This piece originally appeared in the October 2022 edition of DS News magazine, online now.
At the recent Five Star Conference and Expo in Dallas, Wes G. Iseley, EVP and Senior Managing Director of Carrington Holding Company, was honored for his four-plus decades in the mortgage finance space with the prestigious Five Star Institute Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I am honored to have been chosen by the Five Star Institute to be the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Iseley after the presentation, reflecting on his tenure and longevity in the industry. “It was 41 years ago, just out of college, when I started my career in this industry. I discovered early on that the keys to success are building relationships, taking care of your people, and providing the leadership needed to help them succeed.”
A customer service-focused general management executive, Iseley has proven himself a successful figurehead, leading organizations to profitability throughout all economic cycles. His experience ranges from directing large firms to developing growing companies into industry leaders.
As Senior Managing Director of Carrington Holding Company, he has P&L responsibility for Vylla Title and Vylla Home and is also responsible for business development, while managing the Carrington relationships across the Carrington family of companies.
He joined Carrington in December of 2008, in the midst of the great subprime market meltdown, as EVP of Carrington Mortgage Services. Prior to Carrington, he was President of Saxon Mortgage, a Morgan Stanley Company, a title he held for two years after Morgan Stanley’s acquisition of Saxon in late 2006.
Before joining Saxon Mortgage, Iseley served as EVP, Residential Real Estate with Fremont General, where he spent five years, responsible for originations, servicing, and overall operational support.
Upon graduating from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in finance, Iseley got his start in the industry in 1981 with Associates Financial Services, rising to the role of Managing Director.
In addition to his role leading Carrington, Iseley is heavily involved in industry trade associations, currently serving as President of the California Mortgage Bankers Association. As head of the association, Iseley represents the residential real estate finance industry before the nation’s governing bodies, encouraging and promoting sound business practices, and honesty in marketing, origination, lending, and the servicing of mortgage loans through the association's educational and networking opportunities.
From 2019-2021, he served as Chairman of the National Mortgage Servicer Association (NMSA), a nonpartisan organization driven by senior executive representation from the nation’s leading mortgage servicing organizations. NMSA was formed for the purpose of effecting progress and change on the key challenges that face the servicing industry by bringing together decision-making executives from across the nation.
DS News recently had a chance to speak with Iseley, discussing his career and the state of the industry, the current state of the industry, and his work on behalf of the servicing sector as Chairman of the NMSA.
Describe your day-to-day activities and duties in your current role as Senior Managing Director at Carrington Holding Company.
I have been with Carrington now for nearly 14 years, and there are currently 11 companies under the Carrington umbrella.
The first half of my time with Carrington was spent operating the main companies: servicing, lending, and the other companies that we formed.
Then I moved up to the Carrington Holding Company level, and my first job was in business development across all the different companies, bringing in business—along with Nolan Turner, Managing Director at Carrington Mortgage Holdings, and Tom Huddleston, EVP, Head of Vylla Title. Even though Tom runs our title company division, he is still involved in business development and government relations. Another aspect of the role in business development is coordinating relations with the GSEs: Ginnie Mae, FHA, HUD, VA, and the USDA.
Another part of my job is operating the Vylla brand. Our two main companies under the Vylla banner are Vylla Home, a brokerage operating in 40 states with 1,325 agents, and Vylla Title, a residential and commercial title provider.
I also deal daily with Carrington CEO and Founder Bruce Rose, and Andrew Taffet, Chief Investment Officer & Head of Asset Management at Carrington Capital Management, on anything they want us to get involved in across the other people at Carrington … we all pull this together for Carrington.
We're very proud of what we've accomplished. Anything we need to do to cross lines and help in different areas, we will. I think that shows why Carrington is a different company.
Are there any measures Carrington is taking to close the homeownership inequality gap? Do you feel the industry is doing enough in this area or does more need to be done?
At Carrington, we're extremely proud of our Mission: “We provide a lifetime of simple and attainable homeownership.” We're one of the premier lenders in the lower-FICO-score space, and this involves manual underwriting, with quality loans to help our customers. It's almost like the consumer finance days where you're putting things together for people who have the capacity to make good quality decisions to help the customer. Our non-QM products offer alternatives to customers outside of the guidelines from the GSEs and FHA. We're very proud of our non-QM offerings.
The industry, GSEs, and HUD need to continue to work together to offer opportunities to those with alternative credit histories—from rent, utilities, and other credit references to helping borrowers qualify for loans. I think that's a start that people are getting back to the basics of underwriting, and of really understanding how people pay their bills. It’s a great step, and progress is being made. There's a focus now where there wasn't five years ago, and I think positive progress will come from that, but we need to continue that focus to meet the need.
With your close relationship with Ginnie Mae during the pandemic, describe the process of working hand-in-hand with a government entity in order to keep people in their homes during this time. Did Carrington do anything special or specific in this process?
We worked with the National Mortgage Servicing Association, which I served as Chairman for at the time but was always involved with even before then. Through NMSA, all the banks and nonbanks worked with the agencies to come up with a good plan to help our customers.
In times of need, the industry pulls together, and that's something different from prior to 2007. We learned our lesson from the meltdown of 2007-2008 that a strong, cohesive industry is needed in a time of crisis, so now we help each other out to solve problems.
Having joined Carrington during the subprime crisis of 2008, what lessons were learned from this experience, and can any of those lessons be applied to the housing situation of today?
I think back to the subprime days and, compared to now, risk management and compliance are critical. Everyone has built out their infrastructures and has realized that you need solid risk management and compliance to be successful. To run your company and manage your operations, data—in the right format—is critical.
The obvious lesson to learn from that period was the results of bad underwriting guidelines and decisions: they will catch up with you and cause harm. During the 2000s, everybody seemed to get amnesia about that.
One of the other big things was servicing. Servicing is critical to the role of taking care of your customer. Since 2008, and the crisis at that time, a great deal of money was poured into the system because everybody knew what was important. The investment in technology, people, and staff to improve the servicing industry is another the bigger change from that time of the subprime crisis.
What are some of your greatest career accomplishments?
There are three that I am most proud of. We think of ourselves as a trusted buyer of assets from large banks and nonbanks. Early in the stages of buying MSRs, we won a $20 billion trade from one of the larger banks. The bank approved the trade because they trusted us. We had to have Ginnie Mae approve that trade. Then we had to board $20 billion worth of customers, and we did that successfully. We managed that portfolio with good results for those customers. That was a top turning point.
Number two was winning the Ginnie Mae MSR default servicer contract, when we became a servicer for Ginnie Mae. We have very close relations with Ginnie Mae.
Third, I’m proud of business development, which has allowed us to execute on many different transactions, including MSRs and EBOs, which are managed by our team under Andrew Taffet, our Chief Investment Officer, and his staff up in Connecticut; because we think of ourselves as an asset manager first, across all the Carrington companies.
What are some of the primary challenges currently facing the industry?
There have been a number of state regulatory and agency issues, especially at the state level. There are a few issues popping up on the East Coast that we need to work together on to avoid harm to our customers, local communities, and our industry.
We need to continually educate and advocate to improve our industry for our positions. We are experts in the industry and need to continue to share those thoughts and insight. We can do this through involvement in groups like the National Mortgage Servicing Association.
I'm also the President of the California Mortgage Bankers Association and a member of the MBA Senior Servicing Council. All the companies in our industry, as I said before, need to be involved in order to make the industry better.
Are there any individuals that you would consider a mentor during the course of your career? What lessons did you learn from them that made you a better individual and mortgage professional?
I was lucky enough in my early years to have two good mentors. I believe strongly in mentorship and right now, giving back internally within Carrington, I mentor three people in Carrington and one person outside of Carrington through the California Mortgage Bankers Association.
There is one individual, Bob Janning, who had a career at Associates as an EVP, who I would consider my mentor. He just taught me to be visible and talk to your people. His point was that it's always easy to find out what's going right, but you need to find out what needs to be improved. The people who know the best are the line-level people, and if you listen to them and then implement their ideas to fix situations, you gain respect. People notice if you listen.
A second individual I consider a mentor was a gentleman named Ed Wooden. His point was that people respect you for making the right decisions, and you can't take a half step. You have to be strong and make the right decision for your company. His point was that if you make the right decisions, people will respect you.
Where do you see the mortgage servicing space heading over the course of the next year?
It may take one to five years to get back to normal, but we are certainly witnessing change.
Servicers were always focused on processing, payments, and ACH. What's changing is that servicers need to provide value to their customers, as they must provide information and education. You need to provide value; if you don't provide value in education and give the customer something they want and need, they are going to leave you, and you're losing both money and an investment. The big thing is providing information and providing value to keep a solid customer base.
Having served as Chairman of the NMSA during the height of the pandemic, what key lessons did mortgage servicers take away from this past 24-plus months?
In the past, we experienced such critical events as Hurricane Harvey, where NMSA helped to organize the response by working with all the government agencies, banks, and nonbanks. That was good practice for this new challenge that we were facing for the first time, but there were actually two parts to that challenge.
Part one: in March 2020, we had a centralized call center workforce and had to move it to a decentralized work-from-home operation in a period of just three weeks, with nobody out there having had such a move in their playbook. We had playbooks for everything.
NMSA helped organize a response and best practices of sharing information the banks, nonbanks, and the agencies.
We needed to figure out the best way to reach out to customers. What should we offer in terms of waterfalls and such? We all worked together on moving our workers from a centralized to decentralized force, and we figured out how to offer products, and when.
The major lesson learned was this: when those call volumes hit, which nobody could have ever expected, you needed to put as much information as possible out there and offer self-help on your website and portals. I think you will continue to see that. Some people will want to talk to some people. Others will want to read as much information as possible to self-help, but with regard to the industry’s efforts to provide trusted service and information to customers to make informed decisions, you're going to see more of that. These tools offer value and education through the web and portals so that people can educate themselves and then either make the decision to go through the web for self-help, communicate that way, or make a phone call directly to their servicer.
How does a group like NMSA bring value to servicing professionals and attract them to become members?
[Five Star Global Chairman] Ed Delgado created NMSA, and some of the early leaders like Anthony Meola offered a forum for banks and nonbanks to work on solutions to benefit our customers, the agencies, and the industry overall. But right off the bat, people from across the industry saw value. Let me harken back to the state of the industry pre-2008: nobody wanted to talk to anybody else until the crisis hit.
All of us knew that we needed a strong industry where we pulled together, and that was a vehicle that Ed started, and it's still going strong.
People show up at NMSA meetings and travel to make sure they're there. They make sure a strong representative is there to contribute on behalf of their company. The value is already there, and these companies, banks, and nonbanks alike all see the value and show up to participate with NMSA.
I'm very proud to be a member of the National Mortgage Servicing Association, and of all the work that we've done, and am excited to see it stronger than ever even after a crisis.
What would you like to be remembered for as head of NMSA, and what was your greatest accomplishment over your term as Chair?
Keeping the lines of communication open. During the pandemic, when there was so much stress within the system itself, communication between the companies was still there and NMSA helped facilitate that. It was a form where people could reach out to other people and gain information about what was working.
What was working for you to reach out to the customers, because the call volumes were huge and unprecedented. Just the interchange of information, and having that forum there to conduct that communication, I thought was very important during these very trying times.
What would you like to be remembered for by your peers?
It changes after 40 years in the industry. The first 20, 25 years, you're striving to hit where you want to achieve. Then it hits you that you're trying to protect what you achieved in your industry, so you start giving back through these trade associations: NMSA, the California Mortgage Bankers, MBA, whatever it is.
Give back to the industry; help people out when they need help and give them information. I think that's important. It's nice to see that a number of us have taken that role of providing help to those coming up by mentoring or being involved in associations to help out the industry and our customers. I'm most proud of having been able to give back.