Rising interest rates, fewer applications and tighter margins were on the minds of lenders at the 2018 Mortgage Bankers Association Secondary Market Conference in New York.

Many attendees came looking for the secret sauce to originate loans better, faster and cheaper.

They were looking to gain knowledge to avoid being one of those that will struggle to survive as originations continue to plummet.

And profitability is now an issue: mortgage bankers lost money in the first quarter for the first time since the first quarter of 2014 due to overcapacity and high expenses, said Mike Fratantoni, the MBA's chief economist.

A tool for survival is the adoption of digital mortgage processes. Ginnie Mae said it will come out with a plan in June that will look at a path for digital mortgages at the agency.

The three agencies whose production Ginnie Mae securitizes — the Federal Housing Administration, Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service — all discussed planned technology upgrades looking to help lenders reduce costs.

And the final general session at the meeting was titled "Securitizing the Digital Mortgage."

Another way to boost origination activity is to work with underserved markets, with speakers at the conference declaring the credit box can be safely expanded using alternative criteria such as rental payments during underwriting.

While the industry did get some good news with the House passing Dodd-Frank reform during the conference, the industry is facing a rocky road. Many left the conference needing to find a boost to their business from what they learned to be successful in an increasingly tough lending environment.

Here's a look at the top trends from the conference, along with links to NMN's full coverage of the event.

FHA redux

JPMorgan Chase has largely sat on the sidelines of Federal Housing Administration lending due to compliance concerns. But recent regulatory relief efforts have Chase Home Mortgage CEO Mike Weinbach eyeing an opportunity to jump back in.

Chase Bank getting bullish on FHA loans, mortgage CEO says
Craig Phillips
Craig Phillips, counselor to the secretary at the U.S. Treasury, speaks during a presentation at the Securities Industry And Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) annual meting in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. SIFMA represents the U.S. securities industry including broker-dealers, banks and asset managers with nearly one million employees providing access to the capital markets. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Regulatory shift

Reducing unnecessary compliance burdens will pave the way for economic growth, larger job creation and wage increases, and re-evaluating technology will play an important role in doing so, according to Craig Phillips, counselor to the secretary at the Department of the Treasury.

Tech, reg relief creating a 'nexus of change' in mortgage lending
MBA forecast

Lender consolidation

Originations and margins are thinning, and there will be mortgage banking firms that don't make it through this year, but after that, the numbers may look better.

2018 will test mortgage bankers, but survival will pay off
Michael Drayne

The digital road

The Ginnie Mae 2020 report coming out this summer will reveal the path the agency is taking toward working with digital mortgages, an agency executive said at an industry conference.

Ginnie Mae preparing to make digital mortgage leap
Credit access

Too little risk

As the mortgage industry moves farther past the housing crisis, access to credit remains tight, especially for first-time homebuyers.

Expanding the credit box: What's wrong and how to solve it
Andrew Bon Salle

Facilitate MSR sales

Government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in a race to offer services and technology that help mortgage bankers raise cash from mortgage servicing rights.

GSEs vying to help lenders manage mortgage servicing rights

Avoiding digital pitfalls

Bonus item! Digital mortgage efficiencies span from origination to the secondary market and beyond, but something as small as a low-quality image in the loan file can cause headaches with investors.

How a blurry photo can ruin a digital mortgage loan sale