BAC from Capitol Hill: AIME touts its Brokers Action Coalition

Strength in numbers is trade association's currency in DC

BAC from Capitol Hill: AIME touts its Brokers Action Coalition

For the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), it’s good that members have its BAC – the Broker Action Coalition, that is.

During last month’s annual gathering of AIME’s rank and file in Las Vegas, the trade association’s CEO, Katie Sweeney (pictured left), led a panel discussion on the BAC and how members can participate. Brendan McKay (pictured centre), AIME’s president of advocacy, moderated the discussion that also included Phil Shoemaker (pictured right), CEO of The Loan Store, and Kelley Williams (pictured below), partner at Forbes Tate Partners.

The four panelists did a deep dive into the impact and trajectory the broker community has on national housing policy decisions while detailing how the coalition is helping to shape the legislative landscape. 

Listening intently at the discussion were AIME members attending the group’s sixth annual FUSE conference, a three-day event featuring various panel discussions of interest to industry players, a trade show and motivational speeches from key figures. This year’s iteration of the gathering came amid considerable challenges in the industry, chiefly high mortgage rates fueled by inflation and continual erosion of housing affordability.

Not to be confused with the BACPAC

“Not the same thing as the BACPAC,” Sweeney began, differentiating BAC from the Broker Action Coalition Political Action Committee (BACPAC, a political action committee AIME launched last summer). “The Broker Action Committee helps support all of our efforts in DC through letter-writing campaigns, working with lobbyists, engaging with other trade organizations. It’s essentially all of our outreach.”

She referenced the separation from the PAC, but suggested the BAC’s importance was undiminished by its distinct status. “Why it has to be separate starts to get a little bit complicated into the weeds of how different businesses are structured,” she said. “But essentially, the entire goal of the Broker Action Committee is to represent all AIME members, all AIME partners, anybody related to the wholesale channel or anybody who would work with brokers – which includes consumers. We do a lot of consumer advocacy. We very much believe that what’s best for the consumer is also best for the broker.”

She invited AIME members to join. In so doing, she described a strength-in-numbers approach that tends to get politicians’ attention. “If you’re not part of the BAC, it’s free,” Sweeney said. “It doesn’t matter what level of AIME membership you have – none of that matters. We need as many bodies as possible. The letters make a huge difference. But one thing we do that I think really stands out is that we’re very cognizant of understanding exactly what ZIP code you live in because we want to be able to break down members of the organization so that when we’re meeting with legislators, we can also explain to them the kind of impact you have as a constituent in their district.”

There’s strength in numbers

She then provided a glimpse into the machinations of Washington, DC: “There’s a lot of talk about different kinds of currency and how you gain power in DC,” she said. “But one of the fastest ways to do that is being able to articulate to an elected official how many people we have a relationship with that can either re-elect them or elect their competitors in the upcoming election. It makes a big difference.”

In an age of skepticism over politics, it’s easy to chalk up engagement with members of Congress as an exercise in futility – actions leading to no measurable gain ultimately, McKay suggested. Turning to Williams, he asked: “Can you tell us why it’s so important? Sometimes it feels like you do it and it goes off into the void and you don’t really feel anything happen. You know?”

Working at Forbes Tate Partners – the lobbying firm AIME secured last year to represents its interest in the nation’s capital – Williams was quick to disabuse of the notion that engagement efforts are futile.

“Members exist to hear from the people who live in their communities, in their district, their state,” she said of lawmakers. “And they want to come to DC to champion policy issues that are important to those very same groups of people. When you have an opportunity to express what is important to you as a business owner, as an individual, a member of the broader broker community, those are the exact things the members want to hear about.”

It may seem counterintuitive to the seemingly intractable partisanship making the headlines, Williams suggested, but it’s true: “Don’t roll your eyes, because it’s true,” she said. “They love to get emails, they love to get phone calls. They want to hear from you. It matters that you’re always sending something – in a respectful manner – and communicates in a way that says ‘hey, I understand you’re going to be co-sponsoring this bill. This actually might have harmful, perhaps unintended consequences to our industry. Let me tell you why.’ Taking the time to tell them how something might impact you as a business owner and constituent, they’re going to listen.”

For his part, Shoemaker commended the BAC’s focus on independent brokers. Experienced in the realm of advocacy – primarily as a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) – Shoemaker said it’s the first time he’s seen a group launch such an effort for the broker segment.

“Nothing against the MBA, but they don’t really represent you,” Shoemaker said. “It’s not because they don’t want to represent you; it’s where the funding comes from. If you look at kind of the main constituents of the MBA, they are really more focused on the asset side of the equation – servicing, that sort of thing. The engagement can’t come from the lending side,” he added. “It has to come from you guys, in an organized way. If you look at the existing things out there today, they’re not organized in a way that can really be effective. There’s hasn’t been, post-crisis, an organization that has represented the originators. That’s why I’m excited.”

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