Don Frommeyer, who is returning for another term as president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, reached a personal high this past summer in his avocation, umpiring baseball. He was one of the 13 people chosen by the Little League organization to umpire its World Series in the 16- to 18-year-old age group.
And if that is not enough to keep someone busy, Frommeyer also is an active originator at his Carmel, Ind.-based company, Amtrust Mortgage Funding (he is a co-owner).
He found out he had been chosen for the tournament this past winter. Frommeyer has been umpiring for 38 years. Right now he does mostly high school baseball (he has also done some college), as well as games in the Little League organization. In addition, he is an assistant district administrator for Indiana District 7 in Little League.
He has umpired lower level tournaments, working his way up from the district level to the section and state levels and then up to the regional level.
To be an umpire at any age group’s World Series is a highly competitive process. Frommeyer has been applying since 2007 to work a World Series. He changed from asking to work the Junior League World Series to working the Big League World Series and this year he was chosen.
There were 10 umpires from the United States, along with one each from Canada, Curacao and Germany. Each game had four umpires at the start; later in the tournament they went to six-man crews.
“This was an item that was on my bucket list,” adding it is a one-time opportunity. An umpire can work a total of two World Series, and he or she can only work a particular age group’s tournament only once. Furthermore, Frommeyer said he now has to wait four years to apply again to work another age group.
“It was a thrill of a lifetime” to work the tournament, which was in Easley, S.C.
There are some commonalities between umpiring a baseball game and selling mortgage loans (and even running a company and a trade group).
“It is all about dealing with people. It is all about how you handle yourself and what you know. It is a situation where you have to comprehend the rules, understand the rules and abide by the rules and work within those parameters, just like we do in mortgages,” Frommeyer said.
Game management skills are an important part of an umpire’s toolkit. And those same skills can be used in working in any type of business, he pointed out.
Interacting with players and coaches on the field requires the same aptitude that one needs in dealing with co-workers and customers or a diverse organization like NAMB.
“It is all about understanding what you have and how you do it,” he said. “It is all about how you address every situation and having control of the situation. It is very similar.”
Both umpiring and mortgage brokering are passions for Frommeyer. “I enjoy my job thoroughly in the business that I do.”
Another similarity: “Not only in the mortgage business do we do continuing education and training, but also in being an umpire, we have clinics and classes we attend and meetings we attend” with the goal of keeping participants informed about the latest rule changes and other issues, as well as reinforcing what to do in certain situations.
Frommeyer remains an active originator, even with all of his responsibilities. “I’m a firm believer that it’s hard to manage if you don’t understand it.
“So, the whole idea behind this is if I’m knowledgeable enough to originate, I’m knowledgeable enough to help my employees,” he explained.
His activities in NAMB also contributed to his ability to help his staff, by being able to share with and explain to them some of the items happening which will affect the way they do their jobs.
When asked what he sees as the challenges coming he will face in the next year as president of the organization, Frommeyer said one of the biggest is that there are plenty of “somewhat unknowns” still out there.
The qualified mortgage rule has been a work in progress, for example. There are still questions about how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will interpret QM and other matters (although subsequent to the interview, the agency did provide some clarity on QM).
Mortgage brokers continue to do “an excellent job and a competitive job for the customer. It just seems like at times everything is stacked against us,” Frommeyer said. There still seems to be antipathy from certain banking segments against the wholesale channel, but he pointed out there has never been an instance where a mortgage broker has approved a loan.
“Their underwriters approve the loans. Their companies collect the loans. The mortgage broker just facilitates getting the loan to that lender,” he stated, adding that the cost to originate is lower in wholesale than through the banks’ own brick-and-mortar retail shops.
Furthermore, brokers are able to do a better job of getting the customer to understand the process. Brokers are being scapegoated and there needs to be a change in that perspective.
NAMB, he said, represents all originators, members and nonmembers and one of Frommeyer’s goals this year is to make originators aware “of what we do and how we do it and to get them to join so we have a bigger voice when go to Washington.”
Mortgage brokers over the years have done a great job in getting the best deal for the borrower but it seems when there is a problem, they point to the industry as the cause, he said.
But brokers don’t approve loans, he reiterated, nor do they develop the programs and guidelines.
The government says mortgage brokers are the ones selling the loans, so they have to be the problem. “In reality, it is the people who set the programs up,” he said.