Subscribe |  Forward to a Friend
If you don’t see images, click here to view
Association Bisnow
November 19, 2007

Association Banks on Credibility During Crisis

The credit crunch in the housing market isn’t just Wall Street stuff: Right in the eye of the storm is the DC-based Mortgage Bankers Association, representing 3,000 firms that provide financing for both residential and commercial real estate. CEO Jonathan Kempner explains its role with an analogy: “We’re like a group of surgeons at Johns Hopkins, and our members are like patients who need us to help them get healthy and ill.” Bisnow stopped by to see how the operation is going.
Jonathan stands at left—no wait, at right—with a hyper-realistic sculpture in his office. Jonathan’s the one who, he’ll admit, looks like a bit Larry David and often feels like acting the part.
One lesson the mortgage crisis has pointed out to Jonathan is the importance of having credibility as an advocate. He says the MBA has a history of not fudging facts and that therefore Hill representatives use its research even while mortgagors are being vilified in some public arenas. While “everyone at the MBA is participating” in responding to the industry’s troubles, the lobbying arm has been particularly absorbed. Their message to Congress is to avoid making changes that could have unintended consequences, like a severe tightening of the credit market.
We thought an association of financiers might be heavy on starched collars and low on humor, but Jonathan says one of his first orders of business was to relax the dress code. And he insists on fun at conferences: The MBA just hosted 4,000 members at its Boston convention featuring speeches by Bono and Sir Richard Branson.
At the same time, Jonathan says he’s tightened up fiscal standards—as mortgagor members would expect. In his seven years at the helm, he says the group’s bank account has risen from $33 million to over $80 million, and the MBA’s revenues of $50 million in ’06 place it among the top 20 associations measured in those terms.
Jonathan says he has a surefire trick for getting audience sympathy at the start of his speeches: he mentions the fact that he has three teenage daughters. His wife, Lise Van Susteren is on the board of The Climate Project and has delivered Al Gore’s famous slide show 60 times. In 2006, she vied for the Maryland Democratic Senate nomination that ultimately went to Ben Cardin. (And, yes, she’s Greta’s sister.)
The MBA is using some of its wealth to purchase its own headquarters building now going up at 1331 L Street. Construction will be substantially complete by the scheduled April ’08 closing, after which the MBA’s 165 staffers will occupy four of the 170,000 square-foot building’s ten floors. The MBA decided to go eco-friendly with the project, which is already pre-certified with a silver rating under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. And they no longer have to answer the question why people who believe in mortgages wouldn’t have their own property—kind of like “the cobbler’s son,” Jonathan says, “not having any shoes.” Jonathan may not be big on ties, but he definitely believes in shoes.
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Arent Fox
Reznick Group
Advertise with Bisnow
CONTACT EDITORIAL                             CONTACT ADVERTISING                              CONTACT GENERAL INFO

This newsletter is a journalistic news source which accepts no payment for featured interviews. It is supported by conventional advertisers clearly identified in the right hand column. You have been selected to receive it either through prior contact or professional association. If you have received it in error, please accept our apologies and unsubscribe at bottom of the newsletter. © 2007, Bisnow on Business, Inc., 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 400 Washington, DC 20006. All rights reserved.

 | Subscribe
 | Forward to a Friend
Women BisnowReal Estate Bisnow Tech Bisnow Legal Bisnow NYC Real Estate