Meet the MENtors: Joe Panebianco

A column by Christine Beckwith

Originally published in Morgtage Women Magazine, March, 2019

Our second featured MENtor of the month is none other than my very own mentor, Joseph Panebianco, President and CEO of AnnieMac Home Mortgage.  When Mortgage Women Magazine agreed to adding this new column as a 2019 staple of the magazine, I immediately thought of a man who more than fit the bill. I knew that this column, which highlights men from a female leader perspective, is a positive forward step in our evolution and time, and Joe has made some generous contributions in this area, not only for me but for so many other fortunate men and women.

Joe Panebianco was introduced to me by my long-term colleague and friend, the senior most leader of sales at AnnieMac Home Mortgage, Ryan Kube, 12 years ago.  In hindsight there could not have been a more fragile time to date than in 2007 when we were all clambering for solid ground due to the industry wide mortgage implosion. My journey with Joe began after his then Village Home Mortgage acquired me to run their New England-based origination branch and operation.

Over the past 12 years, Joe Panebianco’s leadership was called to action almost constantly.  Personally, he gave me many promotions, led us through difficult markets and helped create secure plans and safe visions of our future despite the constant volatility of our industry.  I, like so many others, found myself looking to Joe for security and direction. Joe is one of the most polished, articulate, economically intelligent and experienced leaders I have ever followed. He is also one of the most caring, compassionate and integral leaders I know. Joe gave me and so many others a safe haven in a world wrought with instability and an environment with culture built on recognition and celebration.  He was not afraid to have the tough talks and batten down the hatches when needed, and I have witnessed to his life-saving leadership on many planes and fronts.

Over time, Joe became a person with whom I spoke frequently for professional and personal advice.  In the 12 years we have spent riding along in our careers, we have raised families, traveled together, navigated through difficult years together, celebrated great years together and quite frankly we have survived together.  There is something to be said about a mentor, who understands people for all their nuances, strengths and even weaknesses. A leader who sees your value and focuses on your strengths; for so many of us, Joe is that person.

For me personally, Joe put faith in my leadership, empowered me, and trusted me and at a time when much of the industry was recovering and positions for women were scarce.  I was getting in line behind thousands of out-of-work senior leaders in 2007. Joe always made me feel worthy of the work I did and the position I held, and I knew how fortunate I was to find my seat at his table.

His History:

Like many of us, Joe got his start outside the mortgage industry.  He formerly worked as a fixed income portfolio manager at Lord Abbett & Co. where he managed billions of dollars of assets which he allocated among five major fixed income groups: Treasury, Agency, MBS/ABS, Corp, and Sovereign debt.  His specialization was mortgage and asset backed securities. He enjoyed his time there, learned a ton from a lot of people he claimed, “are so much smarter than he is,” worked his way up through the ranks, and never thought he would ever do anything other than that for the rest of his career.

At that time, he had a friend whose father owned a mortgage company.  This firm was having some issues understanding and executing on their mortgage hedge, struggling to determine fair value for the securities it shelved and sold quarterly, and was also was looking for someone who could deconstruct the firm into its component pieces to ascertain its true value.

As a favor to his friend, he met with the owner of this company…”one of those larger than life guys you found every so often during the halcyon days of mortgage lending,” he quipped.  What started as a meeting became a series of meetings and job offers. Together they came up with some terms that, even by Wall Street standards, seemed very generous. So, he decided to take a chance, go outside his comfort zone, and try something new.  There is so much more to this story from there, but it suffices to say that he absorbed all he could during his time there and eventually started his own career within the mortgage industry. The rest, as they say, is history.

Mortgage Women Magazine sat down with him to ask the staple ‘Meet the MENtors’ column questions:

MWM:  

“How do you feel being named as one of the featured professional male leaders in the banking industry as a person who has been credited to “elevating” Christine Beckwith’s career?”

What did Christine do to earn your support?

Joe:

First off, it’s a genuine honor to be featured in this article and to be considered a mentor by Christine. It’s not completely fair to give me credit for elevating Christine’s career. I am a firm believer in Jim Rohm’s philosophy that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with…in both business and professional settings. For obvious reasons we all have less control over who is born into our family but in our social lives and our work world we have much more control over those precious 5. So, I work hard at surrounding myself with people who are self-motivated, caring, focused and can execute.  Christine has these characteristics.  So, when I say it’s not fair to get much credit for Christine I’m essentially saying with or without me Christine would have excelled, and my contribution is nothing more than the occasional push in the right direction.     

MWM: What made you decide in life you wanted to become a leader and at what age did you know you would become one?

Joe: I don’t think I ever wanted to become a leader…I just wanted to make something of myself.  At a young age I was forced to learn some harsh lessons, the most important of which is that you have no one else but yourself to rely on.  When you realize that you begin to prioritize your life better and you also start pushing yourself in the direction you want to go.  Sadly, the world isn’t chock full of motivated people. So, if you have a strong enough “Why”, you’ve taken the time to vividly picture where you want to be in the future, and you set out daily, weekly and monthly goals that will get you there you will make something of yourself.  In most cases that means you will have people working for you – and that’s when you need to learn a whole new skill set called leadership. So, a long-winded way of saying I never envisioned myself as a leader way back when…I wanted to be something more than I was which ultimately takes you down the leadership path.   

MWM: As a leader, what are you looking for in professionals that tell you they have “it” or that they possess the talent necessary to succeed?

Joe: The first thing I look for us passion, the second thing I look for is intelligence, and the third thing I look for is someone who cares and understands people.  These three traits encapsulate much of what’s needed to effectively execute well over time and in any operating environment.  You might notice that experience isn’t on this list and while it’s great to have experience it’s absence on my list is not unintentional.

MWM: As a father, like all fathers, you have a desire no doubt to leave a legacy but moreover to lead the way in a world that is very dynamic, somewhat volatile and obviously ever evolving. What advice would you give your grown children as they enter the world if they were to do so today?

Joe: Wow… a powerful question that probably requires much more of a response than you have room for in this article, but I’ll give it a shot. I’ve ingrained the “4 P’s” into the heads of my kids for years.  They are: Patience, Practice, Persistence and Passion… and not necessarily in that order.  You must first be passionate in life.  You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do but you must start somewhere and attack that journey with passion.  You must be patient and not expect immediate results or promotions…. something this generation will really struggle with. You must practice your craft over and over again. You are born with talent, but skill is only developed by hours and hours of practice. And if you have passion, you have patience, and you’ve been practicing, you then must have the persistence to stay focused, to not be dragged into the many distractions life has to offer.

MWM: Any final words for the readers?

Joe:  If you truly want to feel fulfilled in life, then you need to give back.  Material success definitely makes life easier at times, but you will still find yourself lacking something. Mentoring is a great way to give back and fill that void you will almost certainly feel if all you’re doing is collecting stuff.  So, I’d like to challenge the readership of this magazine to find someone who could use your advice and guidance. If you commit to that you’re likely to get a reward that outweighs the gift you’re giving.

In ending, I will state that in your life, as it marches on, and it will march on, you will one day find yourself at some intersection that is nostalgic.  A time or moment that draws you back to reflect on your path, your past and your journey thus far. When that happens for me, I see all that I have amassed, my life lessons, my accolades or awards, my privileged life as a coach and I have so much of that to thank to Joe and AnnieMac Home Mortgage in its entirety, the leaders and colleagues, employees and subordinates.  All of them have helped me create the professional life I have and that has helped me create the beautiful life I lead.

Christine’s Final Words About Joe: Thank you, Joe Panebianco, for knowing right where to be and when in my and so many other careers.  When I look back you have shown up at the most crucial times in my career. Whether you knew just when to be ready to inset yourself or you truly have an eyesight as the captain to all your many crew’s needs, which seems impossible on this enormous ship, I thank you!  You have steered the ship to safe waters time and time again and continue to stand call at the bow. It is no wonder you have such a dedicated crew and I am proud to have served under you for so many years. Thank you for your belief in me and more over for reminding me to believe in myself.   One day I hope your children will sit and read this article and it will bear a small light to the leader you are and have been for so many people. I already know you will continue to fan the flames of female professionals who are qualified and desire leadership roles, like you have for me. Thank you for being my mentor!

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