What It Takes to Be Counselor of the Year


Liz Greenwood, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling 2012 Outstanding Counselor of the Year, would not see her counseling job as depressing, but an honor to help those who seek financial assistance.

The receiver of this year’s NFCC’s Professional Achievement and Counseling Excellence is an industry veteran who has worked for the NFCC member agency, Philadelphia-based Clarifi since 1977.

According to her co-workers, she always is the first to arrive at work each morning and routinely takes on extra appointments. It is her way of acknowledging how critical it is to be responsive to those who are overwhelmed with financial distress.

Most importantly, she knows her craft past and present because her quest for knowledge of the ever-evolving financial landscape never dwindled down.

Greenwood’s continuing education efforts include recently earning a certificate for advanced foreclosure prevention, homeownership preservation and reverse mortgages from NeighborWorks USA, and taking advanced training courses from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

Her colleagues call the counseling veteran “The human financial literacy search engine.”

In the words of Clarifi’s president Patty Hasson, every day she exceeds the expectations of her clients and co-workers with her ability “to understand an individual’s unique situation, to provide empathy and honesty, and advocate on their behalf to not only address immediate issues, but set up the habits and strategies that lead to long-term success.”

Greenwood admits that counseling is her personal passion.

That passion drives continuous efforts to match her quest for mortgage market knowledge with a genuine empathy that leads “to getting to the heart of a client’s financial issues,” says Hasson.

It helps achieve better results.

By taking a holistic view of a person’s financial life, she quickly grasps what demands immediate attention and how an individual’s situation is affected by the crisis and should be resolved when taking into consideration the wider mortgage market context.

“A key to her success is digging deep, asking all the right questions in an effort to determine which strategies will work best to meet the person’s short- and long-term goals,” the executive said.

Greenwood recognizes that financial concerns “can crush a person’s spirit,” which is why, she says, she is honest with people because they can do more than change their existing financial crisis. “They can change their whole life.”

“It’s a very different world,” she says, referring to her 35-year old counseling career. Most counseling requests used to be about credit and debt. Today more than 60% of Clarifi’s appointments are related to housing. And because of the severity of this crisis more people are and will be requiring housing related assistance for years to come.

Annually, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling members provide free advice to more than three million consumers through close to 750 community-based offices nationwide.

Greenwood’s dedication is part of her agency’s efforts to reach out to homeowners in need. She eagerly volunteers to work off-site events organized by Clarifi’s nine offices, sharing her experience with struggling consumers or building new partnerships through corporate level programs and financial forums in the communities they serve.

She works with both private and government entities to further financial education, notes Hasson. For example, she pioneered her agency’s partnership with the United Way of Burlington County that lead to the opening of a Clarifi branch office that offers access to multiple services in one location.