Chris George: ‘Accidental Mortgage Professional’ Takes on MBA Chairmanship

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Newly elected Mortgage Bankers Association Chairman Chris George got started in the mortgage business as a teenager–and he hasn’t looked back.

“Like a lot of you here, I am an accidental mortgage professional,” George said here at the MBA Annual Convention & Expo. “I started in this business when I was 19 and haven’t done anything else since. What I love about our jobs is what we get to do every day; we get to make homeownership attainable in a responsible sustainable way.”

ChrisGeorgeGeorge–Founder, President and CEO of CMG Financial, San Ramon, Calif.–said mortgage bankers get to step into customers’ worlds while they contemplate making one of the most important decisions of their life.

“It is what has drawn me to serve within the California MBA and the national MBA,” George said. “Giving back to an industry that I so deeply love. Recognizing the good fortune I have had to trip into a business that has allowed me to sit at that kitchen table and map a path to home ownership and the beginnings of personal wealth for a young couple just starting out.”

George identified several issues that will guide his chairmanship during the year:

GSE Reform. “I make a joke that it seems like we have been talking about GSE reform since the late 1800s,” George said. “Things take a lot longer here Inside the Beltway then outside in the business world. So what? We aren’t giving up nor are we going away. We are going to talk and work through the system until we get OUR agencies out of conservatorship.”

George emphasized when he says “our,” he means it. “These are American institutions owned by the American taxpayer, and as such unless we become obsessed with getting them back on solid footing we will be in limbo for another 10 years,” he said. “Make no mistake, if we don’t control the narrative surrounding GSE reform, administrative or otherwise, our customers will suffer. When has lack of choice ever been good for the consumer?”

Innovation. “First, and rightfully so, we have been very focused on defending and re-assembling our industry after the housing crisis,” George said. “We have to stop exclusively looking in the rearview mirror and to start looking out the windshield as to the innovation our industry is in dire need of–both customer-focused and within the organizations that we work with.”

The good news is, George said, “thanks to many of the systemic changes our industry has made over the last decade, we have established an impressive track record to lure in private capital to meet the needs of these new homebuyers. The loans we are making today are better documented, better disclosed, better appraised and better understood than any other time in the 36 years I have been in this industry.”

However, George added, “we can’t lose sight of our overall mission serving low to moderate and underserved markets. It is time we deliver on the promise that we have been talking about for decades; technology will bring to our industry a lower cost to produce thereby making credit more affordable to everyone, regardless of the color of your skin or where you are looking to live. NOT reckless lending with no regard to good credit standards.”

Diversity. “If we want to better serve a growing and more diverse customer base, then we need a more diverse employee base,” George said. “My dad said to me once, ‘seek out people that are better than you, different than you and braver than you.’ There is no such thing as accidental diversity. To be diverse is to be deliberately diverse. Intentionally inclusive.”

With mid-term elections coming up, and numerous changes in leadership at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and regulatory agencies looming in the next several months, George said this means one word: opportunity.

“We are the practitioners,” George said. “We are the ones sitting face to face with the ultimate consumer, our borrowers. We are the experts. Education is key here. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast and know before you owe is the way to go.”

George said MBA is well-position to lead, going forward. “Quite simply, we own the space,” he said. “When legislators, regulators, member companies or media reach out looking for solid factual advice and input, they call MBA. Our reputation on the Hill and throughout this Administration puts us in every room and every conversation that is related to housing finance.”

George said this is not by accident. “This is not a spectator sport and real estate should never be political,” he said. “This is about educating those in the position to make change regardless of their political affiliation. For the most part they don’t understand what we do like we do. Your job is to help us educate them on the correct changes that need to be done to serve our customers.”