Summary: Formerly a Senior Vice President within Washington Mutual and Countrywide, Paul Needels discusses his experiences at both institutions, comparing the evolution of their distinct cultures and business strategies, especially given both firms involvement in various mergers and acquisitions. He elaborates on his involvement with residential constructing lending and third-party lending at Washington Mutual and later with wholesale lending at Countrywide. Needels describes how Countrywide engaged with brokers and discusses how Countrywide’s business model influenced conversations within the firm leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Needels provides insightful commentary on the growing vulnerabilities of the mortgage market in the 2000s, highlighting how unsustainably poor underwriting and the mispricing of systemic risk across the market, particularly by rating agencies, resulted in the origination of mortgages that likely should not have been originated. Reflecting on his experience at two of the most critical institutions within the mortgage market in the run-up to the financial crisis, he also recommends that firms and their employees exhibit more of the self-discipline that allows one to walk away from seemingly profitable practices that have harmful long-term repercussions for the community.
Biography: Paul Needels is currently Director of Finance at Happy Kids Foundation, a nonprofit organization advocating and fundraising for the developmental progress of a small group of orphaned and vulnerable children in Ghana. Paul is former Senior Vice President of Strategy and Customer Success at Informa Research Services, a provider of competitive intelligence, market research, and mystery shopping services to the financial services industry. Mr. Needels has 30 years of senior management experience in the banking industry. A former Bank of America executive, Mr. Needels began his banking career in 1980 with United Banks of Colorado as part of their commercial lending team. In 1985, Mr. Needels joined Coldwell Banker Commercial Realty working with commercial properties. He then moved on to Home Savings of America FSB where he ran their consumer lending group. From Home Savings, he oversaw Wells Fargo recruiting as a Consultant in the early 2000s. Thereafter, he went to Washington Mutual Bank as a senior vice president in their lending production division specifically dealing with retail and third-party lending. In 2005, Mr. Needels joined Countrywide as Executive Vice President of Wholesale Division. In 2008, Mr. Needels joined Bank of America through their acquisition of Countrywide as Senior Vice President of Wholesale Lending. Mr. Needels earned his BS degree in Finance from University of Colorado at Boulder and he received his MBA from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.