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falseRob Arthur is president of the Virginia Mortgage Lenders Association (VMLA). National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently spoke with him regarding his work with the state’s trade group.
How did you become involved with the Virginia Mortgage Lenders Association?
I became involved because I felt that mortgage professionals needed an advocacy force to ward off threats to our industry. My term began in October and it runs for one year. Before that, I was president-elect, vice president and a general board member.
Why should mortgage professionals in your state join VMLA?
They need to protect their turf. Look at how the Realtors get through their advocacy efforts—they’re strong because they have a huge, huge voice on Capitol Hill. We need that on a more micro-level in the Virginia General Assembly. We need more active members—those who don’t participate are eating from the table without doing any of the cooking.
What is VMLA’s level of outreach on a state and federal level?
We are not in front of the state legislators as much as we need to be. We do a “Day on the Hill” event, but we need to get our members to see their legislators throughout the year, so they know what we’re dealing with at a street level.
At the moment, there are no pressing matters on a state level. In terms of federal lobbying, I have not gone to Capitol Hill yet, though I plan to go this year with the Mortgage Bankers Association. I feel that, in terms of regulation, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Yes, we were too lax in what we did [prior to 2008] in getting people a loan. But now, it is nuts. A lot of people are saying we’re in the compliance business while doing mortgages on the side.
What do you see as your most satisfying accomplishments with the VMLA?
Our convention set a record number for attendance the last two years, averaging 250 to 260 people. Our vendors tell us it is one of the best conventions they attend. We are also involved in a lot of educational outreach. We’ve had people from affiliated industries, including appraisers and home builders, at our panel discussions.
falseWhat is the VMLA doing to build its membership base?
We are not the Virginia Mortgage Bankers Association. We are the Virginia Mortgage Lenders Association. I would like to strengthen our relationship with the brokers and have more of their input. We are looking for new members across our industry. Because of bank mergers and acquisitions our industry is shrinking. Compounding the problem; not many new banks or mortgage lenders are coming online. We would love to have the brokers join our group and work with us in order to help them be successful.
In your professional opinion, what can be done to bring more young people into mortgage careers?
That might be the biggest challenge we face. It is a constant discussion because not a lot of people are coming into the industry. The average age for a loan officer is 56- or 57-years-old. It is tough to get young people to become a commissioned loan officer if they are carrying student loan debt.
I believe that our industry needs to start thinking differently. There are few people coming out of college that say, “I want to be a mortgage lender.” We need to do a better job communicating with Millennials about career paths in our industry. And mortgage lending is not for the faint of heart … it can be cyclical. A lot of people look at what top loan officers make and are intrigued, but the top 10 percent of loan officers are making 90 percent of the money. Many enter the industry and leave in relatively short periods of time.
What is the state of housing in Virginia?
We don’t have the final statistics in yet, but I can say that it was a good year. Of course, all real estate is local, so it depends on the market you are looking at. Northern Virginia, Tidewater, Southwest Virginia and central Virginia all have different economic drivers. Generally speaking, we had excess inventory at the height of the recession, but now in some areas where the economy is growing there is a shortage of homes available for sale. In addition, the lack of affordable housing, especially related to new construction, for the first-time homebuyers continues to be a problem.
Phil Hall is managing editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].