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The sub-prime forum: How to source new sub-prime lenders

National Mortgage Professional
Jan 03, 2006

Putting others first: A look at the career of Carol WagnerMarissa Larubbioindustry spotlight, Carol Wagner, Freddie Mac In the mortgage industry, Carol Wagner is a name that most everyone recognizes. From her 17 years in the industry relations department at Freddie Mac, to her earlier position as an associate director with the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Mortgage Bankers Association, Carol spearheaded collaborations with Freddie Mac and the many trade associations representing mortgage bankers, brokers, real estate agents and builders. Her efforts greatly improved communication and bolstered the presence of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers and the association's influence within the industry. She became one of the largest advocates of NAMB to advance their involvement within the industry, and for that, she should be recognized as a true believer in the power of NAMB and its membership. After 17 years of outstanding service at Freddie Mac, Carol is now able to reflect on her accomplishments in the industry as she prepares for the next chapter of her life in the mortgage industry. Born and raised in Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., Carol's interest in service to others began at an early age. Working in her father's bakery, Carol first learned what it felt like to serve others. "When I was 11, I started working in my parents' bakery, and I think it was service to people that was ingrained in me at that early age that has continued through my life, whether it's service to customers, peers, colleagues, or the higher-ups that's something that's been with me and is at the root of who I am," Carol states. This desire to help people, coupled with an early interest in history and the political process, led her to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where she majored in political science. By 1969, Carol was a college graduate looking for a way to further her service to others. While waiting for an application to the "A HREF="http://www.cia.gov">CIA to clear, Carol accepted what was to be a temporary position at Riggs National Bank, then known as "the mortgage banker's bank," and remained there for the next 17 years, eventually becoming an assistant vice president in the real estate division. Among her responsibilities at Riggs, Carol led a staff of 12 and was in charge of the daily operations of the warehousing and document custody units for approximately 30 mortgage banking companies and 35 issuers of Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae and private label securities. One of Carol's major accomplishments while working at Riggs was lobbying for real estate departments to hold documents that would securitize securities' issuances, instead of the bank's trust departments holding them (as was the norm at that time). With Carol's help, Riggs became the first bank to practice this custom, and Ginnie Mae changed their rules and requirements due to her efforts. After becoming involved with the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Mortgage Bankers Association and becoming the first woman to hold a position on their board of directors and chairing the association's Real Estate Finance Committee, Carol accepted a position with the MBA as an associate director of government agency relations, where she established, maintained and enhanced the MBA's relationships with Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae. Because of her background with the Ginnie Mae document custody area, Carol influenced the decision to create a subcommittee of a full-standing committee, made up of different-sized Ginnie Mae issuers. With this committee, the MBA finally had a regular liaison with Ginnie Mae, devoted to their securities program. After that point, Carol used her influence and relationship with the people of Ginnie Mae to persuade them to put on presentations nationwide. The purpose of these presentations was, according to Carol, "to get out there in the community in a non-confrontational environment, to talk through all the issues, get the input from the document custodians, the banks, and the issuers, and then make changes to the programs." They were a huge success; so much so, in fact, that she was referred to as 'the best PR person Ginnie Mae never had.' This success in working with such a large government-sponsored enterprise like Ginnie Mae led to her recruitment by Freddie Mac in 1989. Prior to this time, she had already had plenty of interaction with the people at Freddie Mac, so when they were establishing an industry relations department, they sought Carol out and eventually made her director of industry relations. Reflecting upon her appointment at Freddie Mac, Carol says, "It was just wonderful. It was exactly what I wanted, to continue working within the industry, moving in a little bit of a different direction." Carol continued managing relationships with groups within the industry, including the homebuilders and the real estate agents associations, the U.S. League, the MBA, the National Council of Savings and Loans, the American Bankers Association, the American Land Title Association and various appraisal groups, among others. At this time at Freddie Mac, risk management and creditors would have to present their proposed changes to a cross-corporate set of employees. They would meet to go through what was happening, and then the industry relations group would approach, speak with the staff and those they had on their Freddie Mac committees to provide Freddie Mac with input on the direction they were going as the policy changes were being developed before rollout. As Freddie Mac developed national advisory panels over the years, Carol was called upon to gather input from mortgage broker representatives. The Loan Prospector Committee has many brokers and wholesalers on it, and Carol was able to recommend Loan Prospector users within the NAMB leadership for the committee. Now, an NAMB past president sits on the committee, and the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee also has a current NAMB board member on it. But over the years, a particular group that was considering the changes to Freddie Mac's origination and credit policies was going in a direction that Carol perceived would be potentially devastating to mortgage brokers. She knew that Freddie Mac needed to start interacting with NAMB. She and Bob Cushman, Freddie Mac's vice president of industry relations, got one of the senior vice presidents in charge of credit risk policy at Freddie Mac to travel to Chicago to meet with NAMB's leadership. The purpose of the meeting was to become educated on how the origination process had been evolving. It was vital to have trade groups establish committees or members who could work with Freddie Mac. That way, the trade groups didn't go down the wrong path, and their understanding of proposed changes would be improved in the process. Carol and Bob's trip to Chicago proved fruitful as the policy changes that were being discussed never advanced forward because of the input they received from the NAMB leadership. This meeting in Chicago changed Carol's relationship with NAMB. Bob, impressed with the fact that the brokers were ready and willing to be a resource for Freddie Mac, encouraged Carol's active participation with NAMB. She began making her way through the NAMB conference circuit and meeting people within the association. "I was trying to encourage NAMB to grow," says Carol, "and give them an opportunity to respond to Freddie Mac's requests for input to help us as we made our own changes, to get to meet Freddie Mac people, to encourage them to invite Freddie Mac to their conferences. And then of course we had Loan Prospector and DO/DU [Desktop Originator and Desktop Underwriter] impact everything." At that point, Carol's business colleagues needed to reach out to the broker community, and the door was wide open for Freddie Mac to start showing up at the conferences regional, state and national and become engaged with the members. At this point, Carol and Freddie Mac felt that there was no better place to learn what was happening on the loan origination side than to work with the people who best understood NAMB. In turn, Carol and Freddie Mac strived to help NAMB improve and promote their image, reputation and standing within the community. That was always a goal of Carol's to help promote NAMB's professionalism and reputation in the industry as a peer with the top-tier trade groups. Whenever Freddie Mac would have events, NAMB was always invited and present. In terms of her influence within the mortgage brokerage community, Carol can credit funding surveys to her name. When NAMB wanted to do their first survey of the industry, they contracted with the research and publishing company Wholesale Access and asked Carol if Freddie Mac would fund it. Carol's response was to give NAMB a letter of commitment for $5,000. She then suggested that NAMB ask Fannie Mae to match it, which they did, as well as several other major wholesalers. But one of Carol's greatest accomplishments at Freddie Mac was simply helping to establish the industry relations department. As opposed to the limited number of groups they started out with, Freddie Mac now has ongoing relationships with approximately 60 different associations, and so the department has grown tremendously over the years from where it started out in an office with just three people. In addition to her impact on the growth of the industry relations department, Carol has also had a strong influence on the internal coordination between the business units, such as the servicing division, the sales division, the underwriting group, the credit policy people, and the quality control division. These groups now work with the industry relations department before proposing changes to Freddie Mac policies. "Carol was really Freddie's ambassador to the mortgage industry," states Kirk G. Willison, Freddie Mac's director of industry relations. "No one works harder to develop long-term relationships with not only the movers and shakers of the industry, but the rank and file participants as well. She knows so many of the top trade associations and their executives. They know that she not only had Freddie Mac's best interests in mind, but their associations as well. As a result, when Carol speaks, people listen. Her contribution to Freddie Mac was particularly notable in advancing the understanding the benefits we bring to smaller loan originators, which had an immeasurable impact on our business and public policy aims." Carol can also add envisioning the idea for a NAMB State Affiliate of the Year award to her lengthy list of accomplishments. Years ago when Fannie Mae came up with the idea of donating free DO/DU and a leased car to a broker for the NAMB Broker of the Year, Carol and Freddie Mac approached NAMB and asked them to consider a State Affiliate of the Year award funded by Freddie Mac in the form of a cash award that would go right into the treasury of the winning association. Carol specified the criteria for the award, including things like service to association members and to the community as a whole, and these criteria remain in place today. After about a year and a half, the State Affiliate of the Year was born. Carol notes that the biggest change in the mortgage broker industry over the span of her career has been the broadening of the professional tools that the average broker now has. Mortgage brokers were too specialized in the past, but now have learned to change their business models and offer a greater array of products to service more niche clientele. This means that brokers can still do government loans if they want to, but they are also exploring the full scope of possibilities open to them. They have grown their expertise to service the consumers, and they have done this through raising their own professional knowledge. "I had the pleasure of working closely with Carol for the past seven years," says NAMB 2002-2003 President Armand Cosenza Jr. "She is a consummate professional, never had a personal agenda and always worked for the betterment of NAMB." What is perhaps the most poignant memory in Carol Wagner's years of industry involvement is receiving the NAMB President's Award of Merit. After serving her role as a trusted advisor to various NAMB presidents over the years, Carol became the first recipient of the award who was not a professional member of NAMB. However, she never suspected that she would wind up receiving the award; in fact, she had been hoping for Freddie Mac to receive the Affiliate Company of the Year award. "I had always hoped that Freddie Mac would get the [Affiliate] Company of the Year award, which it did in 2005," says Carol. "And I had thought for months, 'You know, if we can't do it now with CreditSmart, and all we've done this year especially, then it's never going to happen.' And then on the day of the recognition awards being given out, when I was given the NAMB President's Award of Merit, I thought 'Oh, my God! Freddie Mac's not going to get an award!' Because they were giving me something. It was so unbelievably special." NAMB 2004-2005 President Bob Armbruster states, "Carol's efforts in facilitating our financial literacy efforts by getting NAMB approved as a CreditSmart vendor will keep the association in the public eye for a long time. She is a steadfast supporter of NAMB, and her commitment to increasing consumer education is truly commendable. My 2005 Presidential Award of Merit to Carol speaks for itself." Even while receiving an award for her outstanding service to the industry, Carol thought selflessly about the other people she worked with on a daily basis another testament to her commitment to others. She added this award to previously received recognition awards for service to organizations such as America's Community Bankers Association, the Real Estate Finance Committee and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. Looking back on her recent departure from Freddie Mac, Carol misses the interaction she had with her colleagues, as well as with people in the industry trade groups and, of course, NAMBs staff and leadership. And she is grateful to Freddie Mac for the role they have played in shaping her career over the past 17 years. "Freddie Mac gave me the opportunity to initiate the relationship with NAMB, and they gave me free reign to move it forward ... I [also] had the overwhelming support of business colleagues at Freddie Mac and the senior management at Freddie Mac." Now, as Carol reflects on her service to the industry thus far, as well as looks ahead to the next role she will play, her main desire is the same as it has always been to play a role in the advancement and enhancement of any organization with which she is involved. For Carol, it has always been about the people, and that is the way it will remain.
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