It’s July 4 at 5:45 a.m. I woke up thinking about the year being half over. Where will the second half take us? We have already dealt with many challenges and more appear to be on the horizon. I cannot figure out whom or what is really driving this environment. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) are still with us. Congress cannot figure out what to do with them or what to do about anything else. The market is in fits and starts … in the morning, there are “signs of improvement” and later that same day, some potential disastrous news shifts the mood. Rates are down … oh, no, they are “deteriorating.” Buyers will not buy in one of the lowest interest rate environments in history, worried by the experts that home prices haven’t hit bottom, regulations have a stranglehold on the entire business and Congress seems to think the noose isn’t tight enough. Volume is down, but lenders are recording record profits! What a MESS!
The National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) and its state affiliates struggle with the same challenges. Critics expect states and NAMB to “do something about it.” As statewide president of the Connecticut Association of Mortgage Professionals, (yes, we also kept our CTAMB logo, but changed our name), I have been called by individuals who are NOT members in a challenging tone, asking me “What are YOU GUYS doing about the LO compensation rule?” or the flavor of the day, “qualified residential mortgages (QRMs)?”
I am not a rude person, yet one such caller forced me to get in his face. So the first question I asked him, “Are you a member?”
To which he not surprisingly replied, “No.”
To which I asked “Why not?”
To which he replied, “Cause YOU GUYS don’t do anything!”
I replied, “THEN WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME? Do you have ANY IDEA how many hours I spend volunteering to save your butt?”
I won’t bore you with where it went from there, suffice it to say he was irrational, frightened and clearly didn't want to know or understand what his role is. His time was far more important than the countless hours donated by willing volunteers to protect his business! If you are not part of the solution, there is a pretty good chance you are part of the problem!
What is the crux of this issue? I ask you; (yes, I really do want your feedback) how does an entire industry pull together? We all have the same goals in mind. Aren’t we all working toward providing a marketplace that services consumers in a professional, competent manner; one that is undeniably unmatched by our larger competitors?
So here’s the crux of it, the mindset of the people in the industry. The word “professional” has been a void in this industry for a long time. Let’s face it … most loan originators consider their job to be a sales job. The word “professional” simply implies something totally different. We need a huge shift in the way we think! In my fantasy world, every professional would not only be a member of their association, but they would strive for perfection; certifications, association participation and maybe even some, elective education (do you mean take a course nobody is making me take?).
Ask yourself this question: “If we all have the same products and all have to follow the same rules (well most of us do) how are you any different from the originator down the street?
One day last year, I received a call from a borrower who was clearly shopping. He told me he had spoken to several brokers. I ended up taking his application and midway through, asked him, “Did you give your application to the other brokers also?”
“No,” he replied.
“So why are you giving it to me,” I asked.
“Because I read your bio and it blew me away,” he said.
That stopped me in my tracks. My bio? Where did he see it? What did it say? Had I updated it and how can I get everyone else in the world to read it?
What happened after that is irrelevant. The point is, that was the most important piece of information any consumer can ever give you—why they chose you! Assuming you have a bio, what does it tell your customers about you?
Until a complete mind shift occurs, until “salespeople” start thinking of themselves as part of something bigger than their current transaction, until we back up our supposed professional image with professional commitment, we will live in a place where everyone needs help to survive, very few volunteer and Congress thinks we are scoundrels. For some reason, we expect our world to unrealistically remain untouched, yet live in perpetual fear and uncertainty that it won’t. I firmly believe there is a better place to reside.
How do you go about shifting your mindset? Make a commitment to yourself … a commitment to your customers … a commitment to learning … and a commitment to participating, volunteering, budgeting for improvement and challenging yourself to be your better self! This is not a competition amongst peers. This is a competition between you and yourself. This is a competition that implores you to do the unexpected and see your future as a better place than the insane, insecure place that we are in now.
It’s easy to say “get involved in your life.” Doing it is where the challenge lies. Here are some ideas that could possibly be attainable, and ones that just might get you out of your chair and out of your office … Ready?
1. If you are not a member of your state association, join today and visit www.namb.org for more information.
2. If you do not have an NAMB state affiliate in your own state, then join another state! That’s an excuse.
3. Go through state and NAMB Web sites to see what is happening and what has happened. Now I know not all of the sites are up to date, so if that’s your pet peeve or excuse for not joining, then get on an “Update the Web Site Committee” and become part of the process.
4. Start an Excel Spreadsheet on your desktop and keep track of every single course you take and Webinar you attend (however short or seemingly inconsequential). Do you want a template? Just e-mail me at [email protected]
and I’ll be happy to send you one.
5. In the same desktop folder, keep copies of registration forms, flyers and certificates of completion from anything you attend. You will need to prove attendance in order to become certified.
6. Get certified! Use the above courses to help you qualify Most trainers at the gym I work out at all have at least two or three certifications! Even trainers have certifications! Visit the NAMB Web site at www.namb.org and click on the “Certification” tab for more information.
7. Read, or at least, flip through trade magazines periodically … amazing ideas are right in front of us.
8. Set a budget for some amount like $2,000 annually to invest in your own career by attending trade shows and conferences, classes or to just support your association by attending functions.
9. Start a blog.
10. Write articles.
11. Develop courses and then teach them! E-mail me at [email protected]
if you need assistance with this one.
12. Get out into your community and speak about something that furthers your career and brings value to your audience.
13. Read industry books. In the last year, I have read, Chain of Blame by Paul Muolo; Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin; Liars Poker and the Big Short by Michael Lewis; No One Would Listen by Harry Markopolis; All the Devils Are Here by Joe Nocera & Bethany McLean; The Week That Changed Wall Street by Maria Bartiromo, The House of Dimon by Patricia Crisafulli; and I’m ready to start Reckless Endangerment by Gretchen Morgenson. Industry books beef up your broader knowledge, giving you insight into what happened and how we should be conducting business today and in the future. Be a student of your own profession. People tell me they don’t read this stuff because it’s depressing. I say, all the more reason to understand what happened and how it affects our future.
Another way I see the industry coming together is through a new program that we started in NAMB’s Connecticut state affiliate, CTAMB, called the Ambassador Program. The purpose of the program is to get wholesalers and other industry professionals committed and involved. They too have a vested interest in the survival of the mortgage broker. We are just rolling this out in Connecticut and I hope it will become a program nationwide. Stay tuned.
So, how has my life been made better as a direct result of my association involvement? For starters, I have closed transactions that were leads directly from the NAMB Web site. Members that I have met from all over the country have referred me business, and I have referred business back to them. I have taken, written and delivered courses in my own home state of Connecticut and at conferences, which helped me earn my Certified Residential Mortgage Specialist (CRMS) certification, which earned me business I would not have received otherwise. I am often called to write articles by different publications. One publisher contacted me solely due to my association to NAMB to author a 20-hour SAFE course textbook “National Residential Mortgage,” which I co-authored with my husband, Don DeRespinis, currently the chief information officer for NAMB. The textbook is currently in its final stages of production. I have traveled to conferences in cities I probably never would have seen. I have made some incredible friends who have helped me and given me the honor of helping them. Sometimes even, I just had fun! I have been offered opportunities that never would have been presented because I never would have met these people without my association involvement. I feel good every day that, in some small way, just maybe, I made a positive impact on other originators struggling with the same challenges I have. It’s all worth every minute! I share this with you because I learned that I was so focused on the day-to-day, that I never thought about later!
What better way to open your mind, shift your mindset, get in the groove, gain a positive perspective, improve your skills and really earn the business of your clients, than to participate! And don’t forget, to have some fun as well! This is just a springboard … it’s up to you to step up to it.
Deb Killian, CRMS is a National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) board member and statewide president of the Connecticut Association of Mortgage Brokers (CTAMB). Deb is also Connecticut wholesale account executive for GMAC. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]