American Equity Mortgage, a St. Louis-based company, has grown to 28 branches in 22 different markets. Founded in 1992, it’s now one of the leading mortgage lenders in the nation. “It wasn’t as if we had some master expansion plan,” says president and CEO Deanna Daughhetee. “Our success has resulted from the desire to help people get to a better place financially. We’ve done this first and foremost by focusing on our customers: understanding what they want to accomplish and helping them do it. Only then did we decide to bring our services to other markets.”
AEM specializes in helping its customers save money through mortgage refinancing, debt-consolidation and home purchase loans, Daughhetee explains. “Every customer is different, so we’ve built a team of experienced home-loan experts who partner with customers to help them determine their individual needs and goals,” she says. “The loan experts in each of our locations understand the unique conditions that affect those homeowners and buyers. Because our loan officers live and work in the cities where we operate, we know the communities firsthand and understand the market opportunities.”
Daughhetee is one of the few female CEOs in the mortgage industry. A CPA with a master’s degree in business administration, she has been named Businesswoman of the Year by the National Association of Female Executives, and St. Louis Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young. “I always knew I wanted to build an organization of excellence, and I think my experience as a CPA has been a factor in AEM’s success,” she says. “I have a solid financial background and understand the nuts and bolts of how to run a business. I have a real passion for what we do, and I believe in contributing to the communities we serve.”
In 2005, she created the American Equity Mortgage Charitable Foundation. Over the years, AEM has partnered with selected nonprofits, including Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Stray Rescue of St. Louis, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and Ronald McDonald House Charities, in a range of community outreach efforts. “Our employees feel so strongly about helping others that 98 of them personally contribute to and participate in our corporate giving program,” Daughhetee says. “Whether it’s making a donation or volunteering, we understand the importance of investing in our community.”
Dan Harbaugh, president of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Metro St. Louis, can attest to that. “AEM and its employees have been an outstanding friend and supporter of Ronald McDonald House for more than 13 years,” he says. “They’ve been a valued partner at every juncture: participating in special events, cooking meals at the houses for guest families, holding in-office fundraisers, and providing financial support for our houses and hospital-based family rooms. We are honored to be chosen as recipients of their time and talents.”
Daughhetee is currently positioning the company for future growth. “We’ve always paid close attention to what’s going on in different markets and throughout the industry—that’s what has enabled us to keep going when other companies failed,” she says. “Now we’re focusing on new markets. The opportunity is out there—and so is the need for responsible financial assistance.”
American Equity Mortgage, a St. Louis-based company, has 28 branches in 22 markets nationwide. The American Equity Mortgage Charitable Foundation gives back to the community by partnering with a number of nonprofits, including Ronald McDonald House Charities. AEM’s headquarters are at 11933 Westline Industrial Drive. For more information, call 878-9999 or visit www.americanequity.com.
Cover design by Erica Fisher | Photo by Jason Mueller