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The Changing of the Guard: A Conversation With NMSA’s Leadership

This piece originally appeared in the July 2022 edition of DS News magazine, online now.

This year’s Five Star Government Forum in Washington, D.C. featured the usual lineup of important conversations between mortgage servicing executives and government officials.

It also featured a meeting of the National Mortgage Servicing Association, a nonpartisan organization driven by senior executive representation from the nation’s leading mortgage servicing organizations, formed for the purpose of effecting progress and change on the key challenges that face the mortgage servicing industry. That gathering included the passing of the torch from outgoing NMSA Chair Wes Iseley, who led the group from 2019-2021, to Jocelyn Martin-Leano, who will serve as Chair through 2024.

Both Iseley and Martin-Leano recently spoke with DS News about the challenges Iseley has faced in leading the group through the pandemic, where the group has marked successes during those years, and where Martin-Leano intends to focus the group in the months ahead.

Wes G. Iseley, Senior Managing Director, Carrington Holding Company; 2019-2021 NMSA Chair
You’ve served as chair of NMSA during a particularly unexpected and challenging period. Looking back at that, what are the accomplishments and achievements you’re most proud of?

In March 2020, we always had plans for everything, but we didn’t have a plan for working from home. NMSA orchestrated calls with all the servicers, so we could share ideas about what was working and what we needed to do as a group.

That sharing of ideas across all the servicers, bank, and nonbank, helped our industry transform a centralized call center model to a decentralized one. It was extremely hard work, with everybody working day and night for about three weeks to pull that off. But we did pull it off as an industry. And I think we’re better prepared to serve and help our customers with that having gone so smoothly. It could have been a disaster, and it wouldn’t have worked if we weren’t out there working together and sharing information.

You served as NMSA Chair from 2019-2021. What were your initial goals when you took on that role, and how do you feel you succeeded at working towards them?
Number one, it’s a tight-knit group, and I think we’re the only group in the industry for servicers that pulls together top-level people from both bank and nonbanks. We pulled together information HUD was looking at when they were evaluating the Claims Without Conveyance of Title (CWCOT) and auction programs. We were able to pull data from 20 different people, put it in a similar program and deliver that to HUD so they could look at those results. Based on that, they implemented some very positive changes for HUD and the servicers, which helped out everybody. NMSA is a trusted source that works to look out for the industry, to pull data together, and provide information that can’t be obtained anywhere else. We all see the common good in that.

Together, we serve as a resource for feedback or for data, for both servicers and for all the government agencies. We’re very willing to share that information to improve things for consumers out there and help generate better programs. That’s why everybody shows up at these NMSA meetings every single time, because they know that we do good work. We’re trying to help out the consumers. We’re trying to help out the industry. The stronger we make the industry, the more people we will help.

How does NMSA contribute to industry thought leadership?
After a major hurricane hit Houston, we had an emergency meeting in Dallas with the top 30, 35 bank and nonbanks combined. We had FHFA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, HUD, FHA, and the VA, all in the same room, figuring out what needed to be done in that moment. What programs do we need? What are the issues? Everybody there had one common goal: We need to help these customers out. How can we do that, and what do we need to change?

That’s the power of NMSA, right there.

When faced with major challenges, we can pull people together, from the servicers and from the agencies. And the agencies know that this is a great thing because they’re going to hear all our thoughts. We’re a great resource, and that’s why I’m proud to be a part of this organization.

As you step aside as NMSA Chair, what are the areas that you would like to see NMSA focusing on going forward?
We’re working on those right now. We just had a call with NMSA leadership the other day, focused on working groups that will tackle issues such as trying to meet with Ginnie Mae, with HUD, and with FHFA on pressing issues. We’re trying to come up with solutions—but first, let’s have a dialogue. We want feedback happening back and forth. We want to hear what everyone is concerned about and then let’s work on solutions. We’re planning for another big September meeting [at the annual Five Star Conference & Expo], and we’ll hopefully have some meetings with some of the agencies before then with some of the working groups.

Jocelyn Martin-Leano, President, Rushmore Loan Management Services; 2022-2024 NMSA Chair
Could you speak about why NMSA membership is important and how NMSA contributes to the industry in terms of thought leadership?

These two questions are interrelated. First, why is membership in NMSA important for mortgage organizations and executives? Because it’s a safe and comfortable forum of industry leaders and operators, in which we can trade best practices and discuss problems, challenges, and solutions that people have tried. For example, at our recent meeting in Washington D.C. [during Five Star Government Forum], we discussed the return to offices and how each organization is navigating remote work and returning to the office. You run the gamut of those who are 100% working in the office and then those who are still inclined to hybrid models. It was a nice forum for learning from one another.

Membership in NMSA gives you access to other mortgage industry leaders that represent about 70% of the loans being serviced in the United States. So, it’s a very nice cross-section. You have nonbanks and banks as well—just a core group of leaders, working together in a constructive setting. Those who do not participate lose out on that exchange of ideas.

In terms of our thought leadership contributions: during these meetings, we call out some of the pain points and then we form subcommittees to look for ways to address those. If there’s a governing body that needs to hear, straight from the boots on the ground, what is going on in a particular issue, now you have a good group of leaders that are actually there, providing the thought leadership on what truly happens, representing multiple stakeholders, the borrowers, the investors, the regulators.

It’s a nice, well-rounded approach when we take it to, for instance, the regulating bodies. We look at all facets of an argument, not just pro-servicer, but pro-borrower, pro-regulator, etc. It’s a very mature group of individuals who are mostly in the C-Suite and can provide good direction.

For example, on the 40-year term for mortgages, that was a very robust discussion, in terms of, “Is a 40-year term good or not?” When we talk about government programs, government loan servicing, modifications, we’re able to give feedback directly to the regulators about the challenges we’re facing.

Being a member of NMSA allows your voice to be heard, and then the leaders of NMSA take those voices and bring them to the right forum so that they can be addressed.

What do you think were the key things Wes Iseley was able to accomplish during his tenure, and what are your main takeaways from that period of the NMSA’s history?
Wes was very kind to take on a longer tenure because of COVID-19. Wes was kind enough to say, “I’ll take the organization through the COVID period,” so he had an extended term. During that term, Wes was able to coalesce a lot of people towards certain issues and how to address them. Wes is also well-connected, and so he’s able to reach and connect various stakeholders across different issues. He did a great job helping keep the organization and the servicers afloat during COVID-19. He was able to bring together virtual meetings and make things happen, even though we could not gather together in person.

In terms of what I want to build on, I want to continue what Wes has done, which is just forging a strong connection among the members. Wes is a good connector of people, so I’d like to continue with the connections, and in addition, take on a more active role in the subcommittee forum. I want more subcommittees that target particular industry pain points.

The other thing that I would like to do is to market NMSA more. People are confused sometimes about the different organizations in the industry. I’ve been asked, “How is NMSA different from the MBA servicing organization?” I think what makes NMSA different is because, again, it’s a safe and small forum of people who are actively working on all these issues. It’s a gathering of go-getters who are willing to put in the needed work to find solutions.

My primary focus for my term is to keep NMSA relevant amidst a challenging environment. We may be facing another challenging credit cycle. You’ve got macroeconomic forces and geopolitical forces that are impinging on the industry. We have to be able to navigate those waters and get the servicing voices to be heard.

I would also like to change the tone of how servicers are viewed. We have become the bad guy. When you get a customer complaint, it’s always in the tone that, “You are a bad guy, and I will report if you do not fix my issue.” Gone are the days when servicing was seen as a way to help people. Now, it’s seen as the enemy. I’d like to be able to turn that around and maybe capitalize on some good stories of people who have been helped versus the ones who have not been helped. I want NMSA to be seen as a force for good, not just a group of people that meet and then nothing happens. I’d like to be able to say, “Here was the good that came out of my two-year tenure.”

You mentioned forming new subcommittees. Are there any that you have in mind?
Government loan servicing, for sure, because it is a credit type and a borrower that will require the most help should we have a downturn. Working with HUD and being able to be ahead of what these borrowers might need should there be a downturn, that would be a major topic of interest. When you look at the delinquencies, the first-time homebuyers are the ones that need the most help, and they tend to be on the low side of FICO, low down payment, and that is the profile of more of the government-backed loans. So, that’s where I think we could get some help bridging both the policy-making bodies of the government agencies, the GSEs, and then bridging that with the borrower that’s going to need some help.

Also, if you have inflationary factors begin to impinge upon consumer consumption, that breeds less demand, and therefore unemployment problems. That’s where we’re going to see some of the headwinds in the industry.

Are there any other important aspects of NMSA you’d like to spotlight?
I’d like to increase the membership and bring more banks in, as well as the nonbanks that are not participating right now. I’d like us to have a very strong cross-section of the servicers, so we can have a stronger collective voice.

About Author: David Wharton

David Wharton, Editor-in-Chief at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has nearly 20 years' experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. He can be reached at [email protected].

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