Guild Mortgage CEO on values, culture and M&A priorities

The Gathering: Terry Schmidt shared details on the company’s biggest cultural priorities and how it identifies M&A opportunities

On Tuesday at The Gathering by HousingWire in Scottsdale, Arizona, Guild Mortgage CEO Terry Schmidt sat down with HousingWire editor in chief Sarah Wheeler to talk about the principles guiding much of the lender’s actions in recruiting, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and overall business outlook.

Building a strong workplace culture was a predominant theme of the discussion, with values defining much of the company’s M&A and recruiting targets, Schmidt said. Part of the strategy, she said, is to remain focused predominantly on the retail side of the business.

“We decided going forward that we’re going to focus 100% on retail,” she said. “We look for like-minded companies that have the same culture, because culture and leadership are key. And I think you have to start building scale in this business.”

Scale is an important tool for maintaining investment in people and technology, Schmidt said, and the additional companies that Guild has brought aboard recently reflect its goals for culture and leadership and may have had issues of scale that were solved by joining Guild, she said.

When asked about the particulars of culture and how Guild aims to define that trait, Schmidt said that three values lead the charge: listening, collaboration and learning.

“For us, [potential acquisitions] have to be able to have a good understanding of their people and listen to what they have to say,” she said. “Everybody has a voice. Those are the kinds of leadership qualities that create that culture. Sometimes it’s not easy to identify that. We have to spend a lot of time doing a lot of discovery to identify that.”

When asked about recent acquisitions like Academy Mortgage and Cherry Creek Mortgage, Schmidt said that Guild had identified the kinds of values they want in their organization as well as the geographic advantage that would come from bringing them into the fold. There were also product advantages.

“Those two are more West Coast companies even though they had a national footprint, and so we’ve known them for years,” she said. “We had a good sense of their culture in advance. They both have great cultures and we were competing for the same people, so we knew the fit would be really good. So now, for all the western states, we pretty much have the market share that we wanted to get to.”

The Cherry Creek acquisition allowed Guild to expand and build out its reverse mortgage capabilities since the company served as a leading lender in the space for quite a while. With Academy, the homebuilder business was most attractive to Guild, Schmidt said.

Schmidt also talked about the need to invest in the company’s technology platform to better enable its people. Recruitment efforts are also following the company’s broad retail-focused strategy, and Schmidt asserted that any retail loan originator will want to “talk to Guild” if they want to advance in the retail origination space.

Schmidt also alluded to further development of its technology by leveraging artificial intelligence, and she shared that the company hired a specialist in its technology division to help grow the company’s efforts.

But to avoid moving too quickly and potentially running afoul of a developing and controversial technology, she said the company’s approach is to “start small and be careful.”

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