Passing the Torch

This piece originally appeared in the May 2024 edition of MortgagePoint magazine, online now.

The National Mortgage Servicing Association (NMSA) is a non-partisan organization driven by senior executives from the nation’s leading mortgage servicing organizations.

With a membership comprised of more than 90% of the mortgage servicing market, NMSA was formed for the purpose of pushing progress and change on the challenges faced on a day-to-day basis by those in the servicing sector. NMSA’s aim as a group is to drive the conversation on shaping the American housing industry for the benefit of homeowners.

At April’s Five Star Government Forum in Washington, D.C., Jocelyn Martin-Leano, Founder, Enizio Strategies LLC, turned over the gavel of NMSA leadership to John Vella, Chief Revenue Officer of Selene Finance, who assumed the role of NMSA Chair.

Martin-Leano formerly served as the Servicing Division President for Rushmore Loan Management Services, where she managed a team of more than 700 people. She began her career in finance at Citibank as a process engineer. She also held positions at ITT Residential Capital and Bank of America before a 10-year tenure at Irwin Home Equity where she served as President during the before serving as COO of Genworth US Mortgage Insurance.

As CRO at Selene, Vella is responsible for driving revenue generation through ongoing leadership of sales, marketing, client management, and product innovation. Vella brings more than 20 years of experience leading organizations and delivering results across multiple industries to his new role as NMSA Chair.

Prior to joining Selene, Vella served as CRO at Altisource and President of Equator LLC. Vella began his financial services career with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Freddie Mac.

He later served as Chief Sales Officer for H&R Block’s mortgage company, CEO of Household International’s Automotive Business, President and CEO of Bear Stearns EMC Mortgage Company, and as EVP for Special Servicing of GMAC/RESCAP.

MortgagePoint had a chance to catch up with both Martin-Leano and Vella, recapping the accomplishments of the NMSA over the past few years, and looking ahead to the future of the servicing space as Vella gets ready for his new endeavor.

Jocelyn Martin-Leano, NMSA Chair, 2022-2024

Jocelyn Martin-Leano

Q: As you look back at your tenure as NMSA Chair, what are some of the accomplishments or achievements that you are most proud of guiding that group over your term?
Jocelyn Martin-Leano: One of the accomplishments I am most proud of is forging a stronger relationship with the Residential Loan Administration Committee of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), because there were several proposals on the table that we were able to collaborate with them on. The Residential Loan Administration Committee evaluates the impact of federal legislation and regulation on servicing operations, profitability, and efficiency, working with government agencies including Ginnie Mae, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Administration (VA), and with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to improve and streamline servicing requirements.

NMSA was part of the signatories, along with the Housing Policy Council, for some of the proposed changes to certain programs—for example, the payment supplement program of the FHA.

The second thing is that we increased NMSA membership during the last two years, thus giving us a much stronger voice. We had more servicers join and become members of the NMSA, so we have a wider cross-section and a bigger representation over the last two years.

Q: When you came into your term as Chair, was fostering relationships with other trade groups already something on your mind, or did that just organically evolve? How did that process work, and what was involved with pursuing that relationship?
Martin-Leano: A question was posed to me when I first became NMSA Chair: “Why are there so many bodies or industry trade groups? Why not just one?” All these groups have their strengths and their weaknesses, but what makes NMSA different is that it is comprised of more senior leadership and C-suite execs from the servicing shops.

The MBA’s Residential Loan Administration Committee is comprised of many senior subject matter experts, and so for them to collaborate with NMSA was a good thing. If you align two trade groups, that helps tremendously in streamlining the number of trade groups and the number of voices.

I connected with the Residential Loan Administration Committee and started attending their regular meetings. I would take the information learned from these meetings back to the NMSA.

Q: As you pass the torch to John Vella, does it feel like the relationship with the MBA is more firmly established and there will be more collaborations moving forward?
Martin-Leano: Absolutely. I am hoping that John [Vella], who is a very personable leader with many connections in the industry, will be able to maintain and continue to strengthen that relationship.

Q: In terms of expanding NMSA membership, was there anything you did differently in terms of recruitment and outreach?
Martin-Leano: It was a combination of things. I have my network, and my Rolodex is shared among those I network with. What is nice is when people are united towards a common front, which is to benefit the housing market and our borrowers—then more are inclined to join.

There are also some servicers that tend to be quiet and more insular. Maybe they just don’t have the time to look outwards. Being able to reach in, get to know those leaders, and entice them to come and be part of this is always a good thing.

Some may not have even heard of NMSA, so it was a multipronged approach of using my Rolodex, other people’s Rolodexes, and, of course, just being able to follow up with and converse with our leads.

Everybody wants their voice to be heard … it’s just a matter of introducing them to a forum that’s efficient. We are not meeting-heavy, which is nice, but when we meet, we make it count.

Q: Was there anything else you had on your to-do list when you first took over the role of NMSA Chair? Do you feel you succeeded in meeting those goals over your time as Chair?
Martin-Leano: I really think it’s just a matter of continuity. It’s both good and bad that we only have a few meetings, but it’s good to maintain continuity because if we worked on a topic from a prior session, then one of the things I wanted to do was make sure that nothing is dropped. So that’s one.

The second is, I felt it was always good to create a strong agenda because that entices people to attend these meetings. I would conscientiously and deliberately make sure that the topics were relevant, and that people interested in sharing best practices would be the ones who made it to the roster.

Q: How does NMSA contribute to industry thought leadership?
Martin-Leano: NMSA is a safe forum to speak your mind because we provide anonymity and protection for people who may have differing opinions or strong opinions on things that may be being drafted. I also feel like just having that NMSA name and not having to put forth personalities would allow people to provide more candor.

Q: Are there any other initiatives or ideas you want NMSA to pursue?
Martin-Leano: I want to give Ed Delgado credit for setting up the Mortgage Servicing Executive Alliance (MSEA), a forum to facilitate progress, collaboration, mentorship, and networking for mortgage industry executives. MSEA will join NMSA as a group that represents thought leadership and best practices in mortgage servicing.

MSEA was conceived about six months ago, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time for me to get to know them during my tenure, but if I could cast a dream, it would be nice for NMSA and MSEA to begin to work together. Then, we can be part of mentoring younger leaders and giving them a more senior and seasoned perspective on things. That was a good move conceived by Ed, which was met with tremendous acceptance and enthusiasm. There were many capable members who came into the MSEA, and so the cross-pollination of the two organizations will be powerful.

Q: What would you envision for mentorship? If you were staying on longer as NMSA Chair and were going to propose something, would you imagine that to be something more structured where members are literally paired off with a mentor?
Martin-Leano: A person who is an expert on default in NMSA, and a person who is also a subject matter expert on default in MSEA could work together. People in the NMSA who have ridden through multiple cycles … we have been through a COVID-19 cycle. Others have been through the mortgage meltdown of 2006-2007. We can give more to those coming behind us that may not have ridden through as many cycles.

Q: What are some pieces of advice you would pass on to John as he begins his journey as NMSA Chair?
Martin-Leano: I would devote time to making sure that you are current and know what’s happening with all the issues in the industry, because this is an industry that moves fast. The second is just being able to work on cultivating relationships. He already has these relationships anyway, so he just needs to continue to strengthen his relationships one-on-one with different servicers, because that allows you to become more effective in soliciting ideas and input.

You have to be conscientious about all of the salient and relevant issues, and it’s so fast moving that you have to stay current. If you just miss it by a week, you may become obsolete.

Another thing is to always look at the environment because there is just so much going on in the world. You’ve got emerging technology, you’ve got geopolitical risk … and sitting in the NMSA, you are always watching the horizon for what may be coming at you.

John Vella, NMSA Chair, 2024-2026

John Vella

Q: Why is NMSA membership important to you? And how does the Association contribute to the industry in terms of thought leadership and other initiatives?
Vella: The industry is in need of a group like NMSA. When you have all your peers in the industry, you get different opinions and views on issues we are all facing, because we all encounter the same situations.

The camaraderie of the group, the ability to share information, and the willingness to help each other out has been evident throughout the years. The goal is to continue that and continue to work together to find solutions that help borrowers, investors, and our own internal operations.

NMSA is comprised of a truly unique group of individuals who are committed to their companies, and to the concept of “team.” I call it a team because everyone communicates, not just when we have meetings, but there is a lot of communication when we return to our offices. A lot of us see each other on the circuit and call each other up when there are issues and confide in each other.

Q: Looking back at the last couple of years of Jocelyn’s tenure as NMSA Chair, what would you say are some of the things that she has accomplished that you are looking to build off?
Vella: I think both Wes [Iseley, NMSA Chair 2019-2021] and Jocelyn galvanized the team and attacked the
issues we have had in the industry. They have set protocol on how to address these issues, so there is a solid game plan in place. In times of crisis, the group has created an actionable outline on how to deal with policy and operational issues. The current financial market, from a real estate, interest rate, government regulation, and loan product diversification standpoint, is creating new challenges for loan servicers that need to be addressed.

Q: What is your vision for NMSA? What are some of your primary goals as you enter the role of NMSA Chair?
Vella: Through NMSA, I would like to create a forum where everyone is comfortable participating. Normally, you get the same participants and the same group involvement. I would like to broaden the
group to make sure we are getting more people involved, and soliciting their input.

We want to get committees together and encourage participation at all levels with different points of view. This process will help grow leadership for the future. The style is to have meetings centered around the top three to five issues we are facing in the market today. We will rally around those issues to make sure we are addressing what the team collectively thinks are the appropriate topics and we can tackle them from there. This way, everyone is engaged and can prioritize what is important for the entire group.

Q: With the MSEA being a fairly new group, one of the things Jocelyn mentioned was the potential for a mentorship relationship between their membership and the NMSA’s. Is there anything you see there as far as potential opportunities to work with those two groups and help mentor MSEA and its membership?
Vella: Just taking what was done in the past with Wes, and then with Jocelyn, building off that and continuing to make the group have a bigger voice in the industry will really make a difference. Mentoring others inside MSEA is also important to make sure that they are part of this industry as it grows.
Most importantly, organizing around the issues that we are facing today, and getting things done instead of just talking about them. When I look back, I want to have tackled key issues, and have made a
difference in how NMSA is perceived. I think having natural connection between the two groups, will not only foster additional opinions and ideas, but help mentor the leaders for the future.

Share this post :

Picture of David Wharton

David Wharton

David Wharton, Editor-in-Chief at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has 20 years' experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. He can be reached at
Latest News

Unleash the Power of Knowledge

Stay in the know with our suite of email blasts
Receive the latest news

Gain Access to Exclusive Mortgage Knowledge!

Stay at the forefront of industry developments! By subscribing to MortgagePoint, you’re aligning yourself with the latest insights, updates and exclusive promotions in the mortgage industry. As an industry professional, it’s critical to stay informed and up-to-date. Don’t miss out – subscribe now!