Andrew Foster: Trade Associations–Community Building in Unsettling Times

Andrew Foster is Associate Vice President in MBA’s Commercial/Multifamily Group. He is a former Analyst with S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings as well as a regular contributor to MBA NewsLink and MBA Commercial/Multifamily NewsLink. Foster can be reached at or 202/557-2740.

Andrew Foster

I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.” -Hermann Hesse  

Why Now? 

Associations can play an outsized role when industries and societies are disrupted or experience significant shifts. Numerous events occurring in 2020 are textbook examples of these type of situations, such as:

-COVID-19 pandemic, shutdown and economic fallout

-Work and learn from home experiments

-Government responses such as Cares Act, Main Street Lending Program, TALF 2.0 and Eviction Moratoria

-An unanticipated banner year for single-family mortgage originations with falling interest rates

-Housing affordability crisis

-Social justice issues and unrest

-Generational shifts continuing to occur in the workplace

Why are associations so important at inflection points?

Some larger association accomplishments occur in the process of convening members and advocating with them over time. These include some of the below examples:

1) Associations create, define and delineate leadership within an industry in representing interests with policymakers. The need for leadership and opportunities to develop leaders are often opportunities created by crisis. Leaders have opportunities to stand up in important moments and demonstrate their capacities.  A favorite recent example is MBA Vice Chair Kristy Fercho testifying before the House Financial Services subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance in a virtual roundtable on “Reviewing the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on U.S. Housing Markets.”

2) Associations elevate standards of professionalism and ethics through knowledge creation and knowledge-sharing. MBA and other trades have done this effectively through providing valuable real-time data on housing industry developments. Whether regularly reporting on COVID-19 forbearance numbers, CREF originations, forbearance or delinquency numbers, MBA leads on providing actionable data to policymakers that help inform and lay the groundwork for better policy outcomes. Designations are one other prime example. MBA recognized 29 new Certified Mortgage Bankers at October’s Annual Convention.

3) Associations create and transmit business culture, facilitate social interaction and foster community through convening industries to regularly meet peers and potential partners. Whether through in-person meetings or in a pivot to virtual environments, trade associations bring members together who are committed to improving and investing in the betterment of their industries and professions. They share information and can generate new ideas which move industries forward. The number of examples and number of mediums for this type of content is tremendous and growing. Here is one upcoming hour in which MBA will bring together leading CRE finance professionals at the highest levels to touch on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion moderated by MBA Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Lisa Haynes:

Leadership During Crises and Transitions

  • Leslie Branson, Senior Managing Director and Head of Human Resources, Newmark Knight Frank
  • Matthew Rocco, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Grandbridge
  • Mike Thomas, Executive Vice President and Co-Head, PNC Real Estate
  • Angela Mago, President, Key Commercial Bank, KeyBank Real Estate Capital

The Mortgage Bankers Association is navigating the pandemic from a position of strength and leveraging industry resources to enhance the quality and integrity of the real estate finance industry.

This can be seen in 2021 MBA Chairwoman Susan Stewart’s focus on improving minority homeownership. Historically, the MBA chair chooses three key initiatives for their time in office. Stewart said she is taking a different approach: instead of three initiatives, she chose just one–promoting minority homeownership. “It’s a big, weighty issue of huge importance; it is an issue I am passionate about,” Stewart said. “For years, I have been deeply concerned that Blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups lag behind in homeownership rates.” Read more here.

One sees this in the organization and member firms remaining engaged in important work while managing challenging personal circumstances. In a country in turmoil, the association’s value proposition of bringing people together is at a premium. MBA is a place to keep planning and improving one’s business and career among a community of positive people volunteering to serve the industry.