USA Mortgage president/CEO Doug Schukar and executive VP/COO Linda Pring

Ever since a certain Friday evening last October, St. Louis has been awash in sports analogies, so perhaps it felt like a home run when the team at USA Mortgage celebrated a significant milestone on Dec. 6. And if you asked a hockey fan, it was a hat trick, as well. “This is the third consecutive year we’ve hit the billion-dollar mark,” says Doug Schukar, USA Mortgage president and CEO. “There aren’t many privately owned firms in this industry—anywhere in the U.S.—that do a billion dollars in a single year.”

Schukar founded USA Mortgage in April 2001, after being recruited into the business in 1989 by industry veteran Linda Pring, who is now the company’s executive VP and COO. “She’s the single greatest mortgage mind on the planet!” he says. “Our growth has been fueled by the amazing team of professionals.” In fact, Schukar adds, managing the growth is his biggest challenge. “We have a waiting list of people who want to work here.” Describing the company as having an unusual dynamic, Schukar credits two factors for the consistent and rapid growth of USA Mortgage. “It’s our reputation and our culture. Every decision that comes out of this office is based on one of those two things. Fortunately, this model allows us to be very discriminating in our hiring, so we can choose the cream of the crop.” Retention rates are excellent, he adds. “Nobody ever wants to leave here!”

Weighing the services of the three main types of lenders—retail banks, mortgage brokers and mortgage banks—Schukar believes a mortgage bank has a definite advantage. “The key to this business is having control over the processing, underwriting, closing and funding of a loan,” he explains. “Often, the broker does not employ the loan processor, and brokers have no underwriters, so they have to send the loan to an investor—usually a big bank.” Having so many people involved can often cause difficulties. “Customers get very frustrated if they get to the closing, and the money’s been wired to the wrong place, or there’s no check, and the closing gets delayed.” A mortgage bank, Schukar explains, has complete control, because it employs everyone from the loan officer to the closer. “Most significant is the funding,” he says. “We approve our own loans and fund them with our own money.”

After more than 10 years of success in the St. Louis metropolitan area, as well as Springfield and Columbia, Mo., the company is now opening offices outside the state. “Looking toward the future, and recognizing how well our platform works, we’re leveraging our product knowledge, as well as our culture, and expanding even further,” Schukar says. “We’ve opened an office in Des Moines, Iowa, and very soon we’ll be in Atlanta.”

While the company expands into new markets, Schukar says the team is celebrating a new accomplishment. “Not only is this the third year that we’ll finish over the billion-dollar mark, but we are proud to announce that we are now the No. 1 mortgage lender in the St. Louis metropolitan area!”

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