Newsmaker Spotlight: LaMarcus Thurman on a Journey From Finance to Real Estate, and Helping Communities Who Need It

LaMarcus Thurman, vice president of community lending at Howard Hanna and co-founder of company division United Purpose Mortgage, makes an impact as both a professional and an activist. A member of numerous non-profit boards, Thurman’s efforts at expanding homeownership earned him his first RISMedia Newsmakers award in 2024 as a Crusader.

For the latest entry in our Newsmaker Spotlight series, RISMedia sat down with Thurman to talk about how he, a banking sector veteran, shifted into real estate, his collaborations at Howard Hanna and how he continues to help fulfill more homeownership dreams in his adopted community of Pittsburgh. 

Devin Meenan: Can you talk about how it felt to get Newsmakers recognition, particularly being placed in the Crusader category? 

LaMarcus Thurman: It’s an honor to receive that award. What it means to me is really just solidifying all the work that we’re doing in the communities we’re serving—it’s a great accomplishment. I’m looking forward to spending some time this September, seeing all the ins and outs of the awards program, and exploring others who are impacting this industry, as well. 

DM: Can you share the story of how you first launched United Purpose? 

LT: My background is, I’m 20 years plus in the banking industry. My last role was as a CRA Officer Community Investment Act. So for the bank, I focused on three pillars: investment needs, volunteer opportunity and monetary instruments, that we can use to help in some of the underserved communities. I have a passion to help people, and I got tapped on the shoulder about this opportunity under Howard Hanna Mortgage Services to lead their community lending division. It was a natural fit for me because of their commitment to the communities that I already worked with, and the chance to make a difference and leave a legacy to say, “Hey, homeownership is possible here under the Howard Hanna umbrella.”

We’re supporting not only the loan officers and roughly 15,000 agents underneath the Howard Hanna umbrella, but we’re also supporting the agents that are doing good work in underserved communities. 

DM: What are some specific programs or anecdotes of how the company has been able to help underserved communities?

LT: One pillar that I always like, because this sets us apart from anyone in the industry, it’s our free consultation. If you want to learn more about the industry and what steps to take on that homeownership journey, most of the time professionals will say…let’s pull your credit and then let’s talk. Typically, if the consumers’ credit is not where it should be based on their guidelines, they may or may not have a conversation. 

You have the ability to go on our website to schedule a 30-minute consultation with anyone on our team without pulling any credit. It’s a live website where it plugs right into our calendar, gives a date and time, and sends them a link for a Zoom call.

We want to hear what their pain points are, some of the struggles they’ve been facing or sometimes, they simply want to know what we offer. They have 30 minutes of undivided attention to educate themselves a little bit more so that they can be empowered to take the right steps. I haven’t really seen in the industry where someone has that capability unless they pull credit or take an application. 

DM: How does your nonprofit work relate to and intersect with your work with United Purpose?

LT: I’m currently on six boards. I started the boardsmanship in my banking career about 15 years ago. I’m originally from Louisiana, but I’ve been in Pittsburgh for a very long time, so this was a way for me to give back. How that impacted my current role, whether that was in the banking institution or currently with Howard Hanna, is it was a commitment for me to say I’ve been around, this is doing my part to make sure that I give back. NAB opened a local chapter here in Pittsburgh, and I serve as the treasurer for that organization, to really help the black and brown communities in the mortgage industry. It’s a dotted line to my passion and my heart for giving back to the community.

DM: How is Howard Hanna unique compared to other companies you’ve worked at before?

LT: First of all, it’s a family-owned business. Most organizations I worked with were corporate, so as you can imagine, in a corporate channel, there’s a lot of red tape. Here, things get done quicker, decisions are made faster, and the entrepreneur side of the Howard Hanna family is very prevalent. They’re willing to try anything that makes sense. You can’t really do that in a corporate world unless it’s how it impacts the bottom line. So their entrepreneurial spirit has been really strong, and that’s what helped birth what we’re doing now. 

Keep in mind that this is a division, I want to make sure that’s clear. When you look at other independent mortgage bankers in this space, they might have loan officers who focus on this, but they don’t have an actual division. That alone showcases the entrepreneurial spirit and power that Howard Hanna is willing to take to make sure they help everyone.

DM: REALTORS®, loan officers, everyone in the industry are pretty concerned about high mortgage rates. As someone who works in the field, what would your advice be to people who are feeling concerned?

LT: I’ll be honest, when you look at the rates today, they’re pretty much the same as before the pandemic. I think a lot of people are hoping and wishing it’ll go back to the threes again, but I always tell my team, if we go back to three, there’s a bigger impact in society that’s happening that caused that. So, if you find your dream home, why wait? I would say just move forward because, at the end of the day, you don’t know if the house is going to be on the market now or in two, three or six months. If you have the means, the ability and you can afford it, pull the trigger today because if you don’t, someone else is going to seize that opportunity. The market we’re serving is all about affordability. Not just to get in the house, but to stay in the house. 

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