MBA Annual: Though Virtual, Still the Most Inspiring Conference in my Two Decades in the Industry


Without a doubt, 2020 has been a historic year, and that applies to industry conferences as well. We made adjustments from walking trade show floors and shaking hands with old and new friends to making sure our camera angles are just right with the perfect lighting.

Among my favorite was last month’s MBA annual, which I have attended for many years. But like every other show this year, it was virtual. Despite not being able to commune with colleagues, clients and media contacts, I must say that the show went pretty well especially considering the historical significance of the election of Kristy Fercho as MBA chair for 2022.

Given the fact that I am a chronic multi-tasker, especially when in long virtual meetings, this show offered something different that captured my attention:  The mix of “live” presentations and taped content was intriguing. I am sure many of the 1,800 registered attendees felt the same.  

Sense could have been heightened because it was a tense election year and there was a lot of speculation about a projected administration change, and what it would mean for the mortgage industry. The conference featured updates and forecasts from various industry leaders, government agencies as well as technology presentations and demos that gave a peek of what the future could look like. And of course, how COVID-19 has affected the industry was included in many sessions.

A major highlight for me was hearing Ambassador Andrew Young talk about diversity in housing industry and his history in the Civil Rights movement during a virtual fireside chat with the new MBA chairman Susan Stewart. Fercho’s elevation to chair in 2022 will make her the first Black woman to serve in the capacity. Her election to this role demonstrates the progress our industry continues to make to become more diverse, inclusive and equitable for all.

In a year where we saw the Black Lives Matter movement, the importance of Fercho’s position felt like validation for many of us who have spent years in an industry that has very few minorities, let alone women, in top leadership roles. It felt like validation for Black people in this country; for every Black person who wanted to purchase a home somewhere but was redlined out of it; and to me, as a Black woman, who has spent about two decades and feeling somewhat like a lone wolf in the financial services industry. I felt like I was finally seen. The fact that Fercho has risen to the position after years of what I am sure included a great deal of work and sacrifice was not lost on me.

When I first entered the industry, I was the only Black woman reporting at the MBA conference and I’d hoped our industry would have seen more change since that time. Kudos to the MBA for honoring a hardworking, dedicated Black woman with this position. While having Fercho in the top position at the MBA will likely not change the industry overnight, I am hopeful that Fercho’s voice will be heard. It is a step in the right direction.

As we gear up for another year of possible virtual meetings, MBA can look to the success of its first virtual annual meeting as a baseline. I am confident that we will get through this challenging time and learn something new about our abilities to adjust and connect in different ways. And as I do, I will have a stronger belief in the possibilities of change.  

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