Residential Magazine

Q&A: Katie Sweeney, Association of Independent Mortgage Experts

AIME confronts the challenges that brokers face

By Jim Davis

One of the voices that has emerged as a strong advocate for the mortgage industry in general, and the broker channel specifically, is the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME). The group celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year.

“We needed to be brash and a bit aggressive to get people’s attention and make sure that they knew what problems existed.”

AIME has grown to a point that it’s being invited into “conversations that are meaningful,” said Katie Sweeney, the nonprofit’s CEO. For its first couple of years, she felt the group looked to garner as much attention as possible.

“We needed to be brash and a bit aggressive to get people’s attention and make sure that they knew what problems existed,” Sweeney said. “I think the last three years, we’ve really focused on moving on from talking about what needs to be fixed to actually fixing those things.”

Scotsman Guide spoke to Sweeney about the mortgage business, how brokers help homebuyers and how AIME supports brokers. She also discussed AIME’s annual National Mortgage Broker Day, which is held July 18.

What is the main challenge facing the mortgage industry at the moment?

We’re seeing challenges from all angles. Brokers are not immune to a lot of these struggles. Specific to the housing space, there’s a lack of inventory. There’s obviously been a change in interest rates from what people have been accustomed to over the last few years. So, there’s hesitancy on the consumer side.

How do brokers overcome that?

They tend to be much more agile. When you have a higher rate environment or purchase market environment, which is what we’re seeing right now, the overhead tends to be much, much lower than you see at large retail lenders. The ability to pivot and move quickly exists on the broker side much more often than you see with some of the larger retail lenders or the banks.

Why are you optimistic about the broker channel?

When you look at small businesses, and the tenacity and the grit that comes along with being successful, you don’t find people more passionate than the ones who serve their neighbors and work with their local communities.

How does AIME help with that?

We’ve got everything from education and training to advocacy efforts to make sure we’re protecting your business model. We have the ability to connect you with lenders that offer different products and to make sure that you have the community support that’s necessary.

One of your focal points has been to increase diversity in the business. How do you do that?

Our objective is to make sure the housing industry, and the mortgage industry specifically, look like the consumers that are purchasing homes today. Lots of people don’t even know this is a career path that’s available for them. We focus on training to make sure that we’re bringing people in from the communities that lack representation. Then the next step is helping to start businesses.

What other initiatives is AIME undertaking?

The focus is on making sure that our members have access to the best education available and that they’re implementing that into practice when working with consumers. AIME Academy, along with our advocacy efforts, are definitely the focus and the goal this year.

Tell us about AIME’s National Broker Day.

Typically, we’ve celebrated on July 18th in different cities across the country. This year, we are bringing our state captains, our VIPs, many of our most engaged members out to (Washington, D.C.). On National Mortgage Broker Day, we’ll be doing a full day of what we call ‘flooding the Hill.’ We have probably 50 meetings set up with legislators, talking about the things that matter back home.

There’s an online element, right?

We’ll have social media graphics and ways that you can engage with members from different areas of the country. We’ll have local happy hours that are taking place to bring our members together back home in their states, if they’re not able to join us in D.C. We really just want to spread the word and make sure that everybody is aware of the opportunity that comes with working with a mortgage broker. ●


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