Housing companies are targeting leaders who can identify and leverage opportunities for innovation in today's climate. Fannie Mae, a long time driver of housing climate, is redefining innovation and giving Kimberly Johnson the lead. Here's a glimpse into her strategy to inspire the industry with innovation.

Kimberly Johnson joined Fannie Mae in 2006. As such, she was with the company when it went through its most trying time in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. She was part of the team that led the company back from the brink in roles of increasing responsibility from Vice President of Capital Markets to Senior Vice President of the company's Multifamily business unit to Chief Credit Officer to Chief Risk Officer.

In March of this year, she ascended to the role of Chief Operating Officer of Fannie Mae in March of this year. In that role, she is responsible for leading technology, data, enterprise models, operations, the enterprise program management office, and resiliency. Her varied and diverse experiences have aided her rise, and now that she has such a broad set of responsibilities, she has a broad ability to impact innovation within the company. She describes her journey and the path to innovation in this interview.

Peter High: Could you talk about your role as the Chief Operating Officer of Fannie Mae and the responsibilities the position entails?

Kimberly Johnson: The COO role that Tim Mayopoulos put together for me includes an interesting combination of responsibilities, such as overseeing Fannie Mae’s technology, operations, innovation, data, and strategic execution. This mix serves as a nice way to string together the full array of the functionality that we need to enable the business.

High: Was there a predecessor with this same job description, or were these a set of responsibilities that was brought together for the first time in the role created for you?

Johnson: While we have had COOs at Fannie Mae, this was a different configuration of responsibilities. The position given to me specifically was designed to spark innovation efforts. We have a great deal of activity going on in terms of modifying our digital strategy, and we wanted to make sure that we put together all the necessary pieces to accelerate those efforts.

High: Could you provide some examples of Fannie Mae’s innovation activities?

Johnson: Since the housing crisis, the company has been working towards acting in a different role in the housing finance industry. We now see ourselves as the centerpiece of the entire ecosystem around housing, which gives us a different sense of responsibility. With this opportunity, we have to be resilient, secure, and we must ensure that we help the industry advance so that costs and risk are reduced for everyone. Because of this responsibility, many of our innovation efforts target reducing risk and costs to ensure more resilient operations overall.

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