With more than three decades of mortgage industry experience under his belt, Glen Corso has taken on a variety of roles – among them, former group senior vice president with the PMI Group Inc. and, more recently, as one of the principals behind the Warehouse Lending Project.
Now, along with former Fannie Mae Senior Vice President Robert Engelstad and former Countrywide Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Pete Mills, Corso is busy launching a new effort: an advocacy group called the Community Mortgage Banking Project. MortgageOrb caught up with Corso this week to learn more about the initiative.
Q: How would you describe the scope of the Community Mortgage Banking Project membership?
Glen Corso: The scope of our membership is independent – either community based or regionally based – mortgage banking companies. We also include in that membership mortgage banking subsidiaries of community banks. We have right now, as of today, 27 members. I think we have two that are subsidiaries of community banks, and the rest are privately owned mortgage banking companies.
[Our members] range in size, based on annual origination volume, from about $300 million annually to over $8 billion annually. They have a pretty good mix; it's nearly a 50/50 mix between Federal Housing Administration (FHA)/Veterans Affairs (VA) production and conventional production.
Q: How does the project differ from, say, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)?
Corso: I'd say the biggest difference is that we are purely an advocacy organization, so we're going to do analysis of regulations and legislation that affect mortgage banking. We're going to advise our membership on positions we think they should take, and once the membership decides what position they'd like to take on various things, we will both do lobbying, as well as communications activity around that. And that's the reason for big use of the term "advocacy."
Q: With the MBA and Independent Community Bankers of America around, why is there a need for the Community Mortgage Banking Project now?
Corso: In talking to a number of independent mortgage bankers, they expressed concern to us over the fact that there wasn't a group or a single voice in Washington that was expressing their concerns. They pointed out that other organizations have broader and more diverse memberships and that the positions they take and the things they advocate really have to reflect the diversity of viewpoints and the different kinds of companies that make up their membership.
So the thought was that we should form a group that would strictly have a membership of, as I mentioned, independent and community-based mortgage banking companies, and that's what we've done. I'd say the membership is more homogenous than some of the groups you've mentioned and that we think there's going to be probably a greater uniformity in viewpoints on various issues.
Q: Where did the idea for this project come from? How long ago did you start thinking that this was an area that needed to be served?
Corso: It really started in the spring. In my role with the Warehouse Lending Project, I made a trip to Colorado at the invitation of the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association. They have an executive forum that they put on once a month, and it's about eight companies that are all independent mortgage bankers.
They invited me there to discuss warehouse lending. I talked about that, and several of the members indicated to me that if we ever formed a group that had a broader focus than just warehouse lending, they'd be very interested in joining. I went back, talked to my partners, talked to some members of the Warehouse Lending Project, and we started to draw up the idea and a business plan, etc. And then we talked to members of the Warehouse Lending Project and others during the summer and found lots of support for the idea.
We spent most of August organizing the project. I should mention that we have folded the objectives of the Warehouse Lending Project into this new organization. Most of the members of the Warehouse Lending Project – not all, but most – have signed up for this new project.
Q: Can you give me examples of the policy issues that your group plans to prioritize?
Corso: I'd say the big one is the viewpoint that whatever happens in mortgage reform, there are two very important things. The first is to preserve a very diverse system of mortgage providers so that the consumer will have lots of choices. And then second, there should be a level playing field for whatever rules and regulations are going to be posed.
Our group is concerned about the fact that, as of second quarter, it looks like we have three companies that account for over 50% of the originations in the country. That is a tremendous concentration that we've never seen before. We certainly don't want to see policies and regulations that are enacted that are going to encourage further concentration like that.
Q: Is it too early to ask about the project's stance on specific policies?
Corso: It is a little bit too early, because frankly, we're still having a dialog back and forth with the membership about specific issues and how they feel about them. And in some instances, it sparked a pretty good discussion among themselves about how they feel. For instance, the loan officer compensation issue and what the Fed has proposed – that sparked a pretty lively discussion. We haven't reached any conclusions, yet.
Q: Once the project membership reaches a consensus on specific topics, what will your lobbying presence look like?
Corso: What we've told the membership is that the three of us [Corso, Engelstad and Mills] will be registered lobbyists for the group. It will really depend on resources. We've built our budget around a membership of around 50. If we achieve that membership of 50 – and we're about halfway there – we've worked out in our budget that we'll have enough money to hire some outside lobbyists – not as employees, of course, but as lobbyists that have their own firm and we'll be their client. Then in addition, we'll probably hire a public relations firm to help us on the communications side.
Q: Speaking of communications, how do you plan to get the message out about the project?
Corso: We feel like we have planted the seeds, for sure, but we do have some more outreach that we're planning. Probably the big thing is that we want to start getting the word out about how the membership in our group is really composed of smaller and midsized mortgage banking companies that very much devoted most of their efforts to conventional, conforming and FHA/VA products, even during the boom years when so many others were offering unconventional mortgage products.
Whatever we do, we really have to preserve the ability of companies like our members to continue to serve the needs of the public. That's going to be the big communication effort. We think there's enough companies that will endorse that [principle] that we're confident we're going to reach the 50-member goal.