Despite the recent ebbing of the refinancing boom, the mood is expected to be upbeat in Chicago this week as some 1,800 mortgage executives gather for one of the industry's biggest conventions of the year.
"Everybody's origination is up, everybody's making loans, and the interest rates are down," said Herman F. Churchwell, chairman and chief executive officer of Hamilton, Carter, Smith & Co., Beverly Hills.
Lenders are enjoying the peak homebuying season of the year, and purchase volume is expected to remain strong for the rest of the year.
To handle the volume efficiently, many executives are exploring new technology and taking stock of lessons learned during this year's lending surge.
Both of those themes are expected to get ample attention at the annual secondary market conference of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.
Executives heading for the conference are looking for guidance on how to best use technology for originations, credit scoring, servicing, and hedging.
"We want to see any updates on automated underwriting, technology, and definitely risk-based pricing," said William A. Newman, vice president and wholesale lending manager for Interfirst Mortgage Lending in Ann Arbor, Mich., a division of Standard Federal Bank.
Technology "is a big issue with us," said Boyd R. Boudreux, vice- president and chief lending officer at Fidelity Homestead Association in New Orleans. The year-2000 problem, he said, has prompted Fidelity to examine all of its software applications.
Though a recent uptick in interest rates has slowed refinancings, the boom in recent months remains on many executives' minds.
Many panel discussions at the conference will focus on how companies have been meeting the demand for loans, including a session on "Hedging Servicing: Lessons from the Refi Boom."
"We've gone through the refinancing boom, and hedging strategies were tested in a major way," said Phyllis Slesinger, senior director at the MBA.
This was the first year that the MBA solicited topic proposals for panels, and the programming reflects some of those proposals, the association said. The conference will be more "interactive" than in the past. For example, a workshop on marketing will be put on in the style of a talk show.
One of the technology sessions will focus on Internet origination, in an effort to address lenders' questions about how on-line shopping by consumers will affect business. Credit scoring also will be explored, because it is rapidly changing the way many people in the industry view loans, Ms. Slesinger said.
She added that there is more concern this year over loan-level risk- based pricing.
Among the highlights of the conference: state-of-the-industry presentations by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae. Mr. Newman of Interfirst Mortgages said he will be looking for insight into the agencies' strategies for the A-minus and subprime markets.
He and others will also try to whip up business for themselves. Mr. Newman said he expects to spend close to one-third of his time meeting with clients of Interfirst's correspondent channel, which accounts for 10% of company's business, he said. Within a year, he said, he expects that number to grow to 20%.