A class of future leaders.

Author:McCord, Ron
Position:Four graduates of Mortgage Bankers Assn's Future Leaders Program

The industry is faced with many changes today, challenging the talents of the best in the business. To respond to this change, MBA President Ron McCord launched the Future Leaders Program to nurture a new generation of leaders.

In early 1996, as I began thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in my year as president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America (MBA), I reflected on the many observations I had made throughout my career. One of the most memorable was the challenge faced by business leaders in my home state of Oklahoma in the 1980s.

Confronted with the prospect of many of our young people leaving and recognizing the need to cultivate the future leaders of the state, we established a program called Leadership Oklahoma. We shared the conviction that the state's future leaders must understand the complex differences and relationships driving Oklahoma and search for the common ties that would inspire us to change and grow. Now in its 10th year, Leadership Oklahoma has been remarkably successful and has graduated more than 400 members.

As I planned my presidential initiatives - with my positive experience with Leadership Oklahoma in mind - I thought about how we could apply this concept to our industry association. MBA is now confronting challenges similar to what we faced in Oklahoma - the need to identify and cultivate the future leaders of the association and the industry for the 21st century.

Many of us have worked long and hard in making MBA what it is today. To ensure that we continue the fine tradition that has been established, MBA's Future Leaders Program was introduced in October 1996. The first class of participants was enrolled in March of this year.

This general-management scholarship program gives participants the opportunity to be exposed to and develop the personal characteristics, leadership skills and experiences needed to assume leadership positions within their companies and within the association. After a rigorous selection process overseen by a blue-ribbon panel of MBA members, 40 outstanding individuals were selected to participate in the Future Leaders Class of 1997. These participants were selected based on their professional and academic achievements, their demonstrated interest in our industry, as well as the nomination of their president/CEO.

From a senior vice president with more than 14 years' experience who holds a CMB designation, to a secondary market analyst with just three years' experience, these men and women represent the diverse cultural, educational and professional backgrounds present in today's mortgage banking work force. What they have in common is they all have demonstrated potential to lead the industry as it faces the challenges and opportunities of the next century.

Like other leadership development programs, the MBA Future Leaders Program offers a curriculum built around the core components of introspection/self-discovery, systems theory/organizational development, and technical/analytical training. To provide a yearlong learning experience, participants also are encouraged to join "Learning Teams" in areas of personal or professional interest. Through these teams, they are able to exercise their leadership, team-building and organizational skills in a relaxed, collegial setting.

Four members of the class volunteered to share their impressions of the program for this article. They offer their insights on the program itself, its potential impact on their careers, biographical information about how they got into the business and their perspective on the challenges faced by future leaders of this rapidly changing industry. I am pleased to introduce them to you as representative of the Future Leaders Class of 1997. They are Chuck Abourezk, vice president, National City Mortgage (Miamisburg, Ohio); Stephen Brink, vice president, Mellon Mortgage Co. (Nashville, Tennessee); R. Scott Gillen, Harbor Financial Mortgage Corporation (Houston, Texas); and Suzanna Smiegowski, second vice president, corporate programs/sales & service, PNC Mortgage Corporation of America (Lombard, Illinois).

Suzanna Smiegowksi PNC Mortgage Corporation of America

In 1984, I was a college student attending the University of Minnesota and looking for a part-time, evening job. Prudential Home Mortgage (formerly the relocation division of Norwest Mortgage) ran an ad in the paper to expand its evening telemarketing team. I was offered the job and began what today has been a fast-paced, 13-year career in the mortgage banking industry.

Initially I quoted rates, counseled customers on mortgage products and originated loan applications over the phone. I enjoyed the work and the company, so I decided to work full-time and finish up college at night. I fast-tracked through Prudential's operations team, from processing, underwriting and closing to getting involved in process reengineering and product development projects.

During my last two years with Prudential, I worked with the corporate marketing team to prospect and manage Fortune 500 clients who used Prudential's relocation unit for their relocating employees. In 1990, I originated about $170 million in corporate relocation business, and my career opportunities really began to flourish.

I joined Sears Mortgage, now PNC Mortgage, in April 1991 with two former Prudential executives who had an opportunity to build a national telesales mortgage program. My family relocated to Chicago, and what is now known as "National Programs" was quickly underway. In the start-up phase, I managed a team of five people, four of whom still work on our team today. We developed everything from programs, products, pricing strategy, processes, policies and procedures to marketing collateral and Fortune 500 relationships. During a five-year period, we grew from less than $200 million in annual fundings with a staff of six, to $1 billion per year and staff of more than 50. During this...

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