Midwest mortgage lender switches to employee ownership

by Kim Burgess21 Feb 2018

The founder and chief executive officer of St. Louis-based USA Mortgage has transferred his entire ownership stake to his employees.

USA Mortgage, a division of DAS, finalized its employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) at the end of December after an independent valuation. Doug Schukar, who founded the company in 2001, will continue to serve as chief executive officer.

“I have no plans to retire,” he said. “I will continue in a role that supports our growth and sustains the professionalism and one-on-one personal service that distinguishes our brand.”

The ESOP has been popular with the company’s 525 licensed loan officers and support professionals.

To be eligible to receive shares in a given plan year, employees need to complete 160 hours of service and meet other minimal qualifying criteria. Participants are fully vested after six years of service.

“When I announced it, there was a standing ovation,” Schukar said. “The secret of our success is our culture and our people. We have 525 oars in the water going the same direction.”

Schukar said he decided he needed to create a clear succession plan in 2015 after a competitor died suddenly from a heart condition at age 47.

The ESOP has given his employees assurance for the future, Schukar said.

“I knew the ESOP was the thing to do,” he said. “This way, we could keep it (the company) all together. It would forever be us.”

According to analysis completed by CoreLogic Marketrac, a national financial analytics firm, DAS/USA has been the top lender in metro St. Louis since 2012, and Missouri’s top mortgage originator each year since 2014.

Currently licensed in 25 states – and projecting that number to be 48 by the end of 2018 – DAS/USA totaled $1.50 billion in loan volume nationally in 2017. In Missouri, 2017 volume was $1.12 billion. The firm has surpassed the $1 billion milestone every year since 2009.

In total, the company employs approximately 550 people at more than 40 locations as far east as Ohio and as far west as California. More than 280 employees are based at its headquarters in Creve Coeur, Mo.

Related stories:
Midwest mortgage lender sets sights on new market
Caliber announces multimillion-dollar acquisition


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