Business Career at Golden West

In 1963, Herb and wife Marion Sandler founded Golden West Financial Corporation, a California savings and loan holding company with two offices, 26 employees and $34 million in assets. They served as husband-and-wife Chairmen and CEOs of Golden West for more than 40 years. Its operating subsidiary, World Savings Bank, grew rapidly and became the second largest savings and loan in the country.

By 2006, when the company was acquired by Wachovia Corporation, Golden West had grown to $124 billion in assets, had approximately 11,000 employees, and 520 offices operating in 39 states.

Golden West was a risk-averse residential mortgage portfolio lender that operated for more than 40 years with a reputation for ethics and integrity, quality lending, an unparalleled earnings record, high tangible net worth and low expenses. Unlike other financial institutions, Golden West kept its loans on its own books and did not securitize and sell loans to others. Under the Sandlers’ joint leadership, Golden West was considered to be one of the best managed financial institutions in the country by many industry observers.

Among Golden West’s accomplishments:

  • Golden West produced compounded annual earnings-per-share growth of approximately 19% during its 40+ year history, a record unmatched by any company in American corporate history, with the possible exception of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
  • The compounded annual growth rate of Golden West’s stock price was more than 17.06% over the 37-year period from December 1968 (when the company went public) to December 31, 2005 (Golden West’s final year as an independent company). Ten thousand dollars invested in Golden West in December 1968 would have been worth more than $3.38 million by December 31, 2005.
  • Golden West maintained high capital (all tangible capital), had among the lowest expenses in the mortgage industry, and had the industry’s lowest loan losses over its 40-year history. Golden West’s average annual chargeoffs throughout its history were less than 5 basis points, through several cycles of housing busts and booms, and Golden West had zero chargeoffs in its final eight years of operation as an independent company (1998-2005). See details.
  • Golden West was unique in having a Board of Directors comprised of a majority of women and was among the first banks to employ women as branch managers, loan sales representatives and appraisers.
  • Golden West advocated for sound public policies for the banking industry, even when its position put it at odds with other banks and trade groups. Golden West advised and warned regulators and others about potential risks in the banking system, and the company repeatedly called for greater regulatory oversight, transparency and accountability in the industry. Golden West was also a consistent advocate for high capital requirements, fair lending practices and strong regulatory oversight.
  • On 10 occasions, Fortune magazine ranked Golden West as the nation’s most admired mortgage services company or most admired savings institution. Morningstar, a leading provider of investment research, named the Sandlers CEOs of the Year in 2004.

Additional information about Golden West can be found at

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