MReport February 2019

TheMReport — News and strategies for the evolving mortgage marketplace.

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12 | TH E M R EP O RT TAKE 5 Claudia Merkle took over as CEO of National MI in January 2019. She joined National MI in May 2012 as SVP of underwriting fulfillment and risk operations, was pro- moted to EVP of insurance operations in 2013, appointed COO in 2016, and promoted to President at National MI in 2018. With more than two decades of expertise in mortgage insurance, mortgage banking, business develop- ment, and operations, Merkle spoke with MReport on some of the challenges she foresees in the housing mar- ket this year and gave her take on some of the essential qualities of a good leader. * * * * * M // Please share your learnings on leadership over the 25 years you have been in the industry? MERKLE // I've held several senior-level and then executive positions in the mortgage banking and mortgage insurance indus- tries, spanning both national and regional business development, operations and risk management. One of the most important les- sons I've learned along the way is that you really have to care about other people's success, not just your own. Caring goes hand in hand with leadership. Rather than sitting back and waiting for others to tell you what to do, take the initiative to make things happen. However, before you do so, make sure you're thoroughly prepared. I'm a big believer in preparation and that has made all the difference in my success. A person who is pre- pared stands out in meetings and people pay attention. You can set the pace if you strategize and plan ahead, rather than just show up to meetings. Finally, always work towards gaining alignment and consensus. It's the key to effective working relationships between departments and ensuring the or- ganization is clear on where it is heading and how it is executing. M // How has the role of women in the industry evolved from the time you began your career? MERKLE // There are certainly more women in the mortgage industry, as well as in senior or executive level roles. However, I personally never felt I was at a disadvantage because I was a woman. But unconscious bias is real. I would tell women seek- ing senior or executive positions to learn as much as they can about the industry and their own organizations, work on their clear and crisp presentation, and be authentic to succeed. There are definitely more resources and groups for women interested in excelling in the mortgage industry today. We have publications like MReport and Mortgage Women Magazine covering women in the industry. I look around and see more prominent women too: the MBA's COO Marcia Davies is a good example. M // What trends do you foresee in mortgage and mortgage insurance as we settle into 2019? MERKLE // The consensus seems to be that overall mortgage origination volume will be flat to slightly down. As interest rates inch higher, refinance volume— which drove so much of the mar- ket for the past several years—will continue to dwindle. However, purchase origination volume should remain strong, thanks to a robust economy. There are challenges too. Affordability remains a major issue for first-time homebuyers, especially millennials, who have emerged as a major force in the market. These groups will seek out low down payment options, which will continue to drive demand for mortgage insurance. Shrinking margins are another Taking the Initiative Claudia Merkle, CEO, National MI shares her insights on mortgage insurance and the housing market in 2019 and what she has learned as a leader over more than two decades in the industry.

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