“Champion” thinking in a turbulent mortgage market

AIME CEO acknowledges cutbacks, layoffs amid a market downturn

“Champion” thinking in a turbulent mortgage market

When Katie Sweeney (pictured), CEO of the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME) addressed those gathered for the group’s annual convention, she was speaking to a bunch of survivors.

“We’ve been through a lot in the past six years,” she said in reference to the number of times the conference has been staged, including the most recent one in October, when she addressed the crowd of attendees. “The market is tough. We’ve been through a lot. AIME has seen its fair share of challenge, turmoil and noise.”

The challenges aren’t unique to AIME, but industrywide. By one measure, the number of loan originators will likely be slashed in half by year’s end when compared to last year. “If the experts are right, 50% of origination volume could be gone by the end of the year,” Sweeney said. “That’s a lot. That’s a lot of change for a market that got very comfortable over the last few years.”

The low-hanging fruit of refi has long been picked

A refi wave that has now passed it’s stage of yielding easy pickings, Sweeney suggested. “We had a lot of people enter the market who did not understand what market cycles look like, what kind of volatility they were in store for – but you did,” she said. “Everybody in this room knew that this cycle would come.”

How does she know that? “I know that because wholesale is the only channel that has continued to grow,” she said. “We’re up 35,000 originators since January of last year. You guys have helped bring those people over. You’ve educated them and let them know of the opportunities that exist in the broker channel and you’ve led by example.”

She noted what their attendance at the FUSE conference represented: “If you’re here, you’re committed to growing and making it through this market and getting to the other side. And you’re committed to do it in a team that’s going to help elevate you for the next 10, 20 or 30 years. You’re here because you want to win and because you know how to win.”

Surviving the market downturn is like going to the gym

In this tough market marked by high mortgage rates, low inventory and inflation, there are no shortcuts to success in the industry: “While we’re growing, we need to figure out how to get better through the pain,” Sweeney said, likening the daily grind to working out at the gym. “You go to the gym to lift weights,” she said. “They are going to make you stronger. It’s painful, but it works. And time and time again, people have tried to find ways to skip the gym because it’s not fun and they try to look for other ways to get in shape and get stronger and be able to run further and every single time, people come back to the gym because that’s what works.”

In these challenging times, it’s all about the hustle: “We have to hustle and we have to look at things from a champion’s perspective,” Sweeney said. “This market is not for the faint of heart. We all know that, and I’m not telling you anything you haven’t heard before.”

Sweeney noted that AIME itself has felt the most corrosive effects of the down market: “Our entire team has felt this pain too,” she said. “We’ve had budget cuts, financial constraints. We’ve had to lay people off from the team that I care very deeply about. We’ve had to pull back on initiatives we know matter but we had to make these decisions to get as lean and efficient as possible so that in two, or three, or five years we’re still around to help you.”

Keeping with the gym theme, Sweeney noted the need to think like a champion to get through the tough market: “We’re here to fight because if we don’t fight for ourselves, nobody is going to fight for us. We have to get leaner, we have to get more efficient and think like champions. But what makes a champion? First thing’s first: Consistency. The only thing you can lean on when things get tough is consistency.”

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