Leading the Charge: Executives Making a Difference in Diversity & Inclusion

WASHINGTON–Mortgage Bankers Association President and CEO Robert D. Broeksmit, CMB, said he’s been grateful to be “surrounded by people with the right outlook.”

BroeksmitBroeksmit noted growing up in Illinois, he saw his father, a minister who marched with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, as a role model and mentor. Through his career at Prudential, Chevy Chase Bank, Treliant and now MBA, he said he appreciates challenges facing the industry in making diversity and inclusion a part of every business.

“We are improving; we are making progress,” Broeksmit said here at the MBA Diversity & Inclusion Summit. “Our industry is taking the right steps in the right direction to be a more diverse and more inclusive workforce; to be better positioned to help a more diverse customer base.”

“This audience continues growing, and it is growing more diverse,” Broeksmit added. “That’s impressive for an industry that has been traditionally dominated by white men–impressive because I see that we all share our industry’s goal of modernizing to better serve our customers and our employees.”

Broeksmit noted at MBA, “We strive for your success in reaching your company’s diversity and inclusion goals. MBA’s inclusion strategies and actions can be done at any company. Costs are minimal, but the return on investment is exponential. Investing the time and resources into your employees and their environment will yield fantastic results.”

SusanStewartEarlier this year, MBA launched its “Embrace” initiative that has thus far organized sessions on unconscious bias, recruitment and retention, informational lunches and engagement surveys. Additionally, MBA announced this week that 149 mortgage professionals were awarded Path to Diversity scholarships through MBA Education.

Susan Stewart, 2019 MBA Vice Chairman and CEO of SWBC Mortgage, San Antonio, said an organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion requires “commitment and effort.”

“Diversity and inclusion is not a hobby,” Stewart said. “You have to think of this as a business decision, that it’s right and it’s good. The end result will be success, if you’re intentional.”

Kristy Fercho, President of the Mortgage division with Flagstar Bank FSB, Troy, Mich., agreed. “No one wants to be on the wrong end of the discussion,” she said.

“The ‘why’ we engage in diversity is really self-explanatory,” said Karen Buck, Head of Commercial, Retail and Payment Operations with TD Bank, Mount Laurel, N.J. She said open dialogue is a key factor in driving change. “Some of the questions may feel awkward, but I have found that people are willing to forgive awkward questions to drive the dialogue.”

David Hrobon, President and CEO of Wintrust Mortgage, Rosemont, Ill., said as a community bank, “we have to represent our community. It has to be part of our DNA.” He echoed Stewart’s comment about being “intentional” in approach. “We have to take a hard look at roles in color, gender and pay,” he said.

DIPanelEddy Perez, CMB, President of Equity Prime Mortgage LLC, Atlanta, said as a first-generation Cuban-American who did not speak English in his home, he understands the need for diversity and inclusion from a personal perspective. “My business partner and I knew that if we were going to grow this company we were going to have to make it personal,” he said. He noted forming partnerships with MBA, NAHREP and other organizations has enabled Equity Prime to not only reach into minority communities but also to attract and recruit minority employees.

From a commercial/multifamily perspective, Jeffrey T. Majewski, Executive Managing Director with CBRE Capital Markets, Houston, said the industry has a long way to go. “If you go to any commercial real estate conference, 90 percent of the participants are wearing blue blazers and khakis,” he said. “But our customer demographics are changing dramatically.”

Majewski said CBRE tries to provide a platform that enables employees to “be themselves. If you make the effort to attract talent, but don’t encourage their individuality, then you fail,” he said. “Our management team is encouraging us to succeed in our diversity and inclusion efforts.”