Mortgage People Never Die

What is it with the old farts of the mortgage business? They just won’t go away. For every Joe Reppert, who unceremoniously threw in the towel as vice chairman at Core Logic this summer, there are four or five “generians” of one sort or another who refuse to call it quits.

I count myself among the many who refuse to ride off into the sunset. But I’m a reporter, and I like what I do. And I’m the exception. For every reporter like me, who can remember when Fannie May was only a candy store, there are what seem like dozen of upstarts, many of whom have never bought or sold a house and have no clue what they are writing about.

But I am talking about people like Herb Tasker, a former chair of the Mortgage Bankers Association, who just keeps rolling along. And folk like John Robbins and David Kittle, two other former MBA chairmen, who just announced a start-up called the Mortgage Collaborative. Along with Gary Acosta and Jim Park, Robbins and Kittle’s new venture is a cooperative designed to empower member to compete more effectively by boosting their collective buying power.

There’s a story there, and it’s been reported in numerous outlets, including this one. But to me the interesting part is that Robbins is at it again. For crying out loud, the man has founded and operated several national companies over the course of his 42 years in the business. Hasn’t he had enough?

Apparently not. I know he likes to fish and golf – I’ve joined him on several junkets. But he’d rather work than play.

I don’t know whether Kittle can swing a nine iron, or even drop a line overboard. But he, too, has been around the bend a few times. And now he’s back, 35 years and still going strong.

I never did hook up with Robbins at the recent MBA convention in Washington, and chatted only briefly with Kittle. But I did spend sometime with Acosta, who also seems to have nine lives. He is a mortgage broker who has owned and operated several mortgage-related businesses, but his real claim to fame is as co-founder the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

(Park hasn’t been around as long as his partners, but he is the youngster of the group. Still, he’s no piker. He was a vice president for housing and industry relations at Freddie Mac, a co-founder of New Vista Asset Management, and is a former chair of the Asian Real Estate Association of America.)

“If there was a Mt. Rushmore for mortgage bankers,” Acosta told me, “John Robbins would be up there.”

He said guys like JR believe they can still make a contribution – and make a few bucks at the same time. “The market goes through cycles, which create new niches,” he said. “And independent mortgage bankers are more nimble, so they tend to want to fill those niches first.”

Acosta, too, wants to continue making a contribution, and he said he’ll keep coming back. As long as he and his compatriots can add something to the mix, he said, you can count on them for their knowledge, understanding and friendship. I guess it’s just the natural order.

About The Author

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Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing and mortgage markets for more years then he cares to remember, starting as real estate editor at the long defunct Washington Daily News and Washington Star newspapers and finishing with a three-decade stint with National Mortgage News. His weekly column, The Housing Scene, is syndicated to newspapers throughout the country.