With new CEO, Rocket increases margins, remains profitable in Q3

The company reported $115M in GAAP net income from July to September

Amid the most challenging mortgage market in decades, Rocket Companies, the parent of Rocket Mortgage, remained profitable in the third quarter of 2023, showing higher margins in the direct-to-consumer and wholesale channels. 

This was the first earnings delivered by Rocket’s new CEO, Varun Krishna, who focused his conversation with analysts on the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies to transform the business. His speech is aligned with the company’s strategy to become a fintech. 

The Detroit-headquartered lender’s GAAP net income in Q3 was $115 million, lower than the $139 million in Q2 2023 but better than the $96 million in the same period of 2022. Rocket posted a $7 million adjusted net income in the third quarter, following a $33 million loss in the prior quarter.

In his first statement as CEO, Krishna said the company delivered “strong results against a challenging economic backdrop.” 

“In the third quarter, we turned a corner and achieved positive adjusted net income, and for the second quarter, we achieved positive adjusted EBITDA and GAAP net income,” Krishna told analysts. 

Rocket generated $22.2 billion in origination volume in Q3, slightly down from $22.3 billion in Q2 2023. The third-quarter production represents a 13% drop compared to the same period in 2022. 

However, gain-on-sale margins posted for the third quarter of 2023 were 276 points, up from the previous quarter’s 267 points. 

“We grew purchase market share and reported strong results for the quarter, with adjusted revenue north of $1 billion, which is above the top end of our guidance range and reflective of continued momentum over the past four quarters,” Krishna said. “This was the result of strong execution and continued expansion in the gain-on-sale margin.” 

By channel, Rocket reported $11.9 billion in sold loans through its direct-to-consumer channel, down from $12.4 billion in the previous quarter. Margins came in at 403 points, compared to 367 points in the previous quarter. 

The company produced $10.3 billion through its TPO channel, its conduit to mortgage brokers and historically a more potent source of purchase business, up from $9.5 billion the previous quarter. In this channel, the margin came in at 122 points, up from 93 points in the previous quarter.

The company doesn’t break out purchase business versus refinancings in its earnings reports, but it said it “gained purchase market share.”    

Rocket’s financials

The company’s expenses were $1.08 billion in the third quarter, remaining flat from the previous quarter’s $1.09 billion. Net revenue for Q3 came in at $1.20 billion, slightly lower than $1.23 million in the previous quarter. 

Rocket CFO Brian Brown told analysts that the company committed to cost savings on an annualized basis in the range of $150 million to $200 million, which are expected to take effect in the fourth quarter. 

“I’m pleased to share that we expect to come in at the top end of that range, with approximately $200 million of annualized savings,” Brown said. “This achievement is the result of a concerted effort that has spanned the winding down of underperforming businesses to a rigorous reprioritization of company initiatives to the implementation of a career transition program.” 

Rocket’s liquidity improved in Q3 to $8.7 billion from $8.6 billion from the previous quarter. The Detroit-based lender closed the third quarter with $1 billion cash on hand. 

Rocket’s servicing book unpaid principal balance, which includes subserviced loans, was $506 billion as of Sept. 30, 2023, compared to $504 billion as of June 30, 2023. 

The company had 2.4 million loans serviced at the end of the third quarter, generating $1.4 billion of recurring servicing fees on an annualized basis. 

During the quarter, Rocket acquired agency loans MSRs for a total consideration of $103 million, adding $6.2 billion of unpaid principal balance to its portfolio.

These loans, the company said, have a weighted average coupon well above the current portfolio, providing a compelling refinance opportunity when rates decline. Executives said the company is acquiring portfolios with high loan-to-value ratios with opportunities to recapture. 

Rocket expects to post an adjusted revenue between $650 million and $800 million in Q4. Fourth-quarter expenses are expected to be between $50 million to $100 million lower than the third-quarter expenses. 

Brown said the guidance considers “difficult market conditions marked by record low affordability and inventory levels, further magnifying the traditional low seasonality in the fourth quarter,” when lower volumes put pressure on gain-on-sale margins.  

Focus on technology 

Krishna — a veteran in the financial technology world who held executive positions at Intuit and PayPal — spent most of his introduction to analysts talking about technology. 

In October, Rocket unveiled enhancements to its Pathfinder tool, a proprietary AI and machine learning-powered engine that helps over 40,000 mortgage professionals obtain answers to complex underwriting and processing questions easily. 

The company is integrating large language models to encompass over 3,300 new loan scenarios to the tool. 

According to Krishna, digitizing documents and automating tasks “at such enormous scale have profound benefits for our business,” as it enhances productivity and increases decision-making accuracy.

“AI will be at the center of how clients buy, sell and finance homes,” Krishna said.  

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