Why one mortgage conference took on sports-related feel

Figuratively, it's not graceful this year but full contact with gloves off

Why one mortgage conference took on sports-related feel

This year’s FUSE conference organized by the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME) took on the feel of a sporting event – specifically the kind where one roots for the underdogs to win after hearing inspirational, rallying speeches from coaching staff.

It was reflective of the challenging market under which brokers and loan officers are having to ply their trade. Asked to describe the vibe, AIME’s CEO Katie Sweeney (pictured) said during a telephone interview with Mortgage Professional America:  “Really willing to roll up their sleeves and act dirty and get into the work to figure out how to navigate the market and how to grow into 2024.”

We’re not talking about a graceful skating competition on a pristine icy canvas or a polo match of sublime athleticism – both human and equine – played across exquisitely landscaped pastoral fields. Think more a gloves-off, bare-knuckle approach. If the sport were football, think January 1983 – the  AFC Championship game between the Dolphins and Jets that was played on a field so muddy, from heavy South Florida rain and bad groundskeeping, that it will forever be known colloquially as the ‘Mud Bowl’ for the swamp-like conditions under which players toiled.

The theme reflects the volatility of the times

Such is the mortgage industry landscape – what with high interest rates and continual erosion of affordability against a backdrop of inflation – that’s made it harder to navigate. Sports hyperboles aside, Sweeney took on a more positive spin in describing the collective mood at the recent gathering in Las Vegas earlier this month.

“To really take advantage of the time that we have,” Sweeney said of the key to this year’s iteration of the FUSE conference. “It’s been a little bit slower, so to make sure they’re maximizing efficiency and are ready for the next cycle change. We were all very pleased with not only how many people were in attendance, but the attitude of those who were there as well.”

The sports vibe resonated with her personally, she said. “We had a very sports-centric theme this year, which was really fun for me. I’m a huge sports fan. Not a lot of people know this, but I went to school to be a sports broadcaster, so it was very near and dear to my heart. I’m a big fan of the motivation behind it, what it stands for – just the kind of energy it can help infuse into the audience. We definitely saw that and felt it. Everybody felt very motivated.”

Event was replete with “mortgage masters”

Panels this year took on themes resonant with current challenges. Sweeney pointed to the “mortgage master” sessions featuring experts in their field discussing ideas on how to grow a business and “…where the next opportunity is going to come from,” Sweeney said.

One such “mortgage master” is Todd Duncan, a New York Times best-selling author and CEO of The Todd Duncan Group. To a rapt audience, Duncan advised on how to build a long-term business plan and how to identify and quantify what changes needed to be made today in setting up for future success.

Also dubbed a “mortgage master” was Dale Vermillion, founder of Mortgage Champions and president/CEO of Vermillion Consulting Inc. “Take conversions and client experience to the next level,” the description to Vermillion’s presentation beckoned from the convention’s printed agenda. “Learn to master first impressions, cultivating interest, gaining commitment and earning trust…”

Or take Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, who was also tapped as a “mortgage master” at the event. He spoke on current and future industry trends and how to go about future-proofing one’s business for 2024 and beyond.

Chris Vinson also served as a mortgage master, dispensing insights as an industry veteran and top-producing mortgage broker. CEO of Windsor Mortgage, Vinson shared tips for powering through market conditions and building a playbook for the pipeline.

René Rodriguez, best-selling author also took on the role. He spoke on controlling a room, guiding conversations and controlling one’s narrative by making the best possible first connection.

In short: “It was a lot of coaches,” Sweeney said. “A lot of very sports-themed content with all-stars and MVPs. Our spotlight speakers were all the MVPs of the team. We had our mortgage masters who served as motivational coaches. It was very athletic this year.”

Appropriate, as the times call for staying nimble.

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