The 2013 National Property Preservation Conference was held recently in Chicago. Attended by hundreds of professionals from the mortgage servicing industry, the popular conference, one of the only events that focuses on all facets of field services, featured a number of interesting and informative panel discussions during this, the 10th annual such event. In addition, a timely keynote address was delivered by Ann Thompson, a senior analyst for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who kept the audience in rapt attention.
The organizing host for this year’s conference, as in past years, was Safeguard Properties. Ed Delgado, CEO of the Five Star Institute, which sponsored the keynote address, spoke briefly about the importance of the field service industry in its role of protecting banks’ assets, and neighborhoods from blight and associated conditions before he respectfully introduced the conference keynote speaker.
According to the event brochure, since joining CFPB in October of 2011, Thompson has helped to set up the mortgage supervision program. In this role she aids the development of the supervision strategy for mortgage servicers. She also provides technical advice on operational and regulatory issues to teams examining mortgage servicers.
In her opening remarks, Thompson said that one of the main missions of the CFPB, which was created through passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, is consumer protection, of course, and helping servicers to develop procedures that are consistent and transparent to create a level playing field not only assists the lenders and servicers but ultimately those consumers.
Thompson intimated that she works almost exclusively with mortgage lenders and servicers examining their prioritization process to assess risk. Some of what she evaluates is a given servicer’s product markets, size, risk, product lines and market share. CFPB seeks clear rules to help consumers to know what they owe and what options they may have in the event of delinquency.
During their examinations of servicers Thompson said some lacked appropriate levels of customer service—they lost documents, didn’t answer the phone in a timely manner and generally dropped the ball. She noted that transfers of servicing rights were a real problem. Today, things are greatly improved, Thompson explained. Since the CFPB is so vigilant in overseeing their rules, thousands of consumers have been helped to mitigate foreclosure on their mortgages. Robust compliance management systems employed by servicers today provide streams of data that are designed as early warning systems to spot trouble before it is too late to intervene.
Thompson’s address made it clear that the CFPB was created to help consumers receive satisfaction when they felt they had been wronged, with respect to the customer service they received from their servicer, but also with gaining a clear understanding of the options available to them regarding their mortgage.
While much of the chaos created by the housing bubble resulted from massive volumes of requests for loan modifications, approvals of short sales, mounting foreclosures, and the like, It is also clear the decline in foreclosures over the past year, signs of a recovering housing market, and the diligence of servicers, working together with agencies like the CFPB, have greatly improved the housing outlook for 2014.
Thompson previously worked for the Treasury Department on the Making Home Affordable Program. Prior to joining the federal government, she worked in residential and commercial real estate consulting.
While the overarching intent of the conference, as stated is “to provide an outlet for industry leaders to collaborate and innovate…to talk about pressing issues and develop solutions,” Thompson’s remarks demonstrated that compliance with regulations and laser-like focus on risk should be the highest priorities for field service providers moving forward.
In terms of how the property preservation industry is specifically impacted today by changes affecting the servicing industry in general, it was proffered that field service providers have a responsibility to protect bank assets. They are essentially risk management companies.
In addition to hearing directly from such notable industry leaders as Thompson, the National Property Preservation Conference provides another way we and other members of the property preservation industry can share our collective knowledge and afterward put it all to sensible use.
Lynn Effinger is a veteran of more than three decades in the housing and mortgage servicing industries. He currently serves as business development manager for Assurant Field Asset Services.