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Opinion, commentary and analysis on everything that makes the U.S. housing economy tick -- not to mention the ghosts in the machine, too. Written by HW's team of editors and reporters each business day.
Lending

Why you should think twice before jumping into the mortgage industry

There’s $9 billion of potential disruption

March 17, 2016

Innovation.

The word is used a lot in today’s mortgage market, but while any one can use a fancy word to describe their business, only a few can actually execute.

Four of these innovative businesses were gathered in New York City at Goldman Sachs’ one-day Housing Finance conference on Wednesday, where some of the top names in the business were invited to speak on the state of their respective part of the market.

As the day was coming to a close, Bill Emerson, CEO of Quicken Loans, Mike Cagney, CEO of SoFi, Anthony Hsieh, chairman and CEO of LoanDepot and Vishal Garg, founder and CEO of Better Mortgage, took the stage for their panel. Although everyone had sat in the same room for seven hours and there was only this panel left between them and home, the room was tuned in.

We were in the heart of Wall Street, but it felt like these CEOs were sitting with us over a cup of coffee in their laid-back offices back home.

And just as Quicken Loans, SoFi, loanDepot and Better Mortgage are disruptors in the industry, they were disruptors in the room.

These nonbanks have filled HousingWire’s headlines, from fighting back against the big guy (the FHA) to breaking into yet another part of the financial space beyond mortgages.

These competitors sat calmly next to one another, which made sense. They’re all fighting the same battle and breaking into a space that for so long has lacked innovation — and getting the same pushback from those still skeptical.

The four chatted and joked like buddies, engaging and capturing the audience more than any of the others, since everyone wanted to hear how exactly they were making this work.

Between jokes and quips here and there, the message became clear that while they are rapidly growing, this isn’t an easy process, and it’s not for everyone.

In response to being asked, “What keeps you up at night?” Cagney said, “It’s a highly regulated space, and there is a lot of ambiguity in the space right now. Things are very grey. You have to act on what you think is in the best interest of the consumer and hope that stands out in the process.”

Cagney joked that the regulators always come to his office in beautiful San Francisco when the weather elsewhere is bad. Hsieh chimed in that they treat them (the regulators) like a permanent guest in their office.

Bringing it back to a more serious level, Hsieh noted that as much as they poke fun at regulators, the regulation is a barrier to entry into the business. People are eye-balling the mortgage industry because of the $9 billion of potential disruption, Hsieh said. But it’s not easy.

Hsieh noted that while SoFi has been successful, it's easy for people to looking at this big pie, without seeing that there’s a big mess, too. 

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