After imposing a virtual moratorium on adding new issuers, Ginnie Mae is again accepting applications from mortgage companies seeking to pool loans for securitization and servicing.
Ginnie Mae had record-breaking securities issuance last year, spurred by a cut to Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance premiums. In October, the hard-pressed government agency put new applications not already in progress on the back burner so it could focus more on monitoring issuers already approved or in its pipeline.
"That may have been floated at one point, maybe when we were at the peak of our applications and it was taking time for people to get in, but currently we're open for accepting new applications for anyone," said Leslie Meaux, a director of monitoring and asset management who works in Ginnie's office of issuer and portfolio management.
Ginnie Mae approved 41 new issuers during the calendar year 2015 and 48 during its Oct. 1, 2014-Sept. 30, 2015, fiscal year. The government agency may have less of a new issuer backlog now, but "that doesn't take away from the amount of work they have just keeping the doors open," said former FHA commissioner Brian Montgomery.
"They're flying the plane and fixing it at the same time," said Montgomery, a co-founder and the vice chairman of the Collingwood Group, a financial services consulting firm in Washington.
While Ginnie Mae has a lot to juggle, thanks to additional resource allocations in past years and new policies designed to improve efficiencies, the turnaround time for approvals has decreased, Montgomery said.
"To Ginnie Mae's credit, it wasn't that long ago it took months, if not a year, and then some months on top of that to get approved," he said. "It's much quicker now."
A Ginnie Mae policy instituted in 2015 requires new issuers to be active in its program within 18 months of receiving approval and continue their participation in order to maintain their issuer eligibility. So while Ginnie has resume accepting new applications, approvals will continue to be granted on a use-it-or-lose-it basis.
"Traditionally, people have tried to get their Ginnie approval almost like a credential, and then it doesn't mean you're active, it just means you're approved," Meaux said. "So we're trying to get people not only approved as issuers, we'd like them to actively participate in the program."
While the FHA and Department of Veterans Affairs mortgage programs insure the credit risk of underlying loans in its securities, Ginnie guarantees the timely payments to securities holders, even if an issuer fails.
Of its estimated 430 issuers, Ginnie Mae has confirmed about 380 as active. However, the remaining balance of issuers have not necessarily neglected to use the program; some are new applicants that need more time to gear up before they can issue.
Ginnie's approval process as well as subsequent related monitoring has become increasingly resource-intensive, and the agency doesn't want to have to use its limited resources to keep track of the counterparty risk of "issuers" that do not use the program.
Issuers having trouble establishing or maintaining their Ginnie Mae activity within the 18-month period may request an extension or voluntarily withdraw from the program. Issuers that have left the program can reapply later.