Fannie Mae has named a new chief executive—Michael J. Williams—just three days after President Barack Obama nominated its immediate past president, Herbert Allison, to run the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief (TARP) program.
Williams will be a familiar face to Fannie Mae watchers. He joined Fannie in 1991 and most recently served as chief operating officer and executive vice president at the Washington, D.C.-based mortgage finance firm, where he has managed Fannie’s foreclosure prevention, loan modification, and other efforts related to the housing downturn. Before joining Fannie Mae, Williams worked at KPMG Peat Marwick and the Dupont Company. In terms of education, he has a MBA and a bachelor’s from Drexel University.
"Mike's appointment as CEO will provide continuity of direction and purpose as Fannie Mae continues to focus on supporting the market and carrying out the [Obama] administration's housing relief plan," said Allison in a Fannie Mae statement announcing the news. "Mike has a proven track record of success. He is extraordinarily capable at leading people and organizing plans and processes to accomplish important objectives, and he will foster change where needed to assure the highest standards of performance.”
The appointment places Fannie in good hands, according to Doug Bibby, president of the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC), who has known Williams since the 1990s and actually helped recruit him to Fannie. Williams "is very even tempered and professional," Bibby told BUILDER this week. "He treats people with respect. He has a good sense of humor. He is meticulously organized." And, Bibby added, "he knows technology exceptionally well, so you can’t 'BS' him about the latest and greatest gadget or gizmo."
Bibby, who worked at Fannie Mae before joining the NMHC, believes Williams' experience at Fannie will be an asset in his new role. "He’s been there long enough and in a variety of jobs, so he has perspective on how the business runs and where the company’s strengths and weaknesses lie. He particularly understands the role that technology can and can’t play in modernizing the business."
Fannie Mae’s regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, also seemed to approve of the appointment. “Mike Williams brings a breadth of valuable experience to his new post,” said FHFA Director James Lockhart in a statement, which interestingly also noted Williams’ involvement in addressing high-profile accounting problems at Fannie several years ago. “Previously, Williams also was responsible for implementing the corrective actions that led this agency to lift the consent order stemming from our Special Examination into accounting and management problems at [Fannie Mae]."
Williams will need all the support he can get in the months ahead, as Fannie and counterpart Freddie Mac continue their efforts to stabilize the housing market and operate with extensive government oversight since the federal takeover of Fannie and Freddie last fall.
That includes internal support as well, according to Bibby, who thinks it's "very important for Mike to try to keep the team together to the best of his ability" for strategic and operational reasons. "There is terrific institutional knowledge and memory among the senior ranks of Fannie’s leadership, and they will be critical to the design of the company that Fannie Mae will become upon the sunset of the conservatorship," Bibby pointed out. "Second, they are going to have to get a highly accurate picture of the risk profile of both books of business--single- and multifamily—to assess how best to manage the enterprise through the inevitable tough patch back toward profitability."
Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.
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