Walker & Dunlop, the parent company of Green Park Financial, merged with Column Guaranteed, a subsidiary of Credit Suisse Group at the end of January.

The merger will combine Green Park and Column under the name Walker & Dunlop, creating one of the largest multifamily lenders in the business and the largest independent multifamily lending shop in the nation.

Walker & Dunlop, already a top Fannie Mae lender via Green Park, will now have a Freddie Mac and Federal Housing Administration license courtesy of Column-and those licenses couldn't have come at a better time. The agencies are expected to continue their domination of the multifamily market in 2009.

"We'll be real disappointed if Walker & Dunlop doesn't have a $3 billion year this year," says Howard Smith, the firm's chief operating officer.

In 2008, Green Park and Walker & Dunlop provided about $2 billion to the multifamily industry, and Column originated around $805 million of agency business combined.

Walker & Dunlop added 33 employees through the merger as well as office locations in Atlanta; New Orleans; Plano, Texas; Walnut Creek, Calif.; and New York.

The family-owned Walker & Dunlop sees a big opportunity this year as other capital sources recede. Many banks are still struggling to dig out from losses related to subprime mortgages and will lessen their commercial real estate exposure in 2009.

But Walker & Dunlop's independent status gives it a competitive advantage in today's market. "We've stayed exactly who we've been, and we'll have our day in the sun right now without a lot of the issues that our competitors have," says Smith.

Credit Suisse will own a minority interest in Walker & Dunlop and will have two board seats. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Kieran Quinn, president of Column, will assume the role of vice chairman, and William Walker will be CEO of the new entity, headquartered in Bethesda, Md.