Quicken Loans executives speak at mortgage industry conference in Detroit.
Gilbert says Quicken Loans is more of a “data acquisition business” than mortgage company.
Emerson: Young consumers won’t change how they make purchases with smartphones.
Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert is a mortgage mogul.
Except he doesn’t view his business that way.
“We’re not really in the mortgage business. We’re in the data acquisition business,” Gilbert said Tuesday at a Mortgage Bankers Association conference at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. “We acquire data, we curate it and we move it. That’s all we do.”
Gilbert and Quicken Loans’ vice chairman, Bill Emerson, shared the stage Tuesday morning at an opening session of their industry group’s conference, talking about how they see their business differently than its traditionally viewed by outside observers.
They talked about Quicken Loans’ transformation from a paper-intensive residential mortgage business in the 1980s and 1990s — then known as Rock Financial — to a tech-driven company based in downtown Detroit that has leveraged the internet to sell and service home loans faster and at rapidly increasing volume.
Quicken Loans has climbed to the top echelon of the mortgage business, claiming to top, for the first time, industry stalwart Wells Fargo & Co. in volume of mortgage originations in the fourth quarter of 2017. First-quarter 2018 mortgage origination data is not yet available, but Emerson suggested Tuesday that Quicken Loans would retain the top spot in the direct retail mortgage sector.
Without naming competitors, Gilbert said the ability to use a smartphone to make a major purchase like a home threatens the business model of legacy companies and industries.
“If they don’t get on the train, it’s going to be over,” he said. “The writing’s on the wall, right?”
In the future, Gilbert said, the only businesses that will survive are those that “keep up with the speed of the game,” invest time and capital in new ideas and “let people fail.”
“We’re seeing it already,” Gilbert said.
Emerson, who joined Gilbert’s company in 1993, took out his iPhone and noted the smartphone has all of the functions of multiple machines “that Radio Shack would sell — clocks and phones and computers and calculators” to customers just a decade ago.
Radio Shack, which went through bankruptcy 2015 and shuttered nearly all of its stores a year ago, is an obsolete way to shop for the average first-time homebuyer who is 32 years old, Emerson said.
“They’re not going to change the way that they purchase things, they’re not going to change what they do with this little device,” said Emerson, who spent 15 years as CEO of Quicken Loans until becoming vice chairman in February 2017. “If we don’t, as an industry, embrace this, get our brains around it … we’re out of the game.”