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Multifamily Viewpoints

Jazzed Up in New Orleans

By Debby Jenkins
Published on November 5, 2014

I remember leaving Chicago at the end of our conference last October, wondering a) where is my pillow and b) how will we possibly top having Sam Zell as the keynote, 600 people in attendance, and yet another fantastic year at Freddie Mac Multifamily? Now, a year later, looking back at our recent conference in New Orleans, it’s hard to believe but we actually raised the bar.

Reflecting back on New Orleans, three things stick out in my mind. One is, wow, we really have become the leader in the multifamily space. You could see it in all the new initiatives we have put into the market. You could hear it in customers’ voices. And you could feel the positive vibe at all the events.

Two, Kim Griffith really is a rock star. He had a great sense of time and place to announce his retirement. And our customers responded by giving him not one but two standing ovations. On the same day! Clearly, our customers are going to miss Kim. And so am I.

And three – and this might be the most important take-away – the most important people at Freddie Mac were not in New Orleans. They were back at the office. Our pipeline has surged to historic levels – $16 billion and 800+ loans – and our people are processing an amount of business that is unheard of. They have been just incredible in getting it done.

How did we get to this point? It’s simple: We’ve been smart and aggressive, in the market every day, working our tails off, uncovering one deal after another. Now, I’m a pretty competitive person. So I thrive during times like this. It’s been fun to roll up our sleeves, be creative, and find solutions for our borrowers.

As the underwriting czar – I like the sound of that – I’ve had to strike a balance between competitiveness and credit quality. After all, our brand is our most prized possession, and it’s become quite powerful. Even that tacky moustache John Cannon wore at the conference couldn’t damage our brand! (Really, JC?!)

So you can understand my position when customers came up to me in New Orleans and asked about their deals. Of course, the questions often began as, “Hypothetically, Debby.” I assumed these individuals were looking to blame a lost deal on Freddie’s overly conservative credit positon. Instead, I heard something very different. More like, “I just wanted to stop you and mention that I just worked with (a Freddie Mac staffer), and they were off the charts, solved the deal issues, beat the crazy deadline, and got my deal done!”

And that’s really been the tone throughout the year, not just at the conference. Together, we will test our record highs for annual loan production. What a fantastic place to be – and I’m saying this about a company six years into conservatorship – making a difference, providing liquidity in the rental housing space, and making money, all while having fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Post New Orleans, I arrived back at Freddie Mac to meetings with corporate management. There, I’m usually asked what is keeping me up at night: How to process that huge pipeline? Where is the tipping point for the market? Nope. My response, “I’m sleeping pretty well these days, thanks for asking.”

That’s because we’ve got tremendous people, tremendous business partners, and a tremendous market.

Now, where’s my pillow?

Debby is senior vice president of underwriting and credit
Have a question or comment? Contact Debby

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