With the intense licensing and education changes the mortgage industry has been faced with over the past two years, it is time for mortgage professionals to take a closer look at how these changes can positively impact their relationships with current and potential borrowers. In 2008, the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act) embedded new licensing requirements and considerations into our professional culture. Previously state-mandated, these licensing standards are now set and overseen by federal entities through the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS).
Requirements include registering on the NMLS, completing background checks, passing national and state tests, and completing pre-education and continuing education courses approved by the NMLS.
The SAFE Act stems from commendable efforts to elevate the mortgage industry from its disastrous downfall, increase borrower confidence and help restore the financial markets. It's now time for the mortgage professionals who have complied with these requirements to sharpen their perspective on not only what these mandates do for the industry and the economy, but what these mandates do for them.
Mortgage professionals across the country are constantly faced with the challenge of finding new ways to build business and build relationships with new borrowers. Referrals, direct mail, advertisements and online promotion have been staples in marketing strategies to help differentiate products and services from the competition. These are all time-tested and solid techniques. Now is the time to use recent federal requirements to their advantage and maximize the additional steps that have been taken to do business as a mortgage loan originator.
Educated. Tested. Checked. These qualities speak to credibility in and of themselves and offer an opportunity for individual promotion that may not have existed prior to this year.
Licensed mortgage loan originators have successfully completed 20 hours of pre-education, approved by the NMLS. This includes rigorous instruction on federal mortgage laws; ethics, including fraud; consumer protection and fair lending; and lending standards for the non-traditional mortgage product marketplace. Education is one of the most valued accomplishments throughout every industry in our country. Patients, customers, students, clients and borrowers alike strive to work with and select the most educated counterparts to help them through every transaction they pursue in a lifetime. Licensed mortgage professionals are now more educated and more prepared to serve their borrowers so promote that fact.
Licensed mortgage loan originators have also passed a national and state test (at least one). With national average pass rates for these tests hovering around the 70 percent mark, passing these tests is a notable feat. Not only have the licensed individuals studied the relevant course topics, they have proved the proper applicability of the content in a testing environment.
Passing background checks is another important aspect of the new licensing requirements that has many advantages in the eyes of a borrower. After being inundated with prime-time news stories about unscrupulous financial services professionals, borrowers are skittish and skeptical of who supports them in these financial transactions that are, oftentimes, the most important transactions of their lifetime.
These incredible and marketable attributes are already in the back pockets of each licensed mortgage professional, but the majority of borrowers are not aware of it. Why not capitalize on the time and money you have invested in becoming a licensed mortgage professional? A borrower wants and needs to know their mortgage loan originator is educated, tested and complies with all of the standards set by federal legislators.
One simple way to do this is through industry designations. Designations flourish in many industries, including accounting, financial planning, writers, teachers, doctors and lawyers. Professional societies typically offer these designations once industry-specific standards have been met. The mortgage industry is now at a time to allow its professionals to promote their accomplishments. Not only will these designations instill pride in the mortgage professional, it will add a conversation piece to introductions with borrowers, increase credibility and cultivate confidence in the minds of borrowers.
Various organizations in the mortgage industry have integrated designations into their membership programs, education programs and internal corporate advancement programs. These designations prove valuable for segmented accomplishments throughout various careers in the mortgage industry, but none are comprehensive. None speak to the meaningfulness of the financial and time-intensive investment of meeting the new federal mortgage licensing standards.
All industry designation programs allow for mortgage professionals to establish relationships and build upon the initial request or service. There are, and have been, a few successful mortgage designations, such as the Certified Residential Mortgage Specialist (CRMS) and Certified Mortgage Consultant (CMC) from the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB), as well as the Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB) with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The Consumer Mortgage Bureau (CMB) takes a comprehensive approach to its designations. Designations are only offered to mortgage professionals who have a unique identifier with the NMLS, have been approved and listed on the NMLS, prove successful completion of 20 hours of pre-education, prove the passage of the national and state tests, maintain their licensure through completion of continuing education courses and provide results of their background check. It is an all-encompassing designation that allows mortgage professionals to promote their compliance with the recent federal mandates. CMB offers two types of designations. The Licensed Mortgage Professional (LMP) is for mortgage loan originators who work for non-depository lenders, mortgage bankers and brokers. The Registered Mortgage Professional (RMP) is for mortgage loan originators who are employed by a depository institution regulated by a federal banking agency, a subsidiary which is owned and controlled by a depository institution and regulated by a federal banking agency, or an institution regulated by the Farm Credit Administration.
It is essential to build strong relationships quickly and remember to continue to stay “in front” of your clients at all times. Clients should know that you know more about their mortgage than they do. They want a reputable, trained professional, who invests in themselves and their craft. Designations offer an opportunity to stand apart from the crowd. Use them on business cards, Web sites and marketing materials and explain their significance to potential borrowers and colleagues. As the mortgage profession takes the turn to a more respected, credible and accountable industry, you should take advantage of the accomplishments already achieved and place them strategically in your marketing arsenal.
Lance Cassell is the managing director of the Consumer Mortgage Bureau (CMB) and vice president of TrainingPro. For more information, call (410) 845-3640 or visit www.consumermortgagebureau.org.