Employee-owned Axia launches new wholesale division

Company is targeting $1.2B a year in run-rate for its new channel

Axia Home Loans, a Washington-based lender with an unusual ownership structure, is looking to break into the ultra-competitive wholesale space.

Axia, a 100% employee-owned company helmed by CEO Alexander Rosenblum, launched Unified Reliance Wholesale on Thursday.

The division, currently staffed by about 30 employees, will be siloed from the company’s longstanding retail operation, Rosenblum told HousingWire in an interview Thursday.

In the beginning, UR Wholesale will target the Southwest and California as it prepares to scrap for business with market leaders United Wholesale Mortgage, Caliber Home Loans, Home Point Financial and loanDepot.

“It’s a very competitive space,” Rosenblum said. “It’s something I’ve been working on for a while. Just looking at the growth of the market share that’s been going to brokers over the past three to five years is tough to ignore in the mortgage world.”

Rosenblum brought on industry veterans Dave Pilotte, Sigrid Hauser and Chris Seinturier to establish UR Wholesale, which is purchase-focused and will not retain servicing.

In the beginning, UR Wholesale will be looking to attract mortgage brokers by offering a specialty in “high-touch, high-service,” according to Rosenblum.

“It’s really going to be mainly about service excellence and being a reliable and consistent executor of originating loans,” he said in an interview with HousingWire. “We don’t shoot to be the lowest price – that’s certainly not what we’re looking to compete, like a Quicken or United. It’s going to be being a reliable partner to brokers who we form long-term, good relationships with, where we can source long-term, sustainable business. We’ll be a little bit more flexible than a Quicken or UWM would be.”

Rosenblum said he had initially planned a slower, steadier growth approach in wholesale. “Our trajectories accelerated quite a bit so I think by the end of 90 days, toward the end of the year, we’re projecting out about $40 million, $50 million a month in run-rate,” he said. “And I think we’re trying to push that to $75 million to $100 million a month by the end of the first quarter.”

The timing of the wholesale launch wasn’t coincidental. A lot of the wholesale competitors that would normally have the best price or good service are backed-up capacity wise, he said. “This gives us an opportunity to go to brokers and say, ‘Hey, give us a shot. We won’t disappoint. We’ll close your loan in 15 days and we have a brand-new platform here.'”

Rosenblum said the company hired a third-party vendor, Matchbox, to create a tech platform for the wholesale channel. It helps position the company to grow its channels sustainably, he said.

“The move to the wholesale channel allows us to capture market share we would otherwise have a real hard time capturing on the retail front,” Rosenblum said. “It’s going to benefit everybody in the company since they’re all owners in the company.”

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