Earlier this month, Rocket Mortgage U.S.—the American mortgage lender Goliath—announced its plans to enter the Canadian market.
It will do so officially on August 8 via a rebranding of Windsor, ON-based Edison Financial, which received seed funding from Rocket Companies during its start-up.
But what does the news mean for Canadian mortgage brokers and, more importantly, mortgage consumers?
We chatted with Hash Aboulhosn, President of Rocket Mortgage in Canada, to find out. Here are parts of that conversation.
CMT: Can you tell us more about what this rebranding of Edison Financial to Rocket Mortgage means and what it involves?
I’ve been extremely proud of what our team has accomplished in just over two years. We’ve shown what we can build out of our industry-leading innovation—an incredible pace of growth and, ultimately, a really amazing client experience.
In terms of what will change, we’re going to be hiring hundreds of people in the year to come, specifically mortgage agents, as well as the sales technology folks and operations folks to support the mortgage agents, and really everyone under the sun. We’ve decided it was a good time to bring it all under the same roof with our sister company, Rocket Mortgage in the U.S., and we’ll continue down that path.
CMT: You’ve mentioned that there will be a strategic focus on technology and client experience. Can you elaborate on those two points?
We feel there’s an opportunity to deliver the type of experience that we’ve had the benefit of having in other areas of business, but that haven’t yet made it to our market space. What I mean is, I could order a $20 pizza and I could find out when it’s in the oven, when it ends up in the delivery car, and exactly when it’s going to arrive at my house. And yet for a mortgage, one of the most complex and often anxiety-inducing transactions, we can go weeks often without hearing from our lenders on what’s going on.
And so, we plan to increase the visibility of clients into the mortgage experience to help them understand how their application is going, be able to react and contact us with their needs all along the way. All of these things that we’ve come to expect in other digital experiences, but just have not yet made it to the mortgage industry.
CMT: We’ve heard that speed of service delivery will be a major differentiator for Rocket Mortgage. How so?
One of the areas that we’ve focused on is, when clients reach out, we aim to get them on the phone with an advisor within minutes. Today, often with banks or otherwise, it can take days, with additional delays as you proceed down the application process. We want to move at a faster speed, if the clients want to.
Currently, there are all of these disjointed steps. It goes from client, to a mortgage agent, to a document person, to the lender. There’s a lack of fluid technology throughout that really dilates the process. And so, our goal is to introduce efficiency, and introduce technology that will unify it under one roof. Our goal is to become a lender and be able to deliver conditional approvals in under 24 hours, on average. So, it’s really about bringing the average client experience to that under-24-hour time-frame, and then in terms of closings, depending on the nature of the transactions, really down to a matter of weeks, or even faster depending on the circumstance.
CMT: It’s well-reported that Edison reached the milestone of over $1 billion worth of annualized submitted mortgage volume. Can you confirm for us how much of that volume has closed?
We haven’t been disclosing that. What I can say is that our pull-through and closing rates are, at least according to our lenders, among the highest in our peer group. So, we’re not necessarily closing the submission number, but I can assure you the close rate is not too far behind.
CMT: What do your growth plans look like over the next five years?
One thing I will say is that we’re really on this mission to revolutionize the mortgage industry by making our life better for clients. We are unapologetically ambitious with respect to that. So, rather than setting out just a reasonable target that seems practical, we’re aiming for something that’s really transformative here. We’re investing in our people and our business to be able to create the type of leaders that allow our organization to grow.
We put a tremendous amount of focus on our training and development and finding the right people. So, while we’re not putting out a five-year volume target, what I can say is that we are making the investments to achieve an outcome that I think we’re going to be incredibly proud of. And I think that is going to take the industry by storm.
CMT: What are some of the benefits of having a major U.S. mortgage finance company in your corner?
There are definitely many. One is most definitely culture. You know, one thing that’s really tremendous about Rocket Companies has just been the incredible culture it has been built up over the last 35 years, which focuses on people, both clients and team members, and the obsession with client service and innovation.
The U.S. and the Canadian mortgage markets are certainly different, but as we’ve learned about both businesses on either of the border—and we’ve had access to the brain trust that exists there—we’ve realized that the two markets are, in some ways, more similar than they might first appear. And we’ve found that strategy and technology, while it’s not the same, it often does rhyme.
Our team has been able to adapt that and build it specifically to the Canadian market, often improving on what exists in the U.S. using those learnings. I think in Canada, it’s often considered polite to have a more modest vision. And I think what’s really inspiring about being part of Rocket Companies, is that, from a mortgage perspective, they operate at such a massive scale.
CMT: Should your competitors be worried about Rocket Mortgage growing its footprint in Canada?
I think the quick answer to that is no. First of all, just talking with many of our peers in the industry and seeing some of the chatter online, I think many people are actually quite supportive of us bringing and pushing this innovation, which I think ultimately helps everyone. I mean, we are firm believers in helping grow the pie. Ultimately, I think that makes for a stronger, healthier industry.
When I think about the ways in which it will be positive, number one, Rocket Companies is actually one of the biggest partners for mortgage brokers in the U.S. through its Rocket Pro TPO [wholesale lender]. There’s a very healthy, positive relationship, both in terms of technology marketing and client service.
But for Canada, I think that actually is going to be great in two ways for the brokerage community. One is just the fact that we are going to be hiring hundreds of mortgage professionals in the years to come. And then secondly, a lot of our technology will actually become available to the brokerage community.
How will brokers be able to take advantage of your technology?
Our mission is to revolutionize the industry to make life better for our clients. As we started to think about the fastest way to do that, the obvious answer was pretty clear, which is to work closely with our sister company, Lendesk, as an existing leader in the space already serving brokers, rather than try to recreate the wheel and build this entirely like yet another proprietary platform in the industry.
We’ve been working closely with Lendesk to build some of these innovations directly into Finmo, and that technology will inevitably become available to the broader brokerage community, and often to the lending community as well.
This industry has such a long way to go to really achieve its full potential from a digital experience perspective, and it’s our hope and our belief that as other people start to use the same technology, they’re going to help make it better. And that, collectively as an industry, is what’s going to lead to the long-term success and health of the space.
What are the next steps from here, including Rocket Mortgage’s plans to become a CMHC-approved lender?
The actual rebrand is occurring on August 8. That is still a big milestone ahead of us, still a tremendous amount of work to be done there. In the fall, we plan to launch our lender. It’s like building an entirely new business, and we barely finished building the first one.
We’re starting with an insured product, which we all know is an extremely competitive space. And so, our focus is on delivering speed, client experience and service as a way to differentiate ourselves.