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‘I Don’t Think Business Will Ever be the Same’

Austin Niemiec is the EVP of Quicken Loans Mortgage Services (QLMS). In this role, Niemiec oversees a team based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Detroit who provide service to nearly 8,000 partner brokers, regional banks, and credit unions. From those partner organizations, more than 37,000 loan originators and loan processors currently assist their clients with help from QLMS.

QLMS partners provide incredible service to their clients while tapping into the expertise, technology, and award-winning process from Quicken Loans. This has resulted in massive growth. In 2019, QLMS closed more loan volume than in the previous five years combined.

Niemiec spoke with MReport about how QLMS prepared for the current crisis and how they are keeping efficiency high despite the remote-working environment. 

 

What is Quicken Loans Mortgage Services doing to ensure it is business as usual first brokers?

The first thing is making sure the entire broker community knows this is a time to go all-in because Americans need them now more than ever. There are some lenders in our space that are doing the opposite. They are more preaching, “let's pause now and prepare for the future,” since they can't do a lot of business right now. We think the opposite. 

Americans, now more than ever, need brokers’ help. We're seeing a lot of pride and a lot of comradery, between us and our broker partners dialing in - focusing and trying to help as many people as possible. 

What are we doing to ensure it is business as usual? We are making sure our turn-times are just as fast as they were before. Our product mix is as solid and as balanced as humanly possible. Now, we just need to make sure brokers understand that now is the time to go all in. 

With rates at a historic low and Americans needing our help during this challenging time, we have a platform to make sure brokers can still run full speed.

 

What did Quicken Loans do to put itself in the best position for success?

The first thing we've done is worked hard for 35 years. We've been building infrastructure. We've been saving a lot of capital and been very responsible with the way we built our business for 35 years. It has allowed us to continue to help everyone that we support, whether it's our team members, our broker partners or American families. 

The second thing we did is, back in January, we started preparing for this. People thought we were crazy, but we put a task force together right when we started hearing the news of the virus. We started doing inventory on all our team members and figuring out who had the ability to work from home and who didn't. We started buying a lot of equipment rapidly and getting people prepared. Once everyone was set up, we then started testing our work from home capabilities with large groups just to make sure we could still run full steam and support our partners and our clients. 

Once reality set in that we would need to work from home, we were already prepared. We didn't skip a beat. We're a technology company, so already had the infrastructure – and we filled the need for additional equipment. It made the transition very, very easy for us, thankfully.

It took some sacrifice. When you look at January and February in our industry, rates were at historic lows. Mortgage companies were very, very busy. It certainly was critical for us to believe that the numbers and the money follow, they don't lead – that’s a saying we have here.  Sometimes you have to take your eye off that current business, which is booming, to make sure your team members are prepared and you're protecting them. That may be why others didn’t handle this as well. It takes some sacrifice.

 

What challenges has Quicken Loans encountered during this crisis?

From a technology standpoint, I couldn't be more impressed. There were really no bumps other than maybe a brief spotty internet signal for a few folks. Our efficiency has been incredible. In fact, it's been better than when we were in the office when we really look at it. 

A challenge is, once we were all settled in and started running full steam from home we realized there were hiring classes coming in a week or two and we want to continue to hire and grow. Figuring out how to hire and train people virtually that have never walked into our doors before was probably the biggest challenge. Thankfully we found a way to make both happen.

Our team members, our training team, and our recruiting team have done a phenomenal job in purchasing this equipment, getting it out to the new team members before they even officially started, making sure that it worked and turning all our training into virtual classes. That was a challenge, but our team has done a heck of a job figuring it out.

 

What is Quicken Loans doing to prepare for the months ahead?

I think we were one of the first large companies to really be operating full steam with almost every team member at home. It’s been seamless. We literally had the largest closing month in the history of our company last month, while maintaining the fastest turn times we ever had in our 35-year history and it's all been done with 98% of our team at home. 

We are certainly preparing for what it looks like when we come back. How do we redesign office space? Who goes back first? But most importantly, we built a culture and efficiencies that work so well we're not forced to rush back into the office because we're able to operate as efficiently as ever. We have continued to deliver our partners speed with certainty. We're preparing and we're not rushing.

I don't think business will ever be the same. Period. I think that during this challenging time, folks that would have never tried to work from home have been forced to and have learned they can do it. People who shied away from using technology to communicate like Zoom, webcams and video – they're having to do it and they're realizing, wow, there's some efficiency there. I believe that you're starting to see people, companies and organizations figure out that there are some advantages to operating remotely. I'm sure you'll see wild extremes. There are some industries and some companies that have to work in offices or factories, and they will have to go back. There are others, depending on the type of work or the culture, who might be a little bit more efficient outside the office. People are noticing they're not completely dependent on that office, which is exciting.

We love the city of Detroit. We have amazing buildings, we have team members that love working together with comradery, and so we'll have that. But we also know that we're not dependent on it, which gives us a good flexibility. 

We've been fortunate to be able to run full steam and uninterrupted through this – while other lenders in our space have, unfortunately, had to really cut back. Because of that, over the last 30 days, we've had nearly 600 brokers call and get approved with us at QLMS. Just for perspective, that's more in the last 30 days than we've had in the last four months combined. We're humbled by the fact that the broker community obviously really, really needs us right now. Our focus is solely on delivering and maintaining speed, certainty and a great product line for our partners and their clients.

About Author: Mike Albanese

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Mike Albanese has worked for news publications since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, sports, and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the "Pilot Point Post-Signal," and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the "Dallas Morning News" and "Denton Record-Chronicle" over the past several years.
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