The Time Has Arrived for WinDS

Sometimes an inspiring idea becomes a reality at just the right time because of the right people with the right focus. That's certainly the case with the formation of Women in Default Services Inc., a brand-new association dedicated to promoting and supporting women in all walks of default servicing.

This is an organization that was born out of the necessity to maximize the capabilities of women and elevate their visibility, according to Marla Webb, founding member and president of the specialized trade group. She is president of Cambrian Asset Management Co. in Austin, Texas.

"This is an idea that has been in the wind for several years," she tells Mortgage Servicing News. "My background is in default services, going all the way back to the previous crisis in the Resolution Trust Corp. days. I was a prime contractor as a woman-owned small business in resolving the crisis of that time and continued in default services management and portfolio disposition with various large prime contractors for the next 15 years."

Webb stayed involved with HUD and the FDIC doing outreach with minorities and women in business to attract them to either work with her as prime contractors or as subcontractors.

"As a result, I've had the privilege of overseeing a network of literally thousands of minority and women who are actively pursuing their business. To make the process much simpler for folks who are sitting in the chairs of the business sources, whether that's the government or a prime contractor, a network of women in the various disciplines in this niche of our industry was an absolute no-brainer."

The idea of starting WinDS was something Webb and the three other founding members, Shelley Kaye, Sheila Blockson and Arna Freedman, thought about for many years, sharing similar frustrations about getting recognized as women in the default services industry.

"We came together at one of the national conferences in the fall of last year and put on the table our ideas, our dreams our frustrations, our solutions, and our goals and objectives and we solidified it into Women in Default Services," recalls Webb.

"That very minute within half an hour, we had the URL, womeninds.com and we began to process it, establishing first, our honor code and how we would operate and secondly, our network with whom we would operate."

From there, formation of the group immediately took off. By the end of 2009, the ladies had the documentation and structure in place. By the first of February, the website was up and running thanks to Arna Freedman.

"I worked very hard on the website to create a functionality that would allow all the people within the industry to join in under their specialty group," says Freedman.

"I don't think there's any other REO membership organization that offers that particular function to its members. We also have our forum where agents or any other community member can share ideas of how to increase their business. We have the surveys, which allow us to stay in touch with our members and get feedback immediately from them."

Members of WinDS do not have to be a business owner to become involved. The founding members agree many women are the backbone of their companies and they may not own them.

"Any woman in this service sector can receive recognition, can receive the call from a business source and can take that potential source of business to her supervisor or her company owner, or if she is an entrepreneur, to her own team and start the process of doing the work, and rising or falling on her own capability," says Webb.

The primary focus of WinDS is the women themselves, describes Shelley Kaye, the group's executive director and former president of REOMAC.

"When we speak with men and tell them what we are doing, a lot of them will say, 'So and so runs my company, I just own it, what a great idea,'" says the veteran real estate and mortgage loan default servicing professional.

"Everyone we meet is excited. We are getting emails and calls constantly. People are signing up. We just sent out a survey to ask the women what type of committees they would like to be on and where their experience is.

"We are finding the women that are joining have just an enormous amount of experience and are so qualified in this industry, and they are talented in many other areas. We are going to be one powerful group with the resources that we have from the women who have joined," adds Kaye.

Webb and Kaye are busy talking with business sources including property preservation companies and law firms to raise awareness to use the group as a resource tool if they are looking for an auctioneer or appraisers or a company to list or sell their properties.

"The No. 1 benefit to being involved in WinDS for members is to be visible and to be promoted by those of us who have a large history and lots of contacts in the industry," says Webb.

Each woman in WinDS has her own spotlight page on the website where she can present herself and her credentials and tell about her company and its capacity, whether or not she is an employee or owner or whatever title she holds.

"It provides consideration for business. It's a repository of rather in-depth profiles and a way to communicate directly with that woman through the website. On the other hand-our networking internally from the founding members to the latest members who just joined-this says, 'OK you have one of the only woman owned auction companies, let me see if I can throw some business your way, we are looking at getting some auctions set up.'"

Through leadership training, this association hopes to give all women an opportunity to advance their careers or help those just getting started in their careers.

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