On paper, the AIME Fuse 2019 National Conference held in Las Vegas on October 11-12, had all the hallmarks a conference needs for success: inspirational headline speakers, panels of mortgage experts and plenty of networking time. But as soon as 2000+ attendees began to converge in the halls of the Bellagio, even before formal programming began at this second annual event hosted by the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts, the distinct character of this particular event quickly emerged – all ignited by the explosive energy continuing to build in the independent mortgage broker community.
Anthony Casa’s vision for AIME, the organization he launched as Chairman in 2018 to exclusively support independent mortgage brokers, stems from his own experience as an independent broker/owner. While he was growing his New Jersey-based brokerage, Garden State Home Loans, Casa realized he had few resources for networking or support that were specifically applicable to small independents. In 2016, Casa hired a group of loan officers to prospect from Garden State’s database for possible refinances and discovered that many of their clients had already been refinanced by their supposed lending “partners,” behind their backs.
“We felt betrayed — it was a massive amount of loans that had been refinanced without our knowledge,” Casa said during his keynote at the conference.
According to Casa, it became glaringly obvious in speaking with other brokers from across the country that this was an epidemic that was not only negatively impacting brokers, but was ultimately a terrible outcome for their borrowers who were unknowingly being subjected to paying more for the same loan products that the broker would have provided for less. It was a turning point for Casa, who was determined to level the playing field for brokers.
Less than two years later, AIME has helped increase mortgage broker share to almost 20% of the market. In addition, a growing number of originators from retail lenders are breaking away to become independent and start their own brokerages or to originate for an independent broker instead. Today, AIME’s goal is nothing short of a true disruption of the status quo, with a goal to see brokers surpass 50% market share by 2025. In order to accomplish this goal, the association is empowering brokers with the tech tools, support and insight they need to compete against traditionally much bigger competitors – online and direct retail lenders and big banks. These include expanded efforts to support lobbying and compliance issues, intimate town hall educational gatherings that will be held nationwide, in addition to technology partner ARIVE, a custom built end-to-end LOS and POS system exclusive to brokers, which was announced at the inaugural AIME Fuse National Conference last year.
For mortgage brokers, most of whom are small business owners focused on working to serve their local communities, this type of practical help is vital to their success and growth within the industry.
Jackie Cuneo, broker/owner of Exception Lending, started her career as a licensed real estate broker in 2005, then transitioned into lending in 2010. She then became an independent mortgage broker earlier this year with the support of AIME and relishes the service and unique value she can provide to her borrowers as a broker.
“Over my career, I’ve focused on clients seeking jumbo financing and loans for ‘out of the box’ circumstances,” Cuneo said. “I decided to start my own brokerage so I could focus on products and clients who need a level of expertise and product mix that they can’t find with a ‘do it yourself’ online mortgage lender, or any one bank.”
As an AIME member, she appreciated the AIME conference’s focus on preparing brokers to compete for client attention in advance of new technologies that larger companies are employing, including voice, video and AI.
“I work primarily by referral, but it’s critical that none of us take our eye off these changes. They will impact the way we engage clients and continue to grow,” Cuneo said.
Dave Coyle, a loan officer at Local Mortgage Colorado, worked as a retail LO for six years before switching to the broker side four months ago. For him, the marketing support AIME offers to its members is a key part of his success. “One of the biggest challenges I see as a broker in a small shop is that the name recognition is not there at the same level. Before, I could lean on the fact that I worked for one of the biggest lenders in the nation, but now branding is one of my biggest challenges.”
After attending the keynote session by Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, Coyle gained a new perspective on the value of putting his name in front of local consumers. “I think my biggest takeaway is that I need to be creating a lot more content,” he said. “Vaynerchuk drilled it in — we’re heading up a path of getting a mortgage through Alexa and Google Home. It’s pretty eye opening and motivating to change what I’m doing to adopt best practices.”
The conference also spotlighted the wholesale lenders who are working in tandem with brokers to grow this channel. Mat Ishbia, President and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, urged brokers to “never relax” as he reinforced that brokers can inherently provide borrowers with the best products and customer service in the industry – it’s just a matter of communicating as much to their clients and community. “Wherever you are today, you can get better. As soon as you relax, someone else is coming for your business,” Ishbia said.
Brokers know that strong wholesale partners are a crucial part of their strategy to win. “It was evident that the wholesale channel is innovating and growing and that everyone in attendance was committed to supporting the growth of the broker channel,” Cuneo said. “The explosion of non-QM products has created a huge opportunity for brokers to differentiate themselves from big banks and online mortgage lenders who are primarily focused on standard agency and government loans.”
For both Cuneo and Coyle, networking with other independent brokers was the highlight of AIME Fuse 2019.
“Meeting other brokers in all stages of their businesses, from brand new one-person shops to much larger, more established brokerages, demonstrated that the opportunity to grow to any size, in any direction, is available to all of us,” Cuneo said.
Coyle was also inspired by panelists freely sharing their keys to success. “There is a feeling of comradery here — we’re all competitive, but as brokers we are all in this together,” Coyle said.
That united front is one of the hallmarks of the broker movement, and the foundation of AIME, according to Casa. “Our job is to help mortgage brokers by protecting them, supporting them and helping them grow,” Casa said. “Everything we do, it all comes down to this — this is why AIME exists. And we look forward to continuing to spark growth in 2020 and beyond.”
AIME just announced that AIME Fuse 2020 will be held in Las Vegas on Saturday, September 26, 2020. Registration is now open – an Early Bird discount of $125 (full-priced tickets $199) can be secured through Saturday, 11/30 at https://bit.ly/36pEkVv. More details about AIME Fuse 2020 will continue to be updated at www.aimegroup.com.