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NRMLA Sees Success Through Increased Awareness

Aug 21, 2002

With Small Town Flair, NAMB Caps A Record YearMichael SimonNAMB, Convention, Showcase, Cleveland Maybe it was the popcorn and ice cream between sessions. Or maybe it was comedian Richard Jeni--the entertainment for Tuesday night's Gala Dinner and Showcase, who kept the audience in stitches for 45 minutes straight. Perhaps it had something to do with the Elvis Presley impersonators walking around the exhibit hall, or the National Association of Mortgage Brokers Board of Directors' rendition of YMCA, with the revised lyrics, "We'll be together in O-H-I-O." Perchance, it was close proximity to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or the Cleveland Browns Stadium in the distance, or the history and culture that permeated the halls of the convention center. Or maybe it was just NAMB Secretary Jim Nabors riding a scooter and sporting an afro. Whichever the case, the NAMB 2002 Annual Convention and Showcase in Cleveland, following suit with such scintillating cities as New Orleans and Honolulu, was more than a mere sleeper of a success--it raised the bar for both past and future conventions and provided the host state of next year's event, the Maryland Association of Mortgage Brokers, with a very tough act to follow. The convention began in traditional fashion, with the NAMB Political Action Committee Golf Tournament. While a usual favorite among rookie and veteran conference-goers alike, the Cleveland skies did little to add to the illustrious tree-lined fairways and water traps of the Bob-O-Link Golf Course in North Canton. However, the heavy rain and winds couldn't keep the golfing mortgage industry down, as nearly 100 golfers came out in their warmest, most waterproof attire to brave the elements and sink a few putts. Back at the Cleveland Convention Center, exhibitors were beginning to transform their corrugated cardboard boxes of raw materials into fully-functional exhibits, some more than 25 feet above the floor of the convention center. Finally, after a three-hour NAMB Delegate Council meeting, all attendees sauntered over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where the NAMB Convention Committee, under the watchful eye of Chair Jim Nabors, properly introduced their 2002 event, holding true to its slogan--NAMB Rocks! With four devoted floors of food, fun and entertainment, including the live sound of Horizon, a Detroit-based Motown group, visitors were left wondering how, with three full days ahead, the association was going to top such a raucous Opening Reception. The next morning, all questions were immediately answered, and any concerns about living up to expectations were consequently squashed. The first of two General Sessions, typically a speaker-laden humdrum of coffee and croissants, brought a multimedia extravaganza to the Cleveland Convention Center's Music Hall, complete with decade-specific music, impersonators and sentiment, and a sing-along of "Rock Around the Clock," instigated by Freddie Mac Chair and CEO Leland C. Brendsel, showing just how much he valued the broker's role. However, while his speech may have begun on a light note, it ended with a serious pledge of allegiance to the broker community--Freddie Mac is committed to helping families purchase homes that they can afford to keep. Following Mr. Brendsel's speech, William A. Newman, president of NAMB Double Platinum Industry Partner InterFirst Wholesale Mortgage Lending, stepped to the podium and outlined his company's own formula for success--Process, Partnership, Profitability and Passion. Following Leland's cue, Mr. Newman reinforced his dedication to the broker community with the statement, "Our ability to succeed is predicated upon your ability to succeed," drawing one of the session's many rounds of applause. Thirdly, Joseph Falk delivered his final address as NAMB 2001-2002 President. After some cracks, side comments and a short skit about his own tendency toward lengthy dissertations, he got down to business, namely with the NAMB Model State Statute Initiative, a proposal to establish mandatory licensing and pre-licensing education requirements and background checks for all mortgage originators. In his emotionally-charged speech, Mr. Falk celebrated the members who have made NAMB so successful over the past year--from Broker of the Year Award nominees Leo Davenport, J.J. Sims and Melissa Walker, to the many volunteers who keep the association running so smoothly, particularly Treasurer Bob Armbruster, 2002-2003 President Armand Cosenza Jr., Membership Committee Chair Dorothy Desmond, Convention Committee Co-Chairs Jim Nabors and J.T. Marcell, and Legislative Committee Chair J.J. Sims, who each contributed a memorable facet to NAMB's shining accomplishments. As he closed his speech to a well-deserved standing ovation, he said, "Now I become the most important part of NAMB: A member," perfectly summing up the attitude and spirit of the room. The morning's final speaker, former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, pushed the session's vivacity one step further by declaring, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, "Anything I can do, I am willing to undertake on your behalf." For the most part, his speech stayed on the regulatory side of the industry, as he cited buzz-phrases like, "white collar criminals should be sent to jail," and, "honest Mortgage Brokers should be able to do their jobs without being lumped in with the crumbs," thus reinforcing his commitment to the industry. Ending at noon, the General Session led smoothly into lunch, when NAMB offered their Industry Partners an opportunity to promote their business over a casual meal and conversation, as five companies--Double Platinum Partner InterFirst, Platinum Partners Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Gold Partners United Guaranty and Vanguard National Mortgage & Title Inc.--displayed their wares in a battle over the best food and most interesting speakers. Meanwhile, down the hall, Myers Internet Inc. held their own, intimate luncheon gathering, as CEO Warren Myer and Business Development Manager Dennis DeQuit outlined the advantages of their company's unique Internet applications. At 2:00 p.m., attendees settled in for an afternoon of legislative updates, as NAMB General Counsel Robert Lotstein brought his briefcase and his wits to the Cleveland Convention Center. For the first part of his marathon back-to-back federal and state issues roundup, Mr. Lotstein spoke about several of the industry's hottest topics, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Proposed Rule and several of the country's predatory lending initiatives. Mr. Lotstein mixed humor and legal jargon, while fielding questions from around the room, turning an otherwise blasé topic into a fast-moving, enlightening discussion. J.J. Sims provided a logical transition into the state segment of the afternoon, as he outlined the meeting that Armand Cosenza Jr., Joseph Falk, NAMB Past President Neill Fendly, A.W. Pickel and he had with AARP. Each brought statistics to the table, as NAMB tried to inform them that, "If you don't understand our industry, you're going to listen to the oddball cases." More meetings are planned with AARP, but as consumer groups continue to pile up individual state victories, like the legislation passed in Georgia and North Carolina, the fight becomes increasingly intense. Thus, in what was one of the most informative courses offered at the convention, eight representatives from NAMB's state affiliates each grabbed 10 minutes of the 90-minute time slot to illustrate their particular legislative successes and failures. Each had a story to tell, as the room listened intently to what had or hadn't worked for their particular legislators: ++Russ Chase, President of the Texas Association of Mortgage Brokers, discussed the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act in regards to a lawsuit that he is currently engaged in regarding an alleged yield spread premium violation. ++Bob Armbruster, Industry Partners Committee Chair of the Georgia Association of Mortgage Brokers, spoke about the Georgia Fair Lending Act, and the affect it is sure to have on the entire Georgia mortgage industry. ++Allan Daniels, Past President Licensing Task Force Chair of the Michigan Mortgage Brokers Association, spoke positively about Senate Bill 777, a Michigan ordinance which has been aptly dubbed "The Bad Actors Bill." ++Robert Shepherd, Immediate Past President of the Ohio Association of Mortgage Brokers, spoke about Senate Bill 76, Ohio's unprecedented licensing bill, which served as the basis for NAMB's Model State Statute Initiative. ++Tina McKay and John Councilman, President and Technology Committee Chair of the Maryland Association of Mortgage Brokers, respectively, expressed concerns about some of their state's proposed legislation, advising that without a PAC, they will soon be sitting alongside Georgia. ++Gary Broaddus, President of the Colorado Association of Mortgage Brokers, explained the unfortunate death of SB 226, the CAMB licensing bill, and the passing of HB 1259, a bill which, while amended by CAMB, has many anti-broker provisions, including giving courts the ability to void "unconscionable loans." ++Van Johnson, Secretary of the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers, discussed Florida's recently-implemented continuing education bill and the Fair Lending Act, a bill which mirrors the Home Ownership Equity Protection Act. ++A.W. Pickel, Past President and Founding Member of the Kansas Association of Mortgage Brokers, talked about his state's licensing and continuing education requirements, and declared Kansas a "success story." At 5:00 p.m., the Cleveland Convention Center closed its doors to brokers for the remainder of the day, and the three main hotels in the area--the Marriott, Sheraton and Renaissance--opened theirs, as hospitality suites sprang up around Cleveland, offering weary industry representatives an opportunity to relax with some good friends and music. Of course, there was shop-talk abound, as exhibitors and attendees bounced from sponsor to sponsor, absorbing the best hors d'oeuvres, cocktails and sounds that the industry had to offer, while eagerly awaiting the 10:00 p.m. start of the Annual NAMB PAC Auction in the Ambassador Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel. Brokers could be seen wandering the streets of Cleveland's business district under the cool night air, discussing dinner plans, reminiscing about the day's events and discussing which items they were hoping to win. Finally, after some technical difficulties, which went unnoticed due to the extravagant dessert cart, the PAC auction got underway. Once again, J.J. Sims served as auctioneer, encouraging attendees to support the legislative grassroots efforts of NAMB. Many of the items sold for well above their initial asking price, making the event one of the most successful in NAMB's history, and ensuring another promising year of legislative sweat and toil. Members bid and boogied long into the night, both at the auction and in Cleveland's world-renowned Flats, as only the promise of a bigger and better General Session the following morning could finally lead brokers back to their hotel rooms. On Sunday, as the late-night lenders swaggered toward the convention center for another full day of events and activities, NAMB prepared the Music Hall for the second installment of their two-hour, jam-packed meetings, while Barry Habib injected his particular brand of caffeine-like motivation into an early seminar. Like the previous morning, General Session II had a pleasant mix of business and burlesque, as Todd Dal Porto, managing director of Countrywide's Wholesale Lending Division took the stage and kicked off the event properly, discussing the importance of partnership and unity, and declaring that NAMB is as strong as it can be. As he left the podium, he had one piece of light advice for those in the audience who may have stayed out a bit too late: I don't know you, you don't know me, we were never here! Greeting Mr. Dal Porto on his way off the stage was Joseph Falk, who, sticking to his motto of, "I never met a microphone I didn't like," introduced the first guest speaker of the morning, Ohio Rep. Bob Ney, with a lengthy, glowing list of accolades. Rep. Ney lived up to his billing by outlining his soon-to-be-introduced piece of pro-consumer, pro-broker legislation, with the ultimate goal of, "protecting the consumer without taking away their options." As penned, his legislation includes education, licensing and a level playing field, along with comprehensive RESPA reform, enhanced disclosure, and an overall simplification of the mortgage application process. He vowed to work closely with NAMB, who, in turn, pledged to return the favor by honoring Rep. Ney with the Leadership in Government: Our First Line of Defense Award. After recognizing the Double Platinum Industry Partners, a short speech by NAMB Executive Vice President Mike Nizankiewicz, a financial status report by Bob Armbruster and a quick vote, 2002-2003 NAMB President Armand Cosenza Jr. took the podium. After receiving and accepting the Presidential Oath from Todd Dal Porto, Mr. Cosenza delivered his inaugural address. In his speech, in which he painted a bright present and future for NAMB, he set forth several realistic goals for the coming year, inspiring louder rounds of applause and longer standing ovations with each statement uttered: ++We don't need new laws, we need someone to enforce the ones currently on the books; ++As of today, NAMB stops being reactive and starts being proactive; and ++I guarantee a bigger, stronger, healthier association [come next year's convention] in Baltimore. Then, as if the audience needed an injection of vitality and mirth, Dr. Harry Friedman approached the podium, after an extensive introduction by Joseph Falk. Upon hearing his credentials--MBA, Ph.D., political consultant and author, the crowd began to settle in for a jargon-heavy dissertation on the economy. However, what they got was anything but, as Dr. Friedman had the audience rolling in the aisles and demanding more. He shirked the economic outlook entirely, and instead focused on the NAMB Board of Directors and their quirks, the industry and its inconsistencies, and consumer groups' and their overall lack of knowledge. As the session closed, NAMB Past President Patricia McGill and her associates introduced the site of the 2003 NAMB Convention--Baltimore. Dressed in red and black, they showed a short montage of the city's highlights and history, and urged all attendees to register as NAMB shifts from "rock" to water as NAMB Sails! in 2003. At 1:30 p.m., after another round of Industry Partner presentations, the Breakout Sessions began with a flurry of choices. Broken down into three concurrent tracks and three afternoon sets, no one could feel left out as broker/owners, originators and loan officers, and account executives each found classes catering to their particular niche. From a class on compliance, taught by Stephanie Shaw of Lotstein Buckman LLP, to "How to Earn a Broker's Business," featuring NAMB Board Member George Tribble of Jetstream Mortgage, Sandy Fischer of Mortgage Discounters and A.W. Pickel of Leader Mortgage Company, and topics ranging from warehouse lines to call-capture technology, the gamut seemed to have been spent, as each 45-minute segment neared its end. However, NAMB was relentlessly bound to keep their membership informed, and continued to roll out pertinent, valuable classes, such as "Shedding Light on Credit Scoring," "Contracts and Agreements for Your Loan Officers," or "Transform Yourself from Just Another Vendor to a Valuable Resource and Trusted Advisor," each taught by veteran instructors. Perhaps James DeGeronimo Jr. said it best, when he quoted a Native American proverb during his "Increased Productivity Through Organization" class, "Plant a thought, harvest an act; plant an act, harvest a habit; plant a habit, harvest a character; plant a character, harvest a destiny." After nearly three hours of straight education, the NAMB 2002 Exhibit Hall finally opened its doors to a wave of anticipation. With a four-hour time block dubbed the "Exhibitor Extravaganza," the association provided food, drink and entertainment, while offering attendees the opportunity to browse through more than 200 of the industry's top vendors. With maps in hand, visitors perused the record-setting number of exhibitors in an elaborately laid-out exhibit hall, complete with food and beverage stations, mobile ice-cream carts, a full dining area and a bevy of company and industry-related handouts and raffles, including three brand new cars--a PT Cruiser, Volkswagen Beetle and Jeep Wrangler, sponsored by Saxon Mortgage, InterFirst and Countrywide, respectively. After four hours, many attendees ambled back to their hotels for another round of hospitality suites, as brokers somehow found the energy to return to the Flats or take in one of the many shows and events happening around the town. As the convention's closing day rolled around, the schedule, which consisted of a four-hour exhibit hall, three hours of classes and the much-anticipated Gala Dinner and Showcase, seemed light in comparison to the previous three days. From 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., registered attendees took advantage of a final opportunity to meet and greet their colleagues, as the exhibit hall wound down, and the association raffled off its remaining vehicular offerings in a typical frenzied fashion. Elvis and John Lennon could be seen walking around and visiting exhibits at a much slower pace than the prior evening, as signs of fatigue began to set in, also demonstrated by the lackluster attendance at the afternoon's breakout sessions. Following the same design, classes were once again broken into three segments, and offered a variety of applicable tips for better business and profit margins. Beginning with Elie Mellul's intense course on branch opportunities, and ending with a class titled, "Increase Income and Decrease Working Hours Using Technology," attendees who fought through their lethargy and stayed at the convention center for an extra few hours were rewarded with techniques and tips to take back home to their offices. Finally, after several hours of rest, relaxation and exhibitor breakdown, the doors of the Grand Ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel opened and the Gala Dinner and Showcase began. With a relatively small time-frame to fit a rather lengthy schedule, Joseph Falk and Armand Cosenza Jr., the co-masters of ceremonies, didn't waste any time. The first order of business was the distribution of awards, in which several of NAMB's most-dedicated members received the recognition they deserved. Congratulations to the following award winners and respective nominees in each category: ++President's Award, State--A'kos Kovach, Oklahoma Association of Mortgage Brokers President ++President's Award, National--Dorothy Desmond, NAMB Membership Committee Chair ++Eagle Award--Countrywide Home Loans ++Affiliate of the Year--InterFirst ++Volunteer of the Year--Bob Armbruster, NAMB Treasurer ++Distinguished Industry Service Award--J.C. "Tuck" Marshall, 1998-1999 NAMB Past President ++State Affiliate of the Year, Small--Oregon Association of Mortgage Brokers ++State Affiliate of the Year, Large--Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers ++Broker of the Year--Melissa Walker, Kansas Association of Mortgage Brokers Immediate Past President As the recipients accepted their accolades, the true spirit of NAMB was demonstrated, as each thanked their state association for their support and passed credit to the membership, without whom there would not be an honor to bestow. The major news of the evening, however, was the announcement of NAMB's 46th state affiliate, Rhode Island, leaving only North and South Dakota, Maine and Vermont as the remaining obstacles to the association's coast-to-coast union. The NAMB membership felt stronger than ever under the new leadership of Armand Cosenza Jr., who, in keeping with the playful spirit of the evening, quipped, "Hey Joe [referring to Joseph Falk], didn't it take you seven months to land your first state? It took me [looks at his watch] 36 hours!" After a full three-course meal and an emotional commendation issued to Jim Nabors for his impeccable convention planning, comedian Richard Jeni began the evening's festivities with a 45-minute set that kept the aisles and the crowd rolling. From the moment he stepped onto the stage with, "I have an awful lot of credentials to be playing the mortgage gig in Cleveland," he continued to drop hysterical puns both related and unrelated to the mortgage industry. Functioning as many of the convention-goers' final hurrah, Jim Nabors planned one heck of a finale, as Mr. Jeni's impeccable timing matched that of NAMB's, which may have assembled the most punctual convention in its history, not to mention the most memorable. With 15,000 members strongly supporting them, NAMB seemed poised to take the country by storm, whether by land, "rock" or sea.
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