Mr. Cooper's Chief People and Communications Officer, Kelly Ann Doherty, on the Intersection of Culture, Communications, and People
1. To give some insight into Mr. Cooper for those who aren’t familiar with the company, let’s start by sharing your unique Purpose Statement. Please describe Mr. Cooper and explain how the company is different from its competitors.
At Mr. Cooper, we exist to keep the dream of home-ownership alive. We have 9,000+ team members supporting our more than 3 million customers. Our role in supporting those customers in their home ownership journey is to not only help them buy or refinance a home, but also service that loan through the life of the customer living in the home. We look at ourselves as advocates for our customers through their home-ownership journey. To do that, we’ve had to transform the way that we think about mortgage servicing across the entire industry. And, what I mean by that is putting a home, and not the loan, at the center of everything that we do.
Before we changed our name to Mr. Cooper we were known as Nationstar. The reactions to our name change ranged everywhere from that is the most amazing name to , I can’t believe that you’re being so bold to, I liked your old name better. But despite how important servicing a mortgage is, no one really knew who we were. We had to change that. One of the things that we learned in our decision to change our name was that customers identify their experience with an individual, so for us, Mr. Cooper was about creating that individual experience and connecting a person with another person to make that journey really incredible and memorable. Over time, people have seen and experienced how we’ve been able to take that name and purpose through everything that we do from the way that we train our people, to the types of letters that we send out to our customers, to our website, to our mobile app, and more. Once they see that, they really buy into the name Mr. Cooper and get why we felt like we needed to change everything about who we were down to the name.
When you think about the mortgage industry, the first things that come to mind are not ease of use, transparency, or friendliness – you are probably thinking about excessive paperwork, complicated terms, unfriendly processes, and really dry brands. A few years ago, before we changed our name to Mr. Cooper, we realized that there was a tremendous opportunity to shake things up within the mortgage space; to become the company that spoke to our customers in a straightforward and friendly way, and made the life of their home loan feel more meaningful. When you think about it, a home, for most people, is the most important financial asset that they have and to purchase a home is one of the most important decisions that they’ll make in their lifetime. So, why not make that journey as easy, simple, and awesome as possible? With that sense of purpose in mind, and with the idea of keeping the dream of homeownership alive for our customers, we had to make a huge transformation and start thinking about the journey in a more holistic way. To us, that’s what that the purpose of our company really means and that’s why we all show up to work every day – it’s to be that person who’s putting our customer’s home at the center and helping them navigate what has traditionally been a really complicated process.
2. Your core values are bold and unique. Can you tell us a story that best illustrates one of these values?
- We are Challengers of Convention
- We are Champions for our Customers
- We are Cheerleaders for our Team
Our core values are really simple and easy to understand but also tell the story of who we’re trying to be here at Mr. Cooper. When we made the change to these values in early 2016, they were quickly embraced and are now core to everything that we do, from the way that we recognize our team members, to the way that we handle performance management. I’ve never been in an organization that truly integrates their values into everything that they do from a people perspective like Mr. Cooper. Because of our total and complete embracing of those values, we’ve started to see behavioral changes in our people.
My favorite value, because it’s so clearly tied back to our purpose of keeping the dream of home-ownership alive, is Champions for our Customers, because we are that one person who can make or break a customer’s experience with their most important asset – their home. I found one story that I want to share because I think that it really captures the type of team member the embodies being a Champion for our Customer. It’s an e-mail from 2013 and it says: “Ashley, you worked on my mortgage modification about a year ago, with Nationstar (our old name). Obviously, I don’t expect you to remember it all but anyway, you were such a huge help. I was in a tight spot, as a lot of us all were, I had hit a lot of dead ends and when I finally got up to you as a manager of my account everything turned around. I am quite positive you were the turning point in my case. Since the modification, I haven’t missed a payment despite a divorce in the middle of all of this. And I have my home to live in with my two beautiful young children. So, I just wanted to say I will always think of you when I write my check each month and I always say I owe her an email one day. So, that day is today. Sometimes our jobs seem mundane and without purpose. I just wanted you to know you made a big difference in my life and that is pretty cool. Thank you so very much. I’ll never forget you.”
How powerful is that – that you can influence and impact somebody’s life in such a meaningful way by simply going the extra mile to help them out. And what I won’t share are the 10 emails after this one, all the way up to last year, when this same customer was continuing to reach out to the person that helped him to say thanks. So when I think about being Champions for our Customer this is what I think about because it really is life changing for the person that’s on the other end of the phone. To be able to make an impact like that every day you come to work is pretty powerful.
Challengers of Convention means that we’re going to challenge the status quo. Just being a part of this organization means that you’re willing to challenge status quo, but especially in an industry like ours where change is hard sometimes, we’re really looking for people who can take that as a challenge and look for different ways to make the whole experience better for our customers.
Cheerleaders for our Team: I love this one and I could tell you a thousand stories about cheerleaders for our team. Simply put, this is about supporting each other. As an organization, your ability to succeed is dependent on the strength of your people and there is strength in numbers. That’s why we focus on celebrating our team members day-in and day-out and encourage our team members to celebrate each other. Team work makes the dream work!
3. You are in a new role at Mr. Cooper. What opportunities do you see with the combination of Culture, People, and Communications?
This new role has been an absolutely amazing, incredible, and a truly humbling opportunity. I’m still pinching myself that I have the great fortune of being able to influence the company across culture, people, and communications. Communications is my craft; it’s my field, my passion, and something that I’ve been working on my entire career. The good news is that I believe communication is fundamental to a healthy culture and a healthy workplace. At the end of the day what really solves all of the world’s problems is good communication.
When I started thinking about this role and how I could use those skills to help our culture and people, I thought about it in terms of bringing the right people to the table so that they could communicate as they needed to, but I also thought about communications as a form of storytelling. One of the things that I discovered within my first couple of weeks was how many incredible things our Human Resources group had been doing to make life at Mr. Cooper really great for our team members. But what they didn’t have was somebody in communications guiding them to tell that story for our team members.
I’ve realized in any organization you can have pockets of greatness, but if those pockets of greatness aren’t coming together, then you’re not getting everything out of that organization. As the People organization, we have to think about the team member experience at every point along the journey, and ensure that all the teams who impact that journey are talking to each other. In both marketing and product design, I see that customer journey maps are a pretty standard practice. However, I don’t see a lot of that on the team member experience side, so creating one was one of the first things that I tackled. I want to know what our people are feeling from the moment that they hear about us to the day that they decide to pursue a different opportunity – and everything in between. So instead of simply focusing on policies and procedures, thinking about this journey is a flip of script that I think my unique skills across communications and culture are bringing to the table. That’s been one of the great joys so far: to see what that team member experience map looks like but also seeing the teams come together to brainstorm around it. It’s given us a lot to do, but it’s also given us a clear way to tell that team member story that not only celebrates the success of my team, but also celebrates all of our team members and gives them the best possible Mr. Cooper experience.
One of the most important things I’ve learned thus far is just how much work goes into making an organization tick from a people perspective. When I say I’ve been humbled, I mean I have been humbled. There is a lot of great talent, technical skills, financial savvy, and creativity that goes into being an awesome people organization. I’ve been so impressed and in awe of the team that makes that happen day-in and day-out. So, for all of you out there who may be reading this, please go to one of your HR or people organization professionals today and say “thank you,” because they put their heart and soul into this work and are truly passionate about it.
4. You added so much value as a participant in the Unstoppable Cultures Fellowship. What key learnings did you bring back from the Fellowship?
The Unstoppable Cultures Fellowship changed the trajectory of my career and I am not overstating that. I attended the event in November and then was given this incredible opportunity to lead Mr. Cooper’s people organization in February. I believe that the two happened in that moment in time for a reason. Without having attended The Fellowship, I don’t know that I would have the perspective I have today on what culture really needs. I was blown away by some of the fundamentals being shared and the opportunity to network with the people that were there, listening to what they had to say, how they were experiencing things and how they were encouraging their teams gave me a lot of ideas and a passion to come back and make real change.
Two of the things that stood out most to me in those sessions and conversations were 1) the value of storytelling and then, 2) the idea that you can actually start small to create big change. I took those two concepts back and thought about how we have great stories to tell, but what we really need is the ability to equip our team members with the opportunity and the flexibility to create more of those stories and connect with our customers in a deeper way. Every solution that we have thought of in the past was a solution that we felt had to work for all three million customers, and for all 9,000+ team members. And that’s a hard thing to do when you haven’t proven out a concept through a pilot. With that in mind, I took a step back, worked with the team, and we created what we’re calling the Memorable Moments Pilot; it’s about equipping a group of our home advisors, people that are on the phones helping our customers, with the ability to connect with our customers in a real way during big life moments.
We had a woman call one of our Home Advisors who was having trouble making her payment because her husband had just passed away and he had all of the information on how to pay the mortgage. That Home Advisor was really touched by that story and sent her flowers as a recognition of the loss that she just had. The response we got back from that customer and their daughter was really moving; the simple act of sending flowers really touched them. What I know for certain is that we’ve created customers for life in those two women because of that simple act. But more importantly, we’ve created a team member for life. I spent some time with the pilot group members last week and have heard that the chatter on the floor is that this is an incredible program; to be able to recognize a customer in that way is such an amazing gift. People are lining up to be a part of it. So, not only are we creating some amazing stories just naturally through our team members experience with our customers, but we’re creating momentum around an idea.
By starting small and creating momentum, my goal is to make this program so valuable, and so amazing, that the business has no other choice but to invest in our team members and our customer in that way. And I think I’m getting them there. That’s been one very tangible thing that I’ve taken away from the experience immediately that already made a huge impact on our business and our team.
5. What are the top behaviors that are non-negotiable in your Culture?
When I think about the behaviors that are non-negotiable for us, it comes back to our values. It’s being the person that’s willing to challenge convention, and to think of new and different ways to make the team member and customer experience better. One of the great examples of that is a project we’re calling Project Titan. We are looking at everything from the way we process paperwork on the back end, to the way that we offer our customers instant payoff quotes on the front end. Sometimes those small tasks, especially in a big industry like mortgage that’s highly regulated, can seem just automatic. What Project Titan is all about is taking those experiences, taking those processes, and thinking about it from the team member and the customer experience first. By doing that simple thing, you can make a lot of big change. Being a Challenger of Convention, thinking about new and better ways to get the process of homeownership done for our customers, is absolutely critical.
As Champions for our Customer, it’s about putting the customer at the center of everything that we’re doing. If we don’t have a great customer experience, then we’re not going to be successful as a business. And that’s regardless of what part of the journey a particular team member influences, whether they’re a lawyer or a person on the phone.
Being Cheerleaders for our Team is tied to the behaviors of supporting our team members and getting rid of the sometimes toxic behavior that can seep into organizations when they’re not thinking about teamwork first. To accomplish this and make big change, you have to do it as a team and pull in a lot of different people. By being a cheerleader for our team and celebrating our successes together, we’ve found that our teams simply work better together.
If I were to add one other thing to that list of three it would be resilience. When you think about the mortgage industry, you have to recognize the ups and downs that the industry will have. We are very dependent on interest rates and things like the mortgage crisis in 2008 have had a huge impact on our business over the past 10 years. When you are in a cyclical industry, like we are, you can expect the business to have to change as the overall industry changes. We are really proud of our ability to course-correct and meet the market, and as a result, meet our customers where they are and make the difference in their lives that we need to make at that moment in time. When it was in the middle of the housing crisis, it was to help our customers find solutions to either stay in their home or sell their home at a reasonable price. And today, it’s about helping our customers to find a better rate on their existing home loan or even to help them to pay off their mortgage completely. Whatever that need is for the customer at that moment in time, we want to be resilient enough to be able to meet that need successfully. I think that Mr. Cooper is one of the best in the space of being able to do that.
6. How does Mr. Cooper use symbolism to reinforce your culture?
One of the first things that our Chief Marketing Officer did when he joined the company was create our Artist in Residence program. That is not something that I initially connected to culture, but it has been an amazing program for us and something that our team members really identify with. The Artist in Residence program curates different pieces of art from various local artists, in different art mediums, connected by a common theme of what home means. When you go back to our purpose statement and think about existing to keep the dream of homeownership alive, we wanted that to be reflected on our walls. It’s not typical to walk into a mortgage companies’ office and see a graffiti wall, for example, but that’s the type of company we wanted to be. We wanted to change things, look at things differently, and symbolize our purpose through our art. I really love the artist in residence program; it’s been a really fun feature to add, but it’s also generated a lot of buzz around the office, and watching that evolve to more than 350 different pieces of art across our different buildings has been pretty cool.
The second piece to that is thinking about our Mr. Cooper offices as our team members’ work home. If we’re truly about existing to keep the dream of homeownership alive and home is at the center of everything that we do, we want to be able to give the comfort that home brings to our team members when they walk into our offices every day.
Another thing that we’ve used to reinforce our culture is our Showcase Program. In thinking about ourselves and how we could be cheerleaders for our team, we realized we needed to find a program that could recognize our team members efforts, especially as it pertains to how they’re living our values. So, we have a Showcase Program in which you can send team members Showcase Cards because you want to recognize somebody for being a Challenger of Convention, a Champion for Customers, a Cheerleader for our Team, or you even just want to acknowledge their birthday or work anniversary. We’ve used Showcase as that recognition tool and tied our values into that. It’s been a really popular program, so popular in fact that we’ve now used it to funnel everything to an annual award that we grant team members at the end of the year for our top showcase card winners.
The other program that I think has helped us to reinforce our culture, and that we’ve allowed to flourish in a lot of unique ways, is our diversity and inclusion program. We want our team members to represent our customer base and to create an environment, a home, for every walk of life. By creating the diversity and inclusion programs, and the resource teams within that, we’ve seen people blossom and feel like they have more of a voice.
About Kelly Ann
Kelly Ann serves as EVP and Chief People & Communications Officer for Mr. Cooper Group overseeing all facets of human resources and corporate communications. As the leader of their People organization, she also leads their culture initiatives to create a more encouraging and
empowering work environment.
Kelly Ann is a strategic leader, seasoned in navigating the landscape of the financial services industry. She joined Nationstar in 2016 as Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications where she led the corporate internal and external repositioning as the company rebranded from Nationstar to Mr. Cooper, while simultaneously managing the company’s public affairs narrative, employee communications and the merger with WMIH. Through varying leadership roles in the financial services sector, Kelly Ann has served as a crisis spokesperson, public affairs expert, communications innovator and executive counselor.
Previously, she served as Vice President of Corporate Communications at Elevate, a financial technology firm. She also served as a public relations and affairs consultant for four years and as a strategic communication staffer for a Presidential campaign and within President George W. Bush’s administration with a tour at the White House in Presidential Personnel and N.A.S.A. as a political appointee. Kelly Ann is also active in the community, serving on the Board of Directors for The Women’s Center of Tarrant County.
Kelly Ann holds a B.A. from George Washington University in International Media and Communications.
About Mr. Cooper
- Founded in 1994
- 3 million+ customers
- 8,000+ team members
- Top 20 mortgage lender
- Largest non-bank mortgage servicer
Together, we truly can build Unstoppable Cultures!