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Remarks from the TNMBA Installation Luncheon

Jeff Tucker, CMB

Great River MBA Conference State Luncheon at the Peabody Hotel Memphis, TN

Welcome to the Tennessee Mortgage Bankers Association luncheon, and thank you for coming to GRC19!

I’m honored to stand here before you and accept the responsibility to serve as President of Tennessee Mortgage Bankers Association.  And now, I give you my solemn pledge to do my best to promote and protect the best interests of this organization.

I suppose I could use this time to regale you with the story of what has led to this moment and tell you how a redneck boy from Alabama (home of the Number 2 team in college football!) came to Tennessee and became a mortgage banker, but I think that our time today can be better spent.  So please allow me to thank some people who have made important contributions to my career and then make some remarks about this organization in the coming year.

I begin by telling you the very best thing about me: I am married to Allison Lovingood Tucker. Allison is undoubtedly the most special person in the world to me, and if I’ve ever done something that is good, or if I’ve ever achieved anything that resembles success, it’s because of her.  My life is blessed because, for some unknown reason, she loves me.

Throughout my twenty-two years in this profession, I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of outstanding mortgage bankers and to work in some of the leading banks in our market. I’ve worked with several past presidents of NMBA and TNMBA—Jane Moore, Maggie Griffith, Don Baskin, Bill Long, Jim McCann, Scott Ractliffe, and now Jeff Devereaux—from whom I’ve learned many important things, most notably the need to serve and contribute to the industry that provides my livelihood.  I’ve also been privileged to work at a couple of excellent banks, Avenue Bank and the best yet, Studio Bank.

As I look across this room, I am reminded that I’ve worked with quite a few of you, and I am thankful for that.  The view from here is impressive, and I want to thank each one of you for taking time away from your jobs and your families to be here in support of our profession and TNMBA.  There are quite a few past presidents of TNMBA here—please stand and let us thank you for your contributions.   There are also a number of very special people joining us for lunch today, people who make this conference a success and have helped it grow:  If you are a sponsor or exhibitor, please stand so we can thank you for being here this year.

At this time, I’m pleased to perform my first official duty as President and recognize our immediate past president for her capable and admirable leadership.

Now I will present two prestigious awards, one for TNMBA Affiliate of the Year and one for Tennessee Mortgage Banker of the Year.

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Affiliate of the Year

The Affiliate of the Year Award is intended to recognize the affiliate who has gone above and beyond in the previous year in serving our industry through partnerships, trainings, sponsorships, and involvement with the State or Local Chapter boards.

I regard this year’s Affiliate of the Year as more than just an “affiliate.”  She is a mortgage banker’s mortgage banker.  She earned her

  • Associate Degree: Southern Virginia University
  • Bachelor Degree: Shenandoah University
  • She is a graduate of MBA’s School of Mortgage Banking, and earned her Master CMB in 2007.

She began her career as an account manager for TransUnion, but she has spent the majority of her career as a regional and national account manager for PMI and now National MI.

Dana has mentored and coached numerous junior colleagues, and she has encouraged and sponsored seven individuals, helping them to obtain their CMB designation.  She has served as Chairman of the CMB Society, and she is so highly respected at the national level that this year she has been appointed the MBA Ambassador to the state of Tennessee.

Mortgage lenders in all regions of the state have benefitted from Dana’s monetary support in the form of sponsorships of all kinds.

This year Dana initiated the creation of TNMBA’s inaugural Future Leaders Program.  She committed her company’s resources to funding the program, and she helped create the curriculum.

You will not attend a regional or national conference where people from across the country do not know her or admire her.  Please join me in congratulating Dana Abernathy, CMB, for this award as TNMBA Affiliate of the Year.

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Tennessee Mortgage Banker of the Year

The Tennessee Mortgage Banker of the Year Award is intended to recognize a person who is the pinnacle of the industry. This person advocates fiercely for the industry, represents the industry well in all aspects, continually improves herself or himself, mentors others, and supports industry events and trade associations.

This year’s Tennessee Mortgage Banker of the Year received her

  • BA from Western Kentucky University
  • MBA from MTSU
  • She is a graduate of MBA’s School of Mortgage Banking, and she earned her CMB in 2015.

Up until this month, she worked her entire 23-year career in mortgage banking at one company, working her way up from a position in IT, and then operations, to VP, EVP, and most recently President and CEO.  Despite the enormous responsibilities of her position, she found the time to serve on the board of the United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties and to serve on the Board of TNMBA.

Retta has made an indelible imprint on this organization.  She has represented us at national conferences, where she tirelessly marketed TNMBA and this Great River Conference so that both could continue to grow.  She took charge of redesigning and updating our website.  She helped form and implement the mPower event at this conference.  Under Retta’s leadership, we now have a Future Leaders Program to encourage and train the next generation of leaders in our profession. Retta wrote the curriculum, hosted, and taught the classes.  (And she has agreed to do so this year also—am I right, Retta?)

Retta has brainstormed new ways to increase the visibility and effectiveness of TNMBA, and she has done so at considerable expense out of her own wallet.

I remain unaware of any person who has done more for TNMBA in the past year than Retta.  For these reasons, I decided to break an unwritten rule that I myself proposed—that awards like this not be given to sitting Board members—so I ask you all to excuse me and give me a pass on this. Please stand and congratulate the Tennessee Mortgage Banker of the Year, Retta Gardner, CMB.

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Retta is an impressive act to follow!

My intention this year is not to replace or outdo or outperform previous presidents; rather, my intention is to continue the work they began.  I’m fortunate that my term as President comes when it does.  TNMBA was founded 59 years ago. Over the last decade, TNMBA has grown in strength and number thanks to the leadership of our past presidents and the work of our members.  Here’s a list of recent accomplishments:

  • TNMBA escaped insolvency and now has a healthy savings account.
  • After years of having an ineffective lobbyist and then no lobbyist, we have an extremely capable and well-respected lobbyist in Tony Thompson.  Thanks to Tony and to Stacy Cook, our legislative chairperson, we have gone from having a handful of members represent TNMBA for Day on the Hill to having over 40 members arrive at the Capitol this year.
  • There was a time when TNMBA held its annual conference, and less than three dozen members attended it.  Now we team up with three other states to hold a more impactful conference, and this year TNMBA has over 150 registered attendees.  (And I’d like to point out that each year TNMBA leads the other three states in members present by 50% to 100%.)
  • TNMBA leaders recognized that it is crucial for us to attract and engage young and new talent to our profession.  We are now able for the second year to offer scholarships to college students who express an interest in real estate finance.  (Congratulations again to this year’s recipients, Chloe Sharp and John Ball—John, very glad you could come to this luncheon.)
  • As you’ve heard, TNMBA now supports an mPower event at this conference, and now has a Future Leaders Program to encourage and train our next generation of leaders. (Congratulations again to our inaugural class graduates—very pleased to have you with us today.  PSA: Applications are now being accepted for this year’s class of Future Leaders.)

Although not part of a strategic plan, TNMBA leadership has done an admirable job of mirroring the focus of the national MBA.  Marcia Davies, COO of MBA, identifies five pillars of our national association’s efforts: advocacy, policy, education, networking, and information. [1] TNMBA has indeed grown in strength and number, so it’s easy to understand why I consider myself fortunate to serve in its 59thyear.

During the time that remains, I want to focus on TNMBA in 2019 and what I’d like to see us accomplish. While I won’t admit to wearing heels, I will admit to you now that I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t have a master plan to be imposed from the top down. I do, however, have some thoughts and ideas that we can explore and develop together.

I’ll start by telling you what I believe.  I believe that mortgage banking is a fascinating profession and that it has a profound impact on our national economy.  We each play a role—whether we’re in primary markets or secondary markets, production, operations, or servicing—in making it possible for people who can’t afford to pay cash for properties and homes to find financing so that they can buy and own properties and homes.  For the past several years, mortgage bankers have provided over $1 trillion in loans to borrowers numbering in the millions.  

I also believe that mortgage banking is, for the most part, an honorable profession that affords practitioners the opportunity to earn a handsome wage and enjoy an envious standard of living.  I, like many of you, owe my livelihood to mortgage banking.  Because of what we do as mortgage bankers, we’ve been privileged to support families, buy houses and cars, raise and educate children, pay for vacations and weddings, and so much more.  Given how we benefit from this profession, isn’t it obvious that we should want to guard it, shape it, protect it, improve it?  That is the impetus behind organizations like TNMBA.

True story: Not too long ago, I was talking to an EVP of a highly successful mortgage division about joining TNMBA, and he told me that MBA and TNMBA are both a waste of time and money.  I remember being shocked, and I still marvel at how someone as smart and successful as he could say something so patently stupid.

Those of you in this room today represent the highest and best in our state’s real estate finance industry, but we need more professionals like you in this room. Why?  Because, in the words of a former MBA Chairman, Michael Berman, we need to “make a difference in the great dynamic which will determine the future of our industry and the role of MBA.”[2] Now quoting another former Chairman, Michael Young, “We must participate in the processes that shape our destiny.  If we sit back, we will allow our industry to be shaped without us.  We must participate, and do so as one, to ensure that we control our destiny.”  With reference to MBA’s extensive experience in Washington and MBA’s profound understanding of government policy and its import, Mike states: “No other trade organization offers such deep, institutional knowledge of the real estate finance industry and the American financial system.”[3]

What can we — TNMBA and all five local chapters — do to be more effective in shaping the future of our industry?  As I said, you represent the highest and best in our state’s real estate finance industry, but there are many mortgage professionals that should be in this room who are not here with us today.  Let’s think about that together for a moment.  Yes, there are those like the EVP I mentioned who are oblivious to the need to contribute and support our professional trade organizations. However, there are many mortgage professionals who would no doubt be a part of TNMBA and our local chapters, but they simply haven’t been asked.

Just as we need to attract and encourage young talent to pursue careers in mortgage banking, we also need to attract and encourage mortgage professionals who belong to underrepresented populations to join us at the state and local levels.  To quote Davies again: “Among the major issues facing [our] industry is the changing demographic of homebuyers.  Tomorrow’s borrowers are increasingly more diverse—Latino, Asian, and African American….”[4] Wouldn’t you agree that it makes perfect sense for those diverse borrowers to want to work with mortgage professionals who look like they do?  And such mortgage professionals do exist—I’m confident of that—but they aren’t here with us.  And I have to ask Why?

This is the 21stcentury and the year is 2019.  It strikes me as sad that there is a need to form a new organization like National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers, but I am nonetheless glad that such a trade group exists. Without passing judgement or getting ideological, I make one simple observation: If TNMBA were a bank, we would most certainly not do well after a CRA exam, and our regulator would almost certainly give us the lowest mark, which is “substantial noncompliance.”  And everyone here knows such a result means corrective action must be taken.

In our 59thyear as a professional organization, TNMBA will fully align our platform with that of the national MBA, and we will make a concerted effort to be more inclusive and more diverse.  Like the national MBA, we will explore methods and initiatives that will foster a more welcoming, more diverse membership.  The current Chairman of MBA, Chris George, is also founder of MBA’s Diversity Committee. Chris says that:

Diversity and inclusion give way to two other words: ‘deliberate and intentional.’ Diversity isn’t accidental and being inclusive should be purposeful.  It’s something you focus on.  Now, first of all, it’s the right thing to do—there’s no question about that.  But beyond being the right thing to do, it’s good for business.  And it’s good for homeownership.[5]

I’m in complete agreement with Chris, and, to that end, I will ask the Board to approve the formation of a diversity and inclusion committee, and I will ask for them to approve Tiffany Wright as the chairperson.  Tiffany, thanks for talking about these matters with me, for being a friend, and for agreeing to take a leadership role.

TNMBA quite obviously needs to ask mortgage professionals who belong to underrepresented populations to join us, and equally important, we need to ask those same mortgage professionals to fill leadership roles.  To foster that, I will ask the Board to approve an inclusion and diversity scholarship to be awarded to a mortgage professional from an underrepresented population who wants to pursue his or her CMB designation.

There are tangible benefits to having a more diverse organization: we will have more members; we will be more engaged with our communities; and we will be better able to help our members stay focused on who their consumers and potential clients are. An important study shows that the higher the level of ethnic, racial, and gender diversity in management, the more likely a company is to earn above average profits.[6] In a time of margin compression and negative net profits per loan originated, these are all positives.

I’ve mentioned a good number of things that TNMBA does for its members and plans to do in the near future to better serve its members.  It’s time to talk about our budget.  The things we do as a professional trade group carry certain expenses.  We are all bankers here today, so it should shock no one when I say that it’s a safe and sound practice to not spend more than we bring in.  Although it’s considered rude to talk about finances in public, I will raise the veil of secrecy for a moment and talk about TNMBA’s finances: On average, we collect about $50,000 annually in membership dues, and that’s considered more or less stable and recurring revenue.  The remaining revenue comes from this GRC Conference, and that is not stable and recurring revenue; in fact, the revenue from this conference has been declining year over year—which we all know is a red flag. To be brief, TNMBA is now spending more than we collect in membership dues.

Over the next several months, the state Board will collaborate with the local chapters to address budget matters, among other things. The topics to be addressed will include the following:

  • First, TNMBA will not be approving raises to Board members this year.  That’s a cruel joke—I’m sure you all know that we fulfill our obligations on a voluntary basis.  And Board members—too late to change your mind now that you’re installed!
  • Second, we will brainstorm about ways to increase our membership.  Being more inclusive and diverse should make TNMBA more attractive to a larger population and lead naturally to more members.
  • Third, we will collaborate about increasing membership dues.  Two years ago, I conducted a survey of the other state associations’ dues structures, and TNMBA’s dues are among the lowest.  No one on our Board can remember when dues were set, but it’s clear that dues will need to be raised by at least $50.
  • Fourth, we will also have discussions about soliciting annual sponsorships of TNMBA. If anyone is interested in that, be the first to talk to me sometime during the conference.

I have in mind two discreet goals for us to achieve this year:

First goal, let’s get the balance in account for our political action committee to $25,000 so that our lobbyist can help us increase our visibility among our elected officials in the state legislature.  When legislation that has a direct impact on mortgage banking is proposed in our state legislature, TNMBA needs to be recognized as the thought leader, and our lobbyist is positioning us among legislators in just that way. There is a process for that, and it involves money.  We’ve come from a $2,000 balance to almost a $10,000 balance, which is good, but we need to give Tony more to work with at the appropriate times.  I’m thankful to Brian Pitts, Southeast Area Manager for Parkside Lending, who has volunteered to focus on raising funds for TNPAC.  I’ll be giving Brian my check this afternoon.  We have forms on each table for you to make a contribution here at the conference.  And Brian takes credit cards!

Second goal, let’s add new members.  TNMBA currently has 214 members.  Let’s get to 250 members.  An increase in membership is a worthy objective simply so that we can expand our influence statewide and increase our talent pool.  Plus, gaining more members is a natural solution to the problem of how to increase revenue.

If we achieve both of those goals—250 total members and a balance of $25,000 in TNPAC—next year when we convene on the 60thanniversary of TNMBA, I will wear a UT orange tie to the state luncheon, rather than a Vandy gold tie.

It begins here and it begins now.  In closing, I ask that you participate and that you think of ways to make us better and stronger as a professional trade group, and you can do that today.  We are having a one-hour roundtable discussion immediately following this luncheon—and anyone interested is welcome to join us. Support TNMBA and the local associations with your time, your talent, your money.  Answer the call when it comes.  And the call WILL come.  Renew your membership and your sponsorship.  Give money to your political action committee.  Encourage your production and operations and secondary market and servicing specialists to attend luncheons and conferences.  Ask colleagues at other lenders, depository and non-depository, and colleagues in affiliate companies to join TNMBA.  Be especially mindful to reach out to underrepresented mortgage professionals and affiliates.

If we do these things, we can make a difference in our industry and our communities in 2019.  I thank you now for all that you do.  To all of you: Best wishes for a prosperous and successful year.  See you here next year in Memphis for TNMBA’s 60thanniversary luncheon!


[1] S.A. Ibrahim, “Inclusion, Demographics, and the MBA’s Role,” Mortgage Media, March 6, 2019: https://www.mortgagemedia.com/sa-ibrahim/inclusion-demographics-and-the-mbas-role

[2] Mike Sorohan, “Berman Reflects on Busy Year as MBA Chairman,” MBA Newslink (October 11, 2011): 1.

[3] Mike Sorohan, “Young Ready to Take on Challenges,” MBA Newslink (October 11, 2011): 1.

[4] Ibrahim, ibid. See also: “Helping People Realize the Dream,”Mortgage Media,February 9, 2019: https://www.mortgagemedia.com/sa-ibrahim/helping-people-realize-the-dream

[5] MBA Website, Diversity and Inclusion Resources: https://www.mba.org/news-research-and-resources/diversity-and-inclusion

[6] “Everyone Can Lead: Advocating For Inclusion at Every Level,” MBA Newslink, December 4, 2018: https://www.mba.org/mba-newslinks/2018/december/mba-newslink-tuesday-12-4-18/residential/everyone-can-lead-advocating-for-inclusion-at-every-level

One thought on “Remarks from the TNMBA Installation Luncheon”
  1. Don says:

    Great job on the remarks. Well written and, no doubt, delivered with conviction. You will do a great job as TNMBA President.

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