When the Mastermind Summit was launched before the financial crisis, I didn't want to be anywhere near a mortgage sales conference in Las Vegas. I say that as a mortgage sales veteran, but back then I was very uneasy about the irrational excess of the industry. Fast forward through a mortgage-led global economic meltdown, a much-needed regulatory wave, and the slow recovery that followed--Mastermind Summit survived and evolved into a marquee 2500-person event with top brass from every major U.S. mortgage company.

I attended and spoke at the conference last week, and these are the top 15 takeaways for consumers and housing pros.



 
1. If you have a vision, ignore the detractors:
When I told my story above to Mastermind Summit founder Steven Marshall, he responded that all he's ever tried to do is give mortgage bankers education and a professional network to get better at serving consumers. This vision transcends market cycles because consumers still need to buy, sell, finance, or just talk through their real estate plans with well-informed pros regardless of market conditions. I was a detractor and I stand corrected.

2. Don't scrap your career formula, just fine-tune it: If you attend conferences, this has happened to you: great speakers and ideas fill your notebook or iPad then you're back to the same old routines by the end of the following week. It happens because you think you need to totally reinvent yourself and your business model. Wrong. You need to pick one or two things from conferences that'll refresh you and your model--and you need to commit to them. Don't be so fired up by new formulas that you flame out.

3. Signing bonuses are not a recruiting strategy: The mortgage industry, though massive and a reliable moneymaker, is a no-growth industry. Market share just moves around, and companies still bow too much to buying talent away from competitors. If you're growing your company, sell top talent on your commitment to perform for them, and invest signing bonus funds into more talent to support that commitment.

4. The mortgage industry sucks at social media: It's not just that there was no compelling content on #mastermindsummit and #mastermind2016 streams. It's that executives at Mastermind treated this topic like a hot potato. This is understandable though. We suck at social media because we're afraid of our regulators. Companies cannot just turn salespeople loose on social media because someone will inevitably take things too far. So companies have two choices: (1) let your salespeople talk business on their own social accounts and control it, or (2) let the company talk business from master accounts using teams who know how to speak to consumers and know the regs. There are ways to do both effectively, but that's a post for another day.

5. QuickenLoans is the smartest mortgage company in America: There wasn't one executive session where QuickenLoans wasn't mentioned. They're the number two mortgage lender in the country behind Wells Fargo, and have mastered lending, technology, and compliance--an extremely tough feat as the fintech lender meltdown is now proving. Last year QuickenLoans funded $79 billion and launched the first fully digital mortgage process. Now a 1600+ technology team makes sure everything constantly runs and improves, and founder Dan Gilbert is bidding to buy Yahoo, which would give Quicken access to millions more consumers. Cannot find a a smarter large-scale lender right now.

6. Public speaking beats death any day: According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking and number two is death. Which means that at a funeral you're better off in the casket than giving the eulogy. Seinfeld jokes aside, if planning to speak totally consumes you, that's a good thing. It means you're doing your homework, checking your facts, and keeping your head in the game. Your audience will know it, and you'll live long and prosper.  

7. Am I the only one underwhelmed by Tony Robbins?: He's a huge draw for Mastermind and earns his motivational/coaching throne every time he speaks. But it's more entertainment and celebrity factor than it is substance. I'm alone on this because he brought down the house. People love them some Tony.

8. The mortgage industry needs more badass women: Only 15% of Mastermind speakers were women, which isn't so much a knock on Mastermind as a reflection of an industry that's too male dominated. But two talks I enjoyed the most were by women: (1) Cindy Ertman is a colleague and a master of framing even the most mundane daily sales activities in a way that makes you want to jump up every morning and conquer the world, and (2) Casey Cunningham runs a mortgage sales training company and I was riveted by her back story from loan officer to executive to creating a company to fill an underserved segment of the industry.

9. Regulators are coming for mortgage and real estate company partnerships: In tech, it's commonplace for a company to pay a referral fee to an "affiliate" relationship. In housing, consumer protection laws make this mostly illegal, but grey area has led to mortgage and real estate company affiliations.  Regulators call these marketing services agreements (MSAs) and last October, regulators drew a line in the sand on MSAs--not by making them illegal, but by saying "it appears that many MSAs are designed to evade RESPA’s prohibition on the payment and acceptance of kickbacks and referral fees." Mortgage folks would be wise to remember this.

10. Consumer mortgage costs up 59% since Dodd Frank became law: The average total cost for a lender to originate a mortgage rose $2944 from 2010 to 2016. Higher prices for lenders means higher prices for consumers. It's the price we all pay for a safer system.  

11. 53-year-olds don't know what's best for millennials: The average age of a loan agent in this country is 53, and there are 87 million prospective homebuyers in the millennial generation. Does not compute. We need more millennials in the mortgage industry.

12. Mortgage banking is intellectual and pays well: After years of getting a bad rap, the industry is properly regulated and creating millions of happy homeowners. Doing so is very complex. This means challenging work and great pay for younger people who want to join in. Susan McHan, a friend and longtime mortgage CEO, said it best: "We need to embrace complexity. It's good that it's hard because it strengthens our image and attracts younger talent."

13. Most connected goes to... Dave Savage, a mortgage software stalwart who knows everybody who's anybody in the U.S. mortgage market, and more important, Dave is liked by everybody.  

14. Best party goes to... Gold Star Mortgage. Parties are huge at this event to recruit and build brands, and Gold Star wins not because their party was so much better than the others, but because their relentless party promotion won them the largest crowd.

15. Best work/life balance lesson goes to... Tim Braheem, an industry legend: super agent turned software millionaire turned success coach. He talked about how to delineate whether success means symbols like houses, cars, and bank balances...or experiences like family time, happiness, and community involvement. Spoiler alert: you can have it all.

Julian Hebron is EVP of Sales with RPM Mortgage, and a writer for Zillow. Follow him on twitter: @thebasispoint