Inside Rocket’s new strategy to win over mortgage brokers

Just two months after its public debut, Rocket Companies is looking to bulk up its wholesale operation by sweetening the pot for mortgage brokers.

The Detroit-based firm, which began 35 years ago as a mortgage broker shop in southeast Michigan, is rebranding Quicken Loan Mortgage Services to Rocket Pro TPO. 

Included in the rebranding is an entirely new, white-labeled broker-branded origination hub that will provide e-signature technology, visibility into loan status and the ability for applicants to directly upload loan documents, the company said Tuesday.

The name change to Rocket Pro TPO will take place within the next 60 days, the company told HousingWire.

To entice brokers, Rocket is pushing 10,000 new purchase leads to those who sign onto the platform, according to Austin Niemiec, executive vice president of what will soon be known as Rocket Pro TPO. 

“These are fresh leads,” he said. “They’re generated by Rocket, they have not been worked by anyone at the company, and they are purchase leads, which are great, and that we’re giving to the broker community.”

Niemiec also said the 10,000 leads do not represent “a one-time event,” and that Rocket plans to do a national or local campaign to help generate leads for brokers.

Beyond the bucket of leads, Rocket is banking on its widely known brand name, free use of marketing tools, and bevy of technologies to hook brokers.

“We have two pieces of technology that brokers love: One is ‘The Guru,’ and it’s kind of a Google platform for mortgage guidelines – searchable. Brokers love it,” Niemiec said in an interview. “We also have ‘The Answer,’ which is a piece of technology that brokers can interact with to ask questions and it communicates back and forth leading them to the proper answer. We actually partnered with Google over the last few months to create a new piece of technology that merges everything they love about Guru and everything they love about Answer into one tool called Pathfinder by Rocket. We’ll be rolling that out on the day of the announcement.” 

For all of Rocket’s prowess in direct-to-consumer, it hasn’t garnered the same level of success on the third-party front. In the second quarter, Rocket’s direct-to-consumer business generated $46.8 billion in closed loans, with gain-on-sale margins at 5.09%. Its partner network contributed $19.7 billion in closed loans (up from $11.2 year-over-year), with gain-on-sale margins at 2.1%. Though gain-on-sale margins were much lower, the acquisitions costs were as well, CEO Jay Farner said on an earnings call in August. 

The wholesale market, which has coincided with the revival of the mortgage broker in recent years, remains a highly fragmented space, with much business to be won. Most lenders left the third-party origination space during the Great Recession, but Quicken saw an opportunity and launched QMLS in 2010, partnering with brokers as well as credit unions and small banks. Niemiec says the company is on track to surpass over 10,000 mortgage broker partners by the close of 2020. 

“Brokers, especially this year, have been reaching out to us, especially early spring when COVID hit,” said Niemiec. “A lot of lenders, even the biggest ones, slowed things down intentionally, and it put brokers in a tough spot – whether they were capping their interest rates, or raising their rates, or turn times were stretching out. We didn’t see that here at QLMS. In April and May and then we had back to back months where over 500 brokers ended up partnering up with us.”

Though Rocket’s volume has increased dramatically in the partner channel over the last decade, it isn’t the biggest fish in the wholesale pond. 

United Wholesale Mortgage, a rival also based in Detroit, has clawed its way to become the top wholesale mortgage lender in the country, largely by championing brokers. The company, led by Mat Ishbia, unveiled its “FindAMortgageBroker.com” website earlier this year, and even took a swipe at Quicken. Ishbia told HousingWire last week that it’s producing record volumes and is on pace to “easily” clear $42 billion in closed volume during the third quarter.

Niemiec said the move to bulk up marketing offerings and the tech stack for brokers was indicative of how serious Rocket is about making gains in this channel. 

“No other lender can offer this level of investment in innovation which continues to revolutionize home financing,” he said. “We are excited to now put this powerful origination system, and all the supporting elements, squarely at the fingertips of our growing list of partners across the country.”

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