New MBA Chairman Emerson Says Industry Faces ‘Unique Opportunities’

SAN DIEGO–Newly elected MBA Chairman Bill Emerson played football for legendary coach Joe Paterno at Penn State University for four seasons, joining the team as a walk-on running back his freshman year and serving as captain his junior and senior years. But it’s another legendary coach from whom he takes inspiration–Vince Lombardi.  

In Lombardi’s first meeting with the Green Bay Packers in 1960, Emerson told attendees here at the MBA 102nd Annual Convention & Expo, he set the stage with these words:  

Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly pursue perfection, knowing that it doesn’t exist but we will pursue it anyway because as we chase perfection we will catch excellence. I am not remotely interested in just being good.”   

“This is the standard to which I hold myself in all things I do and it will be no different in my role as MBA Chairman,” said Emerson, CEO of Quicken Loans Inc., Detroit. “Good enough is the enemy of great, so settling for good enough is never an option.”  

Emerson said it is “truly an honor and a privilege to be standing here today as chairman of MBA. It’s been a long and interesting journey to get to this place but I am very glad to be here.”  

“Bill brings incredible energy, talent and focus to the leadership ranks and I look forward to continuing our working relationship over the next year,” said MBA President and CEO David Stevens.  

“He’s an innovator, a leader and strategic thinker,” said Immediate Past Chairman Bill Cosgrove, CMB. “It’s this leadership that grew a lending business during one of the most difficult times in our industry and our country’s history. Bill’s modern flare for taking our industry forward will be a great asset to MBA and our industry.”    

At Quicken Loans, Emerson has risen from loan officer in 1992 to CEO in 2002. During his tenure Quicken Loans ranked No. 12 on FORTUNE magazine’s annual 100 Best Companies to Work For list. He has testified before Senate and House committees numerous times and been interviewed for national and trade press throughout the country.  

Emerson has also been an active leader and advocate for and with MBA, serving as former Chairman of MBA’s Diversity Committee and former Vice-Chairman of MBA’s Residential Board of Governors. He serves on the MBA’s Board of Directors and is a member of the Financial Services Roundtable’s Housing Policy Council and the HPC’s executive council.  

“As I think about the next year and the years beyond that, it strikes me that we have a unique opportunity in front of us as a group,” Emerson said. “We have the ability to affect the outcome for all of the stakeholders in the real estate finance industry lenders, consumers, advocates, regulators and legislators.”   

For the past eight years, Emerson said, the real estate industry has “struggled with the damage done in the financial crisis–the damage to our customers, to communities, to our reputation and to our industry. Well it’s time to turn the page on that past and focus on a promising future. Home prices are up, unemployment is down and we have reforms in place that make the market safer, as a whole and more sustainable for consumers, the economy and our businesses.  n fact, the market that exists today may be one of the safest lending markets in decades.”  

Emerson called on lenders to work together to unite the industry. “While we all have different business models, we all want to serve our clients and help Americans achieve the dream of homeownership,” he said. “It means working with regulators, consumer advocates, legislators and stakeholders to ensure that the markets are strong and safe.”   

Emerson said first-time home buyer is critical to the success of any housing market. “The rules that have been written have impacted the first-time homebuyer, as have the recent policies of FHA, the loan that many first-time homebuyers count on,” he said. “We must continue to advocate for smart, clear policy decisions from FHA that will promote homeownership for that important group and the many other American families that rely on it.”   

Emerson noted the market today is struggling to adequately serve all of our communities. “Demographic trends are a real opportunity, but could only make it more difficult if we don’t see real change,” he said. “People of color will play a more prominent role in the formation of households and we must make moves now as an industry to embrace diversity in our lending and hiring practices. Our companies should look more like the communities we serve today and will continue to serve in the future. Not only does it help us meet the needs of more consumers who dream of owning a home, it makes our companies better. We must focus on turning the page in this important aspect of our business to thrive in the future. It’s the right thing to do and it makes complete business sense.”  

Emerson also called on the real estate finance industry to continue to embrace technology. “At Quicken Loans we often describe ourselves as a technology company that happens to do mortgages,” he said. “It’s important that our industry becomes more technologically advanced and works to serve our clients the way they want to be served. It is incumbent on all of us, lenders and technology providers alike to step up and make the investment to improve or replace many of the old, outdated systems still too prevalent in our industry. The Millennials are here and they are teaching us that using technology is how they will transact. We have to embrace this concept today, not tomorrow, if we are to stay relevant in the future.”  

Emerson said MBA will never waiver on working with policymakers, regulators and legislators to ensure our industry clearly understands the rules of the road and gets clarity around what those rules mean.    

“Enforcement has become the way of educating the industry; it’s simply the wrong way to do things,” Emerson said. “We all agree that bad actors should be punished but the enforcement regime that exists today is irresponsible and creates true access to credit issues that we all must realize and address. We have to keep fighting against this extreme practice. Enforcement has its place but it is out of balance today. We must keep fighting for the clarity that any rational person would want. That clarity allows lenders to lend to the broadest edge of the credit box responsibly and is what our first-time homebuyers deserve.”  

As Lombardi knew, Emerson noted, perfection does not exist.  

“There is no perfect manufacturing process and there hasn’t been a perfect rule written yet,” he said. “Mistakes happen in a manufacturing process. However, it is crucial to have the sense to recognize the vast chasm between a mistake and fraud. Mistakes also happen in rule writing and that doesn’t mean that the rule can’t and shouldn’t be improved. Rules are no different than manufacturing processes. Both should constantly be reviewed and improved. We all owe that to ourselves and the consumers we all serve–lenders, regulators, policymakers and consumer advocacy groups alike.”