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Top 25 Leaders and Influencers – Part 1

Editor's note: This feature originally appeared in the February issue of MReport, out now.

What makes a strong leader? Is it command of subject matter or charisma that lights up a room? Is it years of industry experience or a fresh, new perspective? In this five-part series, we meet the men and women who are making a mark on their teams and peers with our “Top 25 Industry Leaders & Influencers” list.
Compiled from nominations submitted by industry professionals, the “Top 25 Industry Leaders & Influencers” list recognizes those individuals who are guiding by example, thinking outside the box in ways that are shaping the industry’s path forward, and still maintaining that personal touch that ensures their team members feel supported, inspired, and recognized.

Jeffrey Bode


Years in Industry: 37

As a leader, Jeffrey Bode seeks to empower those around him and help them to grow as leaders themselves. He works to hire the smartest, most capable talent available and provide them with the tools and support they need in order to succeed. While Bode got his start in mortgage banking, he could perhaps best be described as a serial entrepreneur, having established a successful tax lien business after selling the first iteration of Mid America Mortgage back in 2003. Bode acquired Schmidt Mortgage Company in 2010 and relaunched Mid America shortly thereafter. Bode spearheaded the firm’s conversion to eMortgages across its retail, wholesale, and correspondent channels—a mortgage industry first. In addition, Bode helped build the industry’s largest Section 184 lender, 1st Tribal Lending, and has provided much-needed market liquidity through Mid America’s Whole Loan Trading division, which specializes in purchasing hard-to-sell loan products such as scratch-and-dent, delinquent government loans, and orphaned VA loans, among others. Bode tries never to let his ego get in the way of progress, even if this means hearing and receiving constructive criticism. A firm believer that “honesty is the best policy,” Bode prefers an open and direct approach to providing direction to struggling employees and is willing to have the tough conversations with employees to help them course-correct and flourish. To mentor the next generation, Bode invites a group of talented young employees to lunch on a monthly basis to share his vision for the company and to seek a more youthful perspective.


Ray Brousseau


Years in Industry: 30

Leveraging his extensive background of 30-plus years spent dealing with several facets of mortgage lending, Ray Brousseau built the lending platform at Carrington Mortgage Services from the ground level up—growing the team from 500 associates to more than 2,000 team members. Prior to his current role, Brousseau served as EVP of Mortgage Lending Division at Carrington. Brousseau specializes in leading diverse and geographically dispersed teams and developing strategic business plans to address market changes. Brousseau is a thought leader and a published author in many leading industry publications. Among his peers at Carrington, Brousseau is considered a master communicator and a hands-on visionary who actively promotes a positive and dynamic culture. Innovation, collaboration, and excellent customer service are at the heart of his leadership style that sets a clear vision to all in the company. As a leader who has the business’ best interest in mind, Brousseau actively encourages feedback or criticism that brings about positive change and forward progress. Brousseau embraces the FISH Philosophy based on the world-famous Seattle fish market, which is a technique to make happy individuals alert and active in the workplace. Its central ideas are: choose your attitude; play; make someone’s day; and be there. “At CMS, we’re committed to creating a diverse and inclusive work environment,” Brousseau said. “Our associates have backgrounds and experiences as diverse as the many customers we serve.” He is a champion of Carrington’s leaderSHIFT, a nine-month leadership program for top performers in the company.


Charmaine Brown


Years in Industry: 23

Named a Five Star Conference Keystone Award Winner in 2018, Diversity Journal’s Woman-Worth Watching in 2018, and a “Leading Lady in Housing” by MReport in 2016, Charmaine Brown is recognized as a diversity and inclusion innovator and advocate instrumental in growing awareness of the significance of inclusive leadership to the bottom line. At Fannie Mae, she is responsible for diversity and inclusion outreach strategies both internally and externally. Brown holds a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and completed the Diversity Management Program at Cornell’s ILR School, as well as the Harvard Kennedy School for Executive Education, Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Program. Brown serves as the Vice-Chair of the American Mortgage Diversity Council and sits on the Housing Advisory Board of HomeFree USA. She is also the recipient of the Council for Inclusion in Financial Services’ Prism Award and the National Urban League’s McGannon award for stewardship in promoting diversity and inclusion. “Over my career, I have served as a trusted resource, collaborating with executives who are committed to driving diverse and inclusive cultures in their organizations. Focused on creating increased value for the workforce, workplace, and marketplace, I have been at the forefront of the D&I efforts on behalf of Fannie Mae, a leading source of financing for mortgage lenders in America and one of the most diverse companies in the financial services industry,” Brown shared. Brown’s core competencies include the development and execution of impactful diversity and inclusion strategies; thought leadership and relationship cultivation; executive coaching and employee engagement; and business needs identification and assessment.


Kevin Brungardt


Years in Industry: 25+

Kevin Brungardt leads by example and lives the corporate mantra, “All in. All win.” Brungardt works to ensure that employees understand the roles they play in doing the right thing for their customers, the company, and the communities RoundPoint serves. He takes time to ask questions, explain decisions, and recount previous experiences in which he’s learned something—a form of hands-on teaching whereby employees benefit from his experience. Brungardt has created a strong corporate culture by being connected, transparent, positive, and promoting a fun environment. He also has a strong commitment to charitable causes such as the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, the Special Olympics, and Toys for Tots. Under Brungardt’s guidance, RoundPoint’s portfolio of loans serviced has seen an increase of over 4,000 percent over the last eight and a half years. Brungardt has also overseen the creation of internal programs to both recognize employee excellence and promote diversity, including initiatives supporting the interests of African-American employees, professional women furthering their careers, faith-based groups, and special needs individuals. He also hosts a monthly initiative with the COO in which RoundPoint employees from various departments and backgrounds can discuss informal topics like the latest news or business concerns. Brungardt has also supported and promoted the “Round-Up Series,” a newsletter in which employees can promote the causes they are most passionate about and request others to join. Nor does Brungardt lose site of the personal touch—after one employee’s sister’s house burned down, he personally took the family to Target to buy them new clothes.


Paul Buege


Years in Industry: 35

Paul Buege was promoted to President of Inlanta Mortgage in 2018, having served as the COO for five years prior. Buege’s leadership style is equal parts inspiration, excitement, and positivity, centered around everyone achieving a common goal. He establishes relationships with the members of the team, gives encouragement, insight, and knowledge as he communicates freely and honestly about the company, its future, and its greater purpose. This has created a dynamic culture at Inlanta Mortgage that works like a machine well oiled for success. Colleagues say that people love working at Inlanta and love doing business with the company as well, and much of that comes down to Buege’s leadership style and the culture he has striven to create. Buege encourages the Inlanta team to be the best-in-class and to strive to improve upon even their best work on a daily basis. When working with struggling team members, Buege approaches from a place of positivity. He wants to understand the root of the struggle, talk about it, and figure out what he can do to help or to bring the team alongside the individual to help them position themselves for success. Buege invites feedback from everyone at the company, both directly to him and through the firm’s advisory board. He recognizes that great ideas can come from anyone and encourages everyone to think critically and offer suggestions at any time. He also puts good ideas into motion and gives credit where it is due, which in and of itself encourages new ideas.

About Author: 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 nearly 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 [email protected].

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