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Global borrowers - Best corporate borrower

SLM Corporation

If you still think that Sallie Mae is just another US agency, you're behind the times. For a start, its official name, since last year, is SLM Corporation. Nevertheless it's still widely referred to, even by its own executives, as Sallie Mae. But the name change is just one step the company has taken as it has gradually shifted away from the role it was created for in 1972, to be the chief buyer of student loans originated by other financial institutions.

It still does that, and will continue to do so, but in the 1990s it realized that it was fast becoming a commoditized business and that there would be little if any room for growth. Sallie Mae lobbied Congress to change its mandate, at the same time as the Clinton administration was starting to question the role of government guarantees to the agencies.

Congress finally passed new legislation in 1997 that allowed Sallie Mae to move beyond simply buying up student loans in the secondary market into the more lucrative fee business of originating loans. That has had a marked effect on its business, says SLM's chief financial officer, Jack Remondi. "Now over 80% of the loans we buy directly, not from other financial institutions," he says.

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