ORLANDO, Fla. (February 22, 2023) – Mark Jones, 2023 MBA Chairman-Elect and Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Amerifirst Home Mortgage, delivered the following remarks here at MBA's 2023 Servicing Solutions Conference and Expo:
[Please Note: These are prepared remarks. Mr. Broeksmit may add to or subtract from these remarks during the course of his presentation. Portions of the text may be omitted during the speech.]
Good morning! It’s great to be back.
My name is Mark Jones, and it’s my privilege to be your MBA Chairman-elect. And if all goes as planned – meaning I don’t screw something up – then by the end of this year, I’ll have the even greater honor of serving as your chair.
My job at the MBA is pretty simple. I get to represent you – and I have to deliver for you. It’s a responsibility I relish, because I know how important you are to our industry, and ultimately, to our entire country.
I see the difference you make every single day at Amerifirst Home Mortgage. I founded it exactly 40 years ago, in 1983, and from day one, our servicing department has always come through. It’s because of them that at the end of the pandemic, in early 2022, we had a six-billion-dollar portfolio.
I never get tired of talking about our servicing team. In fact, at our annual company meeting, we recognize the enormous contribution they make. We get up on the main stage and tell stories about the borrowers they helped.
One of those stories comes to mind. A few years back, a Vietnam veteran and his wife reached out to us. Their roof was leaking and their medical bills were skyrocketing. Things got even worse when one of their daughters committed suicide, and they had to take custody of their grandson. They asked for any help we could offer, and our servicing team came through. We set ‘em up with an FHA Hamp loan mod. It gave them enough relief to keep their home.
But that's only half the story. A year later, the family showed up at our office and asked for more help. Their health was failing fast, and the wife knew she had to retire. But with the loss of income, they couldn’t keep paying their mortgage. They asked for more help, and sadly, we had to say no. The FHA wouldn’t allow another mod so soon.
But that doesn’t stop our servicing team. They did their research and found a state program that could help. We helped the family apply for it, they got it, and to this day, they’re still in their home.
I have a thousand more stories just like that. And at my company, when we look at how we did over the previous year, we put keeping people in homes as one of our most important measures of success, right alongside production. You produce results in your own powerful way – and I can’t thank you enough for your heroic work.
It’s no exaggeration to use that word, “heroic.” The past three years proved that you’re the heroes we need.
It astounds me to think about all you did to help borrowers come through the pandemic, and even emerge stronger. All told, since COVID first hit, you’ve helped nearly seven million families enter – and then exit – forbearance. And not only that, you helped millions more homeowners unlock their equity and make the most of a difficult time.
You showed creativity and commitment every step of the way. And you did it at a time when policymakers had unfair expectations and conflicting demands and rules. They asked you to move mountains – and somehow, you moved heaven and earth. I still don’t think you got the credit you deserve.
But I also think we’ll need even more creativity and commitment in the years ahead.
The pandemic is over, but another crisis may be looming. I hate to say it, but the MBA predicts a recession will start before the year is out. It probably won’t be as deep or as long as some previous downturns, but it won’t be easy, either. And when times get hard, you get called into action.
The truth is, you’re going to have to help a lot more borrowers in the days ahead. There will be some long hours and late nights, no question. But I’m confident you’ll work harder than ever to keep families in their homes.
I’m also confident you’ll do even better than you did during COVID. If I’ve learned anything over the past 40 years, it’s that our industry is constantly getting more effective at helping those in tough situations. You learned a lot of new ways to empower families during the Great Recession. You learned even more during the pandemic. And in the days ahead, you’re going to use that knowledge to benefit borrowers.
In fact, I’d like to make a prediction right here, right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the economy this year. But I do know this. When all is said and done, millions of families will still be in their homes. And they’ll have you to thank for it.
As we prepare for what lies ahead, the MBA is working around the clock to make your job easier. Your problems are our priorities, and as chairman-elect, I can personally attest that we’re fighting for you at the highest levels of government. I’ve told top lawmakers and regulators about the credit you deserve and the support you need.
Today, I’d like to update you on the progress we’re making, and the opportunities we see.
To start, we’re as focused as ever on aligning requirements across the alphabet soup of federal agencies. I don’t have to tell you that FHA has different rules than Ginnie Mae, which has different rules from Fannie and Freddie, which have different rules from the VA. It’s maddening, isn’t it? And it hurts borrowers.
We’re making this clear to the powers that be. Our message to them is simple. If they align their requirements across the board, we’ll be able to help more borrowers, more quickly, and more affordably, too. Alignment is a no-brainer, and we’ll keep fighting to make it a reality.
We’re also focused on capital standards and requirements for banks and non-banks who service mortgage loans. The current requirements are far too high – and going even higher. At the rate they’re going, they threaten to drive banks and non-banks alike out of the servicing business.
That would be an unmitigated disaster. Who would do your essential work? Who would fulfill the high responsibility of helping people keep their homes? The answer is no one – and the MBA is letting lawmakers know it. We’re talking with FHFA, Ginnie Mae, bank regulators, you name it. And across the board, we’re telling them: Right-size capital standards – and stop this wrong before it’s too late.
Another current focus for us is fixing loan assumption fees. Demand for assumptions is skyrocketing in this time of high-interest rates, understandably so. Yet the current situation is financially unsustainable, and your companies are losing huge amounts on each transaction.
Fortunately, there’s a simple fix. The VA, FHA, Fannie, and Freddie should increase their allowable fees, and index them to inflation, too. The MBA has formally made this request, and conversations with regulators are ongoing. It’s the only way to ensure we can keep helping so many borrowers – and we won’t rest until you get relief.
The same is true on every other pressing policy issue. The CFPB recently asked for information on mortgage refinances and forbearances, with an eye toward regulation in the near future. We’re pushing back with the message that while streamlined refinances are good, the CFBP should lower costs, not raise them.
And when it comes to loss mitigation, we’re talking all the time with FHA, the USDA, the VA, and FHFA. We've asked the VA to create a permanent partial claim program, and when it comes to the GSEs, we support expanding borrower access to Payment Deferral and Flex Modification. The pandemic proved that these programs work – and with a recession on the horizon, borrowers need them to keep working.
Whatever the issue, believe me when I say the MBA is talking to the decision-makers, and we know how to get results. There’s no better proof than what recently happened with flood insurance.
Since 2017, the MBA has strongly urged HUD to update its mandatory requirements, and after five years of endless advocacy, we succeeded. Just four months ago, HUD announced that FHA lenders can finally accept private flood insurance policies. That’s good for your companies and the borrowers you serve – and we’ll keep fighting to make this policy even better.
Across the board, we’re constantly telling lawmakers what you need. But we also tell them what you do, and why you matter.
On that note, the MBA has launched a PR initiative to tell your story. We’re touting the millions of people you helped during the pandemic, and the countless ways you keep people in their homes. Our goal is for policymakers to walk away thinking, “wow, thank God for servicers.”
The truth is, you do your work behind the scenes, but you deserve to be at the forefront of the conversation. Through our new campaign, we’ll make sure you are. Like I said, you’re heroes – and it’s time more people, especially those in power, knew it.
Before I turn things over to our next speaker, the amazing Shon Hopwood, I have a specific request for you. Please get involved in the MBA. Your partnership is essential to our work. There are two easy ways for you and your company to get involved.
Later this morning, you’ll hear about MBA’s Advocacy programs, especially the Mortgage Action Alliance and MORPAC. I'd encourage you to listen, because both groups can help you lead. In fact, I can tell you from personal experience how important these programs are to ensuring MBA’s success on your behalf.
I also urge you to make use of MBA Education. We continue to invest in new and improved training for mortgage servicers, and we offer flexible formats with the lowest possible cost. Our flagship programs, like the School of Mortgage Banking, are offered both virtually and around the country. And all told, our library of self-paced servicing training now stands at over 75 courses.
Our education programs have stood the test of time. In fact, the Certified Mortgage Banker Designation is celebrating its 50th year and demand for the program has never been higher. If you’re interested in joining this elite group of industry professionals, you can find over 20 of them roaming the halls or leading sessions at this conference. Please talk to them, and ask how you can get involved.
Finally, for those that qualify, MBA’s Path to Diversity scholarship covers up to $2,000 worth of training per year and the application process takes no more than a few minutes. It’s another great way for you to strengthen your record of leadership, and make an even bigger difference in our society.
And with that, I’ll get a move-on.
Thank you for being such a pivotal part of the MBA family.
Thank you for stepping up, every day, with compassion and commitment.
And thank you again for your heroic work on behalf of homeowners – past, present, and future.
It’s an honor to serve you, and a privilege to represent you. And I’m excited for all we’ll achieve, together.
Enjoy the conference!