“We grew up with very little,” begins Tess Leighton, “and paying the bills was an ever-present worry in our household.” Her family often struggled with financial uncertainty, but she remembers her grandfather’s guiding words: “Work hard, earn respect, and never get complacent.” This stuck with Tess and served as her compass in life, prompting her to seek work early. Her first job was as a telemarketer at a mortgage company when she was 16 years old, and she quickly moved up the ladder to become a loan officer (no licenses were needed at that time, Tess explains). “I did everything I could to learn all aspects of the business,” she says. “I learned from everyone possible and befriended those who seemed to have the most success and knowledge. Throughout my career, I’ve always focused on working harder and longer than the person next to me so that I could eventually lead and help others find their own success.”
Today, Tess is a Market Leader for MOVEMENT MORTGAGE, a community-driven mortgage lending company that started in 2008. Movement Mortgage’s presence in New England was non-existent until 2015, when Tess joined and helped the company build and grow its foundation in the region. “Since our inception in Rhode Island, we have experienced tremendous market growth leading to become the number one purchase lender in the state for three consecutive years,” she says. Tess’s hard work and dedication is key to this accomplishment – she has been the top market leader in New England for the last six years, a Movement Mortgage Changemaker for three, and nominated in 2021 as a Woman of Influence with HousingWire.
In her current role with Movement Mortgage, Tess oversees the development and growth of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts markets, including their expanding team, which Tess describes as full of talented, dedicated individuals. But her favorite part of the job is helping people become everything they dream to be, from identifying roadblocks to expanding on their ideas and casting their own visions. She enjoys empowering those who have not always had the right opportunities, and helping them not only meet but exceed their goals.
“A huge part of our mission at Movement Mortgage is to give back to the communities in which we serve, which has been extremely successful locally and nationwide,” says Tess, referring to the company’s year-round philanthropic efforts, which involve volunteering and raising money for local organizations. Movement Mortgage also encourages employees to get involved with charities that mean the most to them, and even matches their giving through their Movement Foundation. Over the years, Tess has helped build Hope Centers and churches across El Salvador and raise money for multiple charities in conjunction with Movement Mortgage, Movement Foundation, and the KM Foundation. “I am proud to be part of a company that’s mission is to love and value others.”
When it comes to sharing the wisdom of all she has learned succeeding over the years in a male-dominated industry, Tess says, “Never say to yourself ‘It’s not my job.’ It’s so important not to have that attitude with your leaders, peers, employees, etc. but even more so with yourself. If you’re always willing to roll up your sleeves and do anything that needs to be done, from janitorial work to leading a company, you’ll likely be looked at as someone that will do anything for the growth of the team around you,” she explains.
Looking ahead to this year, Tess is most excited for Movement Mortgage’s continued growth in market share for Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as well as the establishment of their Newport office (206B Bellevue Avenue) and new flagship in Providence (72 Pine Street) to accommodate their ever-growing team.
72 Pine Street, Providence • 401-524-0392
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