From the Sidelines...To the GameMortgagePress.comNAMB, National Association of Mortgage Brokers, GAMB, Georgia Association of Mortgage Brokers, Bob Armbruster,
With more than 40 years of mortgage industry experience, a
successfully owned and operated business, a bevy of both National
and Georgia Association of Mortgage Brokers positions, and two GAMB
Broker of the Year Awards, one would think that Bob Armbruster has
earned the right to gloat, kick back, and enjoy his accomplishments
through the years. However Mr. Armbruster scoffs at this notion,
and seems to downplay these achievements as he began his term as
2001-2002 NAMB Treasurer. "I wish others would get involved, and
realize that all national and affiliate Officers and Board members
are very conscientious, have made personal commitments, and
sacrifices, but have experienced the awards of sharing their
resources in association service."
From Aviation to Mortgages
Bob Armbruster is one of the few ex-aviators-turned Mortgage
Broker in NAMB's history. He began his professional career with the
United States Navy as an air traffic controller, achieved a Senior
Controllers Designation for Japan, and flew as a crew member on
hurricane hunter planes. He later moved to Miami to begin, what he
had hoped would be a successful career with the Federal Aviation
Administration. When that did not pan out, he decided to work for a
large Florida land development firm specializing in land and home
sales to retirees and military personnel all over the world. He
then obtained employment with a national Mortgage Banker as an area
manager in Atlanta, and later worked his way through various
positions of management.
"I kind of did things inversely, meaning I moved from
administration to management without any direct loan origination
experience," says Mr. Armbruster. His team-building experiences,
coupled with his doing things backwards, has served him quite well,
further affording him to lead and work independently for much of
"The valuable experiences from the 1960s to early 1980s, in
various market situations, has enabled me to take the big step of
starting my own consulting/originating company, Armbruster Mortgage
Services Inc., in the summer of 1984."
What makes him even more distinguished, is that Mr. Armbruster
has not only accomplished that milestone by working backward, but
also stayed away from association life for nearly 10 years of
independent brokering, with the firm belief that state and national
associations were, "Non-effective, party-going entities that
accomplished much of nothing, and did nothing to help the
A Fateful Change of Direction
In 1994, in what would prove to be a fateful call, GAMB
President and friend Ron Blomberg, phoned Mr. Armbruster looking
for a favor; he needed some support and input on the GAMB Board of
Directors from a respected, seasoned member of the mortgage
community. Ever the community humanitarian, Mr. Armbruster agreed
to help, but strictly on a temporary basis. "He told me that it
would be until the end of the year, and that he wanted me to work
with him on the GAMB Legislative Affairs Committee ...it went on
from there," Mr. Armbruster recalls.
"It's funny, because as I joined Ron, I didn't know any
legislators, but by the year's end, I knew the entire Georgia
Congressional Delegation and their respective staffs on a first
name basis. If you recall, Georgia and Alabama were fast to become
the yield spread premium, class-action capitals of the world over
the next few years, so you might say it became a necessity.
Besides, as a result of my relationships, I was honored to assist a
congresswoman, and four staff members with their personal mortgage
loans. Even today, I still receive calls from them, seeking advice,
so I must have done some things right."
A Man of Conviction and Dedication
Bob has yet to leave association life and is now a proud member
of both NAMB and GAMB, with more than seven years of Executive
Board and Committee experience to offer his customers. In addition
to his current NAMB Treasurer position and duties which result in
an interface with almost every aspect of NAMB, Mr. Armbruster is
Chair of the GAMB Industry Partners Committee, a member of its
Legislative Committee, and a Director of the GAMB Education
Foundation. He admits that referrals have been the mainstay of his
business, and new loan solicitations, especially during the recent
refi parade, have suffered through his overwhelming service to his
State and National Associations.
"This year has definitely been a challenge with certain
financial issues within NAMB. I feel that I have brought a constant
vigilance to the NAMB Board, and together, we have solved some
problems. The challenges were largely management situations needing
attention, and they happened to involve my position as Treasurer."
He believes the team approach has definitely benefitted membership,
but as in the past, a personal appeal for involvement was key.
"NAMB President Joseph Falk's appeal to membership resulted in
three times the anticipated cash flows, and many folks are to be
thanked for their kindness and attention to the demands for
"As in the case of Ron and myself years ago, I guess you can
call me an advocate of personal appeals and personal contacts. I
believe the strongest appeal to non-members is on a personal basis,
where you personally approach someone, and tell them you need them
amongst your ranks. When I was GAMB President, this was one of the
ways we increased membership. This is my style."
His positive and direct style has worked through the years, as
the impressions of his efforts have generally resulted in
In recent years, Bob feels that the mortgage industry has faced
many challenges, some of which are ongoing. "The advent of
e-commerce has impacted the way we do business, and the jury is
still out on the cause and effect on the broker's market share. The
consumer still prefers personal service, a broker strength, but the
younger generation today has been brought up in the computer age,
and perhaps they will become accustomed to divulging and sharing
personal information within the scope of doing business in the
Mr. Armbruster has made a habit of staying abreast of
legislative happenings, and has been active with both Congressional
delegations, and state and local legislators. He feels that even
with the latest HUD Statement of Policy, the industry is a long way
from total mortgage reform. "Mortgage reform, to me, means just
that, a complete review of all legislation affecting a mortgage
transaction, keeping some elements, while discarding others, and
replacing old statutes with new and meaningful updated legislation.
Right now, the issue on the burner is disclosures, so I suggest we
are dealing with disclosure reform, and not the mortgage reform
that has been referenced."
"The issue of a consumer receiving the same disclosure at the
inception of a buying decision is important, and should apply to
all originators, which brings up the disparity between the legal
aspects of legislative proposals, and the politics involved. Why
can't any of us as consumers expect the same paperwork from any
source we choose to do business with?" Mr. Armbruster asks.
"Another form of disclosure applicable just to Mortgage Brokers is
unfair to both the broker community and to their consumer clients.
I personally have no problem with any form of disclosure, so long
as it educates the consumer."
Bob believes that consumer education is necessary for any
disclosure to be meaningful. "I believe the education process is
just as important as the disclosure document itself, and that
brokers, as a part of this process, present various alternatives
for the client to choose from...the ultimate decision is always the
consumer's," he explains.
On the subject of predatory lending, Mr. Armbruster prefers to
use the terminology "abusive practices" since a universal
definition has not been accepted. "Yes, there is a small element of
abusive and perhaps predatory practitioners in the marketplace, but
thieves will be thieves, and I suggest these folks will not change
their ways because some new law or policy is mandated. What is
necessary, is continued and improved enforcement of existing
legislation, policies and procedures, coupled with renewed efforts
for consumer education.
There is also an issue of accountability. Where does one draw a
line between one's own responsibility for his or her own actions,
and all the forces leading up to those actions? I suggest informed
and educated folks cannot be fleeced if they understand what is
taking place with regards to those responsibilities, and all
elements of the transaction."
Yes, Bob does have a personal life, and attributes much of his
success to his understanding wife of 35 years, Annette. "I'm her
biggest fan, and she is my partner," says Bob. They have two
children and enjoy visits from their new granddaughter. "We have
truly been blessed and are thankful for a great family."
A Final Note
Even with his wealth of success and vast array of knowledge, Mr.
Armbruster takes little credit for his accomplishments. "I made the
personal commitment to give something back to the industry by being
involved. I hope more will join our ranks. I'm just another of the
dedicated bunch of great people around NAMB, and GAMB. Sometimes
I'm a man of vision, and sometimes I'm a fire plug--whichever it
takes to get a project done well."
Bob is a healthy mix of insight and action, and his words tend
to leave an heir of distinction behind. "The world will keep
changing, and our industry will keep changing. We are going to have
to accept that mix of politics and reality. But now is the time to
change the whys into why nots, and to make things happen."