Getting to know â€¦ NAMB 2008-2009 President Marc Savitt, CRMSEric C. PeckMarc Savitt, National Association of Mortgage Brokers, The Mortgage Center, mortgage broker, West Virginia Association of Mortgage Brokers
"We want people to know that brokers are not what theyve
been reading about in the newspapers for the past year-and-a-half.
We are your friends; we are your neighbors. Were the ones who
provide more options, choices and make competition possible. We are
the ones who are there to help you."
In June, Marc Savitt, CRMS of The Mortgage Center in
Martinsburg, W. Va. became 35th president of the National
Association of Mortgage Brokers.
Marc wasn't always about mortgages and home financing. In the
late 1970s and early 1980s, he owned a company that installed fire
alarms in New Jersey. His workings with financing and the fire
alarm business got the ball rolling on his mortgage career. After a
friend got him involved in the mortgage business, Marc began
working as a processor in New Jersey in the early 1980s, and
eventually started The Mortgage Center in West Virginia. He chose
West Virginia as a starting location due to a lack of competition
in the area, because, as Marc states, "There were too many mortgage
companies in Virginia, so I looked five miles in the other
direction and there was nobody in West Virginia. The only
competition I had were the banks, and we were blowing them
The Mortgage Center has been ranked number one or two for the
past 10-plus years as a top volume producer by the West Virginia
Housing Development Fund and the United States Department of
Agriculture's Guaranteed Loan Program.
Fast-forward 23 years: Marc still owns and operates The Mortgage
Center and takes the helm of NAMB as Mortgage Brokers face a daily
barrage of attacks from consumer groups and the media. Marc's
platform consists of many goals, one of them being the perception
of the role of the Mortgage Broker in mainstream media. His
communication efforts with the general public will be geared toward
clearing up this problem and painting the exact picture of just who
a Mortgage Broker is and what their role is in the home-buying
process. Homebuyer education is another goal Marc has set for NAMB
over the next year. As Marc will explain, through NAMB's grassroots
network of state affiliates, association members will reach out to
their local communities and provide financial literacy education.
The pilot program is currently in the works and slated for a Fall
We recently had a chance to chat with Marc and discuss the
present and future of the Mortgage Broker industry, and his plans
over the next year as NAMB's newest president.
The Mortgage Press: How did you first become involved with
Marc Savitt: I first became involved as a member with a
now-defunct mortgage association in the late 1980s, the American
Institute of Mortgage Brokers. This organization just did not live
up to my expectations.
Around 2000-2001, Neill Fendly was president of NAMB and he
approached our group of brokers in West Virginia about forming an
NAMB state affiliate. We met with NAMB, and started the West
Virginia Association of Mortgage Brokers. I served on the first
WVAMB board of directors as treasurer. I eventually moved up to
vice president and president of the association and handled the
association's government affairs.
For such a small state association, we did get quite a bit
accomplished. There were a lot of issues, such as a licensing law;
we removed all the anti-competitive issues from the law and
inserted some good provisions for both the broker and consumer. One
thing I will say about the state is that when our regulatory
agency, the West Virginia Division of Banking, wants to do
something legislatively, they now contact us to see how we feel
about it. They are very receptive to our input and are a great
group to deal with.
Years later, South Dakota had a similar legislative issue
presented that we faced in West Virginia. So I went there, brought
our playbook from West Virginia and helped them solve their
TMP: Would you say that that is one of the many benefits
that NAMB is able to provide to its state affiliates?
MS:Absolutely. This is one of the many benefits of working
with so many people nationwide. You work not only with the state
leaders, but you have personal relationships with individual
members too. We all face different issues from time to time, and by
speaking with our peers nationwide, you find that they often
encountered the same things you did. There are many levels of being
a member of NAMB and camaraderie is one of them. Its not just
having a drink after a long day at a conference. Its finding out
what works, even in business. We have a lot of members struggling
right now, and Ive shared some ideas that have worked for me.
TMP: You just mentioned that a great deal of mortgage
professionals are struggling. Over the next year as NAMB president,
is it part of your platform to work with the state affiliates as
they downsize and struggle in this market? What tactics are you
going to employ?
MS: We do understand their problem and what they are going
through & being brokers ourselves. We've let them be
independent, but NAMB is here when they need usif they have some
For example, we recently got a call from one of our affiliates,
as they were having a problem with their Attorney General issuing
an opinion letter. They called us on a Friday night and on Monday,
we were already well on our way to having the problem fixed. This
is an issue they couldn't solve on their own, so NAMB stepped in to
It's bad enough right now with all the legislative and
regulatory actions we are facing as an industry, but now it's
compounded with business slowing. We try to find out what their
problems are, analyze them and sometimes we will talk to members in
other stateswe'll put out some type of e-mail to members in
different states, perhaps the surrounding statesto find out if
they've gone through a similar situation and what can be done to
work together and help their neighbors. We all work together.
TMP: Is correcting the media's perception of the broker high
on your agenda?
MS: Definitely. It's been high on my agenda even before I
became president. I feel that when the mortgage meltdown occurred,
there was a rush to judgment. There were a lot of fingers being
pointed & and they were all being pointed in our direction.
We're the smallest guys of the various distribution channels, so it
was easiest to blame it on us. Mortgage Brokers got the blame for a
lot of things that were clearly not our fault. It's not to say that
we don't have some bad apples in our industry. We do, and hopefully
a lot of them have disappeared, but I'm sure there are still some
out there, and we are trying to do everything we can to weed them
In 2007, NAMB asked the House Financial Services Committee to
conduct a government study to determine the cause of this mortgage
meltdown. And when that study came back, it was a Government
Accountability Office (GAO) study, it indicated that Mortgage
Brokers were a very small part of it. Keep in mind, Mortgage
Brokers are not the ones who developed these products and programs.
We don't set the guidelines for these programs or their parameters,
and we don't approve or underwrite the loans. Others do. We simply
sell the products. It's been said that blaming Mortgage Brokers for
the mortgage meltdown is like blaming your local grocery store for
lung cancer because they sell cigarettes.
TMP: Were you disappointed that the media was unable to pick
up on the positives to compensate for the negatives that were out
MS: The way I see it, the mainstream media didn't want to
highlight it because it would appear that maybe some of the
reporting was inaccurate at the time. A lot of the reporting done
by the mainstream media was not just on what legislators or others
were saying & they were injecting their own personal views.
Take, for example, some of the coverage on Congressional
hearings on the mortgage industry. There was a woman who testified
back in February of '07, who had clearly been victimized, as she
claimed, by a California Mortgage Broker with Saxon Mortgage. Saxon
Mortgage was a lender, not a Mortgage Broker. Several times, Sen.
Chuck Schumer has referred to "the Mortgage Brokers of Ameriquest"
& again, not a broker.
The way we are being portrayed in the media is a huge problem,
because they are substituting Mortgage Broker for loan officer.
Perhaps they don't understand what a Mortgage Broker is.
We've got an image problem. One of the planks in my platform is
that we will do all we can to make people aware of who brokers are
& not just brokers, but NAMB Mortgage Brokers. I think NAMB
brokers are a step above the rest because we subscribe to a high
code of ethics, adhere to best business practices, and educational
and certification programs.
Most importantly, now we have the Lending Integrity Seal of
Approval. With our Lending Integrity Seal of Approval program,
members have to go through a background investigation. So even if
your state doesn't require it, NAMB will require it in order to be
a member of NAMB. Through the use of the Seal, consumers will know
that when they deal with a member of NAMB, theyre dealing with
someone who has a clean record, is reputable and trustworthy.
TMP: Do you feel that the recent signing of HR 3221, the
American Housing and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008, has
leveled the playing field in establishing a licensing and
registration system for mortgage originators?
MS: I think it's a tremendous accomplishment. The history
of HR 3221 goes back to October of 2007 with Rep. Barney Frank's
bill, HR 3915, the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act
of 2007. HR 3915 started off as a Mortgage Broker/yield spread
premium (YSP) bill that had a $1 million net worth requirement and
$100,000 surety bond requirement for brokers. By the time the bill
passed the House, we actually turned it into an all-originator,
indirect compensation bill, with both the $1 million net worth
requirement and $100,000 surety bond thrown out. So, to go from
broker-only to all-originator, and not just YSP, but to all
indirect compensation, was a major accomplishment. HR 3221 levels
the playing field for consumers.
TMP: What are you doing to increase NAMB's membership
numbers and how are you reaching out to the membership to increase
MS: I've spoken to new NAMB Membership Committee Chair
Olga Kucerak about a membership drive that is slated to launch this
fall. What we plan to do is utilize many outlets to help us reach
everyone who is a Mortgage Broker or originator.
Unfortunately, a lot of individuals in this industry stay on the
sidelines, thinking to themselves: "Well, I'm not going to send my
money and I'm not going to become an NAMB member because they'll
still get everything done and I'll benefit anyway." The problem is
that's not going to work anymore because there are too many issues
coming at us fast and furious on a regular basis, and we need the
strength of numbers.
Do we need your money? Absolutely. Do we need your participation
on committees? Definitely.
TMP: With the cost of everything on the rise and the number
of originations on the decline, what words of hope do you have for
a Mortgage Broker on the future of their industry?
MS: I would tell them that they need to become involved in
the association. At the state level and at the national level,
every association member is feeling the same pain they are. Some
are doing better than others and there's a reason for thatbecause
theyve been in it a long time and they can provide some
The more experienced members have already weathered market
downturns. I personally have been through four of these downturns
to date. I would help them with ideas and tools that I've used to
not only stay in business, but to prosper in this industry. I would
help them with education so that they could get through this down
market and prepare for the next one thatll eventually come.
One of the biggest problems that I've seen is that when times
are good, people never think its going to endit always does. We
have to show them ways they can still enjoy the benefits of the
good times, but also how to prepare for the slow ones. You can't
get that just by being on your own.
TMP: Do you have any closing comments?
MS: Most importantly, as NAMB president, my first
responsibility is to protect my members from any onerous
legislative or regulatory actions. That's my primary duty. In light
of what's happening now, with all the foreclosures and
delinquencies going on, I feel as though there's a real need for
financial literacy to be taught in our nation's schools. Schools
don't have the experience to teach it, they don't have the
resources to teach it & this is where NAMB comes in. We are in
every community in this country. We are developing a program, with
the assistance of Ginny Ferguson, Rocke Andrews, Kate Crawford and
others, where we are developing a 45-min. financial literacy
program designed for students from the 10th grade and up.
I have spoken to the Rev. Jesse Jackson about this initiative,
and he wants to see a prototype. I also spoke to Rev. Jackson's
Rainbow Coalition and many ministers came up to me and asked how
they could become involved with this program. They want to have
members come into their churches and communities to educate not
only the current generation of homebuyers, but the next generation
There was a study that found that 33 percent of all high school
seniors have a credit card. I was worried about my own kids on
their college campuses being bombarded by credit card applications.
This is going on in high schools now. The minute you turn 18, your
name is sold and you get a credit card application. Students don't
know the first thing about managing and keeping credit, and when
not to apply or accept offers of credit. Many of them rely on their
parents, yet approximately 68 percent of their parents said that
their financial skills are anywhere from okay to horrible. We need
to do a better job of educating those who will be borrowers,
whether it's a car, house or whatever. I think this program is
going to go a long way in doing that. Its good for the consumer,
but its also good for the Mortgage Broker as well. We're going to
train the individual brokers; they will be the ones going into the
schools in their communities, so it will be exposure for the
individual NAMB brokers and it will go a long way in helping NAMB's
image. We want people to know that brokers are not what they've
been reading about in the newspapers for the past year-and-a-half.
We are your friends; we are your neighbors. We're the ones who
provide more options, choices and make competition possible. We are
the ones who are there to help you.