The Underwriter

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“Let me run this by an underwriter.”

Innocuous on the surface, this statement was met with obvious concern on Kamilla’s part. Her face blanched visibly as if the blood suddenly drained. Ted turned to her and looked straight into her eyes. He put his hands on top of her fists clenched in her lap and tried to transfer to his wife the mortgage man’s reassurance and positive outlook.

“Oh, don’t worry. It’ll be fine,” the loan officer said as he stood and made a swinging-at-a-fly motion with one hand, uttered a hissing noise that sounded like “pshaw” which was meant to lighten the mood and convey a generally avuncular warmth and body language so personable he was instantly trusted to succeed in this worthy task. “Don’t worry,” he winked. “I’m on your side. I am.”

As he walked away, their apprehensive eyes followed.

To change the subject, Ted said, “Get a load of that suit. That’s an expensive Italian job. I was pricing them just the other day, hon. That’s way out of my league.”

Kamilla watched the mortgage man cross the room with their application and personal information in hand. He stood for a moment beside a desk where a clerk looked up quizzically as the folder was flopped down and opened in front of him. She held her breath as together they perused the documents. Kamilla’s fingers tightened around Ted’s.

Success was written on the loan officer’s face as he returned. “Told you it would fly. He signed off on it with one small proviso. It will cost another quarter point, that’s all though. Works out to two thousand two hundred. But we can tack that on to the principle so you won’t even notice. How’s that sound?”

Kamilla looked at Ted, then together they turned their heads toward him. “You mean we got it?” she asked incredulously. She heard Ted exhale when they received a confirming nod.

“Well all righty, then. Just sign here, here and here. These are your copies. And it’s a pleasure doing business with you.”

Ted was formal in his handshake hoping his strong grip conveyed the gratitude he had for the loan officer. “Thank you so very much.”

Kamilla held out her hand, but lurched forward in a sudden impulse and wrapped her arms around the man in a huge hug.

Together, arm in arm, the couple exited the bank with happy smiles.

Less than one minute after the door closed behind them, the underwriter approached. “What was that all about, Ben?” he asked when the loan officer took notice of him.

“Comfort talk. I needed to get the deal bumped up so I told them I’d talk to underwriting.”

“Underwriting?” There was surprise and disbelief in the young man’s response. “I don’t know the first thing about underwriting. I deliver mail. You come up to me when I’m sorting letters on the only clean desk I could find and throw this folder in front of me and wave your arms and mutter and I had no idea what in the world you were doing.”

“Calm down Donnie. Yah, well, I know it looked kinda like I was talking to air, and in a way I was. Just making a show of getting approval of a loan for that couple, that’s all.”

Donnie was aghast. “You mean to tell me you were faking it for them? And I was involved in the ruse? You told them I was an underwriter?”

Ben was noticeably put off by Donnie’s accusatory attitude. “Well, no, not exactly. I didn’t tell them you were anything. I simply said I’d talk to underwriting and looked around and there you were.” He waved his hand in a go-away gesture, picked up a pile of papers and tapped them on the desk to make them all align.

Donnie did not budge. “Why in the world would you do that?”

There was an audible sigh before Ben said, “The commish, kid, the commish. Now go away, I got work to do,” and this time he gave a strongly dismissive wave of his arm.

An hour later in the break room, Donnie approached Ben sipping coffee. He sat at the table and waited until the man looked up from the newspaper he was reading. “Yes? What’s doin’?”

Without preamble, Donnie said, “You earn a commission on the loans you make? I thought you were a salaried employee like me. How’s that possible?”

“Trade secret,” Ben replied with a conspiratorial wink. “We get a bonus for a bump.”


“Kick. A boost. More than the face amount of the loan. Points, POC or fees. We get a piece of the action when we kick ’em upstairs.”

“Who? Kick who upstairs?”

“Not who. What.”

“What then? What do you kick upstairs?”

“The price of the loan, dummy.”

Donnie did not appear to take offense at the remark. He said “Sounds like cheating.”

“Like hell it does. It’s business, it’s commerce, it’s the American way.”

Donnie went straight to the heart of the matter. “So you earn extra cash by making more expensive loans?”

Benjamin put the paper aside, took a sip of coffee and appeared to make a decision. “You really don’t know anything, do you?”

“Not about banking,” Donnie was defensive but not testy. “I’d like to learn, though.”

Ben made the suggestion Donnie had been hoping to hear. “How about becoming an underwriter, then?”

“Don’t I need some sort of license to do that kind of work?”

Benjamin leaned forward as if to let his co-worker in on a secret. The expensive suit had its desired effect as Donnie moved forward across the table to receive the divine wisdom. “Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. You need nothing more than the desire to think and grow rich. Some motivational speaker said that once. It stuck. Think and grow rich.”

Donnie was suitably impressed by this knowledge. “Well, my MBA has an emphasis in finance.”

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