MReport October 2020

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14 | M R EP O RT COVER STORY T he Five Star Conference & Expo has become an annual tradition for more than a decade bringing lenders and servicers, government representatives, service providers, attorneys, and other mortgage professionals to Dallas for several days of discussion, education, networking, and collaboration. But this year, as we are all too aware, has been a very differ- ent year. With many industry teams still working remote and the impact of COVID-19 still stretching across all sectors of the economy, this year's Five Star, by necessity, became an online-only virtual event. When the call went out, the industry responded in force. Over the course of two days, on September 14-15, mortgage profes- sionals once again gathered for the Five Star Conference. Within a virtual environment designed to evoke the real experience of an in- person event, attendees viewed in- sightful panels featuring a top-tier lineup of subject matter experts, networked with colleagues in chat rooms, and even added some digi- tal "swag" to their collection while exploring the Exhibit Hall. More importantly, however, they discussed the unique chal- lenges the industry has faced in 2020—and the critical lessons and best practices that can help drive progress forward even in the face of remarkable adversity. "Built to Overcome Challenges" R ather than the educational Labs of years past, this year's Five Star Conference panels were divided into tracks themed by topic. The conference commenced with sessions focused on the State of Homeownership in the U.S. and Industry Preparedness for events such as natural disasters or the pandemic. Ed Delgado, Chairman Emeritus of Five Star Global, opened the event by acknowl- edging the economic tumult and public health concerns of the ongoing pandemic, referring to the "uncharted territory" that the industry has entered while praising the indefatigable spirit of mortgage professionals to push ahead during the crisis. "As a collective body, we are an industry that is the heart and soul of America," Delgado said. "We make home possible, and we stand at the ready to protect and defend that dream each and every day, for this industry was built to overcome challenges." Monday's opening ceremo- nies also included a presentation entitled "Operation Homefront: Serving America's Military Families." Continuing an annual tradition carried over from the live version of the Five Star Conference, the Operation Homefront segment was a cel- ebration of our nation's military servicemembers. During the ceremony, Operation Homefront's Brigadier Gen. John I. Pray III was joined by representatives from and the Veterans Financial Services Advisory Council in a virtual presentation honoring our nation's heroes. Addressing challenges was the dominant theme in the confer- ence's first day, with several speakers comparing the year's difficulties with the obstacles that arose in the last great economic crisis in 2008. During the "State of Housing" panel, Kurt Johnson, Chief Credit Officer at Mr. Cooper, recalled the problems cre- ated by Housing Bubble-era un- derwriting standards and praised the Dodd-Frank Act for helping to stabilize the housing market. During that same panel, Steve Bailey, Senior Managing Director and Chief Mortgage Operations Officer at PennyMac Financial Services, observed that the industry had benefited from "lots and lots of lessons learned" since 2008. Of course, there is no short- age of new challenges, however, including how well borrowers un- derstand the ins and outs of the forbearance plans within which many have sought shelter from the economic fallout of COVID- 19. One key misunderstanding Bailey cited was homeowners' "history of people thinking that [forbearance] was about forgive- ness, which everybody knows that is not." Speaking during the "Homeowners of Tomorrow" session, Suzy Lindblom, COO at Planet Home Lending, identified the millennial demographic as a challenge, calling on mortgage professionals to "help them under- stand homeownership and how to get into homeownership." She also cautioned the conference audience that millennials have different communication traits and expecta- tions than previous generations. "They were born with iPads in their hands, so they do a lot of upfront research," Lindblom said. "They've already gone on Realtor. com and They want the convenience of being able to do the research. They don't want an authority to come in and help them—they want a partner and the ability to do everything online." During that same session, Laura Escobar, President of Eagle Home Mortgage, envisioned removing the complexity that often burdens loan origination by using technol- ogy to create "world's simplest Stronger Together From regulatory changes and forbearance plans to changing homebuyer demographics and remote-working best practices, here are some of the key industry insights from this year's Five Star Virtual Conference. By Five Star Editorial Team

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