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G uild Mortgage is among the nation’s top 10 indepen- dent mortgage lenders. Sixty years ago an enterprising man named Martin Gleich founded Guild Home Builders, and later, Guild Mortgage. He gained prominence in San Diego and created a legacy as a visionary businessman and gener- ous philanthropist. In 2019, the Morgan Hill branch of Guild Mortgage earned the distinction of being numéro uno in South County. Loan Officers Jayson Stebbins and Janene Towner-Chernoff share management responsibilities for the Morgan Hill branch and together they are the driving force behind its growth and com- munity involvement. For Jayson and Janene, those two things go hand in hand. One day last winter, as Jayson headed into an all-hands meeting, he wondered why there was so much commotion. Then he noticed a few unexpected guests. Something was up. “I had no idea the Chamber of Commerce had chosen us as Large Business of the Year until they showed up on our doorstep. What a huge honor. It was good to have our entire team there. They are the reason we received this recognition. “Janene and I love this town. When we chose Morgan Hill as home base for a new Guild branch office, one of first things we did was to join the Chamber and look at ways to get involved in the community.” According to Janene, “Jayson grew up here and his dad was a local business owner for a long time. I raised my kids here. We wanted to have a presence in our own back yard.” When a lender has a local focus, the cus- tomer wins. Guild leverages this as a competi- tive advantage. “We’re not proponents of the “push button, get mortgage” concept,” Jayson explained. “People may want the speed, access, and promises of an app-based mortgage environ- ment and we have the technology to provide that: but they lose the benefit of sound advice about the nuances of home financing. It helps to have face-to-face conversations with people who understand the local market when mak- ing significant decisions about buying or sell- ing.” Looking ahead, Jayson and Janene say affordability will continue to be the big chal- lenge for first-time home buyers and families outgrowing their current homes. “If we want to be profitable and contribute to a strong local economy we’ve got to attract good customers and help them settle and stay here rather than watching them move out of state,” Janene said. “We’ve always been a preferred lender for state programs,” Jayson added. “It’s one of our specialties. There are quite a few county and state programs that benefit buyers and we’re approved through those programs.” When it comes to recruiting talent for their branch, Janene said, “We’ll take new hires and train them, even with no background. We’ve grown some great loan originators that way.” Do they feel a special obligation or sense of responsibility as one of Morgan Hill’s large businesses? According to Jayson, “We’re excit- ed to BE in the large business category. We take our presence here seriously and encour- age our team to be engaged in the community. Some have gone through Leadership Morgan Hill, or joined Rotary, or served as Chamber board members or ambassadors. We often find ourselves working and enjoying activities side by side with our clients. “About ten years ago we got involved with the Community Solutions Holiday Giving Program. Since then we’ve adopted an aver- age of three to five families each year. Giving back is instilled in our branch culture and our corporate office pays our staff for 16 hours of volunteering every year. They often match our donations to nonprofits.” According to Janene, “Jayson and I are both Rotarians (Jayson in Gilroy, Janene in Morgan Hill), which keeps us in touch with local needs, from diaper drives to bike dona- tions to serving as an event emcee. Anything that focuses on helping women and children touches our hearts. “When you create an environment and opportunities for volunteerism, employees who have a heart for it just naturally get involved. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SPRING 2020 “We all lead busy lives and don’t always know about all the good work being done in our midst. We want people to know that Guild isn’t just a sign they drive by, but a part- ner whose employees embrace local nonprofits and the needs of our community.” 43