MBA Diversity & Inclusion Interview: L. Maria Zywiciel of NAHREP Consulting Services


(One in a recurring monthly series featuring efforts of the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, part of MBA’s commitment to increase racial, gender, sexual orientation and ethnic diversity within the mortgage banking industry.)    

L. Maria ZywicielLuz Maria Zywiciel is President of NAHREP Consulting Services, a marketing consulting firm specializing in the Hispanic segment and housing industry.   

Prior to joining NCS, Zywiciel held senior management roles at Citibank, most recently as National Director of Strategic Markets. In this role, she led a team responsible for Diverse Markets, Community Reinvestment and Fair Lending efforts for more than 1,200 bank branches nationally. With more than 20 years of financial industry experience, she has a broad knowledge of the financial industry while serving large institutions such as Citi, Prudential/Wachovia and Edward Jones.   

The following is an excerpt of a longer interview. To read the complete interview, visit MBA Insights at  

INSIGHTS: What were some of your experiences growing up that shaped how you wanted to pursue your career?  

ZYWICIEL: I am a first generation Mexican American. Both parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s. My experience has been defined by almost always being the “first.” We were the first Mexican family in our neighborhood. We moved from the city (Chicago) to the suburbs after the gang violence became an issue. My father was quick to move us out and we moved into the northwest suburbs. We were the first Latino family in the neighborhood. I was the first to go away to college. I was the first to go into business. I always helped my parents with finances and explaining concepts to them to make them feel more comfortable.  

INSIGHTS: When in your career did you realize, “okay, I can really make a difference here?”  

ZYWICIEL: When I graduated college and began my job search, I had little experience in business and really had no “natural market.” For example, my parents didn’t have a social circle of financially influential friends or people that could connect me to influential people. I began to get frustrated when I would be given typing tests at job interviews! I decided to go into insurance sales and began with a natural market of Latino business owners. I found great success selling health care and business continuation plans to people that no one else was talking to. That sprung my career into financial services ever since–more than 20 years now.  

INSIGHTS: How did the concept of NAHREP Consulting come about?  

ZYWICIEL: NAHREP stands for The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. It’s the largest minority trade association in the U.S. with close to 30,000 members. Aside from being part of the trade association, companies are also seeking strategic and tactical advice that can move the needle within their businesses (like help with marketing, recruiting, social media, etc.).   

Gary Acosta, NAHREP Co-founder and CEO, created NAHREP Consulting Services. At the time, I was working at one of the nation’s largest banks responsible for their diversity and affordable lending strategies and when asked to lead the newly formed company, I jumped at the chance.  

INSIGHTS: It’s no secret that the Latino market will continue to grow over the next decade. In general, do you see lenders preparing accordingly?  

ZYWICIEL: I see lenders asking the right questions but I think companies are still in a state of inertia.  To some degree I believe that may be a result of regulatory fear. However, there are a few shining stars out there that are willing to try new ways of reaching the underserved and as they start to experience the rewards of these efforts, more will follow.  

INSIGHTS: What dynamics do you see the Millennial generation bringing to the housing market?  

ZYWICIEL: There is so much talk about millennials but it’s important to know that diversity is really the major calling card of the millennial generation. Over 40% of millennials are from diverse backgrounds. When you look at the Latino market, more than 60% are under the age of 33! If a company wants to only focus on millennials, they are not realizing that you can’t do it without a diversity strategy as well.  


The MBA Diversity and Inclusion Committee was formed in 2013 to provide leadership and guidance to help the real estate finance industry gain a competitive advantage by increasing diversity in leadership, workforce and suppliers.  

MBA encourages its members to support these efforts and to recognize the competitive advantages of embracing a diverse and inclusive workforce and marketplace. For more information about the MBA Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, click