The viral ad agency Harmon Brothers has been hired to create a campaign featuring the company’s “mortgage genie” showcasing the lender’s simplified loan process.

In a bid to convey the investment that it’s made in technology since launching in 2012, ConsumerDirect Mortgage is rebranding as Real Genius — with the help of an ad campaign featuring a “mortgage genie” showcasing the company’s simplified loan process.

Jamie Thornton

“Over the last decade, we have invested a significant amount of time and resources into developing technology for customers to make solid mortgage decisions while offering extremely competitive rates,” Real Genius founder Jamie Thornton said in a statement.

“With this rebrand, we wanted a name that spoke to our ability to provide immense value to customers by leveraging technology to reduce turn time and pass along savings, and Real Genius was a great fit,” Thornton added. “We’re the mortgage experts, but our customers are the geniuses.”

Thornton, director of online mortgage lending for Real Genius, founded ConsumerDirect Mortgage in 2012 and sold the company to Nashville, Tennessee-based FirstBank a year later.

FirstBank operates 82 branches in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia. Real Genius, a national mortgage lender with offices across the Southeast, has provided more than $15 billion in mortgages to upwards of 51,000 families, the companies said.

Chris Holmes

“The transition to Real Genius is an opportunity for us to be innovative in the mortgage space,” said FirstBank president and CEO Chris Holmes, in a statement. “With a team of highly experienced mortgage professionals, leading customer tools, and a dedication to transparency and savings for our customers, Real Genius provides a best-in-class online lending solution for a new generation of borrowers that still has a personal feel.”

To help spread the word, Real Genius hired a Provo, Utah-based video ad agency, Harmon Brothers, to create an ad campaign that it hopes will go viral. Harmon Brothers claims its past ads for clients including Squatty Potty, Lumē, Chatbooks and Purple, have generated more than 1.5 billion views.

In its most recent quarterly report to investors, FirstBank said it generated $136.2 million in income from mortgage banking during the first nine months of 2021, down 28.2 percent from the same period in 2020, as loan production and gain on sales margin both dropped.

During that period, FirstBank’s retail channel saw 9 percent annual growth in mortgage loan production, to $2.7 billion. But that wasn’t enough to offset a 31 percent drop in rate lock commitments made through the consumer direct channel, to $2.95 billion.

Refinancing accounted for 78 percent of rate locks during the first nine months of 2020, but just 64 percent during the same period of 2021, the company said. With less profitable purchase loans accounting for a greater proportion of the bank’s mortgage business in 2021, gain on sales margin also slipped — from 3.46 percent during the first nine months of 2020, to 3.06 percent in 2021.

“The decrease in gain on sales margin is a result of capacity in the industry and compressing margins,” FirstBank disclosed in its quarterly report. “The industry benefited greatly from declining interest rates in 2020, causing a sharp increase in interest rate lock commitment volume. It is anticipated that sales will slow in the last quarter of 2021 with seasonal decline in activity as housing inventory remains low in many of our markets.”

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Email Matt Carter

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