Amid choppier waters, brokers' gathering was a calming sea
By all accounts, the first-ever Hall of AIME staged this month in Florida was an unqualified success.
Mortgage Professional America interviewed Katie Sweeney (pictured), the CEO of the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts to gauge how well the premier event staged from Feb. 10-12 in Miami Beach went. The gathering was billed as a celebration of the broker channel that showcased the mortgage wholesale industry’s elite leaders and top originators.
“We really were looking to highlight not only the people who are part of our community that are really visible on social media, but also the ones who are out there impacting their local communities truly living by the philosophy ‘brokers are better’ and how that impacts consumers, the industry, families,” Sweeney said during a recent telephone interview. “We just hadn’t had an opportunity to do that. There are lots of sales excellence trips that you see in retail and lots of these magazines that have awards that most of the time you have to pay for. There’s not a whole lot out there that is truly rewarding people based off of the feedback of their communities, peers or teams.”
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The event lauded 100 brokers from thousands nominated, Sweeney explained. “It’s very easy to get swept up in production-related awards,” she said. “Production is great, and it’s important. Helping more families is definitely a critical part of impacting them but there’s so much more to it.”
The narratives of all those honored were compelling and resonant, she said, and sometimes didn’t even involve the industry. As an example she referenced a broker who makes a point to randomly pay off wedding dresses monthly at her local bridal store to help unknown women who might be struggling financially while paying her dress piecemeal. “We truly believe your home – whether physically a home or a place you happen to live – is the center of what you do in life. This event was an opportunity to show that.”
The event also helped underscore the network of support AIME represents for brokers, particularly at a time of rising interest rates.
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“The industry is huge, but we’re obviously headed into a declining or shrinking market,” she said. “Brokers are prime to be incredibly successful in a market where margins are a bit tighter. We just highlighted 30-something brokers in our impact vertical who do nothing but give their time without question to other people who are coming into the channel. It has nothing to do with ‘are you in my market, are you going to be a competitor of mine.’ We have so far to go before brokers need to ever even need to consider competing with one another. There is so much market share out there and so much education to give to consumers to show why working with the broker in the broker channel is going to be beneficial for them long term.”
The idea behind the event was to heighten the message of support, she suggested. “We have a lot of members, but we’re still a new association,” Sweeney said. “We still have a lot of work to do to make sure consumers have access to all the resources they need and LOs and originators in any channel understand when you come to the broker side, there is a whole group of people waiting to welcome you with open arms because the better you are as a broker the better your neighbors and the channel looks. Those reputations spiral in a good way. We have a lot of people that want to provide that support structure.”
AIME-provided broker assistance runs the gamut from funding to training to resources to mentorship, she noted.
Members also are well equipped to handle the changing landscape of higher rates given the group’s focus, she added. “Our channel never pivoted away from purchase. In a rising rate environment, that’s where purchase becomes the kingpin. That’s what everybody is now shifting their focus back to,” Sweeney said. “We never left it. We continue to push and encourage people to go out and get those realtor relationships, focus on your referral sources, focus on your purchase business. A lot of the top producers that we put on panels or that we feature in content – even in a massive refi boom – continued to do 50%, 60% or 70% of their volume as purchase volume over the last few years. Those referral relationships are pretty solid, which is again one of the benefits of working with a broker in this type of environment is their purchase really is their specialty. This is not a knock on call centers, it’s just more challenging when you don’t know what I need in Dallas versus what somebody else needs in Detroit when you’re sitting in a call center in Florida. With brokers being right there, the purchase focus never left.”
Sweeney said AIME will stage the event annually. While some 700 people attended this year’s inaugural event, future gatherings will continue to be about that size – with no greater than 750 in attendance at future iterations. “The goal is to have it – hopefully not the same weekend as the Super Bowl next year – probably late January or early February. It will continue to be invite-only. It will continue to be for our members, for award winners, for guests of our partners who want to get introduced to the AIME community.”