Freddie Mac CEO: Our innovations help lenders help borrowers

On the investment side of mortgage finance, there is plenty of change afoot

Things are looking comparatively good at Freddie Mac. At least, for mortgage lenders.

Second quarter income is up slightly from the first quarter this year, when the company reported comprehensive income of $2.2 billion, and up even more from the second quarter of 2017, when it saw a comprehensive income of $2 billion.

First, some quick background.

The larger of the two government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae, is faced with a leadership change. At the head of the GSE regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, there is also some controversy at the top there, too.

But Donald Layton, the CEO of Freddie Mac remains solid. In a call with HousingWire this morning, he described changes in leadership as “routine,” mentioning that several directors helmed the FHFA since conservatorship began.

“Freddie Mac’s transformation continued in the second quarter, with good business results and similarly good financial performance,” Layton said in a release on his company's performance. “In business operations, our guarantee book grew significantly, credit quality was high, and we are generating a consistent stream of new innovations for our customers.” But who are his customers today?

Much has changed, Layton admits, on the mortgage lending front: “Life is very different now," than when he took over 6 years ago, Layton said. “Our innovations are aimed at our ‘customers’… and that’s lenders and ultimately that’s help for borrowers.”

Those innovations include expansion of appraisal-free approvals for ACE loans so “lenders can close faster, a week or two earlier,” than before and growing the low-down-payment mortgage, the Home One program, and especially the Small Balance Loan program on the multifamily side.

In regard to FHFA shelving plans for an alternative credit scoring model, which Layton himself first told me about four years ago, he is pragmatic: “The standard FICO is common for both lenders and investors," adding that “alternative credit scores have not stopped, they’ve just moved to follow what Congress specified” in the recent law enacted.

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