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President’s Concluding Remarks

For the past several weeks, I have been working with the presidents of the other state associations that comprise the Great River Conference, along with several planning committees, to put the finishing touches on GRC20.  We were enthusiastically looking forward to what would be the best conference in the five-year history of the GRC.  And then last week, we realized that the world has changed.  Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the devastation it is causing worldwide, the GRC leadership concluded that the only viable and responsible decision was to cancel GRC20—which was going to include a special celebration for TNMBA as we enter our 60th year.

TNMBA was founded 60 years ago in Memphis. In 1960, Ernest P. Schumacher and other leading mortgage bankers from across the state, most notably Herschel L. Greer of Nashville, met to form a professional trade organization to represent the interests of mortgage bankers in the Tennessee legislature. Ernest P. Schumacher was the also the founder and first chairman of MORPAC, the national MBA political action committee. So you can say that the advocacy function is in the DNA of TNMBA.  At the very heart of our mission is that we represent to our members legislative and regulatory developments and that we represent to our legislators and regulators the voice of our members. 

The founding of TNMBA was timely and prescient. The Tennessee state constitution has a very strict prohibition against usury, which sets a limit on the amount of interest that banks and other regulated lenders can charge. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s interest rates nationally began a precipitous climb due to economic conditions and rampant inflation. Interest rates climbed to the point where banks would not be able to do mortgages in the state of Tennessee. In the late 60’s Schumacher, Greer, and other TNMBA members were able to get a reprieve with a temporary measure that made it possible for banks to continue to offer mortgages. By the mid-70’s, pressure on banks continued to mount as rates continued their rise. TNMBA participated with other banking groups to lead the effort in having the Tennessee state constitution amended so that the legislature could change the usury rate, rather than have a static ceiling rate specified by the state constitution.

It’s difficult to imagine that an unintended consequence of some legislation or regulation could shut down completely or severely impair the ability of banks to do mortgages, but that is a very real possibility. TNMBA exists to prevent that from happening, and this is what sets TNMBA apart from other banking and mortgage trade groups. Other groups also provide education and training, and other groups offer opportunities for networking and connecting. However, TNMBA is the only mortgage trade group in the state of Tennessee that has a lobbyist to help us achieve our objective of protecting and promoting the best interests of our member groups in the state legislature.

During this present time of crisis in our country, a situation emerged which could very well have made it impossible for mortgage lenders in Tennessee to close loans and then ship them to investors.  The mandated “shelter in place” directives from local municipal governments prohibit companies or institutions not deemed “essential” from having personnel in offices to conduct business in the normal manner.  TNMBA’s lobbyist, Tony Thompson, alerted the board to the need to have county court records offices deemed “essential” so that title searches could be conducted and so that warranty deeds, deeds of trust, and other mortgage documents could be recorded.  While other real estate organizations were writing public letters to the governor, our lobbyist was in direct contact with the governor’s staff and with the Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions making the case for our industry to be able to have access to this essential function in every county across the state.  You already no doubt know that county court records offices will be allowed to continue to function during this time of emergency.  Our lobbyist was out in front and had his voice heard on our behalf.  This type of advocacy is crucial, and it would make the founders of TNMBA proud to know that today we are continuing to make the advocacy function a priority.

We’ve demonstrated this year our commitment to the advocacy function by quadrupling the balance in our political action committee account.  We now have a significant balance in our PAC account so that our lobbyist can have TNMBA representatives attend meetings and functions to meet members of the general assembly, so that we can lend monetary support strategically during an election cycle to legislators who support the mortgage banking industry.  Never in the 60 years of TNMBA has the balance in our PAC account been near this level.

Another important part of TNMBA’s mission is to educate, meaning broadly “to impart knowledge.” We do that by communicating to our members about events, issues, trends, developments at the national, state, and local levels that have an impact on mortgage lending.  The education function of TNMBA is also what gave rise to the Education Trust Fund, to the new Future Leaders program, and to the several scholarships that we provide to members at various levels—for TNMBA members to send their children to college; for attracting college students to our industry; and to encourage members who want to pursue their CMB designation, the highest designation in our industry.  Our participation in hosting the annual Great River Conference is another demonstration of TNMBA’s commitment to educating our members.

Conferences also illustrate a third part of TNMBA’s mission, and that is to connect members to each other and to other professionals in businesses that support mortgage banking.  Networking opportunities such as seminars and vendor exhibitions give rise to business relationships that strengthen and support our members’ ability to conduct their operations in a fashion that is compliant and profitable.

Now if anyone should ask about the mission of TNMBA, you will be able to respond: TNMBA’s mission is to advocate, educate, and connect.

I have purposefully focused attention on the advocacy function because it has sometimes been ignored and has sometimes disappeared for periods in the 60 years TNMBA has been in existence.  If we lose sight of the advocacy function, then TNMBA will quickly lose its identity—and then we will have to endure the superficial and annoying questions from the uninformed who ask about TNMBA’s “value add.”  Pay attention to this: The advocacy function is the raison d’etre of TNMBA.

With that, I now bring to a conclusion my year as president of TNMBA.  I am profoundly thankful that I have been able to give back to the industry that provides my livelihood by serving my friends and colleagues in my home state.  I have too many people to thank, but please allow me to mention these:  Jeff Devereaux, with whom I worked as a rookie peer, and who is now the best department manager I’ve had in my career; Dana Abernathy, CMB, for being a mentor and my sponsor as I pursued my CMB; the Knoxville Mortgage Bankers Association for their relentless focus on excellence and making an impact; the inaugural sponsors of TNMBA who stepped up to provide additional financial support—Steven Winokur of Angel Oak Capital (bronze sponsor), Michael Bradley of Optimal Blue (gold sponsor), and Tammie Gravlee, CMB, of FirstBank Mortgage (gold sponsor); Tiffany Searcy Wright for being a blessing to me when I asked her to have a conversation about how we might be able to facilitate TNMBA becoming the voice for every single person in the state of Tennessee who practices in mortgage banking and how TNMBA could more effectively carry out its mission to advocate for, to educate, and to connect mortgage bankers of every color, of every gender or gender preference, of every nationality, every ethnicity, every community in our great state; every past president of TNMBA for providing the foundation upon which we’ve built a strong trade association; and the future presidents who will continue to guard and lead TNMBA in the next 60 years.

I began my term with a solemn promise to promote and protect the best interests of this organization, and I have remained true to that promise.  It has been an honor to serve you as president of Tennessee Mortgage Bankers Association.

Jeff Tucker, CMB
President, TNMBA

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