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Why you noticed three scary things at the mortgage bankers convention

I have to respond to Rick Grant’s article on the three scary things he saw at the MBA convention last week. Mind you, I don’t have any quarrel with what he said. I just have 30 years in this industry and want to share some perspective. The first scary thing was the size of the convention and the fact that, in general, we may be buying into all of the “this is the new normal” talk. I don’t believe that’s why the convention is so small. It is so small because there’s been massive consolidation in the industry. The top 10 originators own about 75% of the market and the top 10 servicers own about 60% of the market. When you consider the fact that the annual convention has traditionally been attended mostly by senior management, there are a lot less potential attendees in the marketplace. The second scary thing was the fact that half the people wandering around had no badges. I don’t think the problem is that the MBA is out of touch with the real needs of its membership. But it is fair to say that the industry has undergone radical transformation and its largest trade association has yet to transform itself all that much. The people who are wandering around without paid-for badges? They’re the ones who’ve been marginalized by the massive consolidation I mentioned above. They’ve spent their lives in this industry. They’ve got a lot of wisdom and experience in this business. Many of them don’t know anything else. And while the top 10 (mentioned above) don’t seem to have a role for them, they aren’t ready to go away. So they start vendor-services firms. Or they join vendor-services firms. And quite frankly, if I’m selling services to lenders, the return on investment available to me on a convention badge is hard to find. Nobody ever sells anything at the MBA convention. Could the MBA accommodate these folks in some way? Perhaps. To date, it doesn’t seem willing to. In fact, I was asked to speak at an MBA conference earlier this year and was surprised to find that speakers – who provide the value and content for the convention – are now required to pay! The third scary thing is that nobody has any answers and there isn’t a single executive you can point to who is standing up and raising hell. They’re out there. (I’d like to consider myself one of them!) But they aren’t willing to pay the MBA for the chance to be heard (as a speaker) or they work for one of the top 10 lenders and servicers and are so swamped with work that they don’t have time to get on a soap box. Nevertheless, there’s an awful lot to be said. With the federal government now having its hands on about 90% of the single-family residence loans in the country, the nation as housed as it wants to be, the massive consolidation that’s been fed by the federal government, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, GMAC and others largely controlled by the government — the entire housing finance system in America has turned into a public-private partnership like the world has never seen. Nobody has any answers because we’re in uncharted waters. The entire industry is having to learn how to do business in this new world. And the best any of us can muster is to learn as we go. I suspect there will be more answers as we spend more time in this new world. One thing is clear, none of the questions that matter will be answered without considering the perspective of the federal government. It used to be that the MBA lobbied on our behalf with the government. Today? It’s not clear what we need the MBA to do on our behalf with the government. Maybe instead of lobbying the government, we’ll have to forge a better partnership with the government. The author requested anonymity for legal reasons. Have an issue you want to sound off on? Email the editor of HousingWire.

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