Feb. 24: A pep talk from the trenches; thank a farmer if your stomach is full; vendor news runs the gamut; Saturday Spotlight: MQMR

I try to make a point of supporting farmer’s markets and visiting roadside stands. Builders don’t always just build 200 homes on raw land. According to the latest census data from the USDA, the United States lost 141,733 farms and 20.1 million agricultural acres from 2017 to 2022, not a sign of prosperity for the family farm in America. For the first time on record, the United States has fewer than 2 million farms. This continues a trend, as it also means that the United States has lost 304,305 farms since the 2007 Ag Census. As smaller family operations either get wiped out or gobbled up, farms are getting bigger: The average farm size was 463 acres in 2022, up 22 acres on average compared to 2017. All told, only 26,214 farms accounted for half of all sales, while 586,286 farms (31 percent of them) reported sales less than $2,500. There is a complicating factor: The amount of farmland bought by investment firms has jumped 231 percent from 2008 to the middle of last year, according to the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries. Investors owned $16.6 billion worth of farmland at the end of 2023, up $9.2 billion from 2020. Follow the money…

Saturday Spotlight: Mortgage Quality Management and Research, LLC

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In 3-5 sentences, describe your company (when was it founded and why, what it does, where, recent growth and plans for near-term future growth).

MQMR was founded in 2011 when founders Ben Madick and Michael Steer got bored with their jobs at Bank of America and set out to do something different. Today, MQMR solves the most pressing audit, risk, and compliance challenges facing lenders and servicers today. Our mantra is to empower individuals to elevate the mortgage industry and we do this through our core offering of Internal Audit, Vendor Management, Servicing Quality Control, Subservicer Audits, Monthly Compliance Support (both origination and servicing), Fair Lending, Fair Servicing, MERS Audits, AML Audits, Document Custodian Audits, and more!

 

Tell us about what type of volunteer work employees are encouraged to engage in, or charities your company supports, and why.  

MQMR’s culture values the diverse interests and passions of our team members, encouraging them to volunteer and support organizations that resonate with their values. As part of the company benefits, team members are allotted paid volunteer days off to give back to their local communities and share their experiences with our team.  For the past 10 years, we’ve raised money in October for Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness and Go Pink!

What does your company do to help elevate your employees’ growth? Describe any mentoring programs, outside classes or training, in-house training. How does the company help people develop?  

Our commitment to excellence is reflected in one of our core values – climb higher. Through regular attendance at conferences and speaking engagements, we continuously elevate our industry knowledge! Team members have the opportunity to learn and grow together, this is driven by our SMEs, who share their expertise through in-house training sessions. These sessions serve as a platform for knowledge exchange and mentorship, empowering team members to keep pace with industry trends and also contribute expertise back into the industry.

 

Tell us how your company maintains its culture in a work-from-home environment or how you plan on bringing employees back into the office, if applicable.  

We’re proud of our consistent employee NPS, which ranges from 70-80 and is considered best-in-class for all industries. MQMR has been remote since 2019 and teamwork is at the heart of our organization. We host virtual “Wellness Wednesdays” to encourage physical activity, as well as a quarterly mental health day off (paid!) to promote mental health. To keep the “watercooler” conversations alive, our Culture Committee facilitates quarterly “Coffee, Tea, and Chats”, as well as utilizing a program called “Donut” via our internal chat to inspire lively conversations with individuals in different departments.

 

Things you are most proud of that don’t have to do with sales.  

Culture, culture, and culture is the #1 thing our teammates say keeps them coming back for more, often saying “I’ve never worked at a company that lives and breathes its core values or has a culture quite like this.” Because they’re the ones taking care of our clients, our clients keep coming back, too. We are very proud of our core values: commit to quality, collaborate as one, create solutions, cultivate raving fans, and climb higher (click here to read more about them). It’s clear that we live by them, and they aren’t just some written words on the wall. Lastly, we foster an inclusive environment that organically celebrates diversity and learning, and we are often told that 1 year at MQMR is like 3-5 years at other companies in terms of skills and knowledge learned.

Fun fact about your company.  

MQMR is a diverse organization with a 70 percent female workforce and claims to have the unofficial king of dad jokes, Michael Steer!

Is there anything else you’d like to share along these lines?  

One program teammates rave about is the work anniversary program. Instead of the traditional aka “boring” anniversary plaques that collect dust and are often used as paperweights, team members are awarded funds to be used for creating memorable experiences. In the past team members have used these funds for things such as traveling to check off a dream bucket list item.  Last but not least, we’re always down to collaborate with anyone in the industry about our secret sauce for improving culture and we love geeking out on compliance so hit us up if you want to chat!

(For more information on having your firm’s extracurricular activities, employee growth, and your charitable side featured, contact Chrisman LLC’s Anjelica Nixt.)

A pep talk

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From Texas, Linda Davidson with Fairway Independent sent along some words of encouragement for the industry titled, “The Unknown Distance March and Finding the Strength to Keep Pushing Forward.” Rangers, Green Berets, and many other Special Operations Units use unknown distance ruck marches to assess candidates during selection, and for building grit during training. The ruck is often called “the ultimate equalizer”. It can make a 250-pound linebacker fall by the wayside while a 140-pound teenager drives on. The ruck does not discriminate, and it does not relent.

“But those who really know, know that the unknown distance march isn’t about the weight of the ruck, or the number of miles covered. It’s about the uncertainty: The ability to endure continuous hardship for however long it takes. It’s about learning to focus on the mission, not the moment. Ruck marching is a painful endeavor to begin with, even when you know how far you’re traveling. But walking an unknown distance at night over punishing terrain teaches you a lot about yourself and your teammates.

“The one penetrating thought that seeps into your mind amidst the strain and the pain is whether or not you will quit. Will you break when it gets hard, the finish line is nowhere in sight, and you just want it to end? Or will you find the strength to keep pushing, to lean on your teammates, and complete the mission? Sadly, often the ones who take a knee on the side of the road will never get back up and never see what’s at the top of the hill.

Linda’s note went on. “As a student of this industry for almost thirty years, have been often asked when I think that this season will end: higher interest rates, low inventory, and margin/pricing compression. In the almost 30 years that I have personally been in the business, I have never seen all three at the same time for such a long period… different times for each, yes, but not all together for this long.

There are several things to remember. First, in 2020, 2021 and part of 2022, we pushed a ton of loans through a funnel that had to be expanded quicker than anyone anticipated. That market is no longer, and the swing can be painful. Our friend, David Stevens, felt very strongly that 2025 will be one of the largest purchase markets in our history and we must prepare in advance for that, but we also have to live in the here and now also and be smart in all areas. It is much easier to lead when it’s ‘grow time’… Now this is the time where true leaders lead, and lessons are learned. Embrace the hard.

It’s important to recognize that the longer one is in the storm, the more tired one gets. Don’t Give Up- Focus on the Mission. In the history of mankind, there has never been a storm that lasted. This, too, shall pass. Be with an incredible company with amazing DNA and a strong leader that shows and teaches how to embrace the hard. Together in the strength to keep pushing, we lean on our teammates and we focus on the mission, not the moment-  #Keep Playing! Thanks for reading. In this together.” Thank you, Linda.

Vendor news from various segments of the loan path

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Third party providers do much more than create new names and/or capitalize letters in the middle of them. Let’s take a brief glance at who’s doing what.

Down Payment Resource (DPR) released its quarterly HPI Report, which found that 135 new homebuyer assistance programs were introduced in 2023 to combat the least affordable housing market in decades. This figure represents a 6 percent increase over the previous year. There are now 2,294 homebuyer assistance programs supported by housing agencies nationwide. Other notable insights from the report include: 20 percent YoY increase in programs that allow for the purchase of manufactured housing (804 programs) expands inventory to housing with a lower entry price point. 8 percent YoY increase in programs that support “house hacking” or the purchase of a multifamily (686 programs) allows people to build wealth as homeowners and landlords. 47 percent YoY increase in programs with special incentives for service members and Veterans. A more detailed analysis of the Q4 2023 HPI findings, including infographics and examples of the programs described in this release, can be found on DPR’s website. Also available, a complete list of homebuyer assistance programs by state.

FundingShield, a market-leading fintech providing plug-and-play solutions to manage risk, compliance, and fraud prevention, has entered into a relationship with Corelogic®, a leader in global property information, analytics and data-enabled solutions, to provide comprehensive title fraud solutions via a seamless API integration to the CoreLogic Digital Mortgage Platform™. Together, the companies are working to protect borrowers and financial institutions from the rapid increase in wire and title fraud in recent years, delivering superior standards in data integrity, bank account verification, and counterparty compliance.

MISMO issued a call for industry professionals to join a new development workgroup (DWG) focused on creating an enhanced replacement for the existing EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) 260 Application for Mortgage Insurance Benefits. Various custom formats have surfaced across the industry and the new Application for Mortgage Insurance Benefits DWG participants will aim to create a dataset specification to standardize, modernize, and maintain a replacement for the current format. The Application for Mortgage Insurance Benefits DWG will conduct regular meetings via conference call. Individuals interested in participating in this group who are already MISMO members may join the collaboration site that has been established on MISMO connect. Those who are not members of MISMO who would like to participate should send an email to info@MISMO.org.

docutech Compliance recently completed a review of cosigner/guarantor requirements for several states determining that many state statutes use the terms cosigner and guarantor nearly synonymously.

Lender Price just launched a new section for Home Equity within its Marketplace platform. Lenders can now showcase HELOCs, closed-end seconds, and more. All from a dedicated location. Marketplace offers a comprehensive range of home equity options including HELOCs, HELOANs, etc., all in one spot. With the new Home Equity User Interface, you can expedite the pricing process and provide borrowers with accurate and timely information. The prioritized user experience ensures that the interface is intuitive and easy to navigate for brokers. Originators spend less time searching for home equity loan programs. The centralized location for home equity solutions eliminates the need for loan originators to switch between platforms.

Finastra’s Filogix team has unveiled new generative AI (Gen AI) capabilities in its Expert Pro Canadian Mortgage Point of Sale (POS) solution. The function automates the creation of borrower narratives (notes) that aids in lender underwriting, streamlining processes, saving time and minimizing errors for brokers. With just a single click, users can generate a comprehensive summary of the mortgage deal, covering all the relevant criteria. The content can be reviewed, edited, and then sent for underwriting much faster, as compared to the traditional manual process. Content can be auto composed in English or French, and brokers can choose the format and which elements of the mortgage application to include for a more tailored and personalized experience. The Auto-Compose functionality has a secure private model at the core, which stands out from other systems built around public models.

 

ACES Quality Management® (ACES), the leading provider of enterprise quality management and control software for the financial services industry, has announced its newest product offering, ACES Call Monitoring Audit Pack. The pre-built, configurable Call Monitoring Audit Pack enables lenders and servicers to establish an additional layer of protection quickly and seamlessly within their QC program. ACES Call Monitoring Audit Pack includes custom data fields, ACES managed questionnaires and custom reports configurable to the individual organizations’ business needs.

RiskSpan, a provider of cloud-based analytics solutions for loans, MSRs, structured products and private credit, announced the launch of a usage-based pricing model for its Edge Platform. The new pricing model enables clients’ flexibility to pay only for the computations they use. It also gives clients access to the full platform, including data, models, and analytics, without having to license individual product modules. Usage-based pricing is a trend that reflects the evolving nature of analytics and the increasing demand for more flexible, transparent, and value-driven pricing models. It is especially suited for the dynamic and diverse needs of analytics users, whose data volumes, usage patterns, and analytical complexity requirements often fluctuate with the markets.

Blue Loans, LLC is now a Freddie Mac Integrated Secondary Market Advisor (SMA) partner. The integration of Blue Loans’ Secondary Manager platform with Freddie Mac’s Cash Pricing API simplifies the secondary process for Freddie Mac Seller/Servicers and produces more consistent results. Russ Brady, President of Blue Loans, stated, “We are very excited to collaborate with Freddie Mac as a Secondary Market Advisor. The integration with Freddie Mac’s Cash Pricing API and our Secondary Manager control center allows for Blue Loans to provide additional efficiencies to our mutual customers as Blue Loans continues our mission of utilizing technology to simplify the secondary process for mortgage lenders.”

During his campaign for the presidency in 1948, Harry Truman is reported to have asked a fellow in the crowd before him how he was intending to vote.

“Mr. Truman,” came the reply, “I wouldn’t vote for you if yours was the only name on the ballot.”

Truman turned to an aide and instructed, “Put that man down as doubtful.”

Visit www.robchrisman.com for more information on our industry partners, access archived commentaries, or to subscribe to the Daily Mortgage News and Commentary. If you’re interested, visit my periodic blog at the STRATMOR Group web site. STRATMOR’s current blog is titled, “It’s 2024: Do You Know Where Your Servicing Is?” The Commentary’s podcast is live and at any place you obtain your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify).

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(Market data provided in partnership with MBS Live. For free job postings and to view candidate resumes visit LenderNews. This newsletter is for sophisticated mortgage professionals only. There are no paid endorsements by me. For up-to-date mortgage news visit Mortgage News Daily. For archived commentaries, or to subscribe, go to www.robchrisman.com. Copyright 2024 Chrisman LLC. All rights reserved. Occasional paid job & product listings do appear. This report or any portion hereof may not be reprinted, sold, or redistributed without the written consent of Rob Chrisman.)

Rob Chrisman