure that morale, trust, and building relationships with my teams are all fundamental elements to executing vision and strategy. As a leader, your success is defined through your employees. I strive to create an environment of inclusivity, sharing ideas, and implementing and executing those ideas. It’s a simple formula: support, challenge, and encourage each other—and flourish together.
In addition, building relationships beyond my immediate organization has been crucial to my success. You have to be able to navigate different personalities in all aspects of a business to be successful.
Finally, sometimes it’s just grit that allows you to plow through the adversities of our current environment and our sensitive market. It’s easy to fall into a trap of doubt and insecurities during challenging times, but I always view those defining moments as opportunities.
How does Logix Federal Credit Union encourage learning and growth?
I’ve worked for organizations that supported employee higher education, but few supported the work-life/school integration that’s essential when working full-time.
During the hiring process, I discovered that Logix offers one of the most competitive education reimbursements programs available from a financial institution. One of the reasons I chose to join the team at Logix was because my plan had always been to pursue higher education. Since then I’ve been actively working towards a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and also plan to pursue a master’s degree.
At Logix, pursuing higher education is not only supported, but encouraged.
What do you like best about the company culture at Logix Federal Credit Union?
Logix has a culture of accountability with checks and balances. The company has a candid forum to offer anonymous feedback and suggest ideas. There have been significant changes and improvements implemented as the result of this direct feedback. We also have an open-door policy, which is a humbling and powerful resource. From my experience, not many organizations truly use data and employee feedback to improve and evolve, but Logix models this responsiveness each and every day.
Despite Logix being a mid-sized company with approximately 750 employees, we’re still able to maintain an employee-centered approach and bond as a team. When members of our staff have major milestones like weddings, births, or family illness, we celebrate or grieve together. Recently a team member lost a loved one to COVID-19, and everyone—including our CEO and executive team—took a sincere personal interest from the beginning. We’re like a family, and I take pride in that.
What advice do you have for those looking to earn a promotion within their company?
First, I would recommend that you have conversations with your leaders so you can understand the skills you need to refine and the areas in which you can continue to contribute. These conversations will help you understand what steps and planning you need to take for your career aspirations.
Second, ask for opportunities to develop. This may include leading a project, mentoring, or taking initiative to challenge a process. It’s also important to understand your industry trends so that you can strategize and suggest fresh ideas, ultimately influencing change within your organization.
Lastly, when an opportunity arises, and you are truly committed to growing and challenging yourself, go for it!
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
A mentor once explained to me that growth opportunities are supposed to make us feel uncomfortable. Moving beyond your comfort zone leads to growth, new opportunities, and progress. Don’t be afraid of the unknown.
I’ve followed that advice in my own career. Whenever I begin feeling comfortable in a role, it means that I’m not challenging myself. I believe my success at Logix has been attributed to constantly pursuing new challenges and opportunities to learn and grow.
I also find that it’s important and beneficial to surround yourself with individuals who inspire and motivate you to do and be more. It’s also critical to have a strong personal support system. Fortunately, I have a spouse that has created a strong foundation at home that allows me to progress and focus on my career.