[Please Note: These are prepared remarks. Mr. Jones 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 here, with all of you.
My name is Mark Jones. I’ve been coming to these conferences for almost forty years. But when I showed up at my first MBA event in 1986, I had no idea that one day, I’d be standing on THIS stage.
But here I am. And I couldn’t be more excited to serve as your chairman for the next year. I’m one of you. And I promise to fight for you – every day and in every way.
I’m fighting for you because you’re fighting to come through these difficult times. In a very real sense, our entire business is battling for our future. We’re in a serious crisis. And it’s made all the more challenging by the fact that it came as a huge surprise.
If you had told me two years ago that we’d be looking at 7-to-8 percent interest rates, I would have said: “You’re out of your mind”
We were in the middle of one of the biggest boom times in our history. We couldn’t process loans fast enough. We couldn’t hire new people fast enough. Yes, we were working harder than ever before, but it was exciting, because each day brought new opportunities to serve more people…. Oh, and we actually were making some money back then.
But then inflation started rising, and interest rates soared. I’m not going to sugarcoat the challenges we faced. That’s not what leaders do. They face the truth. They make hard choices. And as the leaders in our industry, you know it better than anyone else.
Believe me when I say that I understand the pressures you face and the decisions you’re making. I’m in the same boat. Earlier this year, I merged my business with another lender. It was the end of an era. But it had to be done. If we’d stayed on our own, we would have been weaker in the worst possible environment. Now we’re stronger. We have to be.
Each of you is taking similar steps. You’re cutting expenses. You’re considering whether to merge or sell, and if so, with whom. None of it’s easy. Yet all of it’s necessary. And it will bring you through to the other side.
Yes, our industry is fighting one heck of a battle. But make no mistake: This is a fight we’re going to win!
I’m confident we’ll win because I’ve lived through times of crisis before. In fact, I co-founded Amerifirst Home Mortgage at one of the worst times imaginable.
The year was 1983. The place was Kalamazoo, Michigan. And the interest rate? Well, it was two to three times what it is right now. I’m talking in the high teens – and even the low twenties. Some of you may not be old enough to remember what that was like. It was ugly. Only fools started a mortgage business back then. At least, that’s what a lot of my friends and family told me. It would almost be like opening a Blockbuster video right now.
Honestly, one of the big reasons we survived was the Mortgage Bankers Association. This organization gave us the right insights at the right moment. And when I came to my first MBA conference, I was hooked. I knew I’d always come back and be part of this group.
With MBA’s help, we weathered that early storm. And we did it again when things turned south in the late 1980s, with the savings and loan crisis. Like today, none of us saw it coming. But also like today, we all did what we had to do.
Since then, I’ve lived through ongoing ups and downs. By my count, this is the 8th downturn I’ve endured. Every crisis has been different. But one thing has always been the same…
The mortgage industry bounces back. And we’re always ready to move America forward!
Just look at what we did at Amerifirst. When we started in 1983, we had one tiny office in the middle of Michigan. Forty years later, right before we merged, we had 80 full-service locations, nearly 1000 team members spread across the country, and a $6 billion dollar servicing portfolio.
Now we’re part of Union Home Mortgage, and we’re even bigger and better. Tens of thousands of families lean on us to help them achieve the American Dream. And we see opportunities to do even more good, for even more people.
I hope you find inspiration in our story. In four decades, we went from a scrappy startup in small-town Michigan to part of a top-40 lender nationwide. And if we could do it, so can you. These hard times will pass, and happy days will come again. And I can’t wait to see how far you go – and how high you rise. You’ll achieve more than you ever imagined!
I don’t just want to watch you succeed. As MBA’s chair, I want to help you succeed. And I have a plan to do just that. I intend to leverage the awesome power of this organization, matching the ingenuity, passion, and doggedness of the people in this room. Together, we will help you rise and thrive for generations to come.
I’m dedicating my chairmanship to one major priority. It’s as simple as it is all- encompassing. In these tough times, I want to make affordable homeownership a national priority again.
Now, you may be thinking: Isn’t homeownership a priority already? To a certain extent, yes. But in a broader and more important sense, no.
I’m old enough to remember when homeownership was a real priority – one of the biggest in the country. I was born at the tail end of the post-World War Two era. Back then, the federal government cared almost as much about homeownership as it did winning the Cold War.
As a nation, we built homes for returning veterans, expanded access to affordable loans, and made it easier than ever for qualified families to achieve their own American Dream. Why? Because our leaders recognized that homeownership is the foundation of wealth creation and financial freedom in America.
The results were incredible. Our economy grew by leaps and bounds. Our communities thrived like never before. Generations of Americans honestly believed that we’d always have better days ahead – built on a foundation of homeownership.
What happened to that optimism? It’s fading, because homeownership has gotten harder to achieve. For millions of families, the dream of owning a home is just that – a dream that it seems will never see the light of day. In the current crisis environment, this hope for a home has fallen even further.
My friends, it’s time to flip the script. It’s time to make the American Dream accessible for all. And I believe that MBA is uniquely suited to renew this national priority.
In my time as chairman, MBA will make clear to our leaders in Washington, D.C. that we can and must do better. There are many problems that we can solve, if we muster the will.
Think about it. There’s a nationwide housing shortage. The solution is simple: make it easier to build more housing, not harder and more expensive.
By the same token, the neighborhoods built in the mid-20th Century boom years are showing their age. We need to reinvest and rebuild them, from coast to coast.
To make this happen, we need Fannie, Freddie, and FHA to offer real & effective construction products. We also need to fundamentally transform FHA’s 203(k) rehab lending program. And it’s long past time for Congress, and in particular our local governments, to remove barriers that are holding back lending and building. No one will benefit more than American families and first-time home-buyers.
These are just some of the solutions we’ll shout from the rooftops. And at the same time, the MBA is going to make it clear that D.C. needs to stop creating new problems and making old problems worse.
It pains me to say that the federal government now uses Fannie and Freddie as a political piggybank. By the same token, the VA’s funding fees are unfairly being diverted from housing for our nation’s heroes. And since 2008 in particular, capital and liquidity standards have constantly been ratcheted up, well beyond what is needed to prevent a similar crisis.
In every instance, homebuyers ultimately pay the price, with fewer options and higher costs. We should be going the opposite direction – giving families more options and making homeownership more affordable.
This is my vision as MBA chairman. And I’m confident: With your support, we can make homeownership a national priority once again!
We absolutely need the federal government to make some changes. But the truth is, our industry also has a powerful role to play in reprioritizing homeownership. We must engage with our communities like never before, with a renewed commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Here are the facts. Right now, the typical family of color starts their homeownership journey a full decade behind a similarly situated white family. It’s a lost decade, in which they are not building a long-term foundation of wealth. It holds them back for the rest of their lives. And it holds back their children and grandchildren, too.
We have to help them regain the lost decade. That’s why I’m doubling down on the incredible work of my predecessors – Susan Stewart, Kristy Fercho, and Matt Rocco. As the former chair of MBA’s DEI Advisory Committee, I’ll build on the groundbreaking efforts they launched with one of my own. We’re calling it the Equitable Homeownership Initiative.
This initiative addresses a very real problem. Right now, too many young Americans don’t get real financial education. In their formative years, they don’t learn the tips and tricks to achieving financial freedom and social mobility – homeownership chief among them.
So as part of this initiative, I want us to go into new territory: Schools.
We need to develop new tools and resources to help children learn about financial education. I know it can work, because we’ve proven it at my company.
A few years back, I discovered a gem of a book, called “Princess Mackie Buys a House.” It’s written by a real-estate broker in my hometown, and it tells the story of young Black girl buying a castle, teaching important lessons about setting goals and saving money in order to buy that castle. The whole book powerfully teaches lessons of financial literacy.
My company ended up buying a copy for every 4th grade student in Detroit Public Schools. The response was incredible. Children loved it – and so did their parents. We’re already seeing early signs that this single book made a difference.
Imagine if we took this message nationwide. We actually have copies of Princess Mackie Buys a House here today, so please visit the MBA booth in the HUB to check out a copy. If you’d like to help distribute it in your local schools, please let me know. And if you have other ideas for how we can teach financial literacy, the folks at MBA are all ears.
I hope each and every one of you will get involved in this initiative. And I thank you in advance for helping us regain the lost decade for our diverse communities. Our industry’s success – and our country’s future – depend on it.
I said at the start that I’ve been a proud part of the MBA family for nearly 40 years. I’ve kept coming back for two big reasons.
First and foremost is you. I firmly believe that the men and women of the mortgage finance industry are very, very special people. No one does more for their communities. No one does more for our country. I couldn’t be more grateful to have all of you as colleagues.
But the second reason I keep coming back is because of the MBA itself. This organization is uniquely effective. It channels our combined voices and values into real, lasting change. We need the MBA, just as we need each other.
And so, today, I want to leave you with two calls to action. First- Let’s lean on each other in these tough times. And second…let’s lead the way forward through the MBA, making homeownership a national priority once again, and creating a pathway to the American Dream for all.
If we do these things, I have no doubt: We’ll come through these dark storm clouds to a bright, sunny day. And then, we’ll inspire and uplift our country, all over again.
Thank you again for the honor of serving as your MBA chair. Shortly, we will hear from MBA President and CEO Bob Broeksmit.
Like many of us, Bob has spent his career in the mortgage industry. He has seen the ups and downs from many vantage points.
Unlike many of us, Bob has the daily responsibility of being responsive to a large and diverse membership, forging consensus, and driving policy outcomes for all stakeholders.
He does so with wisdom, insight, and a steady hand. Please welcome Bob Broeksmit.