With 100 years in existence, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) has seen America through some of its most difficult periods. The MBA has been representing and serving the entire real estate finance industry, championing the causes of those involved in the industry as a whole, while also lobbying to better serve and educate the public on the complexities of the housing finance industry.
In 1914, when the MBA began operation, President Woodrow Wilson oversaw an America beginning to see its role on the world stage. As the U.S. began to take shape, the MBA and our nation as a whole went though a number of trials and periods of growth, decline, joy and sorrow. These were times of great nationalist pride and times of political outrage. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand would set the stage for what would become World War I. The legendary Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox. The Cape Cod Canal opened, thus turning Cape Cod into the island we know it as today.
With war engulfing Europe, the New York Stock Exchange closed down, mirroring the various European exchanges. As a distraction from the intensity of war, the Yale Bowl opens, with the first game played being Harvard against Ivy League counterpart Yale. Harvard won, decidedly, 36-0. Henry Ford announced the sale of nearly 250,000 automobiles, which would spur his decision to invest in the first moving assembly line, allowing automobiles to be mass-produced to meet the high consumer demands of a growing U.S. auto industry.
The MBA formed in May of 1914, as the Farm Mortgage Bankers Association of America. Forty-five charter member companies, most emanating from the Midwest, converged upon New York and established a foundation to promote the welfare and influence of those dealing with farm mortgage loans. The association’s original constitution and bylaws specifically excluded brokers and dealers of city mortgages. Later in 1914, the organization held its first annual convention in Chicago, as membership grew to 67 total organizations, and Fred W. Thompson, the president of The Merchants Loan & Trust Company in Chicago, was elected the first-ever association president.
Despite its storied past, it’s important to look at the current state of the MBA, while acknowledging a number of influential factors and milestones that played in the growth of what the MBA represents today. One hundred years later, the MBA is still going strong, representing 3,000 companies that employ 350,000-plus of our nation’s workforce, the association represents underwriters, originators, servicers, compliance personnel and technology specialists, and those in the residential, multi-family and commercial spheres.
Now led by David H. Stevens, the MBA maintains a strong presence in the lobbying arena by ensuring the needs of the housing market are addressed congressionally and beyond, upholding the legacy of the association when it was founded in 1914. From the MBA’s official Web site:
“The strength of our large and diverse membership gives us unique access to those who make industry-impacting decisions. We are the most trusted and credible source of insight and analysis that lead the agenda for economic policy and legislative factors impacting real estate finance.”
Through a series of interviews with former MBA presidents, staff members and current officials, we were able to get a behind the curtain look at the inner workings of the MBA. Over the course of our time chatting about the association, we gained first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to testify before Congress, enact programs and legislation, and tackle a crisis head-on. The driving force behind the MBA is a concept that focuses on doing good, while also working to provide that American dream of homeownership to all.
John Robbins: The Industry Vet
John Robbins, who served as president of the MBA from 2006-2007, saw the impending housing crisis on the horizon. Having been in the mortgage finance industry since the 1970s, Robbins knows and understands the ins and outs of an economic crisis. He sees mortgage brokers as “America’s gatekeeper,” and sees brokers as the best source for consumers. By placing brokers in such high-standing, Robbins was keen to discuss the three percent rule and what he’d like to see happen in the immediate future.
“They [mortgage brokers] have a host of different lenders to deal with and bring the best deal to the table for the consumer,” Robbins said. “I think we can solve this three point rule. They’re a growing segment. I’d like to see them flourish.”
With his vast experience, Robbins put the 1970s economic climate into perspective with the current economic climate.
“In the 42 years I’ve been in mortgage banking, a tremendous amount has changed. Economic cycles come and go. Rates rise and fall … that hasn’t changed, but mortgage banking and real estate have always been tied to the economy. Without a healthy real estate market, you cannot have a healthy economy.”
“Fundamentally, the industry has changed dramatically more over the past four years than any other time in history,” Robbins said. “Loan officers weren’t licensed back in the late 70s, and there was far less regulation in place. Fannie Mae and the FHA, at that point, were the industry overseers in the mortgage banking world. There was no Consumer Finance Protection Bureau [CFPB] or the host of laws on the books today. There was some state-to-state oversight, but not much.”
“In the 1990s, new products and programs were sought and new ways were found to accommodate buyers and help them realize the American dream,” Robbins said. “The overregulation and compliance problems of today are denying thousands of potential homeowners access to the American dream. Some lenders encouraged disparate lending, most specifically, the United States government. Minority-Americans are being denied the right to realize the American dream. The ability to create personal wealth for themselves and that’s the result of the regulatory oversight of an industry that’s gone beyond what is practical or realistic.”
“Fundamentally, the industry has changed dramatically more over the past four years than any other time in history.”—John Robbins, Past Chair, Mortgage Bankers Association
It isn’t all doom and gloom for the American dream. Not to Robbins, anyway. “The mortgage broker is really the American homebuyer’s best advocate,” Robbins said. “The nature of capitalism is the greatest innovator in the world. If we look back at history, it’s built the most powerful economic system in the world. All of our industry is dependent on it. I think the regulatory regime we’re looking at today stifles that. How are we supposed to create programs to benefit the consumer when we’re afraid to make a loan? I think the MBA’s future is bright. I think there’s a renewed vigor in the industry and a renewed respect for the MBA in general. I think, through the evolution of the past couple years, under David Stevens, has created a new respect from the White House, all through Congress. Without question, they’re the most powerful voice for the real estate consumer in Washington. It’s important to make sure that they always represent the entirety of the industry and not in favor of only the large mortgage bankers. It’s important to operate with respect to the small broker, as well.”
David Kittle, The Architect
From 2008-2009, David Kittle, another industry vet, took command of the MBA. Before his term came to a close in October of 2009, Kittle testified before Congress a total of 14 times. At a time when the industry was facing intense scrutiny, Kittle’s political mettle was tested in the 365 days he served as chairman.
“I never set out, in my career, to go into mortgage banking. My goal was to be a professional baseball player, that’s where I thought I was going,” Kittle said, talking about his college years in Kentucky, playing second base. “After an injury, I had to give it up so I moved into the mortgage banking industry.”
A second baseman is typically known for having quick hands and feet, otherwise, hot plays on the field can’t be made. Kittle, in his time with the MBA, fielded nothing but hot plays while the industry seemingly fell apart around him. Kittle seemed to be the right guy for the job.
“My personality is not to run out and want to be the president of anything,” Kittle said. “At the MBA, you do good work, participate and give back, that’s the stuff that leads to one leading the MBA.”
As mentioned previously, Robbins, who served before Kittle, monitored the changing tides of the mortgage industry. Kittle, however; had to face the crisis head-on. “At that particular time, we were going through building our new headquarters, which got caught in the downturn, as well. We were trying to get a grasp on the fraud and security issues, as well as the lack of quality underwriting issues that had overtaken the industry. There’s enough blame to go around. We testified both for and against the brokers at times. It was a time where there was a ton of shots being taken at us and our members, especially by Congress.”
“Licensed and educated brokers are the key to the future of the industry, as a whole.”—David Kittle, Past Chair, Mortgage Bankers Association
“The MBA does a great job at preparing you to speak before Congress. There’s a tremendous amount of training. None of the testimonies I made at the time were minor, but at the time, following Kieran Quinn’s term, much to his credit, he saw that most of the issues were residential. I was in the chairman’s seat for almost two years, since Quinn kept me around and kept me testifying,” Kittle said. “Every chairman at the MBA has his or her particular set of issues and Fannie and Freddie were mine. My goal, at the time, was to defend the industry.”
In the years since Kittle has left office, he feels that the issues faced during his term were adequately dealt with by subsequent MBA chairs.
“There’s always something new. The way the current administration is attacking housing policy, it’s a shame, they’ve done nothing to help homeowners. Cramdown is back,” Kittle said. “There’s no vibrant securities market. Everyone’s afraid to lose money. As we try to wind down and/or get rid of the GSEs, we’ll need HUD. I stated in my last testimony as chairman, alongside Dave Stevens, I said then that the FHA is our next bailout. That’s because of the unlicensed brokers who continued to do sub-prime loans through the FHA.”
“The issues continue to be there. We’re living the pain of Dodd-Frank today,” Kittle said. “Does anyone know where Chris Dodd is today? He’s the president of the Motion Picture Association of America. Dave Stevens is doing a fabulous job at the MBA. He really rose to the occasion. He’s the perfect guy for the job, in dealing with the issues posed by Dodd-Frank.”
Talking more about the training that Kittle referenced during our chat, I was curious how one deals with not taking attacks while testifying personally. “You do,” Kittle said. “I think each person is different. The fact that, at times, I took it very personally. You can’t be something that you’re not, so my responses on Capitol Hill on cramdown was to fire back on them. I got the hit and run from Schumer, and there were practically no Republicans there that day. As long as you have your facts straight, you’re okay. The MBA does an incredible job of providing the facts before testifying.”
“I was always prepared for what was thrown at me,” Kittle said. “Most of the time, because it’s a broad brush, they don’t know the details of what they’re asking about, and often, they don’t understand the answer, but we’re always well-prepared to testify.”
Kittle highlighted the notion of legislation and more affecting the mortgage broker’s abilities to operate. “We don’t mind legislation, that’s not the issue, but it needs to be accurate and provide regulation that supports the broker and the industry as a whole, while defining whatever issue there is in the industry,” Kittle said. “By not providing well-defined legislature, that leads to more problematic oversight.”
“I think, on certain things, we’re being listened to in terms of capital requirements. The CFPB does unchecked reports to the Treasury, who reports to the President,” Kittle said. “They can pretty much do whatever they want. The cost of people having to be hired, the overhead due to regulation, is unbelievable. There’s also state-wide compliance issues. It’s remarkable how people even go into this industry, there’s far little reward, but with such high costs to remain in compliance.”
“Rates are always going to go up,” Kittle said, referring to how the American people are paying for capital requirements issues. “The future of mortgage banking sees a more vibrant chain of origination. There’s more strict compliance, sure, but there are companies who can pursue and cover fraud when it comes to loans. Licensed and educated brokers are the key to the future of the industry, as a whole.”
Kittle would love to see community banks step up even more than they already have. Taking care of the customer is the most important aspect of homeownership, according to Kittle. “The MBA, right now, has never been more needed in the history of its existence. The MBA has continued to grow in terms of advocacy,” Kittle said. “The MBA protects who it advocates for. People listen to us. We’ve got access to the administration. We have access to congressmen and more. If you want an association that’s going to cover your fanny on everything, it’s the MBA.”
Amy Swaney: An Alliance of Action
The Mortgage Action Alliance (MAA) is a voluntary, non-partisan and free lobbying network of real estate finance industry professionals. Affiliated with the MBA, the MAA is dedicated to providing those who join with available outreach at the state and federal level. Amy Swaney, who started in the mortgage industry at the age of 19, is chair of the MAA. She’s also a bubbly, charming and fascinating individual who prides herself on the importance of family after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. The MBA couldn’t have a better representative for a grassroots effort than Swaney.
“The need for the MBA to stimulate growth within the origination community is so important. Sometimes people look at the MBA as these stuffy bankers or as a corporate entity and that’s the furthest thing from the truth,” Swaney said.
A product of the Future Leaders Program, as well as the MBA’s leadership scholarship program, Swaney not only speaks to MBA programs, but also to what it is to be a leader with the association. “The scholarship program was the most influential change I’ve ever had in my career,” Swaney said. “What it does is take an individual in the industry with experience and trains that person to recognize other aspects of the industry, as well. There’s an application process, of course, and you have to be selected. This year, for example, there’s only 35 in the class, nation-wide. It’s a program that spans the entire year and focuses on policy and advocacy.”
“Everything the MBA offers is taught to the class. David Stevens comes in, affairs people come in, they give a background of politics, why it’s important, etc.,” Swaney said. “It was this amazing experience in learning how politics really works. The background of how to build a politician, they really get to the full experience of what the MBA does. It really gets into what the PACs are, why one attends an event, what are the committees for, what things are being worked on, how to prepare, things like that. Tons of leadership preparation for both your mortgage career and your association with the MBA.”
Swaney speaks passionately about her association with the MBA. Considered an industry expert, she’s often approached by various news and media outlets to discuss issues related to the industry as well as the MBA itself. “The year, Kittle was the MORPAC chair is the year they asked me to work on the stateside level, on the MAA,” Swaney said.
“There’s a huge push to get independent groups involved. The MBA is embracing those groups.”—Amy Swaney, Chair, Mortgage Action Alliance
“When I came back from the Future Leaders Program, I wanted to bring some of the knowledge from the MBA back to the state level,” Swaney said. “I got very active, state-wide once I got back home to Arizona, where I became president of the Arizona Lenders Association. Not long after, I was approached to start working with the MAA because the MBA could see that they needed a grassroots program where they could almost get down to a street-level view on issues throughout states. We needed people within the states to help on a national level and we just didn’t have the database for outreach.”
Swaney talked about the Mortgage Action Alliance taking on a much larger position within the MBA, as well as at the grassroots level. “The mortgage banking business shift has come within the industry,” Swaney said. “The people need a place to feel at home, so the mortgage banking industry and the MBA have really taken on the concept that they’re not only about the big banks or not only in line with the big banks. Independent mortgage bankers are becoming such a huge part of the industry, so, there’s a lot of focus on that. It’s the moms and pops that are employing the masses because they aren’t depository. There’s a huge push to get independent groups involved. The MBA is embracing those groups. Within that, the MAA is just another way to reach those individuals and provide free access to make their voice heard.”
“All we ask is that when we call on our members, whether it’s a state or nationwide level issue is that you respond quickly,” Swaney said, regarding the MAA. “And so far, we’ve been successful with that. It’s difficult to shake people out of apathy, but we’ve been making strides with the MAA. We know what it takes to make things happen.”
Swaney talked about using the concept of non-partisan politics to get people off the sidelines. “I like to illustrate my passion to those who might not be involved in an effort to awaken that passion in them,” Swaney said. “I want people to get so involved that they want to go out and make change happen. That’s where my passion is. I want to help make our industry something to be proud of again.”
E.J. Burke: The Chair-Elect
E.J. Burke brings a different perspective to the MBA than a majority of the other people interviewed for this article. With a background in commercial real estate capital, E.J. is a president and founding member of the Kansas City-based National Realty Funding, as well as serving as vice-chair of the MBA, and sitting on the board of directors.
“I remember back when I was a very young real estate commercial banker and taking the MBA’s correspondent course,” Burke said, talking about how he became involved with the MBA. “I’ve been around mortgage banking for a long time and the MBA has always been a part of that. About 10 years ago, I was asked to join the Board of Governors of the MBA, and towards the end of my term, I was approached about moving up the leadership ladder, which involves two years as a vice chair and a year as a chair.”
Burke is an example of a chairperson who really ascended the ladder within the MBA. While all upper-echelon individuals within the MBA have had to work hard and climb the ladder, Burke is keen to discuss his experience at various appointments. “The role that the MBA plays in the industry, as I climbed the ranks, I was able to learn more and more about the issues affecting the industry,” Burke said. “Needless to say, since 2007, our industry has been difficult. You have to realize that if you’re going to affect things in the industry, you need to be part of a trade group. In my mind, the MBA has been very effective in tackling the issues threatening our industry, so, for me, my time has been well-spent here at the MBA, helping tackle the issues head-on.”
“You have to realize that if you’re going to affect things in the industry, you need to be part of a trade group.”—E.J. Burke, Chair-Elect, Mortgage Bankers Association
“I’ve always been around the MBA through education, through events, that kind of thing. I’ve seen firsthand over the past six years the impact the MBA has had on an advocacy level,” Burke said. “I would tell you that one of the very powerful things I’ve seen is that when you sit down with a regulator or with a legislator or a staffer, if we’ve got industry practitioners who can talk about the real-life implications of a rule or law, that legislator or regulator truly appreciates that.”
The underlying drive for more involvement in the MBA is echoed in Burke’s statements. As an advocacy group, the association is only as strong as its supporters. Whether its through an organization like the Mortgage Action Alliance or through the main arm of the trade association, the MBA, an individual looking to effect real change on the industry as a whole needs to get off the sidelines and get involved.
“More people are realizing that the MBA is a facilitator to having our voice heard,” Burke said. “We have incredible expertise on the staff in terms of pure industry knowledge, as well as how lawmaking occurs. Our commercial side is starting to get as strong as our residential side in terms of reaching out and mobilizing. I think the future of commercial real estate financing will see a huge demand of assets that are well-written and stable. Through that, we can increase our numbers in terms of membership and representation.”
Multifamily is also well-positioned for the future. “The only cloud is the GSEs in terms of multifamily finance. We’re starting to see CMBS bounce back, potentially reaching double the performance of last year,” Burke said. “The only sector that will see new development will most likely be multifamily. There’s no question that commercial real estate and its ability to resolve problem assets is easier. The amount of regulation is drastically different, so that’s helped quite a bit. The resolution of problem assets on the commercial side has been much quicker.”
“I think the future of the MBA is bright. There aren’t many organizations that have been around for a hundred years,” Burke said. “I think we’re an easily-recognizable name. We’ve got dynamic leadership under Dave Stevens and his executive team. Our membership is growing. I think our focus on bringing value to our members is paying real dividends. I see the MBA bringing value in three broad areas: advocacy, education and networking. Depending on what our members’ needs are, we excel at all three. Certainly, the advocacy side has been sorely needed over the past few years with a flurry of laws and legislation. I think we’ve played an integral part with lawmakers and regulators. Weathering the storm we’ve gone through bodes really well for the future of the MBA.”
Debra Still: The Chairman
Debra Still, the president and CEO of Pulte Financial Services also serves as the chairman of the MBA. With three-plus decades of experience in the mortgage industry, Still not only provides sound leadership and decision-making ability, but also serves as a female role model in the industry. Like Amy Swaney, Still shatters the image of the boardroom full of stuffy old men in suits talking about industry issues.
“When I took my role as president of Pulte Mortgage, I wanted to make sure I had a strategic approach to how I was going to lead my company, so at the same time, I felt that it would be a smart idea to be engaged with the MBA,” Still said. “Pulte had been a member of the MBA since 1972, so, pretty much for our entire existence, so, it was a natural fit. I had never been personally involved until I became president of Pulte. I was asked to join various committees and was later asked to head MBA Forward, which is a strategic plan for how we look at recruitment and membership moving forward, as well as how to get people involved in the industry. It’s still part of our strategic architecture today.”
“When I speak at conferences and engagements, I have so many young women coming up to me and thanking me for being in a leadership role. I just want to give back and put everything I have into it. Not only for women, but for everyone, I want people to know that I’m representing lenders in a very professional way.”—Debra Still, Chair, Mortgage Bankers Association
In terms of being a woman in a position of power within the MBA, Still highlights her way of thinking as a way in which she views her stance with the association. “I don’t think of things so much as a position of power, per se. I absolutely got involved at a progressively higher level to give back to my industry, so my whole mission has been to serve,” Still said. “I’ve been involved in a non-female environment for years, with builders and whatnot that I don’t even think about it anymore. When I speak at conferences and engagements, I have so many young women coming up to me and thanking me for being in a leadership role. I just want to give back and put everything I have into it. Not only for women, but for everyone, I want people to know that I’m representing lenders in a very professional way.”
Still has been involved in the MBA during one of the more difficult times the industry has ever endured – the modern financial crisis. “One of the things I’m particularly proud of is how the MBA has spoken on how lenders need to lead change in order to get out of the housing crisis and restore the reputation of the industry,” Still said. “We need to self-govern and demonstrate that we are a deserving player at the table when it comes to the healthy housing environment we need to return to. This notion of raising the bar and lead resonates with a lot of very good lenders who want to run a good business and move housing forward.”
“The notion of owning the whole of the well-being of the entire industry through working collaboratively is an important aspect of what we do,” Still said. “We need to find a way to reach common ground and represent our industry with one voice. Working collaboratively with our policymakers and legislators is important, as well. We have a broad perspective to come up with more objective and relevant feedback in order to get to a great place to work with our representatives in Washington.”
Still highlights the Mortgage Action Alliance as an important group in bringing the notion of advocacy and state-wide representation as a grassroots outreach. “Different affinity groups and conferences dedicated to different issues, like the Mortgage Action Alliance are great ways to approach individuals within the membership,” Still said. “It gives a broader community a voice on issues that are important to them and the industry as a whole. We try to advocate for a level playing field where a vibrant marketplace includes different business models and our advocacy groups are geared toward finding common ground. While not every issue is important to our constituency, none of our issues harm any aspect of our constituency. The Mortgage Action Alliance is an excellent example of giving voices to state-level issues where legislators are truly listening.”
“I think, at the end of the day, wherever legislation leads us, there are good lenders in every business channel who want to do business the right way. I think that will be very healthy for us,” Still said. “It’s important that professional standards apply to every channel. Some rules, like QM, should not pick and choose business channels, so there is a disparate impact on brokers and businesses. We’re working through those. The CFPB believes they’re doing what Congress intended them to do, but my view is that good lenders will figure out a way to comply with the rules or the CFPB will modify the rule to get back to a vibrant and competitive marketplace. Competition is good for the consumer and good for a vibrant marketplace. Having rules that stifle competition are not in the best interest of the consumer.”
There’s an incredible push to draw young blood to the MBA. “We have got to start attracting new talent to the industry,” Still said. “We have our Future Leaders program which is great for folks who want to build a career in real estate finance. We just put together an inclusion and diversity committee which will be a committee that will inspire younger people to get involved, visible and inspire career choices. Kids graduating from college, with an unhealthy job market, are happy to be offered a career through various programs. We have a whole group of college grads that would love an opportunity to build a career and anything the MBA could do to support that would only bolster the industry as a whole.”
“I think, under Dave Stevens’ leadership, we have had uncanny access to the folks we need to be working with, whether that’s the White House, the Treasury, the CFPB, FHFA, etc. I see that continuing certainly into the future. Our research is highly respected and kudos to our research and education team,” Still said, talking about the future of the MBA. “I expect the MBA to have a very critical voice, a seat at the table, when it comes to the next round of CFPB and other industry-affecting laws and dialogue. I think we’ve got a lot of energy from our membership right now. We’re stronger together and there’s a viable place for all of us in the industry. The collaboration and excitement is healthy. You think about the legacy of the first 100 hundred years, then you think about the opportunity we have to leave a positive legacy for the future. I think it’s an exciting time. We’ve got a lot of positive, forward momentum and we need to capitalize on the improving housing market. The biggest issue we face is whether financing will be available and we need to make sure there is access to credit for first-time homebuyers and immigrant homebuyers.”
David H. Stevens, Captain of the Ship
David H. Stevens is the president and CEO of the MBA. With over three decades in the industry as an executive in mortgage finance, sales acquisition and more, many look to Stevens as the ultimate leader at a time when the industry is attempting to bounce back during a harsh economic climate. Personable and fascinating to talk to, Stevens’ experience shines through when discussing the industry, as well as the history of the MBA and his hopes for the future.
“I’ve been active with the MBA for my entire career, sitting on committees and attending conferences,” Stevens said, talking about how he became involved with the MBA. “When I announced I was leaving HUD, I received a call from the then-chairman of the MBA and was offered a position. It was very quick. My intent, to be quite frank, was to help during the housing crisis. Accepting the position with the MBA seemed like a good fit and put me in a position to do just that.”
In talking about his time with HUD, Stevens discussed how he went about building relationships with other government entities while as the head of the MBA. “It’s an interesting dynamic working in Washington. I found it relatively easy. Taking a job in the middle of a fairly significant storm that has taken over Washington, when there was such an emphasis on fixing the housing market,” Stevens said. “Just weeks before the election in 2008, both candidates stated we weren’t in a recession. Home prices were dropping like crazy. That storm we walked into had everyone paying attention to housing. I quickly became ‘the mortgage guy’ in Washington.”
“I’ll tell you a story. Three weeks into accepting the job with the MBA, I was called into a meeting at the White House to meet with the President,” Stevens said. “I walked into the Roosevelt room, which is the President’s meeting room and took a seat on one of the back couches lining the wall. One of the President’s senior aids told me to said ‘No, Dave, sit at the table,’ so I did and it was there that I realize the topic of the day would be a subject, very technical, about warehouse lending. The President walked in, having read all the information and started off the meeting by saying, ‘I’ve read the documentation ... can someone explain what a warehouse line is?’ Everyone started going through their rote answers, and, these are Ph.D. guys from the finest universities and the ability to talk about global financial systems. When it came to a warehouse line, they didn’t really know. Someone looked down to me and said ‘Dave, can you explain what a warehouse line is?’”
“I looked up and there’s the President staring intently at me,” Stevens said. “The important lesson here is that these are incredibly smart, well-intentioned people in Washington trying to deal with the housing and financial crisis. Knowledge matters to them. Knowing how a very technical industry operates is important and from that moment on, I was thrust into economic meetings regularly, working on every policy issue possible, working with Congress to resolve issues.”
Stevens, years later, cites many of the Washington decision-makers and people he worked with on resolving housing issues with the President as close friends. “We spent so much time together that we became comrades in working together,” Stevens said. “We may not have always agreed, but everyone respects one-another. Ultimately, that became very beneficial. You know people, you know how policymaking works and how that machinery of Washington works. You know how decisions get made. That’s proven to be very valuable in my current role. We’ve had some tremendous success on policy as a result.”
“People see us as a unified voice for the mortgage industry as a whole. At a time when the industry was scattered, we collectively helped America and helped hammer together policy to help everyone.”—David H. Stevens, President and CEO, Mortgage Bankers Association
“In my testimony when I was being confirmed for the job, I talked about portfolios being at risk,” Stevens said. “That created a firestorm in the industry. I had to deal with just management issues in dealing with the FHA and making corrections that wouldn’t tip anything past the tipping point. Making the right steps to put the FHA back on path was an important aspect of what I tackled when I started. The policymaking process is one of the misunderstandings that people have about Washington. There’s no ‘one mind’ about what Washington wants. Within the administration, there are massively different views on solving the housing finance crisis. Working with key people in the Treasury Department and other officials was key to working through the issues and meeting with key members of agencies just to make sure nobody got out ahead of their skis and cause any damage and being aware of the issues and processes and conveying in a rational way the right path to accomplish what we were all trying to accomplish is an important part of what we do every day at the MBA.”
Stevens sees his biggest accomplishment thus far as CEO and president of the MBA as the renewal of enthusiasm for the organization as a whole. “As an organization, as one voice for the industry,” Stevens said. “People used to only think the MBA was beholden to large institutions. I think we’ve done a good deal to change that opinion. The mortgage industry, as a whole, views us different. People see us as a unified voice for the mortgage industry as a whole. At a time when the industry was scattered, we collectively helped America and helped hammer together policy to help everyone.”
“The MBA is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It’s been built by hard work and commitment from industry leaders around the country and it has done so for an entire century,” Stevens said. “I think the MBA is on a trajectory of growth. We’re the strongest we’ve been in over a decade. Membership is growing. Our voice has never been stronger. Over the course of the next two years, so much is going to be done to impact mortgage finance. Once the legislation is written, it’s not done, we’re going to do our part to make sure our voice is heard. We’re going to continue to be a strong voice in Washington, D.C. We’re going to fight for the industry as a whole.”
We celebrate the work of the Mortgage Bankers Association and look forward to another century of continued success.