BioWilly Walker is chairman and chief executive officer of Walker & Dunlop. Under Mr. Walker’s leadership, Walker & Dunlop has grown from a small, family-owned business to become one of the largest commercial real estate finance companies in the United States. Walker & Dunlop is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and in its first ten years as a public company has seen its shares appreciate over 800%. The firm was also #17 on Fortune’s 2017 list of “Fastest Growing Public Companies”, and has been named a Best Workplace for five of the past six years by the Great Place to Work® Institute. Mr. Walker received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2011 and was named “Financier of the Year” in 2017 by Commercial Mortgage Observer.Mr. Walker received his master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University. He formerly served on the boards of St. Albans School, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and Children’s National Medical Center. Mr. Walker is also a member of the Real Estate Roundtable. Mr. Walker is an avid runner, skier and cyclist, and has run the Boston Marathon in 2:36Show NotesCurrent Role- His role has changed dramatically over the years as the firm has grown exponentially (4:25)Big company capabilities with a small company feel (5:10)Travel frequently to keep the culture “small company” (5:45)Keep the “Walker Way” constant as a culture for the company (6:10)Origin StoryFather, Mallory Walker, was his predecessor as CEO (8:00)Mother, Diana Walker, was involved in politics as White House photographer for Time Magazine (8:15)Parents were DC business people and political world with each of his parent’s influences (8:40)Away to boarding school and collegeWent to Latin America for 10 years (9:30) Had no “grounding” there and had to establish his own relationships and reputation outside his family influences (10:30)Got a letter from friends in the US telling him of their exploits and he was reading books (11:10)Instead of going to Wall Street he went to Paraguay in 1989 after school and spent three years there (12:45)After going to HBS he then returned to Chile to work for a venture capital firm (13:45)Subsequently, he went to TPG and then a call center company called Teletec and went to Argentina (15:00)Moved to London to run Teletec in Europe (16:00)Ten years of non real estate investment banking experience (16:50)Returned to DC to run Walker & Dunlop (17:15)Had been on the board from 1998 to 2003 before taking the reins of the company (18:20)When he arrived he noticed that politics was talked about in the office and he wanted to eliminate that unless it relates to business (20:10)Looked carefully at the fundamentals of the business and its vulnerability due to the brokerage aspect of the business due to its volatility (21:25)Servicing portfolio when he joined was $3B and is now $112B generating $300M in annual recurring revenue (22:50)Legacy of the New Zealand “All Blacks”- No Dickheads (Jerks)- Created a “No Jerk” policy at W&D yet he had one that provided 70% of his firm’s revenue (23:50)Learned that he needed to scale the business to remove the “jerk” from the company (25:40)Created first 5 yr. business plan and scaled the company to the point where he could afford to ask him to leave (26:00)Approached by a fellow Board member (Ken Rothschild) in 2004 asking why he didn’t go to another company. He responded why not make W&D grow? It then happened. (27:50)Going public was stimulated after purchasing AIG’s business debt exposure (28:45)First company in the real estate sector to go public post Global Financial Crisis, yet was a “small cap” company of $250M at the time (30:00)W&D offering first SOFR adjusted rate bond issuance- JP Morgan is running the book on the issuance and wanted to do it with a real estate firm (31:10)Public company gives access to capital markets (33:00)Fortress deal selling CW Capital required W&D having the public company’s stock to trade for the acquisition (33:20)Acquisition of Column Financial from Credit Suisse in 2009 was first acquisition (34:10)Willy brought in the concept of acquiring companies and understood the capital markets way beyond mortgage banking which was a vision that was untraditional in the business (35:45)14 acquisitions (37:00)Stock not used as much for acquisition. Its multiple has grown from 8x PE to 16x PE due to business diversity (37:40)Companies are sold not bought (40:10)Determined to transform W&D into a different company when he began even though it was profitable (40:50)Cites Howard Smith as a great partner as he knows the mortgage banking industry well…he’s the Mr. Inside to Willy’s Mr. Outside (41:45)Were members of Strategic Alliance Mortgage, a strategy partnership and he was frustrated with its thinking and he left it immediately (43:00)In October, 2007 he told the company he would grow revenues, EBITDA, and net income 5x in five years and almost hit them exactly in 2012. This was the first “Five Year Plan” (43:45)Since then he succeeded with subsequent Five Year Plans that also met their goals almost exactly (44:45)Vision 2020 succeeded almost exactly as planned. Ambitious enough to be difficult but achievable (45:45)Drive to 2025 Vision is a model based on past (46:30) Analogous to the Jim Collins “Flywheel” concept (47:50)Story of watches- his wife gave him a watch when he crossed $1B in market cap. He just bought another watch recently anticipating a $4B market cap. He had “missed” earnings earlier this year and was nervous about analyst reaction. (48:10) Q2, 2021- Inscription: “Breathe” and “18x” (50:00)Just jumped over JPM, Wells Fargo, and CBRE to be the largest multifamily lender in the company- W&D has much fewer employees (1,200) and have integrated technology to make themselves more efficient (52:00) Competitive firms need to scale down employment to be competitive (53:00)People, Brand and Technology- Investments in all aspects (53:30)Most recent acquisition- Alliant is the 5th largest tax credit investor to expand affordable space (54:20)Pandemic stock price began at $75/share, dropped to $25/share in April, 2020 and is now about $175/share (55:30)Cites the Southern Management portfolio financing– the largest deal in company history ($2.4B portfolio debt financing) during the pandemic (56:00)People coming back to the office now but haven’t mandated it (57:40)Flex office vs. ownership- he likes flex office today (58:50)New headquarters in Bethesda (59:15)Hiring- habitually hired student athletes which causes a feedback loop (1:01:00)Recruiting has expanded considerably (1:02:30)Diversity is now important- HBCU institutions (1:02:35)Competition for talented minority students (1:03:00)Aiming at NCCU with a scholarship (1:03:30)Skill sets much broader (1:04:10)He is shocked that interviewees know as little as they do when they should know what they want and why they are there (1:05:00)Discussion of life change that Willy experienced with his separation from his wife and subsequent reconciliation (1:07:15)His colleagues at HBS decided they wanted a “life” first before they took a job (1:07:50)He took a job anywhere that would take him regardless of environment (1:09:20)He almost “burnt the bacon” in his life (1:09:50)“Taking Charge of Anger” by Dr. Robert NayTook a quiz to determine his anger and realized he was “off the charts” (1:10:30)Anger is driven by “missed expectations” (1:11:30)Dr. Nay ran him through the “missed expectations” in life with him and realized his expectations were poorly aligned (1:12:00)He was a “control freak” and “put people under his thumb” and realized that it was counter productive (1:13:00)He reset his life including with his wife and children (1:14:00)Translate things being taken personally to just an event in the world (1:16:00)Taking pride in a career and care about you do (1:17:15)Learning experience much better when you learn what you don’t want to do or make mistakes (1:18:15)Again cites Howard Smith as staying in one firm for 40 years (1:20:00)Scale helps grow company’s employment options (1:20:50)Advice to 25 yr. old self- Learning through failures and not through successes (1:21:45)If one goes to a family company, be a bit more mindful of the legacy of Walker & Dunlop as opposed to Willy Walker, Inc. (1:22:50)Competitiveness has been his “brand” and not a “dickhead” (1:23:40)Billboard statement: “Truth”- Discusses the conjecture and conspiracy theory and wants to get back to reality and facts. Happy to be away from Washington DC’s political environment (1:25:20)Where is there a place for non polarized truth seeking people? (1:27:30)PostscriptColin Madden Interpretation ((1:29:30)Founder mentality (1:30:45)Growth trajectory (1:31:30)Perspective that Willy had a significant past career in management before joining Walker & DunlopTransformational perspective- Column Financial acquisitionAbility to communicate vision takes a special person to accomplish goalsNo Rules Rules (Netflix) book referenceReal estate industry has several successful individuals who have egos with an attitude and can be jerks and don’t know that they are that way and use fear to impose their willAvoid “cultural terrorists”His watch story interested Colin (His watch is a Tudor-a former Rolex brand)Discussion of his anger management issuesReference to Satya Nadella interview saying that empathy is the most important emotion for leaders todayDarwinian ability to survive and growIndustry changes making data as the new “oil”Walker & Dunlop Performance Metrics Since Willy Walker Joined in 2003Net Worth in 2003 was approximately $25MM. Market Capitalization in October, 2021 is $4.14B, which is over 160x growthThe above metric translates to $610,000 per day of value creation since Sept. 2003 until todayChart of Stock Price right after IPO in October, 2011 to October, 2021Similar EpisodesBen Miller, Fundrise (#1) and (#2)Matt Kelly, JBG Smith
CEO and athlete Willy Walker discusses balance, overcoming injury, and managing expectations
Willy Walker turned his company, Walker & Dunlop, into a force in the commercial real estate world. When he took the family business over in 2003, it was valued at $25 million. Now, Walker & Dunlop is worth well over $3 billion and has been public for over a decade. He joins the WHOOP Podcast to share his thoughts on balance, gratitude, and mental well-being. Willy is candid about his experiences and what he’s learned along the way to become the best version of himself. Willy discusses, growing his business (2:44), separating your personal life from your professional life (7:34), using WHOOP (15:20), running marathons (17:21), injuries and the toll they take on your body (22:38), measuring the impact of alcohol (27:30), the importance of family (38:33), understanding anger (40:30), accountability (43:03).Support the show (http://whoop.com)
Willy Walker, CEO of Walker & Dunlop, on Capital Markets During COVID-19
Real Estate for Breakfast
In this episode of Real Estate for Breakfast, Willy Walker, chairman and chief executive officer of publicly traded Walker & Dunlop, joins host Phil Coover to discuss the capital markets and the impact of the Great Recession and COVID-19 on that industry, as well as Walker and Dunlop’s explosive growth over the past 12 years. While discussing the evolution and growth of Walker & Dunlop, Mr. Walker and Phil discuss specific industry sectors such as hospitality and retail from both the landlord and tenant perspective. In addition, they dive into office space and how the need for and use of space may change moving forward. This includes a discussion of working from home and the development of corporate culture. Phil also gets the chance to ask Mr. Walker about the decision to take the company public and the ramifications of that decision. Willy Walker is chairman and chief executive officer of Walker & Dunlop. Under Mr. Walker’s leadership, Walker & Dunlop has grown from a small, family-owned business to become one of the largest commercial real estate finance companies in the United States. Walker & Dunlop is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and was #17 on Fortune’s 2017 list of “Fastest Growing Public Companies.” The company has also been named a Best Workplace for five of the past six years by the Great Place to Work® Institute. Mr. Walker received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2011 and was named “Financier of the Year” in 2017 by Commercial Mortgage Observer.Mr. Walker received his master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University. He currently serves on the boards of Children's National Medical Center and the Mortgage Bankers Association, and he is a member of the Real Estate Roundtable. Mr. Walker is an avid runner, skier and cyclist, and has run the Boston Marathon in 2:36.For more information, visit https://www.walkerdunlop.com/.
Real Estate REality Check | Real Estate & Business Career Success Education and Training
PODCAST RECORDED ON March 3, 2020 Introduction: Willy Walker, an avid skier, cyclist, family man and Boston Marathon runner who once clocked in with an outstanding time of 2:36, is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Walker & Dunlop, one of the largest commercial real estate finance companies in the United States. I came away from my hour long chat with Willy recognizing that I was not only a bit smarter from it, given some of the pearls of wisdom he threw my way, but also cognizant of his passion to make a difference and his conscious and/or subconscious belief in two quotes and a song title that I believe play an integral part in one’s path to success ... namely that of “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard” (Kevin Durant), “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle” (Honest Abraham Lincoln), and “Can’t Knock the Hustle” (Jay-Z). Episode Notes: At 0:55, Willy Walker discusses planting seeds and his empowering chat with Jim Collins, author of the bestselling book Good to Great. At 2:52, Willy touches upon Walker & Dunlop acquiring and integrating companies and human capital being the real value in its business. At 4:34, Walker shares Colin Powell’s thoughts on decision making and taking calculated risks. At 5:46, he dives into taking Walker & Dunlop public in 2010. At 7:40, Willy speaks on change, opportunity and “countercyclical moves.” At 13:05, Walker addresses culture and scaling at Walker & Dunlop, and informs us of a past “cancer” within the organization. At 16:38, he chats about the recent acquisition of Aaron Appel’s AKS Capital Partners team. At 19:44, Willy provides some negotiation pointers and explains the importance of watching and listening. At 23:49, Walker dishes on adding value and his passion for the business. At 27:07, he talks about Walker & Dunlop’s range of clients, understanding the time value of money and taking care and upgrading assets. At 32:17, Willy voices his thoughts on diversity in the workplace and the pertitance of building a “bench” through recruitment and investment. At 36:14, Walker chats about networking and maintaining relationships. At 41:36, Walker dishes on his “no phone policy” during meetings, and discusses his retreat last year where he “learned to unplug.” At 46:42, Willy dives into Walker & Dunlop’s partnership with GeoPhy through artificial intelligence and machine learning. At 50:35, Walker believes that tough times increase collaboration, while allowing one to see what someone is actually made of. At 55:08, Willy Walker closes out the podcast sharing part of his recent conversation with Jim Collins, and discusses Walker & Dunlop making calculated bets.
William “Willy” Walker is the chairman, president and CEO of Walker & Dunlop, a 76-year-old company that is the tenth largest commercial mortgage lender in the United States. The company was co-founded by his grandfather in 1937. For most people, joining the family business right after college would have been the automatic choice. But when Willy received his MBA from Harvard, he took a daring, unexpected detour. In true entrepreneurial fashion, Willy by-passed apprenticeship, refused great offers from several top American firms, and instead flew south: first to Chile to work for a venture capital firm, then to Argentina, where he drafted a plan for a startup airline – knowing very little about aviation. The advice given to him by a mentor was a guiding principle: “Accumulate as many scars as quickly as possible.” In conversation with ENTREPRENEURradio, Willy illustrates the advantages of taking risks and confronting failure early on. His experiences in South America (where cultural differences sometimes led him into tough spots) taught him how to balance his idealism with the realities of being out in the field. He says: “You need to be prepared to accept failure, and you need to understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Put your head down and keep pushing forward.” The ability to push forward served him well when, after more than ten years in Latin America Europe, he returned to Washington to lead Walker & Dunlop through the difficult 2008 real estate crisis. The risks he took- and the triumphs he achieved- earned him the 2011 Ernst and Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award for his category in the Washington area. How willing are you to take risks as you navigate the realities of business? Download this podcast at ENTREPRENEURradio.org for more.