Q&A: Jeff Kibbey ’79 is Zillow’s New VP of Compliance After Successful Careers in Law and the Mortgage Industry

Jeffrey Kibbey ’79 hit the ground running after his Orchard experience. After he graduated from Tulane Law School, he established a firm in Louisville, Kentucky, which grew to include offices in Lexington and Cincinnati. He was recognized as the nation’s top litigation counsel by multiple multi-national banking entities.  
 
Most recently, Jeff was General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at Sierra Pacific Mortgage Company. That was until he received a call from Zillow, the largest online database of real estate information in the world.
 
Catch up with Jeff in our Q&A below to find out more about his new position and how he credits Orchard for helping him discover the joy of learning.
 
Four decades have passed since you graduated from Orchard. Do you still keep in touch with anyone from your class?
Absolutely.  Facebook has been great for that, although I think I would have maintained lifelong friendships from Orchard regardless.  It’s funny - I keep in regular contact with around fifteen classmates, but only one high school friend, and no one from college or law school.  My Orchard friendships go all the way back to sixth grade.  That’s pretty incredible when you think about it – how our lives have been either loosely or closely linked since we were ten or eleven years old.  I know that many of my classmates regularly meet up on weekends, and if I were closer to Indy, I would probably do that, too.  We have had a few unofficial reunions through the years – I’ve attached a photo below from 2014 with members of our eighth grade class.  One of my classmates started working in the Sacramento/El Dorado Hills area just shortly after I left that area – missed each other by days!  What a coincidence.
 
We heard you recently moved up north from El Dorado Hills, California to Seattle, Washington.  
That’s right.  In California, I was General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at Sierra Pacific Mortgage Company, one of the nation’s top twenty mortgage lenders.  It was really my “dream job” …… until I got a call from Zillow.com.  They asked me to come to their headquarters in Seattle and work with them as they prepare to enter the mortgage industry as a lender.  So I now work as Vice President of Compliance for Zillow.com, and as Chief Compliance Officer for Zillow Home Loans and Zillow Group Marketplace.  Zillow maintains the largest online database of real estate information in the world with over 110 million unique listings every month.  In addition, Zillow provides a wide array of real estate related products and services through its affiliated entities such as Trulia, Street Easy, DotLoop, RealEstate.com, HotPads, and a few others.  Anyway, it all happened petty quickly.  My wife was out of the country when Zillow called, so I made a shore-to-ship call to her, told her about the opportunity, and by the time she got back on dry land, we had made the decision to move to Seattle! 
 
Zillow sounds like a fun job—everyone loves to peruse that site. I bet this made your move a lot easier haha.
You bet!  In fact, I found my last two houses on Zillow.com.  And who hasn’t perused Zillow to check out the Zestimates?  It’s a lot of fun – but also a really useful tool.  It’s great to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the website is evolving and developing.  There are thousands of people working to improve Zillow.com every day.
 
What was your educational journey after graduating from Orchard?
I like to say that I had the best high school education – I went to five high schools!  Haha.  After Orchard, I started working in professional radio while I went to school, and that carried me around the country at a really young age.  Ultimately, when I felt like I had completed my journey in broadcast media, I went to Tulane University and then Tulane Law School in New Orleans, where I graduated with honors.  Orchard prepared me really well for Tulane – early on, I realized that school could be a lot of fun.  Some people learn to dread going to class, but I learned that class is where you challenge yourself, and have a lot of fun doing it.  Classes were never anything to dread, or to be anxious about.  So Orchard, as much as anything else, taught me about learning as much as it taught me about what I was learning – be it grammar, math, science, etc.
 
What kind of role has Orchard played in getting you to where you are today?
The progressive educational plan that Orchard pursues, I think, teaches far more than just the rote academic basics.  It gives you the building blocks for the whole person, and when used actively and correctly, shapes you socially, academically, and emotionally.  I have a deeper level of confidence when I stand in front of a jury, or when I’m briefing Congressional committees on finance theory, because I know I’m prepared, and I know I have a solid foundation.  I know how to connect with people that I’m talking to, and that’s something that is instilled through the kinds of experiences that Orchard provided me.  When you’re secure in who you are, and what you are doing, the world can open up for you.
 
Final words: any specific teacher have a substantial impact on you?  
Missy Cummins used to tutor me at the Eli Lilly estate, which was always a treat for me.  Imagine reading Dickens in Mr. Lilly’s greenhouse!
 
In my first semester in 7th grade grammar class, Mike Brown graded me with a “D minus minus minus.”  At first, I thought I’d appeal the grade, since there’s no such thing as a “D minus minus minus.” I was pretty sure that I would win that one, but Mr. Brown quickly convinced me that my appeal would only lead to a worse grade – and there’s no such thing as an “F plus.”  I was appropriately shamed and humbled, and I quickly learned that "taking it easy” had consequences that were, let’s say, unsavory and un-doable.  I never got less than a “B” in any class – ever again, all the way through law school.  It was a great wake-up call, and one that stays with me to this day.  “D minus minus minus.”  Pure genius.
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    • (L to R): Becky May, Jeff Whitesell, me, Fritz Harbridge, Eric Renner, Jill Bishop, Kirstin Johnson.  (It may be hard to see, but Jill’s daughter is holding a cake that is decorated with our 8th grade class picture).

      (L to R): Becky May, Jeff Whitesell, me, Fritz Harbridge, Eric Renner, Jill Bishop, Kirstin Johnson. (It may be hard to see, but Jill’s daughter is holding a cake that is decorated with our 8th grade class picture).

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