Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tanta Makes a Confession

by Tanta on 4/03/2007 08:28:00 AM

Regular readers have gotten the impression that I have spent a fair amount of time in the mortgage business. And that I have developed what one might fairly describe as some cynicism about it. One or two of you have asserted or implied that I possess sufficient written communication skills (as we call it in the corporate world) to be able to earn my keep doing something else. This makes some people wonder why I didn’t spend those years doing something else. Join what used to be the Tanta Single-Member Club.

You want to know the truth? I bought it. The American Dream. A place to call your own. Out of the cramped, noisy, expensive apartment, the shabby trailer, mom’s basement; into your own space. A room for the kids. A yard for the dog. Walls you could paint purple, if you felt like it, and hell with the landlord. A 1200 square foot elderly bungalow with a porch. You could start from there. Exposed power lines, cracked sidewalks, closer to the Krogers than the Dorothy Lane? One bathroom for three people? Old double-hung windows in need of a little paint and a little more sweat equity? No garage for the old beater? You could start from there. You could start. There was a beginning. Beginnings imply middles and ends. We were going places someday. It had to start somewhere. The first day of so many people’s futures was in my bank.

The horseshit level of life in a large bank holding company is just like anywhere else in the corporate world. We were there to maximize profit, unsurprisingly. We had no idea quite often how to maximize people other than putting them in cubicles, paying them in quintiles based on ranges of market comparables adjusted for performance reviews which could answer the questions asked but could not question the answers given. There were donuts; there were HR MEMOS on casual day policy violations. There were salaried people who would stay all weekend to help you out of the soup; there were people who would lie like a rug and throw their own grandmothers under the bus for an extra tick on some trade that was occurring for no other reason than to avoid corporate income taxes. There were days when it was so bland and boring and “professional” that one craved the odd sleazeball, in a perverse sort of way. I can remember doing business with Drexel. They were never boring.

So you could go home, some days, feeling the need for a spiritual as well as physical shower. Why would I—or anyone else with a conscience beyond vestigial levels required to support basic sapient functionality in prior evolutionary periods—have anything to do with this?

I put first-time homebuyers in starter homes.

I filled out 9-2900s and looked at DD-214s. Reviewed VC sheets. Priced quarter-coupons for Ginnie IIs. Tracked MICs. Learned the math for UFMIP-netting. You civilians don’t need to know what all this means—it’s as tedious and mind-numbing as it sounds. It’s the administrative and bureaucratic and desperately important risk-management part of doing FHA and VA loans to put first-time homebuyers into starter homes. It’s the nuts and bolts of the American Dream.

I was there, I had the dream, I drank the Kool Aid, I drafted the Letters of Intent to Participate in Pissant County’s latest bond program. I trained loan officers to understand how ARMs work, because I believed that I could get them to want to inform their customers—because it is the right thing to do. I could make it fun to be on the side of the angels, and still make a fair profit for the depositors and the shareholders and the employees.

It was some fine Kool Aid. My cup runneth over with it. I surely believed that goodness and mercy would follow me all the days of my life, and all those young dreamers I enabled would dwell in the house forever.

Perhaps I sound a bit angry from time to time. Broken-hearted people can be that way.

That’s all I have to say today.