Michael Berman has embarked on quite a journey in the last few years.
After CWCapital LLC was sold to Fortress Investment Group in 2010, Berman envisioned forward success for the company he founded 21 years ago. Two years later in September, the Needham, Mass.-based lender was acquired by Walker & Dunlop, making it the second largest multifamily lender in the nation.
Although its acquisition will force Berman to give up the reins to his empire, he says it will only improve upon CWCapital’s success. It also gives him time and opportunity to make larger moves in the industry.
“I am planning to focus a lot of my efforts on the future of GSEs and the government’s role in housing,” says Berman, who is now serving as executive vice president at Walker & Dunlop and focusing on government affairs.
Over his lengthy tenure, he’s managed to assemble the right group of visionary employees who thrived and grew within the company. In fact, he cited the grooming of talent as one of his proudest accomplishments.
“I think that the whole was truly greater than the sum of the parts,” Berman says.
But these days, he’s redirected much of his focus to public policy. Along with helping Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker during the transition, Berman plans to use his acquired mix of public policy and lobbying skills to help ensure future mortgage liquidity and simply “give back" to the industry. He’s been in a public policy role for about five years, after serving as chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association and advocating for single- and multi-family issues. He has since recognized the need to fix liquidity for financing for the coming generations.
“Everything on Capitol Hill over the next 18 to 24 months will have an impact [on housing] over the next few decades,” Berman says.
Already, Berman’s schedule is filled with meetings with White House and HUD staff in Washington, D.C., as well as congressional leaders on Capitol Hill. He’s become a huge part of the housing dialogue, but the discussions have been anything but simple.
“There’s certainly diverging views on what should happen,” Berman says. “I’m trying to create a consensus. Educating [legislators] is a key priority; one of my objectives is increasing [that].”
Much of the legislative focus in the next few months will be placed on the debt ceiling and the tax code. The second half of next year, a significant amount of attention will be shifted to the future of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA, Berman says.
But creating legislation aimed at reforming housing finance will take at least two years.
“My guess is the kind of legislation we’re looking at will affect things for the next 25, 30 years or more,” Berman says. “Ten years to be phased in, almost two years to actually pass.”
Berman’s next steps include figuring out the most effectives modes of combining business, public policy, and education. By next year he expects to create a course outline to teach real estate and public policy at a graduate level. Berman will continue on the business side of real estate, participating on boards for both for- and non-profit entities. And whether it’s consulting or advising, he is sure to increase his voice on Capitol Hill, working with think tanks and, he hopes, closely with new administration.
“It’s certainly an entirely new chapter for me,” he says.
A previous version of this story mispelled Walker & Dunlop's name. The story has been updated.