Each new year gives us a prime opportunity to reflect on professional lessons learned in the previous 12 months. Perhaps, more importantly, it presents a perfect time to identify areas where we can improve as individuals and as an organization. Indeed, with the dawn of 2013 and a surge in homebuying, there is no better time to ask ourselves: How can we serve our clients even better in 2013? Because NAMB would cease to exist without its individual members, it’s clear that our success as a NAMB--The Association of Mortgage Professionals is contingent upon each of our own personal victories. As members, we are each small parts of a bigger whole. When we recommit ourselves on a personal level to honor the Professional Code of NAMB, our association, on a public level, is strengthened as well. This year, I encourage all new members, and certainly existing members, to recommit ourselves to upholding our Gold Standard of Professional Conduct in all we do. Here’s how I propose we achieve this collective resolution ... Honesty and integrity Being honest and acting with integrity with each client will demand full disclosure with each mortgage file. We must remember that although we see the forms that our clients sign thousands of times each year, it may be the first time they’ve ever seen loan documents. In fact, we should err on the side of caution and assume that this is the first time our client has been introduced to these forms. There should be no corners cut in explaining in complete detail precisely what our clients are signing up for. The onus is on us as members of NAMB to bring all of the fine print into clear light for every client. This practice of absolute honesty and integrity should also extend to fully explaining your fees, all closing costs, and certainly explaining the intricacies of how interest rate locking works. What seems second nature to us is often extremely confusing to clients. We must take the extra time, no matter how long it takes, to explain how locking works and to ensure that our clients understand everything they are signing before, not after, they sign it. Many loan officers skip this stem and this will differentiate you from the competition! Professional conduct Being a member of NAMB means that our services should be of the highest standards, period! There are simple ways to ensure that we are meeting this standard. Professionalism begins with keeping our clients updated. There is no excuse for not returning calls. We do not get to pick and choose which information our clients need to know and what they don’t need to know. They have the right to be kept abreast of the status of their loan at all times. If there is an unexpected delay, they need to be notified ahead of time, not after the fact. If they need to meet with us outside of our normal business hours, we need to make ourselves available. In an effort to ensure that we maintain these levels of professionalism, we might want to consider printing a copy of the NAMB Professional Code and providing it to the client before beginning work on their behalf. Honesty in advertising Some mortgage loan officers lure clients to their doors with promises that cannot be met, at best, a shady practice and, at worst, criminal. They are fooling themselves if they think that clients won’t notice discrepancies in what was advertised and what they are really getting. Clients aren’t fooled when they call and expect to get an interest rate promised on a mailer only to find out that those rates only apply to people with perfect credit and a substantial downpayment. Misleading advertising tactics more often than not backfire, leaving clients angry and more than happy to share their dissatisfaction with others. It’s cliché but true that when it comes to advertising, as a member of NAMB, honesty is not only the best policy but it must be our only policy. Confidentiality Our clients count on us to protect their valuable personal information. To that end, once a file has closed, we have absolutely no reason to keep sensitive information such as Social Security numbers on local file. When a loan has closed, we owe it to our clients to delete those numbers from their files to ensure that we are protecting our clients in the event of a cybercrime. Likewise, when sending confidential information electronically, we should do our best to ensure the safe transmission of documents by password protecting the files. Compliance with the law Our code demands that NAMB members conduct their business in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. That means that we must do our part to remain informed of any and all new laws and regulations. Understanding lending laws and regulations is our responsibility not the responsibility of our clients. We must assume that our clients are completely unfamiliar with lending laws and regulations and, therefore, it is up to us to ensure that every file that we submit adheres to all national and state laws and regulations. Disclosure of financial interests I’ve never understood why some mortgage broker professionals are reluctant to disclose their earnings on a loan to a client. I have never come across a client who thought I was helping them for free. They expect that we will be earning money on the loan. Again, honesty and full disclosure will prevent you from having an angry client who is all too happy to tell everyone they know that you tried to make an extra buck on the sly. As the housing market continues to recover, as it appears it will in 2013, there is no better time to recommit ourselves to our best practices. This effort must start with each of us on a personal level and we must maintain our commitment to it on a daily basis. Our individual efforts to provide the Gold Standard in service will then serve to strengthen the reputation of NAMB as the beacon of professionalism, honesty and integrity in mortgage lending for the new year to come. Fred Arnold, CMC is past president of the California Association of Mortgage Professionals, current Treasurer of NAMB, and mortgage professional at American Pacific Mortgage Corporation in Southern California. Fred hosts the radio show SCV Chamber and Business Spotlight on AM 1220 KHTS, as well as the televised program “Out of The Rough” on SCVTV.com, channel 20. He may be reached by phone at (661) 505-4300 or e-mail [email protected].