The data on executives in banking and financial sectors reveals a striking lack of women in the C-suites. In 2014, only three women led major U.S. banks, while just 17.6% of Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs and only 11.4% had female CFOs.
Which makes HousingWire's list of the 2015 Women of Influence even more amazing.
Our editorial team's original idea to feature 30 women was immediately shelved given the number of outstanding nominations we received. We increased the number to 40 as an absolute cut off, lamenting the tough choices we were still faced with.
Our list is full of executives — from CEOs and CFOs to presidents and executive directors. Many of the women who are helming companies founded or co-founded them, with stunning results.
But mere stats don't tell the real story of these outstanding leaders. They represent the whole spectrum of the housing economy, from real estate agents to originators to nonprofits. They lead companies, mentor others and give back to their communities. And each one is inspiring.
Even a quick look at some of our winners illustrates their high level of leadership.
In the last three years as CFO of Altisource, Michelle Esterman has led the company through periods of record growth, executing an M&A strategy to advance Altisource’s strategic growth initiatives to diversify its revenue and customer base. In the past 12 months, Esterman was at the helm during Altisource’s best quarter in company history (Q2, 2014), guiding the business on the path to success.
In Q4 2014, Esterman was instrumental in changing Altisource’s cost structure in response to the shifting focus of the company. While managing a team of close to 200 people, she led the restructuring to position Altisource for long-term earnings growth.
In the second half of 2014, Esterman led the research phase, strategy development and execution of two major industry acquisitions: Mortgage Builder and Owners.com.
These two strategic acquisitions have added considerable value to Altisource, advancing Altisource’s position in the online real estate and mortgage industry.
Over the course of her career, Esterman has demonstrated strong leadership skills, rising through the ranks at Deloitte and then her appointment as the CFO of Altisource, a publicly traded company.
During her tenure at Altisource, she has been very involved in the strategic growth and direction of the company. Esterman played a key leadership role in the creation, development, capitalization and spin-off of Altisource Residential Corporation (RESI), a publicly traded real estate investment trust.
In addition, Esterman is a senior leadership member involved with Housing Source.
Over the last year, Melanie Feliciano, the chief legal officer at DocMagic, Inc., has worked to understand the inner workings of the CFPB’s TRID rule, and has been instrumental in helping successfully implement the new rule for all of DocMagic’s clients.
She continues to work with Richard Horn, the former CFPB senior counsel and special advisor who actually led the CFPB rule integrating the mortgage disclosures under TRID. In order to implement the rule, she successfully grew DocMagic’s compliance department by 50%.
“Melanie has been very effective in handling all legal matters involving DocMagic, from negotiating, drafting, reviewing/revising contracts with its vendors, handling the day-to-day legal affairs of the company, to ensuring that DSI’s products are compliant with applicable law,” her nominator wrote. “In short, she is the straw that stirs the drink for legal and compliance matters at DocMagic.”
Other notables that Feliciano has achieved in the last 12 months include being invited to serve on the board of directors of the Electronic Signatures and Records Association, developing DocMagic’s Compliance Edge brand and spearheading a contract process between prospects and DocMagic, consummating over 350 contracts in the last 12 months.
Feliciano has also served as editor-in-chief of DocMagic’s Compliance Wizard newsletter, a monthly electronic publication addressing compliance and other regulatory issues for the mortgage lending industry, for more than 10 years.
She also successfully implemented both RESPA 2010 and TILA/MDIA 2011 and has implemented many loan programs, including FHA’s 203(k) and the Texas home equity loan program.
Cheryl Feltgen is executive vice president, chief risk officer of Arch Mortgage Insurance Co., a newly formed private MI company that provides mortgage credit default protection. Since joining the company in mid-2014, Feltgen has been instrumental in developing Arch MI’s enterprise risk management system, including a risk appetite framework and implementing a key risk indicator program.
Additionally, in early 2015 Feltgen helped launch a new Arch MI insurance company, Arch Mortgage Guaranty, for mortgage loans that originators intend to retain in their portfolios or include in private securitizations. She also developed the new company’s underwriting guidelines and portfolio risk parameters.
Throughout her career, Feltgen has held leadership roles with women’s networks, including GE Women’s Network and Fifth Third Bank Women’s Network.
In these organizations, Feltgen demonstrated her commitment to returning the guidance and mentoring she has received throughout her career and helping other women develop the confidence and courage to try new things in risk management positions.
“Cheryl Feltgen has devoted her professional career to roles of increasing responsibility in risk management in a wide range of businesses, from rail cars to mortgages,” her nominator wrote.
“At each of her organizations and industry trade groups, she has given back to the community and helped promote women within the risk management profession. She is committed to cultivating the next generation of leaders within the industry.”
Deborah Garcia-Gratacos operates the only nonbank loan servicer in the nation owned by a Hispanic woman. Born in Puerto Rico, Garcia-Gratacos is an attorney with a background in real estate and finance, including originations and underwriting.
She decided to start DEVAL after the financial market turndown and today the company is licensed to conduct loan servicing activities nationwide, including Puerto Rico. Since its inception, DEVAL has competitively received more than $100 million in contracts to provide financial services and employs more than 130 people in four locations.
One of Garcia-Gratacos’ primary goals is advocating for underserved Hispanic communities. During the past 14 years, DEVAL has serviced more than 725,000 loans, and Garcia-Gratacos has worked to make sure loan documentation is available in Spanish and transparent to Hispanic consumers.
“For the past 10 years, Debbie has been advocating for increasing homeownership and providing housing counseling to the Hispanic community,” her nominator wrote.
“Her experiences as a minority woman in the housing and finance industry allows her to share her ideas and provide advice to the Hispanic community on key issues pertaining to homeownership growth, home retention, and access to capital.”
Garcia-Gratacos operates a successful nationwide financial advisory firm, working with many federal agencies, including HUD, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of the Interior, the General Services Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the FDIC. Prior to founding DEVAL, she worked as a consultant at Arthur Andersen.
Cathleen Schreiner Gates oversees all sales, marketing, client management, professional services, customer support and training for Ellie Mae. In her position Gates oversees a team of more than 200 people that helps more than 120,000 individual Encompass users.
As mortgage volume fell 38% industry-wide in 2014, Ellie Mae’s revenues actually grew 53%. In the first quarter of 2015, Ellie Mae achieved record quarterly revenue of $54.2 million, a 68% increase from Q1 2014. When Gates joined the company in 2012, Ellie Mae was trading at just $9 a share. In May, the company’s stock hit a record $667.
“Over the past year, Cathleen has been a driving force behind our company’s phenomenal growth and performance,” her nominator wrote.
“Without Cathleen’s expertise in SaaS-based delivery models, or her acumen for building high quality sales and customer service teams dedicated to exceeding client expectations, it is unlikely Ellie Mae could have achieved such results.”
During Gates’ tenure, Ellie Mae has been named to the 2014 HousingWire HW Fast50 and HW TECH100 lists, winning the “Market Influence” category, Deloitte 2013 Technology Fast 500, Forbes Magazine’s Best Small Companies, and Mortgage Technology Magazine’s Lender’s Choice Award in 2014.
Gates has specific expertise in managing sales of SaaS-based technologies and has also leveraged her experience at Clickability, MarketTools, Inc. and Keynote Systems/Vividence.
Over the past year, Gates helped grow the number of active online users of Encompass by 33% and Ellie Mae has slashed the average implementation time for enterprise users of Encompass to under 100 days, while reducing support response times to under two minutes.
Renee Glover serves as chairman of the board of Habitat for Humanity International. Habitat for Humanity International is the world leader in addressing issues of poverty housing, serving more than 300,000 families annually both in the United States and in 70 countries. Glover also serves on the board of directors for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
As president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority, which is the sixth-largest housing authority in the country, Glover has transformed the public housing industry in Atlanta. Glover brought a fresh and somewhat revolutionary approach to public housing: Tear down the projects, develop mixed-use mixed-income housing and give vouchers to those most in need.
Her expertise was instrumental in helping formulate the Bipartisan Policy Center Commission’s recommendations for addressing the supply of affordable rental housing. Glover’s leadership and commitment to housing helped the Commission’s report, Housing America’s Future: New Directions for National Policy, remain relevant beyond its initial release.
Glover took responsibility for identifying opportunities to educate colleagues and stakeholders on the recommendations the commission produced, as well as for advocating the bipartisan principles for housing policy laid out in the report.
“Renee Glover shattered the glass ceiling for women in housing, making way for the next generation of young women to pursue leadership positions in the housing arena,” her nominator wrote.
“Renee is widely recognized for her business acumen and soft spoken manner and she is nationally recognized for her role in transforming U.S. urban policy.”
As vice president of product management for capital markets and mortgage credit risk products at CoreLogic, Julian Grey is responsible for the general management and strategic direction of the company’s capital markets solutions.
This position includes credit risk management solutions, real estate analytics suite (comprised of the CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indexes, CoreLogic HPI and CoreLogic HPI Forecasts), RMBS analytics, business intelligence solutions and integrated data assets. These products serve the secondary markets as well as the mortgage, government and financial services industries.
Over the past year, Grey has played an integral part in enhancing the CoreLogic HPI and introducing the expanded CoreLogic HPI Forecasts to help banks comply with Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) and Dodd-Frank Act Stress-Testing (DFAST) requirements. The new CoreLogic Stress-Testing scenarios consist of three sets of five-year house price forecast scenarios: CCAR Baseline, CCAR Adverse and CCAR Severely Adverse, which are generated by CoreLogic and are available to meet the Federal Reserve’s national standards.
In addition, the expanded CoreLogic HPI Forecasts can be used to run CBSA and ZIP-code level stress tests to help banks comply with the requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act for company-level risk assessments. Grey also led the launch of CoreLogic Market Condition Indicators.
After joining CoreLogic in 2007, Grey drove the launch of the most geographically comprehensive and current home price index available—the CoreLogic HPI (formerly the LoanPerformance HPI) — its rewrite in 2010, and the integration of the Case-Shiller Indices into the CoreLogic product suite.
As founder and president of HomeFree-USA, a 501 nonprofit organization that specializes in homeownership development, foreclosure intervention and financial empowerment, Marcia Griffin has helped thousands of Americans become homeowners. Griffin creates programs and educational opportunities for people to learn how to better manage their money, become first-time homebuyers and maintain their homes successfully.
Under Griffin’s leadership, HomeFree-USA has helped families that have gone through the organization’s pre-purchase counseling program enjoy a 0% foreclosure rate. The HomeFree-USA network helps more than 40,100 homebuyers, homeowners and other consumers each year.
HomeFree-USA is both a Freddie Mac Borrower Help Center and a Fannie Mae Mortgage Help Network agency.
In 2013 Griffin received the community service award from the National Bankers Association, a consortium of 30 national minority- and women-owned financial institutions, and in 2014 she was named to the new Mortgage Bankers Association’s Consumer Affairs Advisory Council.
Under Griffin’s direction, HomeFree-USA is preparing the next generation of homeowners through Shaping Outstanding Adolescents for Results. SOAR provides underserved urban youth in middle and high school with money management skills and leadership development tools to prepare them for future success.
“Marcia Griffin is on a mission to strengthen people, elevate her partners, and enhance communities across America through homeownership,” her nominator wrote.
“Serving as a bridge between financial institutions and the community, Marcia addresses the needs of homebuyers and homeowners with targeted education, distinctive marketing strategies and lender advocacy.”
Jennifer Harrison provides oversight, leadership and strategy for Clayton Fixed Income Services, the surveillance business unit within Clayton Holdings.
Harrison oversees teams of more than 200 people that perform detailed reconciliation of loss charge-offs and recoveries, valuations, and cash flows at the loan level, deal level and bond level. In addition, her teams verify adherence to servicing standards and governing deal documents related to servicing resolution/disposition. At the same time, they seek to resolve systemic servicing issues and affect appropriate best practice change at the policy level.
Through its surveillance activities, Clayton actively monitors loan-level activity within 670 separate RMBS transactions and whole loan pools. They validate that servicers and their third-party providers have adequately implemented strategies to adhere to servicing policies and procedures and mitigate risk.
Harrison and her teams engage with numerous industry participants and both government and non-government agencies.
Since 2012, Clayton has performed more than 150,000 reviews of assets to assess compliance with representations, regulatory and legal requirements, investor guidelines and settlement agreements.
Harrison joined Clayton in 2003 as senior manager of Clayton Fixed Income Services; and was promoted to director, vice president and, most recently, senior vice president. Under her leadership, the company has developed new applications for surveillance, adding more transparency to asset and counterparty performance.
“Jennifer is a significant leader within the mortgage surveillance industry. She has made surveillance and mortgage analytics more proactive, transparent and actionable for investors,” her nominator wrote.
Amanda Howard is the CEO of Amanda Howard Real Estate, which The Wall Street Journal has ranked as 42nd in the list of the nation’s real estate teams, putting it in the the top 1% of agencies in the country. Howard has also gained the endorsement and approval of Barbara Corcoran.
During her first full year of real estate in Huntsville, Alabama, Howard closed 77 homes as a single agent before she branched out in November 2009 and opened Amanda Howard Real Estate as an independent agency.
In 2014 Howard’s agency served 517 families, totaling more than $97 million in gross sales volume.
Howard is also an active member of both the Vistage CEO group and the Huntsville Crime Stoppers Board.
She serves on several panels, including Radio and Television Experts (RATE) and the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce-hosted “Ignite” entrepreneur mentorship program, and as a coach under Corcoran Coaching and Consulting.
As a coach, Howard works with several real estate firms throughout the country and oversees their day-to-day operations with weekly calls and meetings.
She also works with local charities, including as recently as January 2015, when she won the Celebrity Chef Competition at Cheeburger Cheeburger, which helped raise $1,500 to benefit the families of Imperial Gardens Apartments in Huntsville.
“Amanda holds team members accountable as she is genuinely interested in their well-being,” her nominator wrote.
“She sets high standards for her team in order for their clients to receive the very best service.”