Why Quicken Loans isn't really in the mortgage business

Company founder Dan Gilbert said it's in the business of acquiring data

The founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, now the largest mortgage company in the U.S., revealed that he does not consider himself to be “in the mortgage business.”

Dan Gilbert, who in 1985 founded what would grow to become the Quicken Loans of today, presented at the Mortgage Bankers Association conference in Detroit with Vice Chairman Bill Emerson on Tuesday.

We’re not really in the mortgage business. We’re in the data acquisition business,” said Gilbert at the conference. “We acquire data, we curate it, and we move it. That’s all we do.”

The provocative comment was made as part of a larger speech on Quicken Loans’ role in the tech industry. Emerson, who once served as the CEO of Quicken Loans, told the audience that the internet and various other forms of technology are altering the former lifelong and multi-generational relationship that clients had with lenders or banks. Now, people are increasingly starting to look for the best deal and the smoothest transaction.

“They’re not going to change the way that they purchase things, they’re not going to change what they do with this little device,” Emerson said, pointing to a smartphone. “If we don’t, as an industry, embrace this, get our brains around it … we’re out of the game.”

This comment comes as others in real estate and the mortgage space attempt to position themselves as tech companies and disruptors rather than parts of a longstanding industry. LoanDepot, for example, recently unveiled a new tech campus with perks reminiscent of Silicon Valley startups and software giants, while the startup Blend just touted Fannie Mae’s Day 1 certification as “a really big step toward our vision of a digital mortgage and really a data-driven world.

Email Veronika Bondarenko