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Joanne Johansen is President and CEO of Platinum Mortgage Solutions in Wallingford, Conn., and President of the Connecticut Mortgage Association
Joanne Johansen is President and CEO of Platinum Mortgage Solutions in Wallingford, Conn., and President of the Connecticut Mortgage Association (CMA). National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently spoke with her regarding her trade association leadership.
 Joanne Johansen is President and CEO of Platinum Mortgage Solutions in Wallingford, Conn., and President of the Connecticut Mortgage Association
How and why did you get involved in your state's trade group? Can you share the track within your association that led to the leadership role in this group?
It was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged. No man has the moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.”
 
When I reopened my company, Platinum Mortgage Solutions in March of 2017, after working with other mortgage companies for approximately eight years, I was determined to be an active participant in the mortgage industry. My Compliance Attorney and good friend Wendy Bernard of The Bernard Law Group suggested that I join the Connecticut Mortgage Association (CMA). I immediately recognized this as an opportunity to be fully engaged in the business I love and I found the CMA to be natural fit.
 
I realized immediately that I could make a difference in an organization that had been struggling with declining membership of the past few years, and the similarity between the CMA and my philosophy of rebuilding Platinum Mortgage completely aligned. Just as I was breathing life into my “new” company, I was confident that I could do the same for the CMA and was determined to bring some spark and positive energy to the organization. I accepted the CMA board’s nomination and became the President of the CMA in January 2018.
 
Why do you feel members of the mortgage profession in your state should join CMA?
I believe that mortgage professionals join the CMA because of the spirit of community and inclusion that the organization offers. As Mortgage Brokers, we have endured unique challenges together and I believe that we have a collective desire for industry support and organization.
 
The new CMA is working hard to create an organization where Mortgage Brokers are empowered through networking and education, in an environment that supports and encourages members to make prudent and strategic decisions based on the lessons we have learned as an industry in the past 10 to 15 years. We also enjoy the support of corporate sponsors who support the broker community and we provide countless opportunities for continuing education and networking with fellow professionals.
 
What role does your association play in the federal and state legislative and regulatory environments, and are there any items on the current agenda you would like to highlight? 
The CMA represents its members at the state and federal level. CMA monitors legislation affecting mortgage professionals, including issues such as mortgages, residential real estate financing and the mortgage origination process, and other related matters. CMA supports business-friendly legislation, including bills that improve the real estate financing industry and mortgage origination process. CMA opposes legislation that creates impediments to business growth and development in the state. CMA advocates its members’ interests before state agencies that regulate mortgage professionals, including the Department of Banking. CMA participates in industry coalitions with like-minded organizations to help shape policies and decisions that affect businesses.
 
What do you see as your most significant accomplishments with the association?
I proudly can say that since I assumed the role of president, the CMA has increased our membership by over 40 percent from the first quarter of 2017. Additionally, we acquired three new corporate sponsors, Plaza Home Mortgage Inc., First American Title and CCS Insurance. We have extended the invitation to all Connecticut Mortgage Brokers and we constantly communicate to our peers that there is power in numbers. Sometimes all it takes is to extend the invitation, open the door and getting the word out the community that the CMA is back. It is empowering to see Mortgage Brokers engaged, involved and getting excited about the CMA again.
 
What is synergy between your organization and other industry trade groups, both nationally (MBA, NAMB) and in affiliated industries (Realtors, home builders, appraiser, etc.)?
We work with all industry professionals to ensure that our organization has the broadest scope in representation in the mortgage industry. Our goal is to always align the CMA with industry participants and organizations that demonstrate their focused interest in the advancement and success of mortgage brokers. 
 
In your opinion, what can be done to bring more young people into mortgage careers?
We need to do a better job of educating young people about the rewarding career they can enjoy as a mortgage professional. For example, when I started in this industry, I was 30-years-old and prior to that time, I was unaware of how much of a positive impact this industry would have on my life and future.
 
Sure, we face challenges, but so does any career and I believe that awareness is one the key ingredients for attracting young people to this industry. Young people see this industry with fresh eyes and have a more informed perspective of Millennials and other young buyers. The CMA believes that the organization is a powerful gateway of information and education to young people.
 
How would you define your state's housing market?
Unofficially, Connecticut’s industry professionals are generally describing the current period as a “sellers’ market” as the inventory for homes is reportedly for first time homebuyers. Simultaneously, there appears to be a rising trend of single or unmarried couples looking for properties, and this demand appears to have driven purchase prices higher in the state.
 
I read recently that around 16 percent of all homes sales in the state of Connecticut are short sales or REO sales (bank-owned foreclosure) and regardless of the obvious improvements in the market these properties still remain in rotation. So, we while have qualified buyers, there are not enough homes.
 
On the positive side, the spring market has really begun to bloom in Connecticut and the new trend appears to be an increase in the sophistication and knowledge of the purchasers over similarly situated consumers of a decade ago. Informed and knowledgeable consumers are better for the industry and it helps us to do our part to facilitate responsible mortgage practices.

Phil Hall is Managing Editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at PhilH@MortgageNewsNetwork.com.

 
Alok Bansal is Managing Director of Visionet Systems Inc. and has 21 years of experience in managing strategy and global BPO operations
Alok Bansal is Managing Director of Visionet Systems Inc. and has 21 years of experience in managing strategy and global BPO operations. He excels in optimizing and leading growth of financial services companies who are looking to take their mortgage operations to the next level. Before taking this role at Visionet, he held leadership positions with Altisource Portfolio Solutions and other technology companies. He has been instrumental in leading large scale technology Alok Bansal is Managing Director of Visionet Systems Inc. and has 21 years of experience in managing strategy and global BPO operationsinitiatives and implementing scalable outsourcing services delivery infrastructure. National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently had a chance to sit down and speak with Bansal regarding the latest at Visionet and what the company will be offering mortgage professionals in the near future.
 
We heard a lot of people at the recently concluded MBA Tech Solutions Conference talk about Visionet offering free technology. Tell us a bit more.
Alok Bansal:
We have been in the mortgage business for a little over two decades now and we understand very well the challenges that lenders are facing. On one side, they are strapped for resources and there are significant regulatory and compliance pressures on the other. All of this is putting significant pressure on margins. Most lenders are forced to think of technology solutions to automate several parts of their value chain, but it is not easy as technology comes at a significant cost.
 
In fact some of the small- to mid-sized lenders we talked to are scared of even discussing any technology elements, as they somehow know that most of it is beyond their reach. Yet, the fact remains that they need to use technology wisely to solve several of their workflow and margin problems.
 
We thought of really making it easy for these lenders by offering them technology as a service. They have no upfront investments for the technology, they buy no licenses, and they do not need to buy any updates or maintenance, but still get to use our technology in their operations. We are using several of our technology pieces to drive our services revenue. As long as we are managing the back-office services for these clients, they get to use our technology for free.
 
Ideally, lenders should focus all their energies on their core business and not have to worry about the technology. But due to margin pressures, they are forced to spend time and resources on selecting, implementing, and supporting different technologies to streamline their operations. I have a feeling that we have a significant opportunity to change this with our free technology model.
 
What is wrong with the technology being currently offered by existing vendors in the mortgage space? Why wouldn’t lenders prefer to source technology from them?
There is nothing wrong. There are some very good technologies and I really respect several competing technology solutions and vendors. Their business models are very different and may not be the best for the lender. They will typically have upfront or recurring costs for technology purchase, you will need to invest in implementing/configuring it or customizing it for your specific requirements. One part of it is that you will spend significant money and the second part is that there is considerable time lost until you can actually start using their technologies in your operations.
 
As you scale your operations, if you are paying per-user-fees, these charges are only going to go up. Besides you will end up paying for major updates or version upgrades of the technology from time to time.
 
All of this represents a significant investment and most lenders are so involved with several of these technology decisions that they defocus from their core business operations to make sure that they have the right technology platform to support their operations.
 
Alok Bansal is Managing Director of Visionet Systems Inc. and has 21 years of experience in managing strategy and global BPO operationsThe word “free” is usually associated with bad quality. Tell us a bit about your technologies and why lenders should trust them?
Good point, and we have faced this as objections from some clients already. Several times, customers associate “free” with some sort of a compromise that they need to make. They also view it suspiciously and try to find the fine print within. This is natural reaction.
 
Our view is that the clients should go through a normal evaluation process for evaluating the technology, whether it is from Visionet or from any other vendor. We are not expecting that any lender will work with Visionet just because we are offering free technology.
 
It is always prudent to do a feature by feature comparison and then evaluate the ROI that you will be able to generate based on your technology buy decision. At Visionet, we have been able to leverage our expertise in other domains to build these technology solutions and the best part is that all the Intellectual Property belongs to us. So, the good part for clients is that they have a one-stop solution and they do not have to depend on any third party to maintain these technologies.
 
What services do you offer, combined with the technologies and how do they benefit the lenders?
Because we have been in the domain for over two decades, Visionet understands the entire mortgage lifecycle. We offer technologies to support the lender to on-board new borrowers with a mobile based solution, digitize loan applications with smart OCR solutions, and offer comprehensive QC platform to ensure minimal risk at pre-funding. Along with these technologies, we also offer several back-office mortgage processing services to make sure that we are able to reduce the closing time for the lender. We offer services in loan boarding, pre-underwriting support, pre-funding QC, Post-close support as well as services to support preparations for the secondary market.

 
The retail sector continues to be one of the most closely scrutinized sectors for commercial mortgage lenders
The retail sector continues to be one of the most closely scrutinized sectors for commercial mortgage lenders. Retail lending includes loans on large anchored shopping centers, local and regional malls, smaller strip centers and single tenant retail locations. A recent article in Trepp makes some interesting observations: “E-commerce sales continue to grow far faster than overall retail sales. As of the third quarter of 2017, e-commerce is growing at a roughly 16 percent year-over-year growth rate, while overall sales are growing at a roughly four percent growth rate. E-commerce constitutes about nine percent of overall retail sales. On the one hand, nine percent is a minority of overall sales. On the other hand, even at just nine percent, e-commerce has caused serious problems for some brick-and-mortar retail centers. Even if e-commerce sales growth slows from its blistering pace, it will continue to grow faster than overall sales and be increasingly disruptive to retailers.”
 
Even strong regional shopping malls in prime locations are beginning to feel the pinch of flat rent growth, higher vacancies and lower foot traffic as e-commerce continues to take market share from traditional retail locations. Many large big box retail locations and national tenants have not been able to withstand the competition from e-commerce. Kmart, Toys “R” Us and many other large retailers have announced store closures. Toys “R” Us recently announced plans to close another 200 stores, in addition to 170 previously announced store closures. Grocery stores, once thought immune to this trend, have been suffering lately as well. Northeast supermarket chain Tops Markets LLC just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods has also put pressure on many other national grocery chains. Traditionally, grocery stores have been considered great anchor tenants for local shopping centers, as grocery stores drive foot traffic to the center, thereby increasing walk-in traffic to other retail stores at the center. Amazon is expected to change this trend with its acquisition of Whole Foods, creating uncertainty in this segment of the market as well. In addition, many big box retailers, such as WalMart and Target have added food and groceries to compete more heavily with grocery chains.
 
Despite a strong finish to 2017 for retailers spurred on by improved consumer spending and an expanding economy, demand for U.S. retail property was weak for the year overall, according to CoStar research. CoStar anticipates retail vacancy rates to continue to rise modestly in 2018 based on the slowdown in demand and increase in supply of available property. Recent reports have shown declining rent growth and higher vacancy rates in most areas of the country.
The difficulties facing the retail sector have caused commercial mortgage lenders to be very conservative when it comes to lending on retail properties. Most lenders have cut back their loan-to-values ratios and increased their debt service coverage ratios when they underwrite retail mortgage loans. Underwriters will perform an in-depth analysis of the rent roll and tenant base. They will look for long-term tenants whose businesses are less likely to be negatively impacted by e-commerce and other forms of competition. They will reward retail locations that still generate foot traffic, such as local service providers, entertainment locations and food service. Investors in this market area should anticipate less aggressive mortgage terms and more due diligence from their lender.
 
There will definitely be winners and losers in the retail space and certain retail properties will be hit harder than others. Commodity retailers and retailers that don’t have some brand loyalty/uniqueness will be more challenged by e-commerce than those who do. Understanding these challenges will be important to successfully invest and finance in this sector.

Stephen A. Sobin is the President and Founder of Select Commercial Funding LLCStephen A. Sobin, an industry veteran with 35-plus years of mortgage lending experience, is the President and Founder of Select Commercial Funding LLC, a nationwide commercial brokerage firm. Sobin is a proud member InterCapital Group, a nationwide alliance of commercial mortgage professionals. For more information, call (516) 596-8537 or visit SelectCommercial.com.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. 

 
Several states have recently issued press releases or held press events, in some cases with much fanfare, indicating increased efforts to step into any void created by the shift in focus recently indicated by the CFPB’s new leadership
Several states have recently issued press releases or held press events, in some cases with much fanfare, indicating increased efforts to step into any void created by the shift in focus recently indicated by the CFPB’s new leadership. Mick The newly branded “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection,” formerly known as the “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” has announced a settlement with Wells Fargo BankMulvaney was appointed the director of the CFPB after Richard Cordray resigned in November 2017. Under Mulvaney, the CFPB has indicated on multiple fronts that it intends to decrease rulemaking efforts, in some cases declining to proceed with rules announced under previous leadership, as well as pull back on enforcement actions.
 
In response to these actions, state financial regulators have signaled their intention to increase regulatory and enforcement efforts in the mortgage lending space.The State of New Jersey recently announced a change in leadership to its Division of Consumer Affairs, the main state agency responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws. In announcing the nomination of Paul Rodriguez to the leadership position, New Jersey Attorney General stated, “As the federal government abandons its responsibility to protect consumers from financial fraudsters, it is more important than ever that New Jersey pick up the mantle to protect its own residents.”
 
New Jersey’s statements and action follow the lead of other state officials in stepping into a more prominent regulatory role. In 2017, the Pennsylvania Attorney General launched a state Consumer Protection Unit within the Office of Attorney General. To lead the new unit, the Attorney General named former CFPB employee Nicholas Smyth, who helped create the federal agency and draft Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act. Also in 2017, the State of Maryland legislature established the Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission. In January, lawmakers announced they would begin drafting laws to protect consumers based on the commission’s findings and recommendations.
 
In 2017, the Pennsylvania Attorney General joined with 19 other state attorneys general in submitting a letter to House Financial Services Committee cautioning against any weakening of the CFPB through legislation. The Superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), Maria T. Vullo, posted a statement to its Web site in January that she is “disappointed by the new administration’s sudden policy shift, which is clearly intended to undermine necessary national financial services regulation and enforcement. The DFS remains committed to its mission to safeguard the financial services industry and protect New York Consumers, and will continue to lead and take action to fill the increasing number of regulatory voids created by the federal government.”
 
If critical federal consumer financial protections are diminished, more states will likely respond by strengthening their efforts to establish and enforce state-level protection.

Gavin T. Ales is Chief Compliance Officer with Torrance, Calif.-based DocMagic Inc.Gavin T. Ales is Chief Compliance Officer with Torrance, Calif.-based DocMagic Inc. He may be reached by phone at (800) 649-1362, ext. 6446 or e-mail Gavin@DocMagic.com.

 

At Ocwen Financial Corporation, Lola Oyewole, Director of Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer; Barbara Holmes, Director of Internal Review Group; and Toni Harrigan, Chief Market and Credit Risk Officer, are three of the leaders of Ocwen’s Global W
Across corporate America, discussions about gender inequity, diversity, and inclusion are dominating conversations.
 
At Ocwen Financial Corporation, Lola Oyewole, Director of Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer; Barbara Holmes, Director of Internal Review Group; and Toni Harrigan, Chief Market and Credit Risk Officer, are three of the leaders of Ocwen’s Global Women’s Network (OGWN). OGWN, which is part of the company’s global diversity and inclusion initiative, is a company-wide affinity group aimed at empowering women and encouraging diversity and inclusion. Ocwen’s global diversity and inclusion initiative was launched in 2015.
 
National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently had a chance to catch up with Lola, Barbara and Toni to hear about OGWN and the positive impact it has been having across the company.
 
Barbara Holmes, Director of Internal Review Group, Ocwen Financial CorporationThank you for making the time to speak with National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Can you please start by offering our readers some background on the Ocwen’s Global Women’s Network (OGWN)?
Barbara Holmes: OGWN provides members with an environment that promotes mentoring, professional development, workplace flexibility, and representation of women at all levels of the company. The group is a platform for sharing information and ideas and accelerating employee skills and knowledge through networking.
 
OGWN is open to all Ocwen employees worldwide. One year into this important initiative, the network has more than1,000 members—both women and men—representing more than 13 percent of the company’s global full-time workforce, and our numbers continue to grow.
 
Launched in January of 2017, OGWN is celebrating multiple accomplishments from its first year during which the group sponsored programs and events in the United States, India and the Philippines. Educational and networking activities are planned and carried out in each global location at least once a quarter.
 
Toni Harrigan, Chief Market and Credit Risk Officer, Ocwen Financial CorporationWhy is OGWN so important?
Toni Harrigan:
For many women in the financial services industry, gender struggles have been a way of life. There are incredibly smart and well-qualified women who need to be at the leadership table. Unfortunately, there have been very few seats available to women. Our leadership team has recognized that diversity and inclusion isn’t just a politically-correct thing to do—it’s a business imperative. In the first quarter of 2015 the company launched a global D&I initiative. Today, Ocwen’s “gender evolution” is well underway thanks to the commitment of our leadership team, anchored by Phyllis Caldwell, one of the few female Board Chairs in the financial services sector, and Ron Faris our Chief Executive Officer.
 
Lola Oyewole, Director of Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer, Ocwen Financial CorporationCan you give our readers some background on diversity at Ocwen?
Lola Oyewole:
Women represent 42 percent of Ocwen’s global workforce of more than 7,500 team members, and people of color represent 41 percent of the company’s U.S. employee population. The rising number of female employees in key positions in the company is a testament to Ocwen’s investment of time and resources in diversity and inclusion initiatives.
 
What would you say is OGWN’s key accomplishment in year one?
Oyewole:
The true measure of OGWN’s success is the very real progress being made by women in the company. Since January 2017, 50 percent of leadership promotions at the director and above level in the U.S. have been females, 25 percent of the employees hired into U.S. leadership positions at director and above were female, and 50 percent of hires into senior manager roles in the Asia-Pacific region have been females. 
 
After just one year, we see membership in OWGN empowering our female colleagues to take on more responsibility and build out their skills with greater confidence. And we have gained a better understanding the unique challenges facing our female employees—especially those in overseas offices—and how we can best help them overcome these challenges through cultural improvements.
 
Can you share with us some of the programs undertaken across the OGWN network this past year?
Harrigan:
It has been amazing to see the diversity of programming and unique ideas teams from every location have brought to the table. Programs have included everything from informal coffee sessions and panel discussions with senior executives, to “Dress for Success” clothing drives, self-defense classes, a fundraiser for colleagues affected by Hurricane Maria, and seminars to encourage screenings during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In observance of International Women’s Day in March, OGWN hosted “Be Bold for Change” events across the globe, in which attendees discussed the actions they could take to become responsive and responsible leaders in creating a more diverse and inclusive environment. These actions were documented and posted in break rooms as a daily reminder of the goals they set for themselves.
 
At Ocwen Financial Corporation, Lola Oyewole, Director of Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer; Barbara Holmes, Director of Internal Review Group; and Toni Harrigan, Chief Market and Credit Risk Officer, are three of the leaders of Ocwen’s Global WTo recognize OGWN members who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made a meaningful impact on the organization, the group has created an annual OGWN Leadership Award to be presented in January of each year. The award recognizes the honorees for their outstanding leadership and efforts to make a difference in the lives of other team members across the company. We hope that by celebrating these women’s accomplishments, many more will be inspired to join and dedicate themselves to OGWN’s mission.
 
Is there anything else you would like to cover?
Holmes:
Fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion doesn’t happen overnight. It takes effort, carefully crafted plans, and an ability to recognize that the best ideas may come from someone in an office thousands of miles away. This collaborative spirit and group effort is not only helping women at Ocwen feel more empowered, it is helping make the company—and our industry—better. As OGWN gears up for 2018, it is clear to see change is in the air, and it is inspiring. 
This article orginially appeared in the March 2018 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

 
Ray Williams is Vice President of Business Development at MortgageBanc, a branch of Fairway Independent Mortgage in Birmingham, Ala., and current President of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Alabama
Ray Williams is Vice President of Business Development at MortgageBanc, a branch of Fairway Independent Mortgage in Birmingham, Ala., and current President of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Alabama (MBAA). National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently spoke with Williams about his work with this trade group. Ray’s mortgage career began in 1996 with Transamerica. Prior to joining MortgageBanc he has held the position of Loan Officer, Producing Branch Manager, Inside Wholesale AE, Systems Admin, SVP of Production and Operations, and even some consulting work.
Ray Williams is Vice President of Business Development at MortgageBanc, a branch of Fairway Independent Mortgage in Birmingham, Ala., and current President of the MBAA 
How and why did you get involved with the MBAA? And can you share your track within the association that led to your leadership role?
In 2010, I really had a desire to get involved somewhere where I could help make a difference in our industry and obtain more knowledge as well. I found out that the MBAA held monthly education seminars and is well-known as an association that “Encourages among its members, sound and ethical business practices,” and is also involved in the communities with education events, Salvation Army Christmas Angels, and the Habitat for Humanity.
 
Here is my track record within the association: In 2017-2018, served as President of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Alabama; from 2016-2017, was Vice President of MBAA; in 2015-2016, served MBAA as Secretary/Treasurer, Convention Committee First Chair, and Convention Entertainment Chair; in 2014-2015, served as MBAA Convention Committee Co-Chair, Convention Entertainment Chair, Board Liaison for Membership Committee, Future Leaders Committee member, Golf/Recreation Committee member; in 2013-2014, was Membership Committee Chair, Spring Convention Committee member, Convention Entertainment Chair, Future Leaders Committee member, and Golf/Recreation Committee member; in 2012-2013, was Spring Convention Committee member, Convention Entertainment Co-Chair, Future Leaders Committee member, Golf/Recreation Committee member; and from 2011-2012, I served the association as Spring Convention Committee member, Legislative/PAC Committee member, and Golf/Recreation Committee member.
 
Why do you feel members of the mortgage profession in your state should join MBAA?

We offer an extensive education calendar with professional designations for our members (ALAMB), networking opportunities and other events, like our annual convention, to meet with our members. We coordinate our efforts with the national MBA to strengthen our association. We work with other trade associations as well because we often share common goals and concerns. We offer a Future Leaders program, an intern program and continuing education sessions. We bring real value to being a member. It affords them instant credibility that they are a professional in our industry.
 
What role does MBAA play in the federal and state legislative and regulatory environments, and are there any items on the current agenda you would like to highlight?
We take an active role with the national MBA on addressing both state and federal legislative and regulatory issues. Our involvement is the only way to influence lawmakers and regulators. We recently co-sponsored a state legislative reception with the HomeBuilders Association of Alabama, and that shows we are working together and demonstrates our strength in numbers. One issue that we would like to see addressed is the eNotary issue. As we advance into the digital age, this will be even more important.
 
Ray Williams is Vice President of Business Development at MortgageBanc, a branch of Fairway Independent Mortgage in Birmingham, Ala., and current President of the MBAAWhat do you see as your most significant accomplishments with the association?
One was being honored and invited to become an Officer on our Board, which eventually lead to me becoming President of the association. Other accomplishments while I was a Board Member: suggesting updates to our logo, an increased social media presence, a new more user-friendly Web site, the new designation name Alabama Accredited Mortgage Banker (ALAMB), when I was the Convention Committee chair I had one of the most successful conventions on record. Also, the first committee I was ever appointed chair to, the Membership Committee, we helped grow our membership by almost 20 percent.
 
In your opinion, what can be done to bring more young people into mortgage careers?
I would encourage mortgage companies to develop a rookie program that educates, encourages, and mentors young professionals into our industry. Also, our local association started an internship program where, we work with colleges around Alabama, and ACRE (Alabama Center for Real Estate), to find college students with an interest in our industry, that are willing to be hired as interns over the summer, which exposes them to the entire workings of the mortgage process, as well as some classroom work.
 
How would you define the current state of Alabama’s housing market?
I see our housing market as rapidly growing, especially with all the new industries moving into our state. As a matter of fact, most of our metropolitan areas are now starting to face a housing shortage because of the wonderful growth our state is experiencing.

Phil Hall is Managing Editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at PhilH@MortgageNewsNetwork.com.

 
Nicholas Monardo is Vice President of Wholesale Lending at CNN Mortgage in Scottsdale, Ariz., and President of the Arizona Mortgage Lenders Association (AMLA)
Nicholas Monardo is Vice President of Wholesale Lending at CNN Mortgage in Scottsdale, Ariz., and President of the Arizona Mortgage Lenders Association (AMLA). National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently spoke with Nick regarding his work with AMLA.
Nicholas Monardo is Vice President of Wholesale Lending at CNN Mortgage in Scottsdale, Ariz., and President of the Arizona Mortgage Lenders Association (AMLA) 
How and why did you get involved with the Arizona Mortgage Lenders Association?
I have been in the business for 20 years, and decided four years ago to get more involved, and joined my local AMLA with the encouragement and support of company owner, Ned Kneadler.
 
Why do you feel members of the mortgage profession in your state should join AMLA?
For the same reason I joined: To become more involved with the profession I love. In addition, AMLA is a great resource for networking and education with peers in the business.
 
What role does AMLA play in the federal and state legislative and regulatory environments, and are there any items on the current agenda you would like to highlight?
We are very involved on a federal and state level. As a chapter of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), we follow and support solutions to national issues that affect our industry. The MBA does a great job of informing the state chapters of any issues we should be aware of and speak to our local legislators on. In fact, to help with this, we also employ a lobbyist to monitor legislative issues at the state level. We also attend the MBA’s National Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. every spring.
 
What do you see as your most significant accomplishments with the association?
I feel my most significant accomplishment within AMLA has to be promoting and encouraging our members to become more involved in participating in our Leadership Group Program. We need more participation, across the board, especially from the younger generations in our industry.
 
As the past and current year president, my focus continues to be educational and leadership opportunities for our members and their employees. With the help of our Board and our Vice President of Education Sherry Olsen, we used our standing as an approved NMLS provider to provide continuing education to approximately 900 Loan Officers last year.
 
In your opinion, what can be done to bring more young people into mortgage careers?
I feel we need to reach out to the younger generation earlier, at the high school level, and promote our industry. The MBA and its local chapters can provide educational affordable housing opportunities for the underserved in our communities.
 
Nicholas Monardo is Vice President of Wholesale Lending at CNN Mortgage in Scottsdale, Ariz., and President of the Arizona Mortgage Lenders Association (AMLA)How would you define the current state of Arizona’s housing market?
The housing market here in Arizona is very stable and strong. We just need more housing inventory!

Phil Hall is Managing Editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at PhilH@MortgageNewsNetwork.com.

 
As of June 2018, Pennsylvania non-bank mortgage loan servicers have to get licensed in order to operate in the state
As of June 2018, Pennsylvania non-bank mortgage loan servicers have to get licensed in order to operate in the state. The changes are introduced by Senate Bill 751, which makes alterations to the Pennsylvania Mortgage Licensing Act (MLA).
 
The bill sets licensing requirements for mortgage servicers, such as meeting surety bond requirements, as well as posting a fidelity bond. Licensees will also need to meet fixed level of net worth criteria.
 
The bill was signed on December 22, 2017 by Governor Tom Wolf. It is now known as Act 81. Here are the essential facts about the new legislation that you need to know if you want to run a mortgage servicing business in Pennsylvania.
 
The changes with the new bill
In most states across the country, mortgage servicers have to obtain a license prior to conducting their activities. With Senate Bill 751, Pennsylvania becomes the next state that introduces a regulatory procedure for this type of mortgage professionals. In this way, it aims to guarantee better compliance of mortgage servicers with federal and state laws.
 
By amending the state’s Mortgage Licensing Act, legislators aim to bring legal clarity and ensure higher safety standards for the general public. The new legislation comes as a legal answer to cases of consumer complaints from servicers in Pennsylvania.
 
As of June 30, 2018, most servicers will need to be duly licensed and bonded. Exempt from the licensing will be lenders who serve only loans that they own or have originated, as well as banks, credit unions and attorneys. No license will be required of servicers who serve less than four loans per year as well. You can review the full list of regulations here.
 
For offences committed by servicers, the current MLA fines of $10,000 per occurrence apply as well. Servicers’ licenses can also be revoked and suspended, if deemed necessary.
 
Besides the licensing criteria, the new bill also introduces important definitions of key terms and sets disclosure rules. It creates a wholesome legal framework for mortgage servicers in Pennsylvania.
 
The licensing requirement for PA mortgage servicers
With the introduction of the bill, the Department of Banking and Securities becomes the regulatory body that oversees non-bank mortgage loan servicers in the state. It takes over the responsibility to ensure that mortgage servicers comply with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s regulations at 12 CFR, Pt. 1024.
 
License applicants will have to submit their documents through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS), similarly to most other mortgage professionals in the U.S. You will be able to file your application starting April 1, 2018.
 
The licensing process for non-bank mortgage servicers will entail obtaining a $500,000 surety bond. You will also need to get a fidelity bond in a sufficient amount set by the authorities, and the bond should be approved by the Federal National Mortgage Association or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.
 
Mortgage servicers will also need to maintain a minimum of $250,000 net worth at all times during the licensing period. You will have to cover licensing fees as well. Initial licenses cost $2,500 for the first office and $1,250 for each additional branch. For renewals, the fees are $1,000 for the principal office and $500 for additional ones.
 
Meeting the bonding criteria
One of the major licensing requirements you have to comply with if you want to run a mortgage servicing business in Pennsylvania is to obtain a $500,000 surety bond. The bonding functions as an extra layer of security for the state and consumers.
 
For example, if a customer is subjected to any damages as a result of your actions as a mortgage servicer, they can file a claim against you. On proven claims, affected parties can receive a compensation that is up to the bond amount you have posted. In the case of Pennsylvania mortgage servicer bonds, this is $500,000. 
 
In order to get bonded, you don’t need to cover the whole required amount. You only have to pay a small percentage of it, which is often between 1% and 5%. This is called the bond premium and is determined on the basis of your personal and business finances. The better your overall profile is, the lower your bond cost is likely to be.

Todd Bryant is the President and Founder of Bryant Surety Bonds. He is a surety bonds expert with years of experience in helping business owners get bonded and stay compliant.

 
 
Brent Rasmussen is President of Mortgage Specialists LLC in Omaha, Neb. and Past President of the Nebraska Association of Mortgage Brokers (NEAMB)
Brent Rasmussen is President of Mortgage Specialists LLC in Omaha, Neb. and Past President of the Nebraska Association of Mortgage Brokers (NEAMB). National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently spoke with him regarding his work with this trade group.
 Brent Rasmussen is President of Mortgage Specialists LLC in Omaha, Neb. and Past President of the Nebraska Association of Mortgage Brokers (NEAMB)
How did you become involved with the Nebraska Association of Mortgage Brokers (NEAMB) and what was the route that took you to its leadership role?
We had a state association, but it dissolved in 2003. I went over to the Iowa association because they were offering education classes, and I got involved with their activities. I brought new leadership to rebuild a Nebraska association and worked to create a new Board, write new By-Laws and recruit new members. The new association launched back in October of 2008.
 
I have been President of NEAMB twice, from 2009 to 2010 and again last year. I am now a Co-Chairman on the Board of Directors.
 
Why should mortgage professionals in Nebraska get involved with NEAMB?
We keep our members posted on educational information in the industry, and we offer opportunities for networking. We have a major conference in the fall and events throughout the year, which gives them the ability to network with their peers and see what the competition is doing.
 
What role does NEAMB play in the legislative and regulatory process?
On a state level, we have a Legislative Committee, and we talk with the state as much as we can. At the moment, there is not a lot of state oversight activity in the mortgage industry. But we do stay on top of things in case something happens, and we have contracted with a lobbyist to work on our behalf if something comes up.
 
On a national level, we try to send board members to NAMB’s national conferences. We haven’t done so in past couple of years, but we would like to this year.
 
In the course of your career, what do you see as your most significant accomplishments?
I came to the industry in 2001, and started my own company in 2004. We’re a very small company, with two originators and a processor, but we have been able to become a warehouse lender and fund our own transactions. With the association, I consider bringing education to the mortgage professionals so they can meet their industry requirements a significant accomplishment.
Brent Rasmussen is President of Mortgage Specialists LLC in Omaha, Neb. and Past President of the Nebraska Association of Mortgage Brokers (NEAMB)
What is the synergy between NEAMB and NAMB?
We abide by the national association’s Code of Ethics, and anyone who signs up to become a member of the state association also becomes a member of NAMB.
 
Are you seeing more young people come into the mortgage profession in Nebraska?

I am seeing some young people join the mortgage profession, but not a lot—I could probably count them on one hand. We need to find new Loan Officers because this is an aging profession.
 
There is still a big stigma with commission-based careers, which can make it very difficult to pay your bills. A lot of young people are not comfortable with a 100 percent commission income and they go work at banks, where they have a regular paycheck.
 
What is the housing market like in Nebraska?
It is a big sellers’ market—there are a lot more buyers than sellers. Also, not enough houses are being built. We have an exorbitant amount of land in Nebraska, as far as the eye can see, but most of the houses being built are about $300,000 per home, and not everyone can afford a home at that price.

Phil Hall is Managing Editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at PhilH@MortgageNewsNetwork.com.

 
Foreclosure filings were reported on 676,535 residential properties in 2017, down 27 percent from 2016
A great deal of what is involved in a mortgage centers around credit. Help that can fix credit issues long-term is available at little or no cost within the HUD-approved housing counseling industry.
 
In June 2016, I was appointed to the HUD Housing Counseling Federal Advisory Committee (HCFAC). This is a 12-person Committee comprised of three members each from the real estate community, the mortgage industry, the housing counseling agency (HCA) industry and three consumers. Since joining HCFAC, I have learned a great deal about education and services that HUD-approved HCA’s can offer consumers. Most services are free, on a sliding scale basis or are a fee for service.
 
Looking at credit and getting consumers “mortgage ready” is a big part of HUD-approved housing counseling. And if in-depth credit counseling is needed, housing counselors can refer consumers to agencies with credit counselors trained specifically to help with credit. The National Foundation for Credit Counselors (NFCC.org) is a main organization that certifies and then recommends credit counselors that empower consumers to take charge of their finances through one-on-one financial reviews that address credit card debt, student loans, housing decisions and overall money management.
 
In 2017, an effort was started with the help of the NFCC.org to assist past short-sellers who continue to have a foreclosure code applied to past short sale credit. This problem is often learned of mid-contract and results in the loss of a new home contract, changing to an FHA mortgage, or changing to a portfolio conventional loan with both a higher interest rate and downpayment … instead of the Fannie or Mae Freddie Mac conventional loan applied for. There is a workaround in Fannie Mae, but none exists for Freddie Mac. This effort was started as a pre-purchase measure to ensure that past short-sellers had this erroneous credit issue cleared up before they attempted a new purchase when eligible to purchase again. The fix is available at ForeclosureCreditFix.com.
 
Because of my interaction with this effort, I learned of how much credit help is provided with HUD-approved housing counselors and of more in-depth help that can be provided by certified credit counselors. And counselors can help those who need to establish credit … a common need among Millennials.
 
Mortgage professionals specifically trained to originate loans could certainly use the services of HUD-approved housing counselors and certified credit counselors for clients with credit needs. Often, consumers come to us with credit issues that can affect their ability to get a mortgage or the best interest rate. Many of these consumers have been to credit repair companies that apply methods that temporarily hide credit, and mortgage professionals must often undo these measures (such as a dispute) to get the consumer a mortgage. What the credit repair industry has made clear is that there are many clients in need of repairing their credit! Housing counselors can assist consumers to correct their credit and at a far lower cost (if any).
 
A new effort has started to show Realtors and loan originators how to refer credit challenged clients to HUD-approved housing counseling agencies for assistance. The HUD-approved housing counselor will make an assessment on whether the client needs more in-depth credit counseling and provide this service in-house or refer to a certified credit counseling agency. There has been an increase in the number of consumers preparing for a new home mortgage and making an easy referral process available for mortgage professionals is needed. The plan is to set up a referral system where the loan originator is inserted into the HCA database as the referring partner and the consumer will sign an agency permission document to allow the loan originator to check on the referred clients’ progress. HCA’s are required to provide three sources available for a loan when the client is “mortgage ready.” But loan originators who keep in touch with the client and the HCA will know when these clients are ready to purchase and can keep the realtor apprised of the clients “mortgage readiness.” If a fee for service cost is incurred by the client at the HCA, the loan originator could provide a credit towards closing costs to compensate for these costs.
 
This effort will start with a limited number of HUD-approved housing counseling agencies and certified credit counselors. An outline of steps on how a loan originator can be inputted into the referral data base for a client and a letter of permission signed by the client for each HCA that allows the loan originator to check on the client status is being tested now.
 
I will be at the Tampa Bay Homeownership Fair on Saturday, March 3 where HCA’s will meet consumers preparing for homeownership first. After it is determined that the client is ready to talk with a mortgage lender, they will be sent to us, the mortgage professionals.
 
Isn’t this the way it should be … that consumers are prepared for homeownership first? Isn’t that what ForeclosureCreditFix.com is doing—fixing a problem ahead of signing a contract?
Will keep you updated on how it goes … stay tuned!

Pam Marron, a loan originator at Innovative Mortgage Services Inc.Pam Marron (NMLS#: 246438) is Senior Loan Originator with Innovative Mortgage Services Inc. (NMLS#: 250769) in Tampa Bay, Fla. She may be reached by phone at (727) 375-8986, e-mail PMarron@InnovativeMortgage.onmicrosoft.com or visit HousingCrisisStories.com, CloseWithPam.com or 8Problems.com.

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.