Growing brokers' businesses key to wholesale success

by Ryan Smith03 Jan 2014
Before Mat Ishbia joined United Wholesale Mortgage – the wholesale division of United Shore Financial – he’d already made a name for himself in the world of athletics, playing in three straight NCAA Final Fours and, with his teammates at Michigan State University, winning a national championship in 2000.

Ishbia brought that winning attitude to United Wholesale. When he took over as president, the company was doing around $100 million in mortgage generation per year. As the CEO of both United Wholesale and United Shore, Ishbia led the company to $6bn in residential loans in the first half of 2013 – more than triple the company’s total production for all of 2011 – and United Wholesale is now the number five wholesaler in the country.

The secret to United Wholesale’s meteoric rise, Ishbia says, is fostering partnerships with brokers.

“What’s made us successful is that our focus is on growing our brokers’ business,” Ishbia says. “We’re a partner with the brokers. We have 4,500 partners throughout the country. … We know if we give our brokers tools to be successful, they’ll be more loyal to us and they’ll become our partners. … Our slogan is ‘Lending Made Easy,’ so we have to make the transaction be an ultimate success story. When a broker sends in a loan, he needs to say, ‘Wow, that was really easy.’”

Ishbia also credits the company’s growth to his insistence on hiring the best people to work there.

“We’ve grown significantly. We were a small company back (when I took over), obviously,” he says. “This year we broke the $10 billion number. We definitely have grown exponentially from where we were before. The truth of the matter is that we’ve got really great people at this company. My job as CEO is to put the best people around me, then hold everybody to the same goal.

“Our goal is to be the best wholesale company in the country, and if we all work toward that goal, we’re going to get there together,” he says. “If you have a lot of people with the same vision and the same passion, you’re going to get there. And that, I think, is a big secret to our success.”
Ishbia says he spends a large portion of his day walking the floor at United Wholesale, hearing directly from employees.

“I’m here a lot and I make sure I carve my day out the right way,” he says. “Sitting in meetings all day and talking about what’s going to be like in 2020 isn’t necessarily the best way to spend my day. It’s all about, ‘What’s happening today? How do we improve today?’ I think that’s really powerful, and it makes a big difference for the employees and the culture. They know I’m in the trenches with them. I’m not sitting in my office oblivious to what’s going on. That’s the focus of what I try to do every day, and I think it’s a part of our success.”

Ishbia also encourages all 1,200 of United Wholesale’s employees to make their own suggestions to improve business, through what he calls the “Great Ideas” program.

“If you’re an underwriter or an account executive or someone who just started this week, you can come to us with a great idea,” he says. “And I go out and talk to the people who are doing the job, and that’s where we get a lot of our great ideas.”


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