Principal and Interest

Jay Farner is vice chairman and president of Rocket Mortgage, having risen through the company as a close associate of Dan Gilbert and cementing his key role by guiding Rocket in the wake of Gilbert’s stroke in 2019. Rocket went public with Farner’s guidance last August.
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Approved Mortgage loan application with house key and rubber stampJay Farner is vice chairman and president of Rocket Mortgage, having risen through the company as a close associate of Dan Gilbert and cementing his key role by guiding Rocket in the wake of Gilbert’s stroke in 2019. Rocket went public with Farner’s guidance last August.

Q: How does Rocket handle competition?

Farner: How can we disrupt the business we’re in and bring value to our clients? If we’re doing that, then most of the work we do here is focused on executing our own strategies and less on what the competition is doing.

Q: Can this cluster of mortgage companies leverage their concentration here for the greater good of our area and state?

Farner: I don’t know about collective effort, but we can leverage our work for the greater good on a variety of fronts. Our mission really isn’t mortgages, per se, but how to build a technology platform that transforms complicated transactions. We also pour our success and profits back into the community.

Mat Ishbia started at his father’s small company as the 12th employee, running faxes and making $18,000 a year. By 2013 he was CEO, and he has exploded UWM to an employer of 9,000 people. Ishbia took it public in January 2021.

Q: How did you come to grow into the company after your father, Jeff Ishbia, started it?

Ishbia: In 2009, we began growing bigger than he’d expected, and over the next couple of years I bought the company and took over from my father. He has his fingerprints all over the business; he taught me how to treat people. He’s a smart businessman and has started lots of businesses. This one turned out to be very, very large.

Q: What’s the key to the UWM culture that attracts so many job applicants?

Ishbia: We’re all part of something special together. It’s not just the amenities here, the basketball court and library and massage room and arcade. The important thing is how we treat people, how we all lunch in the cafeteria. We take care of people and treat people well.

Phil Shoemaker gained his spurs in the mortgage business in Texas, but he was intrigued by Willie Newman, founder and now president and CEO of Homepoint. Shoemaker joined the company in 2019 and is now president of originations. The company has 2,600 employees.

Q: What intrigued you about Homepoint, causing you to leave Caliber Home Loans?

Shoemaker: A couple of things were unique. We’re big on culture and creating a company that has a little more balance among the different constituents. There are investors, associates, and partners. Often, companies are too focused on the investor side.

Q: What’s different about the Homepoint business model?

Shoemaker: We scale, doing a decent amount of production that gives us efficiency across our fixed cost structure. We do it with a sales and support team that’s in each market, dispersed across the country. That gives them closer connections with partners, and it’s a nice alternative to what UWM and Rocket offer.

Lee Smith joined Flagstar Bank in 2013, and in 2020 moved from COO to president of mortgage operations. In April, Flagstar announced a merger with New York Community Bancorp, which will keep the Flagstar brand in the Midwest and a regional headquarters in Troy, including mortgage operations.

Q: Why does Flagstar have such an outsized mortgage business?

Smith: Other banks haven’t focused on the mortgage business. The difference showed itself in a low-rate environment like 2020. Sixty percent of our earnings are generated from our mortgage-services businesses, which was one of the focuses of the merger. That amount used to be 90 percent. With our partner, we’ll be a bigger and more diversified bank.

Q: How would you describe the Flagstar culture?

Smith: It’s very team-oriented, transparent, and communicative. You can never over-communicate here. We’re stronger together. Anybody can talk with anybody about anything, any time. There are no silos. We believe in great service, trust, and accountability. We don’t micromanage; we give our team the tools and platform to be as successful as possible.

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