When someone mentions “Quicken Loans,” many think first of the largest direct mortgage lender in the country. Those that have financed a home through the company will probably smile, based on the company’s industry-leading rankings in the annual J.D. Power client satisfaction survey.
Or perhaps they may think about the creator of Rocket Mortgage, the brand that did more than any other to advance the industry toward the digital mortgage and that convinced a new generation of home loan borrowers that getting a mortgage didn’t have to be all that difficult a process.
But only very successful third-party originators are likely to think first of Quicken Loans Mortgage Services (QLMS)
, the third-party origination side of the Quicken Loans business. I say most successful because company data suggests that brokers who worked with QLMS grew their businesses three times faster than those who did not over the past 12 months.
To find out why—and to let them know that they were this month’s Legend of Lending—I called upon Austin Niemiec, executive vice president at QLMS, for some more detail.
What he gave me where the top three reasons more brokers are working with his firm than ever before, why the company thinks this is very good news despite its success in the direct channel and what third-party originators should be thinking about right now.
Three reasons QLMS is winning in wholesale
Quicken Loan’s TPO business serves banks and credit unions on the correspondent side and brokers through wholesale lending. The company helps its partners originate, underwrite, process, fund and close the loans they sell—assisting smaller businesses all across the country.
Quicken Loans launched QLMS in 2010. At about the same time most other big loan originators were leaving the third-party channel, Quicken Loans was moving in. It turned out to be a good strategic move.
“We have earned these relationships by virtue of our unique position in the market,” Niemiec said. “It’s our experience and because of the unique value adds we provide to small business owners.”
Specifically, Niemiec is talking about three key benefits QLMS delivers to its origination partners:
“We give them a robust and a very balanced menu of products and pricing to sell,” Niemiec said.
He pointed out that many lenders have opted to narrow their product focus, becoming strategically focused on a niche. While this has worked for wholesale lenders in the past, Niemiec says now is the time to offer a broader mix of options to home loan borrowers.
QLMS offers all of the agency product and the government-insured loans through FHA and VA, along with jumbo loans for higher balance mortgages. He says the company’s interest rates are competitive, making it easier for brokers to get and keep the business.
“We've been doing this for almost 35 years,” Niemiec said, “so we have a process that's very dialed in.”
He says QLMS can close extremely fast and do it while taking much of the heavy lifting off of the brokers, including many of the vendor items such as homeowners insurance, payoffs and income verifications. QLMS also gives its partners visibility into where the vendor items are in the process, through its portal, so partners are never in the dark. Niemiec says his firm takes on a lot of the origination and processing work that other lenders won’t.
And this one is probably a no-brainer for most readers of this publication. Quicken Loans has invested heavily in its technology and Niemiec says the company shares much of it with its third-party originators.
“We're nearing 2020 and technology has become ingrained in this industry,” Niemiec said. “We're a technology leader. The technology that we're able to provide is second to none.”
The company offers its partners “Guru,” a multimillion dollar piece of origination technology that Niemiec calls “a Google for mortgages,” and another called “The Answer,” that can interact with brokers, answering their questions and responding to very complicated queries. All of the tools the company makes available are designed to help originators find the right product for each client, and get more loans approved then they would have otherwise. Niemiec says it’s working.
The bottom line, according to Niemiec, is that his company’s size and experience allows them to do for brokers what no other lender in the country can do. And that’s good news, he said, because Quicken Loans needs the broker.
“We have a slogan, if you will, that is simply ‘Stronger Together.’ But it’s not just a slogan. It's really what we believe and it’s how we define our relationship with the brokers.”—Austin Niemiec, Executive Vice President, Quicken Loans Mortgage Services
A team that is stronger together
This may be surprising to hear from a mortgage lender that originates billions in loans by working directly with clients. In fact, I told Niemiec that I was surprised a lender the size of Quicken Loans would even be in the wholesale business. Niemiec educated me.
“We have a slogan, if you will, that is simply ‘Stronger Together,’” he said. “But it’s not just a slogan. It's really what we believe and it’s how we define our relationship with the brokers.”
Niemiec says Quicken Loans, by virtue of its size and industry experience, brings a lot to the table, but he said it can’t do what brokers do.
“Brokers do just amazing things in their communities,” he said. “Their relationships with Realtors are great. They're amazing at tying threads together to help folks in their communities and when we can free up their time so they can do what they do, it’s great. That’s how we combine our strengths.”
Niemiec maintains that when the broker’s strengths are combined with QLMS’s resources it leads to tremendous growth. His numbers back that up.
But is that really enough of a reason for a company as big as Quicken Loans to spend its resources on the wholesale channel. I wasn’t convinced.
So, Niemiec reminded me of where the company came from. “Much of the reason springs from the fact that the broker business is core to our DNA,” he said. He reminded me that the company started as a brokerage back in 1985. It was just Dan Gilbert and his brother, making loans in metro Detroit.
“We’re not some company with a hundred year history as a big bank with a board of directors sitting in some building in New York,” he said. “We’re still a privately-held company that was started by entrepreneurs who were out there building relationships with Realtors and going into folks’ homes to close loans at their kitchen tables.”
That entrepreneurial spirit is still at the core of what the company does today, Niemiec told me, and that wasn’t going to change.
Getting started with QLMS
Niemiec says that brokers who want to start a new relationship with QLMS will find it very easy to do so.
“We have a very strong team here that goes out and builds relationships with brokers, banks and credit unions,” he said. “But folks can always just give us a call. Our partner development team will talk to anyone that calls about partnering with us and will walk them through the process. It's very simple.”
Like other wholesale lenders, Quicken has an approval process that any new broker partner must work through in order to start brokering loans for the company. But unlike other lenders, QLMS can approve a broker and get the onboarding/training started in about a day.
“We give them an account, access to our portal and then we Rock ‘n’ Roll,” he said. We can go from ‘Hello’ to ‘Approved’ within 24 hours.”
Niemiec said the company’s momentum in regard to approving new partners has been great for the firm. At the beginning of 2018, he said QLMS was working with about 2,400 approved partners. Today, the company is working with about 6,000.
“Brokers are doing a great job of leveraging our product, pricing and technology,” he said. “It's catching on like wildfire.”
What brokers should be thinking about now
When asked what Quicken was advising its TPO partners to think about today, Niemiec didn’t hesitate.
“The biggest piece of advice we've been giving brokers over the last couple months is to invest in their businesses now,” he said.
Loan originators are doing a brisk business now as rates are low and home values are high. “Folks are buying homes,” Niemiec said. “Many brokers are doing twice as much business as they were last year.”
Niemiec says that human nature may lead many to take their foot off the gas a bit and cruise through this period of good fortune, but he says that would be a mistake.
“Invest in your business right now, while times are good,” he said. “Don't just focus on keeping up. Focus on the long term. Even when you're busy, you have to spend time building better processes.”
Niemiec said brokers should use the money they are making now to hire and build their teams or to invest in better technology or more strategic marketing. In this “era of abundance, you should really double down on your business and go all in,” he said.
Part of that work will involve partnering with wholesale lenders, which Niemiec said should include more than just QLMS. Another surprise for this old reporter.
Competition is a key element of the entrepreneurial mindset, he told me. Brokers need to make sure they are partnering with many lenders so they can offer their borrowers the most choice.
“One of the biggest advantages of being a mortgage broker is that brokers have choice,” Niemiec said. “Brokers with limited choice lose power.”
QLMS is happy to bring more competition to the industry because Niemiec says competition drives companies to be better, to enhance their technologies, and to provide competitive pricing. All of these things are good for the broker.
“I would urge all brokers to go out there and partner and get choice,” Niemiec said, which may be one of the best reasons to make sure that QLMS is one of your choices.
Rick Grant is special reports editor for Mortgage News Network. He may be reached by phone at (570) 497-1026 or e-mail [email protected].