MIAMI - Mortgage bankers, smarting from the consolidation that has cut their ranks, now have somewhere to turn - south of the border. Opportunities are becoming available with Latin American companies that want to emulate the United States.

That's the word from executives of over a dozen countries attending a Mortgage Bankers Association of America conference here on international real estate finance.

The three-day seminar drew about 130, including a large contingent of Mexican officials and bankers. Currency differences, economic uncertainties, and unusual business practices were discussed against a backdrop of major opportunities for employment and lending in different parts of the globe.

"The internationalization of the real estate market continues to increase," said Martin D. Nass, partner with Lamalie Amrop International, a placement firm in New York. "There are opportunities to work with foreign companies in the U.S. or overseas."

He said foreign companies are looking for executives with advanced degrees, knowledge of overseas economics, and flexibility.

"It's not enough to have strong domestic skills," Mr. Nass said. "A more global awareness is required."

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A number of culture shocks await any U.S. lender that entering foreign markets, speakers said.

For instance, foreign citizens take vastly different approaches to saving their money.

Most Mexican residents do not save their money and do not have a clear picture of how credit works, speakers said.

But in China, the typical worker has 36 months of savings tucked underneath his mattress.

The concept of foreclosure is also quite foreign to many foreigners. South African townspeople will undertake a community action, encircling a home that is about to be seized, to prevent bankers from getting in and the tenant from being tossed out, a South African housing official said.

As a result of the community activism, 36,000 properties are illegally occupied in South African townships, said William Cobbett, director general of the South Africa Housing Department.

While many Latin American governments do not specifically bar foreclosure, they fail to give bankers the legal authority to foreclose. As a result, few repossessions are attempted, speakers said.

And in Eastern Europe, residents are reluctant to obtain mortgages because defaults have led to jail time, panelists said.

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Bankers said the conference met their expectations by helping to educate them about other countries' banking and economic systems and by providing contacts. "It's a chance to establish or strengthen ties," said Charles Rogers, senior vice president of residential lending for Barnett Banks of South Florida.

Foreign attendees said they, too, got a lot out of the conference, but not all they wanted. "Everywhere we go, everyone is very interested - but they want to be the second one in," said Manuel Campos, vice president of Su Casita, a real estate enterprise in Mexico City.

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