Dan Gilbert on big banks, debt, and risk

Quicken Loans founder: Debt is what's going to kill you

In a recent profile in Forbes, Dan Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, shared his vision for the revitalization of Detroit and how Quicken Loans will play a huge role in that endeavor.

Gilbert and Quicken Loans put their money where their mouth is when it comes to helping Detroit. Gilbert moved Quicken Loans’ offices to Downtown Detroit in 2010 and Gilbert has purchased more than 60 properties in the area, with a total outlay of more than $1.3 billion.

Quicken Loans has grown exponentially in the last few years, and is now the largest nonbank mortgage originator in the U.S.

The growth of Quicken Loans has been very good to Gilbert. According to the Forbes article, Gilbert has built a $4.2 billion fortune by selling mortgages online.

It’s taken many steps for Quicken to grow to that level of success and Gilbert has learned quite a few lessons along the way.

Gilbert shares a few of those lessons in a new article on, which contain excerpts of his interview with Forbes’ Joann Muller.

Here’s Gilbert on “bad banks”:

“A lot of the problems in the mortgage world, people said, were because our competitors were evil. But a lot of it was a lack of technology — bad processes and systems. They didn’t have controls like we do. I cringe when people say they were sadistic, or they’re an evil empire. It was more irresponsible and reckless….The mortgage business is notorious for operational disaster. That was one of our things early on – when we started putting technology in, in the mid- to late-90s, we said let’s build a national platform so we can do lending in all 50 states. That’s harder to do today because post-Armageddon, the regulatory levels are so high. It would be almost impossible to build today what we were able to build.”

Gilbert also touches on Quicken’s business model, which is built on a massive mortgage warehouse line of credit of somewhere between $3-4 billion at any given time.

“We (sell our loans and) pay that back right away,” Gilbert said. “In Detroit, we bought everything for cash. Now we are refinancing that at 65 percent loan-to-value for two major office buildings. Debt is what’s going to kill you.”

Click the link below for more of Gilbert’s thoughts on risk and trusting his gut.

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