Tom Wilkins of Mortgage Media was in Austin at the MBA Annual Conference and talked with Nicole Booth, Vice President of Public Policy of Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online home lender. Nicole joined Quicken Loans August 2012, and leads the 50 state branch of the Government Affairs team. She discussed a variety of topics including data privacy, security, and the company’s continued implementation of Fintech.
Tom Wilkins: My first question to all of the interviewees is, Nicole, why attend this conference? What do you hope to get out of it? What can you take back to your team?
Nicole Booth: The Mortgage Bankers Association holds multiple conferences throughout the year. I like to look at the convention as a restarting point. It’s something that we look back at the past years, and looking back at what happened in 2019, and looking ahead to the future in 2020. At the end of the day, the convention gives us an avenue for face to face meetings when we’re geographically separated. It gets us together in person in this digital world that we live in and we’re moving towards.
Wilkins: So you find that the time with people, both in meetings and just chatting in the hallways and things, are valuable as well?
Booth: Most definitely. I think you get a lot of work done just walking down the hall and saying, “Oh, I had a question for you. Can you take five minutes to meet?” Every other year I set up meetings ahead of time, or I just go with the flow of the conference. This year, I just went with the flow of the conference, and I’ve had more meetings than I definitely did in the last couple of years just to catch up, but then also make plans for 2020.
Wilkins: So just kind of ad hoc, you see people and you chat, and you catch up?
Booth: Most definitely, yep.
Wilkins: You’ll probably agree that the mortgage banking industry is such a tight, small group, and incestuous in many ways. People who are in one part of the industry end up going to another part, or from a bank to a lender, to a technology person kind of role.
Booth: The mortgage industry is definitely a small town. I definitely believe that.What I’ve noticed over the last couple of years with the mortgage industry becoming more digital, it’s created I think like two groups of folks. You have the traditional housing finance folks that are really focused on GSE reform, and QM, which are very important to the industry, obviously. But then you have this other group of folks that are focused on Fintech and digital mortgage, and what does that mean. At some point, I think that you’re going to have to see those two groups merge. I try to connect with both of them, but I tend to fall in the Fintech bucket myself.
Wilkins: Well, and Quicken Loans is no slouch in the technology department, either.
Booth: That’s correct.
Wilkins: Let’s just be honest. What do you think about the rapid progress when it comes to data privacy and security made by companies of all sizes in the last few years, and is it enough?
Booth: Talking about that Fintech bucket and merging the two, as the mortgage industry becomes more digital through the entire course of the process, data is going to be essential to that process, being able to collect information on the consumer, and then move that data to get them to a closing table, or get them the best product that works for them and their family.
I think whatever happens with the industry, we just need to be aware of what we’re doing with that data, and making sure that it’s secure moving forward so that we can get to that next level for the industry, for the consumer, to give them what they need to get into a home.
Wilkins: Where do you think the industry is when it comes to utilizing technology to thwart hacking? I keep hearing about ransomware. It’s kind of a buzzword. It’s a big deal and this is your wheelhouse.
Booth: It’s really interesting, again, pulling from that technology, but now I’m pulling from the housing finance piece. The mortgage industry has a long history of rules and regulations on protecting consumer data, even though we may not have called it that, because that’s what our industry does. We need to collect people’s data to get them into their home.
We have a long history of already securing a lot of that data, so moving forward I think it’s just making sure that we’re taking a proactive approach to securing that consumer’s data and showing that we’re a good steward industry, an adult industry, that already knows how to do that while other industries may be catching up to what we’re already doing.
Wilkins: Quicken Loans, while it’s the nation’s largest mortgage lender is first and foremost a financial technology company. Like we said before, how much value does Quicken Loans place in the state of privacy? Is it something that… It’s obviously got you and your team working full-time on it all the time, but is it something that is a priority for Quicken Loans?
Booth: Quicken Loans takes a data extremely serious, both on the security and privacy side. We put the highest value on protecting, and how we’re utilizing that data. Again, it all comes back to our client service and wanting to protect the customer and get them to their home. I know I’ve said that many times.
For us, we have multiple business partners. You know, our team, the Government Affairs team, meets with multiple teams across our business to make sure that we’re tying the threads between what compliance is doing, what technology is doing, what we may see coming down the government road. So, we’re in constant contact, and that’s floating up and working with our leadership. It’s a directive from the leadership to have all of these teams work together. Bottom line, highest value.
Wilkins: What do you think the one thing is that every company in our industry should be doing to help prevent breaches and things like that?
Booth: I think it’s regular testing. I think our industry should go in and check their data, and test their platforms on a regular basis, making sure they have all the right encryptions in place. Really, it’s as simple as that, making sure you’re doing regular testing to find out what happens to that data moving forward in your organization.
Wilkins: Is it fair to say that educating an organization staff to be aware of phishing and those kinds of things, because it only takes one person, and there’s so much of the data breaches that come in through somebody’s accidental clicking an email and then it infects the whole network.
Booth: That’s a great point. Making sure you have at the very core of your C-Suite, or your leadership, making that a directive down at how important this is and just setting that level of expectation. Then after that, giving our team members the tools needed to do that, for instance, on our- and I’m sure many have this on our Microsoft Outlook page- I can take any email, click the phishing button, it goes directly to the folks that it needs to go to.
So, yes, it’s very important. It does need to be a directive that comes from top down, and integrated as part of the culture, not something that’s outside the culture.
Wilkins: On a broader level, Nicole, what can you share about Quicken Loans from the past few months? Are there any big breakthroughs that are coming down the pike? Are you having some press announcements come out of this conference for example?
Booth: The biggest one that I would like to notice and highlight, and some people probably already seen it, but we can now do e-closing in all 50 states. As we’re moving in this world, again to a completely digital, and we’re working on this longterm remote online notarization where you don’t have to do it face to face, now we’re getting more digital involved in the closing ever before. That’s the big one for us. 50 states, e-closing. It’s pretty exciting.
Wilkins: That is. That’s pretty huge. Well, my last question is one that I ask everybody, and it has nothing to do with mortgage banking, or why we’re at this conference. That is, tell us a little bit about yourself on the personal side, what you do in your spare time, if you have any, any sports or hobbies, or travel? What do you like to do?
Booth: Sure, well, I’d like to say I like to travel, but I travel a lot for work. Right now, I’m really excited. I just bought a new construction home in downtown Detroit, in a new area called Brush Park. A lot of my time and energy has gone into that. It’s really exciting to be part of the revitalization, and just get to be part of the community as a homeowner. I’m really focusing a lot of my time on that right. It’s fun.
Wilkins: And so you should. That’s exciting.
Booth: Yeah, it’s big.
Wilkins: Did you get your loan through Quicken Loans?
Booth: I bet you know who I got my loan from.
Wilkins: Yeah, yeah I bet I do too.
Booth: Yeah, Rocket Mortgage/Quicken Loans.
Wilkins: On that, Bill Emerson mentioned something in his talk, or maybe it was privately at the executive round table dinner earlier this month about what Quicken Loans is doing in the city of Detroit, and the philanthropic efforts to help kids and giving back to the community. Can you say anything about that?
Booth: Sure, I mean not any really big stories are, but it’s a continuing of making sure that Quicken Loans is working with all the community partners to bring back the city. As someone who’s originally from Detroit, the transformation is amazing. I believe this is a personal thing. I believe that would not be done without the willingness of leadership to put the time and money, and people, into this city and then see the forward thinking of needs to bring the neighborhoods into it as well.
We’ve had a lot of outreach into the neighborhoods with programs like Rehabbed & Ready, where we partner with Home Depot and renovate homes, and other programs like that. It’s an exciting time in Detroit, not just downtown, but it’s starting to spread. As we give more events like the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which will be held again I think in May next year, but as those more marquis events come, and we’re building out the neighborhoods, it’s an exciting time in Detroit. I’m really excited, again, to be a homeowner there.
Wilkins: What’s the Rocket Mortgage Classic?
Booth: Sure, so the Rocket Mortgage Classic is a golf tournament. It’s a pro golf tournament. It used to be the Quicken Loans National, and Washington, DC was part of the Tiger Woods Foundation. Last year was the first year it was in Detroit, and so we obviously had a lot of work around that. Now, it’s going to be there again next year. We’re excited to have these professional golfers come into the city and just experience Detroit too. It brings a lot of different people, so it’s exciting.
Wilkins: Is that a fundraiser for the city of Detroit?
Booth: Obviously, there are connections back to the city. I’m not the person to dig into that, but I know that we do have a lot of philanthropic touch points with not just giving back to the city, but involving the community members into part of the Mortgage Classic so that they get visibility as well. It’s not just a business thing, it’s pulling the community members in.
Content has been edited for length and grammar.