Launched in 1998 by consultant Aaron Wilson, the training firm is cashing in on the national demand for continuing education programs. Revenue topped $5 million last year, a significant jump from the $200,000 the company collected the first year it offered classes.
Financial Strategies found its focus in 2000, when the state began requiring loan officers in Indiana to take continuing education classes-even though there weren’t any classes here for them to take.
Wilson jumped on the opportunity.
“In one week, I had written a basic training program and offered it to the state,” he said. Classes began as soon as it was approved.
And Indiana wasn’t the only state promoting professional education. Wilson quickly learned there was-and is-an ever-growing demand for such programs. So he decided to concentrate on developing them.
Wilson said his initial idea was to focus on traditional educational programs, with a trainer leading a classroom full of students.
“We prefer live training; it’s been a really big hit,” Wilson said. But he soon realized that many loan officers didn’t have the time to take conventional courses.
The obvious solution was to develop online programs. So in 2001, Financial Strategies bought a small software company, Netbility, which develops online training programs to help lenders meet their states’ requirements.
That’s more involved than just posting material on the Internet and testing participants on the content. Since states generally require students to spend a certain number of hours in a traditional or virtual classroom, the online courses track how long students spend logged onto the course.
The company’s rapid growth in the last five years has presented its biggest challenge, Wilson said. He and the seven other trainers are on the road constantly, going from seminar to seminar across the country. To keep up with demand, Financial Strategies is in the process of hiring five more trainers.
Finding qualified employees hasn’t been difficult so far, he said. And Financial Strategies doesn’t just look for technical know-how-trainers also must be able to make the material engaging, often using humor to bring the classes to life.
That’s important, Wilson said, because “most people would rather slam their hand in a car door” than take continuing education classes.
Financial Strategies already has earned itself a national reputation.
Online lender Quicken Loans Inc. of Livonia, Mich., has been using its courses for two years. Senior Compliance Specialist Karen Fox said the company has done a good job providing educational programs tailored to the requirements of each state-an important detail for Quicken, which does business in them all.
“They’re very proactive and keep on top of things,” she said.
Rich Hall, president of Indianapolisbased Ace Mortgage Funding, agrees, crediting the fact that the trainers are former loan officers themselves.
“The classes are great,” he said.
Wilson, 37, was born in San Diego but grew up in Indianapolis. After serving in the U.S. Army, he joined Household Finance as a salesman in Indianapolis. He started his own mortgage brokerage firm in 1992, and then turned it into a mortgage lender in 1995. He sold it in 1998 and started Financial Strategies.
CEO Aaron Wilson teaches a class for mortgage brokers at Financial Strategies Mortgage Inc.’s Carmel facility.