Jim Konrath was born in West Bend, Wisconsin, and graduated from Slinger High School. The first-generation college student grew up on a dairy farm, and neither of his parents had more than six years of formal education.
Konrath chose to come to University of Wisconsin-Whitewater because of its strong reputation in business studies. He remembers taking required speech and English grammar classes and thinking, “Why am I doing this?” While he hated them at the time, he said, “In retrospect, those classes were very useful. I’ve given thousands of speeches, media interviews and presentations over the course of my career.”
Also extremely helpful when he looks back was a compulsory one-credit course about how to write a resume and a cover letter, which he put to good use when companies came to campus to interview.
Konrath returns to campus on April 22, 2017, to accept a Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement as part of the university’s Founders Day celebration.
After graduating in 1969, Konrath joined General Electric’s financial management program, which offered recent graduates multiple career, growth and management opportunities. One of those opportunities was a stint on the corporate audit staff, which exposed young managers to various aspects of the international company that at the time manufactured everything from toasters and light bulbs to locomotives and nuclear power plants.
On the corporate audit staff, Konrath worked on whatever had to be done, from mergers and acquisitions to selling companies and businesses. He was traveling extensively and away from home more than 250 nights a year.
“It gave me an unbelievable exposure to different things,” he said. “I traveled around the world and all over the U.S.”
When GE Capital acquired Singer Sewing Machine’s credit portfolio, Konrath was assigned the responsibility of reviewing the operation and determining the quality of the assets. During that assignment, Konrath realized that his education and experience would allow him the opportunity to manage a profit-and-loss center at GE Capital, something that generally required an engineering degree at GE. Not long after that assignment, Konrath joined GE Capital in the manufactured housing financing division.
After leaving GE, he founded Security Pacific Housing Services in 1983 and served as president and CEO of Security Pacific Financial Services, where he managed 1,900 employees in 350 branches providing secured and unsecured consumer financing.
Konrath co-founded Accredited Home Lenders in 1990 and served as its chairman and CEO until his retirement in 2008. Before it was sold to a private hedge fund in 2007, Accredited Home Lenders employed more than 4,000 and originated more than $1.5 billion in new mortgages a month. In 2003, the company went public and was named the “Best Performing IPO-2003” by NASDAQ. Konrath was on hand to open NASDAQ, where they had him sign his name on an electronic pad and told him to make it “really big and bold.” Later that day he got to see the company logo — and that big, bold signature — sprawled across a multi-story electronic billboard in Times Square.
“That’s a long way from Slinger!” he thought.
After Accredited Home Lenders, Konrath co-founded and served as chairman of the board of LendSure Financial Services from 2008 to 2016.
“One of the most fulfilling parts of my career has been to create professional success, not just by and for myself, but with and for the people I had the opportunity to work with,” he said.
“UW-Whitewater provided some of my first epiphanies,” said Konrath. “I’ve started and founded a number of businesses and I’ve been very impressed to come back to campus and the Whitewater University Technology Park Innovation Center and spend time with the faculty and staff and share some thoughts and ideas with them.”
Konrath met his wife, JoAnne, on campus. She graduated with a degree in elementary education and became an elementary school teacher. They have two adult daughters and four granddaughters and split their time between San Diego, California, and Lake Tahoe.