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Featured Industry Leader: Cathy Lee, President, HAMB—Hawaii Association of Mortgage Professionals

Phil Hall
Aug 05, 2015

Cathy Lee is currently taking her second go-round as president of HAMB–The Hawaii Association of Mortgage Professionals. A senior mortgage loan originator at Hawaii Lending Specialists LLC–a brokerage specializing in residential, commercial and government-assisted lending programs–Lee spoke with National Mortgage Professional Magazine about her work with the association and discussed the state of the Aloha State’s housing scene.

How did you first get involved with the association?
I first started in mortgage banking after I was laid off from the Dean Witter stockbroker firm. I started as a loan processor, but at the time, there was no one teaching anyone how to be a mortgage professional. It was one of those things you learned as you go. I stumbled across HAMB and they had classes, so I joined and started going to different seminars. I first became involved in 2003, helping out at conferences, and later joined the board. I served as HAMB president in 2011 and again in 2015.

You are now in your second term as the association’s president. What brings you back to this role?
Everyone is a volunteer and it takes away from everyone’s day-to-day work activities. But the way I see it is this: If you can give little, that’s great. If you can give a little more, that’s fantastic.

What is the association’s input in the state legislative process? And what issues are currently on your plate?
We have a lobbyist that helps when an industry-related bill is introduced. We have the opportunity to sit with the Commissioner of the Division of Financial Institutions and see if we can work things out.

We are the only profession in Hawaii that requires the posting of your office hours. You need a sign that says you are open from eight to four, etc., and you have to be at desk from eight to four. For a mortgage professional, that is really hard because much of our business takes place outside of the office. I have clients on other islands, so I have to fly to these other places and be out of the office all day.

We are trying to see if the state can include language that says, “By Appointment Only,” on these signs. I’m hoping we can compromise on something. For a one- or two-person shop, to have someone sit there for eight hours is difficult—and they cannot answer questions or even open my drawers because they are not licensed.

How does the association keep its members up to speed on industry-related issues?
We offer classes that keep everyone updated on issues, such as the new TRID regulations. We’ve asked lenders and people in escrow to put together presentations, and we’ve asked real estate agents to attend to make sure they are notified and involved.

As a state affiliate of NAMB, how do your members benefit from its connection with the national group?
NAMB does a lot for the industry. They keep us updated on all issues and, as a state affiliate of NAMB, we’re lucky to have them.

Thanks to NAMB, I went to Washington, D.C. in 2010 and 2011. Going to Washington is a long trip for me–I have to fly out two days head of the meeting. Going to the West Coast is a little easier–in a short period of time, I can be there. But if you are able to make it to Washington, D.C., it’s a great experience. They have great speakers and you meet with your legislators and speak to them; I have been able to sit at table with reps from the CFPB and have conversations with them.

In your opinion, what can be done to bring young people into careers in the mortgage profession?
I am not seeing much of the younger generation coming through. My opinion is that the younger generation is looking for careers with fast-earning capabilities. This profession requires time–you have to meet your clients, know their needs and figure out ways to help them. Some young people are not patient enough to do that, but I am hoping to see new faces.

What is the current state of Hawaii’s housing market?
Our housing is crazy in parts. In downtown metro Honolulu, a condo studio can go for $300,000 or $400,000, while a one-bedroom can go for $500,000-$600,000 and up. We have affordable housing on the outskirts of the Main Island on rezoned agricultural land. But, now, because of that new housing going up, our farming community is getting smaller.

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