I had the pleasure of attending my first California Mortgage Bankers Association Western States Loan Servicing Conference last week, and I'd like to share a couple quick observations that I took away from my three days spent in Las Vegas.
First, the Wynn is a very swank locale and a very nice spot for a conference (although I'm still undecided as to whether such an opulent site is a fitting or completely inappropriate environment for a mortgage servicing conference, given the state of affairs). Second, Vegas is a terrible place to go – and a casino is an awful place to be – if you're trying to break a gambling habit.
But more to the point, although the event's panel sessions were strong and insightful, and the food in the exhibit hall was tasty and filling, the Western States Loan Servicing Conference appeared to be missing a crucial element: servicers. That's not to say no servicers were present, because they were – they were just few and far between. Vendors, predictably, made up a very large portion of those in attendance.
The lack of servicers is not altogether a surprise, however. Foreclosure volume is not abating (filings bumped up 8% in July, says RealtyTrac), shops are busier than ever, and most loss mitigation departments are straining to handle increasing workloads. So, although they were missed, no one can fault servicers for not showing up in droves.
What did they miss?
Well, in one session dedicated to the topic of enforcement actions taken against servicers, "on the radar," "targets" and "low-hanging fruit" were the terms used to describe those in the industry who aren't operating at a best-practices level. Okay, perhaps mounting workloads were not the only reason servicers were scarce.
And while the conference's opening keynote panel, titled "The Mortgage Industry and the Economy," did not instill in attendees much optimism for the industry's near-term outlook (one speaker in a subsequent panel referred to the keynote panel's forecast as "dreary," and that was about as cheerful as it got), there was some positivity to be found.
For example, in the aforementioned enforcement-themed session, Lance E. Olsen, managing partner with Routh Crabtree Olsen PS, noted that pressure to meet stringent – and, perhaps, unrealistic – timelines is easing.
"[It's] kind of already gone away, because most folks realize it's probably better that we do it right than do it fast," he said.
And with that, the glass can safely be considered half full. Now to fix myself a Mortgage Lifter Tomato sandwich (popularized by 1930s entrepreneurial gardener M.C. "Radiator Charlie" Byles).