Chairman Roy Whitehead Earns Lifetime Achievement Award

Feb 02, 2017

Congratulations to our very own Roy Whitehead, Executive Chairman, on receiving the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award at Seattle Business magazine’s Executive Excellence Awards gala on January 25. Whitehead and 13 other honorees were selected by an expert panel of judges for their extraordinary and consistent leadership within the Pacific Northwest.

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“These men and women inspire us with the strong, thoughtful way in which they have led their organizations to success,” said Leslie Helm, executive editor of Seattle Business magazine.

Mr. Whitehead currently serves as Washington Federal’s Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors. He first joined the Bank in 1998, where he led the organization as President, Chairman & CEO for over 15 years. 

He and his wife Rhonda are long-time residents of Seattle and are active in contributing to the city’s economic and philanthropic growth. Mr. Whitehead serves on the boards of the United Way of King County, the Washington Roundtable, Year-Up, and the Downtown Seattle Association. Additionally, he is the Chairman of the Washington Bankers Association. 

Congratulations Roy! For a complete list of honorees, please visit the Seattle Business Magazine’s event website.

Excerpt from the Seattle Business magazine's Executive Excellence Awards publication:

By the time Roy Whitehead arrived at Washington Federal in the late 1990s as the prospective successor to the savings bank’s CEO, he knew a thing or two about steering a financial institution through tough times. He had begun his career during the recession of the mid-’70s and later experienced the severe Texas oil slump of the 1980s that drove nine of the 10 top banks in that state to failure.

When Whitehead took the helm at Washington Federal in 2000, even the bursting of the tech bubble was “not a bump in the road for this company” by his reckoning. Far more impactful, he says, was the challenge of all-time-low interest rates that affected the bank’s balance sheet, as well as consolidation of the housing-finance industry.

Reflecting on the institution’s traditional emphasis on residential housing, Whitehead says, “That strategy served us well for over 20 years, but it wasn’t the one going forward.” Whitehead and his team crafted a multiyear plan to diversify Washington Federal’s business model, shifting to more commercial and real estate investing. “We effectively converted from peacetime to wartime,” Whitehead says. Today, 70 percent of the bank’s loan originations are commercial.

That foresight helped Washington Federal navigate the rough shoals of the 2008 financial crisis. The bank remained well capitalized, maintaining full employment as other financial institutions folded or merged. It also was better able to work with the troubled accounts it did hold, modifying loans to give about 3,000 families the breathing space they needed to stay in their homes. Whitehead attributes its ability to do so to being a portfolio lender, meaning the bank holds all the loans it makes, affording more flexibility.

 A year later, Whitehead stepped up acquisitions and Washington Federal became the first bank to launch an offensive round of raising capital during the recession. A secondary offering of equity brought $1.5 billion in commitments, driving six acquisitions in the past five years. In 2013, after operating for 96 years under charter as a federal thrift, Washington Federal converted to a bank. Whitehead serves as chairman of the Washington Bankers Association, committed to the single profession of his life.

After Washington Federal’s nearly 100 years of helping local communities to thrive, he says, “We’re dug in, and investing for the long haul.”

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