As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, December 2008.
I often end my most-challenging days with a visit to my favorite cigar shop, Lil' Havana Tobacconist, near my Detroit office. There, I'm a member of a cigar club that includes a university dean, a business consultant who mentors executives and a physician, among others.
I'm often amazed at the problems we solve during conversations in that smoke-filled shop. From gun control to immigration, abortion to stem-cell research, there isn't a topic we won't discuss and about which we can't reach some sort of consensus.
Actually, scratch that. Of late, there has been a thorn in our sides -- the economy. In fact, now that I think about it, nobody buys a cigar for the mortgage guy anymore. I even have to bring my own matches.
I must wonder: Does the population at large really understand our industry? Do most people know the difference between an independent mortgage broker, a savings-and-loan and a Wall Street fund manager? Most important, do their perceptions represent an educated analysis of what mortgage brokers do, how we do it and our true value?
We can endlessly debate about where to place the blame. But at this point, our efforts -- in our businesses, on Capitol Hill and in intimate cigar-shop discussions across the country -- must focus on moving forward.
Despite this assertion, the smokers of Lil' Havana have yet to solve the country's economic problems. So instead, I offer my own advice: Mortgage brokers must stand accountable for their role. Once we've accepted that, we must work diligently through career education and policy actions to remove the bad actors from our profession.
We also must strive to help consumers better understand the market and their own responsibilities. And we must demonstrate the highest degree of integrity and professionalism and proudly proclaim our successes and prudent lending practices.
As a recently appointed member of Michigan's new Mortgage Industry Advisory Board, I'm now taking this message to the masses. It's the board's responsibility to implement the policies and procedures of Michigan's new loan-officer-registration law. I anticipate that this new law, scheduled to be in place Jan. 1, will lead to the elimination of many Michigan loan officers. Those who want to keep working must meet state guidelines or find other employment.
Although some might consider these moves draconian, I am excited. If we don't hold ourselves accountable, how can we expect anyone else to see us in a positive light? That's what I tell my friends at Lil' Havana. With your help, I'm certain they'll be buying me cigars again soon.
Bruce A. Rosenblat, president of North Star Home Lending, has more than two decades of professional mortgage-lending experience.
He is a member of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers and the Mortgage Bankers Association. North Star provides individualized lending assistance and counsel in Michigan. Contact: (877) NSTAR-10 (678-2710), www.northstarhomelending.com or email@example.com.