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Lead, follow or get out of the way

Jun 23, 2005

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 his career. "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 individual broker." 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 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 resources." "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 successes." Current Issues 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 future." 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." Personal Life? 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."
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