Walker & Dunlop’s success in 2019 reflects the breadth of our platform and our ability to deliver strong profitability while setting the stage for continued growth over the coming years.
William M. Walker, Chairman & CEO
Walker & Dunlop’s success in 2019 reflects the breadth of our platform and our ability to deliver strong profitability while setting the stage for continued growth over the coming years.

 

This letter was composed in early March 2020 as COVID-19 had just begun to take hold in the U.S. The full impacts of the virus on the economy and the commercial real estate industry have yet to be seen. What we do know as we compose this letter today is that we have the platform, the people, the balance sheet, and the access to counter-cyclical capital through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD to continue to operate our business in periods of market stress, just as we have been successful doing in the past.

DEAR FELLOW SHAREHOLDERS

2019 was an extremely successful year for Walker & Dunlop, as we delivered strong financial results while heavily investing in future growth through banking and brokerage talent, new business lines, and technology initiatives and made continued progress towards our mission of being the premier commercial real estate finance company in the United States. Our scaled platform is supported by a fantastic corporate culture that we have carefully maintained as we have grown, positioning us very well for future success.

During 2019, we generated $817 million of total revenues, up 13% from 2018 on record total transaction volume of $32 billion. Diluted earnings per share increased 10% to $5.45, the fifth time over the past six years that our team has delivered double-digit earnings growth. We grew adjusted EBITDA1 by 13% to $248 million, largely due to strong growth in our servicing portfolio to $93 billion at December 31, 2019 and the increase in its related cash revenue streams. We had an extremely successful year of recruiting, hiring 26 talented bankers and brokers across the country; and in the first two months of 2020, we added an additional property sales team in Austin and acquired two debt brokerage firms in Columbus, Ohio and New York, New York.

The sustainable cash generated by our scaled business model allows us to continually reinvest in our business, and at the same time provides us with the financial flexibility to return a portion of our capital to shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases. In February 2020, we increased our quarterly dividend by 20% to $0.36 per share, the second 20% increase since we initiated the dividend in February 2018 and authorized a $50 million share repurchase plan over the next 12 months. We are confident that we can continue to grow our dividend over time while making continued investments to fuel long-term growth.

We feel good about our established brand, national footprint, and the recent investments we have made that will help us make continued progress towards Vision 2020 over the next several months. Vision 2020 is the five-year strategic growth plan that we set out in 2016 to broaden our servicing offerings and drive strong financial performance, with the goal of growing annual revenues from $468 million in 2015 to $1 billion by 2020. In order to achieve this ambitious objective, we needed to scale our existing business verticals dramatically and grow new business verticals to create additional sources of revenues, and we set 2020 targets of $30 to $35 billion of annual debt financing volume, $8 to $10 billion of annual property sales volume, a $100 billion servicing portfolio, and $8 to $10 billion of assets under management. We ended 2019 with a record $27 billion of debt financing volume and $5 billion of property sales volume. The hiring we have done and investments we have made over the last several years, including the bankers and brokers we brought on over the past few months, will be important contributors to our growth as we look to hit these volume targets in 2020. Even as we have diversified our lending and grown our property sales footprint across the country, we have maintained our standing as a top-three multifamily lender with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD, giving us access to counter-cyclical capital that will support our debt financing business through all market climates. The next component of Vision 2020, and a byproduct of the annual debt financing volume target we established, is growing our servicing portfolio to $100 billion. For the past five years, we have added an average of approximately $10 billion of net new loans to our servicing portfolio on an annual basis, and we are on track to achieve this goal during 2020. The servicing portfolio is the backbone of our business model, as it generates steady, contractually obligated cash servicing fees. The final pillar of Vision 2020 was establishing ourselves as an investment manager, and then growing our assets under management (AUM) to $8 to $10 billion. We ended 2019 with $2 billion of AUM, impressive growth for a business vertical we did not have in 2016 when we laid out Vision 2020. Establishing ourselves as an investment manager has broadened our access to capital beyond our traditional lending partners, while also providing alternative products to our debt financing and property sales teams to sell into their client relationships. We have been very pleased with the strategic benefits we have gained from our interim loan joint venture with Blackstone Mortgage Trust and JCR Capital, a Registered Investment Advisor that we acquired in 2018, and investors should expect us to continue scaling this business over the coming years to meet our AUM objective of $8 to $10 billion.

As we continue to build out our service offerings, increase our relevance to our clients, and provide our shareholders with strong financial results, we are also more focused than ever on the impact of our business on the environment and on our communities, both inside and outside of Walker & Dunlop. We are committed to maintaining a corporate culture that encompasses diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas and supports our employees in their personal and professional development. Outside of our workplace, we feel a sense of responsibility to the communities in which we lend, work, and live, with a passion for housing that is rooted in our history and operations. For many years, we have aligned our charitable activities with the mission of ending poverty and homelessness in the United States while also supporting our employees in their personal philanthropic endeavors. And finally, we are committed to acting as good stewards of our environment and minimizing the environmental impact of our operations. To that end, in 2016 we began measuring our carbon footprint and plan to be carbon neutral in 2019 for the third consecutive year. We are focused on expanding our sustainability initiatives over the coming years to reduce our carbon footprint and enhance reporting on our progress towards all of our long-term corporate responsibility goals.

Walker & Dunlop’s success in 2019 reflects the breadth of our platform and our ability to deliver strong profitability while setting the stage for continued growth over the coming years. I’d like to thank you for your support of our company and our long-term vision.


William M. Walker,
Chairman & CEO