Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Q&A with Mike Williams: Former Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Mike Williams Sat Down with Mortgage Banking to Talk about His New Job Leading Prospect Mortgage

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Q&A with Mike Williams: Former Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Mike Williams Sat Down with Mortgage Banking to Talk about His New Job Leading Prospect Mortgage

Article excerpt

Former Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael J. Williams became chairman of the board of Prospect Mortgage in December 2012. In June of this year, he added another new title to his resume when he took the helm as Prospect's CEO. Williams will help grow the Southern California-based national mortgage lender at a time when its track record as a specialist in purchase money lending will come in handy. [paragraph] Mortgage Banking sat down with Williams in Washington, D.C., recently to talk about the strategy for expanding the company's retail platform, adapting to a more challenging regulatory environment and growing the lender's footprint. We also talked about buyback demands and government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) reform efforts. [paragraph] Williams takes over the CEO job from Ronald L. Bergum, who built Prospect Mortgage from the ground up and who now becomes managing partner. Prospect Mortgage is backed by Sterling Partners, a Chicago-based private-equity firm.

Q: The official press release says you became Prospect Mortgage's new CEO effective June 20. Was that the date that you were first walking around the building as CEO?

A: Actually I started the week of the 16th, and was on site with the team working with them immediately. We did an all-hands meeting on the 18th, and on the 19th I did an offsite meeting with the leadership team. And the following week we had our first board meeting post-transition. So, it's been a busy two weeks.

Q: So how were you first introduced to Prospect Mortgage?

A: It's an interesting story. When I took over as [Fannie Mae] CEO in 2009, obviously you remember those days; it was very challenging. We were all focused on helping distressed borrowers and developing HAMP [the Home Affordable Modification Program], HARP [the Home Affordable Refinance Program] and [other initiatives].

I also wanted to make sure that I didn't lose touch with what was happening in the primary market. Because ultimately, we all knew--housing recovery would be the key.

So I asked my team in sales for a couple of customers that I should meet with on a regular basis. And one of those organizations was Prospect Mortgage and Ron Bergum [then CEO of Prospect Mortgage and now managing partner of the company].

So, Ron and I struck up a nice relationship. I met with him and I met with others like Bill Emerson [CEO of Quicken Loans Inc.], and folks from around the country that were really still serving the primary market.

Ron and I started working together. They ended up being a big partner of ours on [Fannie Mae's] HomePath initiative.

Talking with Ron, Bill and others like Dave Applegate [of Homeward Residential] gave me the opportunity to stay very connected to what was happening on the ground. We all knew eventually we would get through the delinquencies, loan modifications and refinances. And then ultimately you've got to get back to a purchase money market.

I was fairly impressed by Prospect because, in the midst of everything that was going on, they were still doing the majority of their business as purchase money. So even in the days when we were seeing 70 to 80 percent refinance, they were still doing 55 [percent] to 70 percent purchase money.

That told me they had something special going on there in terms of their market penetration and their focus on purchase money business. So, that's how I got connected with them and worked with Ron over the years.

Q: So, how does your Realogy board involvement figure into the picture? [In November 2012, Williams was appointed to the board of directors of Realogy Holdings Corporation, a holding company over several leading real-estate-brokerage franchise companies including Century 21[R], Coldwell Banker[R], ERA[R], Sotheby's International Realty[R] and Better Homes and Gardens[R].]

A: First of all, they are just a great company. They are wonderful at what they do. …

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