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Fannie Mae CEO Tim Mayopoulos: Conservatorship has been very successful

On his last day as CEO, Mayopoulos looks back and looks ahead

Tim Mayopoulos spent a good part of his literal last day as CEO of Fannie Mae at the Mortgage Bankers Association Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., looking back at his nearly 10-year tenure at Fannie Mae and looking ahead to the future.

Mayopoulos has served as Fannie Mae’s CEO since June 2012, and spent nearly a decade helping rescue the government-sponsored enterprise from the brink of failure.

Given that it was Mayopoulos’ last day at Fannie Mae, he was asked to look back at his time at the GSE and the government’s efforts to save the company and its counterpart, Freddie Mac.

Despite other prominent housing figures stating earlier that morning that the GSE conservatorship is unstable and undesirable, Mayopoulos complimented the government on its decision to bail out the companies and place them in conservatorship for 10 years.

“Conservatorship has been very successful,” Mayopoulos said. “What the government did worked quite well. Under the supervision of the [Federal Housing Finance Agency], the companies have recovered and helped millions of homeowners. We returned to profitability and saw sustained profitability, and we’ve brought levels of innovation that the industry has never seen before.”

Mayopoulos said he was originally recruited to spend “12 to 18 months” at Fannie Mae, but ended up spending nearly 10 years there instead. (For a deep dive into Mayopoulos’ tenure at Fannie Mae, read HousingWire Magazine’s cover story on Mayopoulos from September.)

“Fannie Mae has come a long way in that time,” Mayopoulos said. “The crisis was a very humbling experience for our company…Our people felt like the company failed the country.”

But since then, Fannie has stabilized and is reliably profitable. And despite a growing push in D.C. for sweeping housing finance reform, Mayopoulos said the GSEs have already seen tremendous reforms in the last few years.

With Fannie Mae on good footing, Mayopoulos is stepping away and awoke Tuesday as a “retired” man.

But don’t expect him to stay that way. He told the crowd at MBA Annual that he “loves to work,” and after some time off for traveling, he plans to stay involved in housing, saying that he has an “abiding passion” for affordable housing and technology.

And Mayopoulos has some thoughts on those two matters.

While he acknowledged the debate surrounding GSE reform, he said the real debate should be about how we can make housing more affordable in this country.

“We’ve spent 10 years debating what the housing finance system should look like, but affordability is the real crisis in housing. This is not sustainable,” Mayopoulos said. “We have to have a real national strategy on how we can build more housing for people. We should think of housing as the core infrastructure of our society. As a country, we’ve underestimated what it takes to make that a fact.”

And as for the technological side of things, Mayopoulos predicts a smartphone-focused housing experience in the future, where a prospective buyer can take a picture of a house on their phone and instantly get the value of the house and mountains of information about it. Then, with a swipe, grant access to their financial information and have a mortgage offer for the house ready to go in “minutes, or hours.”

Mayopoulos also said the mortgage business needs to look to today’s technological giants as guiding lights for the future.

“We’re facing some tough market conditions right now, but the companies that are going survive and thrive are the ones who can deal with that and move forward in the technological advancements in the industry,” Mayopoulos said. “Look to Amazon and Google for what people want now and in the future.”

And with that, Mayopoulos left Fannie Mae and the mortgage business behind…for now.

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