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MBA leader Stevens delivers a call to action


Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) President David Stevens called for a “strong, steady and unified voice” to push for the reforms that matter to loan originators.

In a kickoff speech Monday at the MBA’s national convention in Denver, Stevens said the MBA — the nation’s largest mortgage trade group — was uniquely positioned to influence the debate on Capitol Hill over tax reform, regulatory changes and housing-finance reform.David Stevens

Stevens also called out smaller banking trade groups that have broken with MBA over reform proposals for the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and on other issues

“Size, in this case, matters,” Stevens said. “Small, independent, little trade organizations may talk a lot, they may yell a lot, but they don’t get access. You get access when you are really strong and respected.”

Stevens specifically highlighted the need for Congress to embark on comprehensive finance reform, saying Congress needs to “lock in” internal reforms that have been made to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while under the government’s control. Earlier this year, MBA issued a finance-reform blueprint, which calls for preserving Fannie and Freddie, but allowing other chartered enterprises to purchase and securitize mortgages.

In the opening speech, Stevens warned bankers against becoming too comfortable with the status quo, noting that the current regime under Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mel Watt will soon end, and the incoming director will have considerable power to make changes to Fannie and Freddie.  

Absent reforms by Congress, Stevens warned that the GSEs may go back to giving volume discounts to certain lenders for guaranteeing the mortgages. The new FHFA director also may want to radically reduce the size of the GSE’s market share by hiking guarantee fees (or g-fees) and tightening guidelines established by the GSEs, which would limit access to the government-backed mortgages.

“Nothing is locked in,” Stevens said. “If nothing is locked in, the powers of the FHFA director are extraordinary,” he continued. “If we allow that regime change to take place, and [the new director] views the role of government as outstretched, I can guarantee you that those who depend on the GSEs — which is everybody in this room — are going to be at risk.”

MBA officers also signaled that the trade group will continue its efforts to diversify the workforce of mortgage bankers through recruitment of more minorities, and encourage women to enter the field and seek leadership positions.  

“Our industry is too pale, male and stale,” said David Motley, MBA’s new chairman.

“Folks, this is a fact: Companies that don’t embrace diversity and inclusion are going to be left behind,” Motley added.

At the conclusion of the conference, Stevens announced he would be retiring as MBA president effective Sept. 30, 2018. Last year, he was diagnosed with cancer. 

During his speech at the convention, Stevens made no mention of his plans to retire. He revealed before several hundred mortgage originators that he underwent a grueling series of treatments over many months, and his cancer is now undetectable.

“With my cancer in remission, focusing on family, friends and staying healthy is my priority,” Stevens said in a news release on Wednesday. “This was a difficult decision; it’s hard to walk away from supporting an industry that shaped my career. It’s been an honor to work with the talented staff, strong leadership and diverse membership of the MBA.”

This story was altered from the original version. 


 

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