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.
As head of underwriting and credit for Freddie Mac Multifamily, Deborah Jenkins has helped to transform one of the industry’s largest financiers of multifamily loans to become one of the largest issuers of structured credit in the U.S.
Jenkins manages the underwriting and credit approvals for all debt investments for the multifamily division (more than $28 billion a year), including all conventional loan products for both portfolio and securitization, targeted affordable and bond credit enhancements, structured debt products, seniors housing, student housing, small balance, manufactured housing and tax-exempt loan products. In the last four years, she has overseen the underwriting of more than $100 billion in loans at Freddie Mac.
And thanks to her focus on maintaining credit quality in a competitive environment, these loans have resulted in zero credit losses to Freddie Mac and have given the company one of the industry’s lowest delinquencies — about 3 basis points.
“Debby’s signature has been enhancing the company’s underwriting process to support its K-deal securitization program, reflecting her expertise in commercial origination and capital markets alike,” her nominator wrote.
Jenkins manages a national underwriting and credit staff of 150 people and is a member of the 36-person Freddie Mac management committee comprised of the CEO, EVPs and SVPs. In the last year Jenkins has participated in her division’s rollout of more than 30 product and process enhancements .
Jenkins is also a member of National Multi-Family Housing Council Board of Directors, Urban Land Institute, Mortgage Bankers Association and Commercial Real Estate Finance Council.
Tawn Kelley is the president of Taylor Morrison Home Funding and Mortgage Funding Direct Ventures, the vice president of Taylor Morrison, Inc. and the Chairman of the Board of Advisors of Mattamy Home Funding, which specializes in production and homebuilder relationships.
Combined, these companies offer financing in 16 different markets nationally and closed about $1.3 billion in purchase money mortgages in 2014.
Kelley started Mortgage Funding Direct in 2001 with three employees in Maitland, Florida. Today she has grown that number to 185 people nationally.
“Through hard work, dedication and a commitment to the customer, her vision of the future has successfully provided security for the company,” her nominator wrote.
“Tawn truly puts the well-being of her employees and client-base first and recognizes the social responsibility of providing homebuyers with financing that is in their best interest.”
Kelley’s philosophy of doing things the right way filters through all levels of the organization. Her passion for helping families is prevalent in a unique service she created, which she offers free of charge to her customers. Through Able Ready Own, a qualification improvement program, more than 500 families since 2011 have improved their financing qualification.
Kelley has been a panelist and guest speaker for industry group, including Zelman & Associates’ Zelman Summit and Rymer Strategies, a Florida-based homebuilder and developer advisory group.
Kelley is an active member of LBA’s Mortgage Finance Group, MBA and RESPRO.
Jennifer LaBud is COO and co-founder at Opus Capital Markets Consultants, LLC (Opus CMC), a due diligence firm and one of a handful of RMBS rating agency approved due diligence providers. LaBud has transformed Opus CMC from a securitization due diligence specialist to a diversified risk-management provider with a suite of offerings tailored to meet the needs of participants across the mortgage continuum.
“Jennifer’s commitment to transparency and her vision for delivering exceptional service has significantly broadened the company’s technology capabilities,” her nominator wrote. “She illustrates the ability for women in mortgage to lead business strategy, while fostering that leadership amongst colleagues, particularly women within Opus CMC.”
Under her leadership, Opus CMC developed and launched OpusPanorama, a Web-based platform delivering transaction transparency to secondary market investors, and OpusFirst, a core due diligence system.
LaBud has piloted the company through its most significant business transition since its inception in 2005 — the sale and integration of Opus CMC with its new parent company, Wipro Limited. She utilized global operations and IT capability, along with consulting expertise offered by Wipro Limited.
Through the process, LaBud strategized ways in which the acquisition would benefit clients and the industry as a whole, thus creating a comprehensive plan that impacts loan quality and performance.
Currently, LaBud is driving Opus CMC into new terrain. With support from its parent company, Wipro, she has enabled the creation of Servicing QC Solutions, which will help clients mitigate risk throughout the lifecycle of the mortgage process.
Erika Lance began her 11 years with Nationwide Title Clearing as the VP, Administration, over HR and then moved to SVP, Administration, which also encompassed an executive role over client relations. This gave her the tools she needed to move into the role of chief information officer in 2014.
Since Erika started at NTC, the company has grown 300% in revenue, has doubled in size of staff to over 300 team members and expects to double in revenue again in 2016, according to the CEO.
While overseeing the IT sector, Erika has had a hand in conceiving and building a new line of service for NTC’s portfolio — the Collateral File Audit Service — which has already accomplished audits on over 130,000 files. In May, the company received a perfect mark on its work from one of the nation’s largest lenders.
As CIO, Lance has hired over 12 new software developers for NTC to originate a proprietary software infrastructure.The IT team has already improved as many as eight client-facing Web-based solutions since she started working there to create more efficiency for NTC’s clients.
“Lance has been an instrumental force in the creation of NTC’s company and employee culture, which has won several industry and community Top Workplace Awards,” her nominator wrote. “The industry’s future and standards are being shaped by many of the programs Erika has generated right here at NTC. Thanks to her visionary contributions, some of the nation’s largest lenders and servicers have adopted and applied courses she helped devise for NTC’s training and technology products.”
Lance’s leadership extends to the company’s Relay for Life Team, which in April raised over $12,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Over the past year, Kimberly Lanham has made a significant impact on the mortgage industry through her execution of major project implementations. She was instrumental in developing Digital Risk’s groundbreaking Governance, Risk, Compliance (GRC) solution, a platform that meets all operational resilience and contingency planning needs of SIFIs.
She also helped develop the company’s Quality Control Information Manager product, which enables management to analyze and solve for QC trends.
Lanham has participated in several large-scale project implementations across Digital Risk’s origination, fulfillment, appraisal, due diligence and component servicing lines of business.
“Her part in the sales, onboarding and project implementation for a new originations client resulted in one of the largest contracts in company history,” her nominator wrote.
“Furthermore, her role in designing the company’s thought leadership strategy resulted in over 80 media placements. Both of these achievements led to the company’s significant increase in market share.”
Lanham has led the charge on several symposiums, including the Women at the Forefront of Structured Finance Symposium and speaking as an RMBS industry panelist.
She also organized a symposium surrounding Credit Risk Transfer Transactions with over 100 attendees.
Currently, she is organizing a Millennial Homebuyers webinar, partnering with UCF School of Real Estate to introduce students to the mortgage finance industry, and designing an Executive Women’s Retreat for senior level mortgage industry businesswomen.
Debbie Lastoria has helped develop at least half a dozen lines of service that have brought millions of dollars in revenue to Nationwide Title Clearing. Most recently she has helped establish and implement the Custody Solutions Service, which will not only be a major contributor to new revenue for NTC in 2015 but also provide a low-cost solution to clients wanting to bundle their due diligence, collateral review and document preparation needs.
In addition, Lastoria has developed the Assignment Verification Report, Collateral Review and Remediation Service, Exception Curative Services, Default Assignment Services and Customized Property Report Solutions.
“Her uncanny foresight allowed NTC to stay ahead of compliance before many of its clients were even aware of the changes. Her passion for understanding and communicating all industry trends and regulatory requirements challenges her to understand the impact to her clients and NTC at the same time so that new solutions can be identified while old services are compliant from all aspects and on all levels,” her nominator wrote.
For example, she was the first team member to identify the overall impact of the third-party oversight requirements, enabling NTC to stay ahead of the curve on this industry-wide hot-button issue. As established, this program not only netted NTC a perfect audit score, but has been modeled by several clients as a best practice.
Lastoria takes pride in mentoring and training new members of the sales staff while also spearheading a client-facing management team. She extends this talent to also assist new clients in either new roles of responsibility or with new regulations from an industry and best practice perspective.
Katherine Le’s vision and clarity of purpose have greatly contributed to Stearns’ growth in operations and performance this past year, including two record-breaking back-to-back months for funding in February and March of 2015.
Under her leadership, Stearns has grown from an employee base of 30 employees to over 250 employees in under 10 years. Today, Stearns employs nearly 1,500 people and is licensed to lend in 49 states plus Washington, D.C.
Over the past four years, Stearns companies funded more than $46 billion, representing more than 187,000 loans.
“Katherine’s expertise and business savvy contributed to transform the delivery systems at Stearns into some of the best in the industry,” her nominator wrote. “Katherine’s 30 years of experience in finance and operations have defined her role as a core contributor to the success of Stearns. Her leadership skills provide an exceptionally broad experiential base, which has resulted in unprecedented growth in Stearns’ operations and performance.”
Le’s journey to success started in Vietnam, where she was born, and included two perilous attempts to escape the Communist regime. The first attempt landed Le in a Vietnamese prison camp when she was 15, the second included being rescued from a fishing boat in the middle of the ocean.
After enrolling in a California high school, Le learned English and went on to college. She began her career with Merrill Lynch and joined Stearns in 1995. In 2011 she was honored as the outstanding businesswoman/most prominent female executive in the Orange County Business Journal.
Le is also an active member of St. Vincent De Paul, a nonprofit charitable organization, as well as her family foundation, Companions In Grace.
As EVP of National Fulfillment at Stearns Lending, Suzy Lindblom led in the reorganization of Post Closing through loan delivery saving, which will result in over $15 million per year saved through efficiency and productivity improvements. She has also worked to improve the application to fund date while managing record processing and underwriting volume for Stearns.
“Suzy has been instrumental in streamlining processes which assisted in doubling productivity and reducing turn-around times in loan delivery, which in turn has reduced shipping time and overall costs,” her nominator wrote.
“She has managed to spearhead and implement these changes without decreasing head count and morale.”
Lindblom currently sits on the Freddie Mac manufacturing operations advisory board, where she has influence over the loan delivery process to Freddie Mac. She also sits on the Fannie Mae risk advisory board where she works to ensure that loans purchased by the GSE are risk-free.
Aside from overseeing fulfillment operations and recent productivity and efficiency improvements in Post Closing, Lindblom has a proven track record of achieving defined business goals and strategies in past roles.
Prior to her tenure at Stearns Lending, she managed over 2,000 retail, wholesale, correspondent and reverse fulfillment employees, directly managed four division managers, and oversaw the migration of fulfillment from over 200 branch fulfillment centers to 30 self-contained fulfillment centers at MetLife Bank.
She was also able to reduce manufacturing error by 50% while also increasing productivity during Metlife Bank’s transition to a fulfillment center model.
Paulina McGrath is president and co-owner of Republic State Mortgage Co., chair of the Community Mortgage Lenders of America and a board member of the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association.
“Paulina understands firsthand what it takes to run a successful mortgage lending company. She has been an outspoken advocate for the industry and has led the CMLA to achieve a number of its strategic goals, positively affecting community based lenders’ ability to provide affordable mortgages and improve business profitability and operational efficiencies,” her nominator said.
In October 2014, Paulina led a CMLA delegation meeting with White House staff and presented ideas for invigorating the residential mortgage market, key among them a reduction in the FHA premium — which President Obama announced in January 2015.
In addition, as Congress considered the 2014 government funding bill in December 2014, CMLA was alone in opposing a proposed 4 basis point fee on FHA loans intended to fund new technology upgrades. Under McGrath’s leadership, CMLA was successful in persuading key Congressional members to eliminate the fee proposal – saving FHA lenders $100,000 for every $250 million in FHA originations.
Another CMLA effort led by McGrath in 2014 was successful in reducing unnecessary repurchase demands on lenders from the GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. She has also been at the forefront of a debate over the recapitalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
In April, McGrath testified on a panel before a House Subcommittee hearing on regulatory burdens on nondepository financial institutions and presented a series of actions to streamline regulations for community-based mortgage lenders, banks and nonbank lenders.
Beth Mlynarczyk leads Two Harbors’ strategy for private industry innovation, incorporating public policy, efficient financing, risk mitigation and consumer benefits.
Mlynarczyk previously worked for the U.S. Treasury Department, where she served in the capital markets group from 2010 to 2012, and as senior advisor to the counselor on housing finance policy from 2012 to 2014.
At Treasury, Mlynarczyk coordinated financial reform rulemaking to implement the Dodd-Frank Section 941 asset-backed securitization risk retention rule. She led a team of professionals from six different agencies and regulatory bodies, which required the right mix of diplomacy to help a diverse group with varied objectives reach consensus. This rule helps to support more responsible securitization practices in the future and reduce the risk of a repeat of practices seen in the lead-up to the crisis.
Through August 2014 she contributed to a plan to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, including contributing to legislation passed out of the Senate Banking Committee in May 2014.
“Beth has a unique ability to develop solutions that seamlessly balance the basic human need for housing with practical policy and financial market considerations. Her leadership skills carefully combine thoughtful problem solving, seeking out others’ expertise, and a strong drive to develop solutions for our housing finance system now and in the future,” her nominator wrote.
In September 2014, Mlynarczyk joined Two Harbors Investment Corp. and has led their efforts regarding new product development. She has worked to identify gaps in the market, assisting to identify and develop origination guidelines to meet borrower profiles that are not well-addressed by the current mortgage market.