Established in 1937, Walker & Dunlop is one of the oldest and largest multifamily and commercial real estate finance companies in the US. In addition to making loans to commercial real estate owners and developers of everything from student housing to senior housing, it also provides investment sales brokerage services to owners of multifamily properties. Over the past two decades, it’s grown exponentially, ranking as one of Fortune Magazine’s Fastest Growing Companies in 2014, 2017, and 2018. To find out more, read on for 10 things you didn’t know about Walker & Dunlop.
1. It was founded in 1936
In 1936, Oliver M. Walker and Laird Dunlop teamed up to found Walker & Dunlop. Based in Bethesda, Maryland, the company swiftly achieved success. According to the Walker & Dunlop website, it was one of the first companies in the US to use FHA insurance to make single-family home loans during the Great Depression. In 1947, it appointed its first life company correspondent. It also began to use Taft-Hartley funds for mortgage and real estate investment – a first for the era. From there, it quickly began expanding its network of partners and driving its business in the capital markets space.
2. It offered the first government-backed mortgage bond
In the 1930s, Walker & Dunlop pioneered the use of FHA insurance to make single-family home loans. In the 1940s, it was the first company to use Taft-Hartley funds for mortgage and real estate investment. Its habit of breaking new ground continued over the proceeding decades. In 1971, it completed the first government-backed mortgage bond for the U.S. In 1988, meanwhile, it became one of the first companies to qualify as a Fannie Mae Delegated Underwriting and Servicing Lender, a status which allowed it to underwrite and deliver the majority of loans without pre-review.
3. Its CEO is Willy Walker
Walker & Dunlop’s reigning CEO and Chairman is Willy Walker, the grandson of original founder Oliver M. Walker. Walker joined the family business in 2003, having previously served in executive positions for companies across Europe, Asia, and Latin America. According to stlawu.edu, two of his most prominent past roles were as the president of the European and Latin American divisions of TeleTech, a global business process outsourcing company, and as the general manager of a regional airline start-up in Argentina. He achieved his Master’s degree in Business Administration from Harvard University and his bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University. Widely recognized as one of the most influential CEOs in the country, Walker has received numerous accolades and awards over his career, including Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award for Financial Services in the Washington Region in 2011.
4. It’s grown hugely
When Willy Walker joined the family business in 2003, it was a small company that, while doing relatively well for itself, wasn’t exactly in the business of making news headlines. Had he wanted to, Willy could have continued in that vein forever – after all, it afforded a decent enough income. But instead of coasting along on the status quo, Willy decided to aim for bigger and better things. During his tenure as CEO, the firm’s revenue has tripled and its number of employees has grown from 50 to over 1000. According to MSN, its yearly revenue growth has averaged 23 percent over the past decade, compared to the median of 5.3 percent for the S&P 500. Its growth has even exceeded the likes of Apple, which experienced growth of 21.7 percent over the same period. Its trailing 12-month net income has spiked even higher, with a 38 percent compound annual growth posted in the past 10 years.
5. It acquired Column Guaranteed LLC in 2009
With Willy at the helm, Walker & Dunlop quickly began to reach for the stars. In 2009, it began what would turn out to be a major program of acquisitions with the buy-out of Column Guaranteed LLC, an affiliate of Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC. At the time, Column had a $5.0 billion servicing portfolio which, along with its Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD operations, led to a significant expansion of Walker & Dunlop’s offering.
6. It doubled in size in 2012
If 2009’s acquisition of Column expanded Walker & Dunlop’s loan origination capabilities, it was nothing compared to what was to come in 2012. That was the year the company acquired CWCapital LLC, a former subsidiary of CW Financial Services LLC. The acquisition effectively doubled the size of Walker & Dunlop and its loan origination capabilities. 2 years later, it grew again when it acquired Johnson Capital’s servicing and origination platforms, a move that saw its Capital Markets presence in the West and Southwest grow substantially.
7. It entered the Multifamily Investment Sales space in 2015
In 2015, Walker & Dunlop broke into the Multifamily Investment Sales space when it acquired the Southeast-based investment and advisory and brokerage firm, Engler Financial Group, LLC. Since then, its Multifamily Investment Sales team has grown significantly, and it now works with numerous clients, companies, national developers, and REITS to arrange investment sales transactions for various multifamily property types, including student housing, land, and Class A. By 2020, the division was generating $6 billion in apartment property sales volume. One of its most recent successes is the $55 million sale of the Trophy Multifamily Community in Los Angeles, CA.
8. It expanded its New York presence in 2017
After spending several years expanding in California, Walker & Dunlop decided it was time to beef up its East Coast presence. In 2017, it did exactly that when it acquired the loan origination platform of commercial mortgage brokerage and advisory firm, Deerwood Real Estate Capital. The acquisition significantly increased the company’s presence across both New York and New Jersey. That same year, it expanded its operation again when it added $2 billion to its servicing portfolio with the acquisition of Atlanta-based mortgage banking firm, iCap Realty Advisors.
9. Its latest acquisition is Zelman & Associates
Walker & Dunlop has been acquiring companies left, right, and center over the past few years. According to Wikipedia, in the last three years alone its acquired Enodo, an artificial intelligence and technology firm; AKS Partners, a New York-based independent capital markets advisory firm; and FourPoint Investment Sales Partners, a brokerage firm specializing in student housing and multifamily properties. In May this year, it announced the latest in its long line of acquisitions after acquiring a controlling interest in Zelman & Associates, the US’s leading housing research and investment banking firm. According to Yahoo! Finance, the agreement is subject to customary consents and regulatory approvals: providing all goes well, the deal is expected to close during the third quarter of 2021.
10. It’s a great place to work
If you’re in the market for a new job, you’d struggle to find a better company to work for than Walker & Dunlop. The benefits are extensive, with each employee receiving a $7,500 check and a vacation on their tenth anniversary with the firm. Its Glassdoor reviews are outstanding, with 90 percent of employees saying they’d recommend the company to a friend and 93 percent saying they approve of CEO Wily Walker. Unsurprisingly, its received numerous accolades for its workplace culture, including a place on Fortune’s “Great Place to Work – Best Small & Medium Workplaces” list every year from 2012 – 2018.
11. It went public in 2010
In 2010, CEO Willy Walker decided the time was ripe to take Walker & Dunlop public. It completed its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, the first mortgage banking company to do so in four and a half years. As a testament to the company’s growth under Walker’s stewardship, its share price has appreciated over 800 percent in the past decade.
12. It’s award-winning
Prior to Willy Walker’s appointment to the role of CEO, Walker & Dunlop was a well-respected company but one that, ultimately, wasn’t making waves. Sine he took over, all that’s changed. It’s now not only one of the largest companies in the sector, but one of the most decorated. Just a small sample of the awards and titles it’s received include Fannie Mae DUS Lender in 2012-2014, 2017, 2019, and 2020; Fannie Mae DUS Green Lender for Fannie Mae in 2016 and 2017, Multifamily Capital Provider in 2020, Multifamily Investment Sales Broker in 2017, Freddie Mac Multifamily Approved Seller/Servicer in 2016 and 2017, and CRE Capital Lender in 2020.
13. It’s committed to diversity
Like most companies, Walker & Dunlop has a diversity policy. But whereas it’s simply a box-ticking exercise for certain firms, Walker & Dunlop walks the talk. Their Employee Resource Groups, which include Women of Walker & Dunlop (WoWD) and several LGBTQ+ groups, are incredibly active in organizing events and providing a space for open dialogue. Its partnerships with organizations such as Coqual and Kahilla ensure ongoing support for its workforce. It’s even appointed a VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the shape of Jason Golub to help keep the topic at the top of the agenda.
14. It makes its money in various ways
Walker & Dunlop has a diverse range of services, with each contributing in varying degrees to the company’s finances. Around half of its revenue comes from making loans to commercial real estate owners and developers. Around a quarter comes from its line of business serving monthly payments for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Department of Housing and Urban Development loans. The remainder of its money comes from financial transactions.
15. It has some well-known clients
Walker & Dunlop works with a huge number of clients from a wide range of verticals. Some of the most well-known names on its client list include Paradigm Companies, JBG, the Bozzuto Group, and Federal Capital Partners.
16. It leads from the top
Willy Walker may have overall responsibility for Walker & Dunlop, but he’s not the only one to contribute to its success. Working under Walker is a small, committed team of managers that are striving to push the business forward. These include President and Board Member, Howard Smith; Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Paula A. Pryor; Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Stephen Theobald; Executive Vice President, Marketing, San Weber; Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Richard M. Lucas; Executive Vice President and FHA Finance Group Head, Sheri Thompson; Executive Vice President, Business Development, Greg Florkowski; Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Jason Golub; Executive Vice President, Multifamily, James Cope; Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Kelsey Duffey; President, Investor Relations, Aaron Perlis; Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, David Levy; Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer, Debbie Casale; Executive Vice President, Servicing, James Schroeder; and Senior Vice President, Internal Audit, Scott Spencer.
17. It manages a multi-billion dollar real estate portfolio
What was once a small, family-run business has now transformed into an industry giant. Walker & Dunlop’s team of loan servicing professionals now manages a portfolio that, with a value of $107.2 billion, ranks as one of the largest commercial real estate portfolios in the country.
18. It’s the fourth-largest lender to commercial real estate in the US
This April, Walker & Dunlop announced that based on the 2020 Mortgage Bankers Association loan origination ranking, it’s now the fourth-largest lender to the U.S. commercial real estate industry. Confirming the news, apnews.com notes that the company has grown its total lending volume at a 25% compound annual growth rate over the past decade, increasing from $2.7 billion in 2010 to $24.7 billion in 2020.
19. It wants to top Wells Fargo
Ceo Willy Walker may already have done great things at Walker & Dunlop, but he’s far from done yet. In numerous interviews, he’s said his main goal is to overtake Wells Fargo as the biggest lender to the U.S. commercial real estate industry. “Our goal to be the premier commercial real estate finance company in the United States was established in 2010 when we lent a relatively small $2.7 billion, versus Wells Fargo in the top spot at over $30 billion,” he’s said. Considering Walker & Dunlop now rank at number 4 in the league table of commercial real estate lenders, he’s already well on the way to achieving his goal.
20. It operates from 38 offices
Over the past two decades, Walker & Dunlop has increased its staff to over 1000. As its payroll has increased, so has its physical presence. Today, it operates from 38 offices nationwide.