There may not be an official title for fastest-growing Michigan company, but if there were, it might go to a once-modest mortgage operation called United Shore Financial Services.
In its new Troy digs near Maple and Stephenson Highway, USFS has announced plans to add 600 employees this year to its 1,100-person work force, which itself is a big jump from two years ago. The volume of its mortgage business is soaring toward $15 billion, good enough to rank among the top wholesale mortgage lenders in the nation.
The current operation spreads out over several acres of floor space. Colors are bright. Upbeat slogans adorn the walls. One maxim holds that if the car's not shaking, you're not driving fast enough.
With its corporate roots dating to the mid-1980s, USFS began to grow rapidly in recent years in the wake of the national financial collapse and recession. Its main business line operates as United Wholesale Mortgage, dealing with thousands of mortgage brokers around the nation to create loans for consumers. But USFS has other services in its portfolio.
There's also Shore Mortgage, headed by former Quicken Loans executive David Hall. Shore operates an online mortgage lender for consumers. Capital Mortgage Funding offers a more traditional walk-in mortgage office.
CEO Kip Kirkpatrick, a former basketball player at Northwestern University who later went into private equity investment in Chicago, joined USFS in the wake of the Great Recession. That national collapse was brought on at least in part by abuses in the mortgage market, particularly the spread of subprime loans.
"It looked like there was going to be an opportunity for somebody to emerge and create the next generation mortgage banking firm that embraced this new regulatory environment, that believed in things like ethics," Kirkpatrick said.
USFS has soared from a top 50 wholesale lender in the mortgage industry just a few years ago to the top five today, thanks mostly to aggressive planning and occupying the niche opened up by larger mortgage lenders being mired in the legacy problems of the subprime mess.
"We're taking market share," said Mat Ishbia, president of USFS and son of company Chairman Jeffrey Ishbia. "Our business is set up to really thrive when a customer gives us a chance."
For the most part, USFS does not compete head-to-head with Detroit-based Quicken Loans, which deals directly with consumers and is several times larger. USFS's main competition tends to be major financial institutions that work with mortgage brokers.
"As we're getting our brand out there and growing," Ishbia said, "people are giving us an opportunity. And once we get our first couple of good loans from these brokers, they see how easy our system is to work with, they see how great our underwriting staff is, they see how great our sales staff is, and they want to work with us more."
Kirkpatrick and Ishbia are to speak at Gov. Rick Snyder's Economic Summit, which runs today and Tuesday at Cobo Center in Detroit. The focus will be on creating jobs in Michigan, both by linking qualified workers to firms with openings and by tackling what some see as a skills gap. Although controversial among economists, the notion of a skills gap implies firms cannot find the qualified workers they are willing to hire.
Snyder has said he convened the event to talk about future hiring needs. Those findings will then be discussed at Snyder's April meeting on education. Michael Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said the focus will be squarely on jobs.
"This economic summit is really all about how we can help fast-growing companies, like United Shore Financial, find employees with the diverse talents they need to maintain their growth," Finney said. "We regularly hear from businesses that they have solid jobs, good-paying jobs, and are having real difficulty in finding people with the capabilities they need. The governor's economic summit is our first step to resolving this issue."
The large and growing work force at USFS needs a lot of care and tending, and Kirkpatrick, Ishbia, Hall and other leaders at USFS have worked to create an upbeat, high-energy work space. Amenities such as coffee bars abound. There is a putting green, a concierge to handle needs such as dry cleaning, even a valet car parking service -- but only for line workers, not for top execs.
The work space is colorful and has a minimum of executive offices. Most supervisors work side-by-side with their teams.
"It all starts with how we treat our employees first," Ishbia said. "We're trying to build a place where they love to be."
Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or email@example.com
More Details: More about Kip Kirkpatrick
Job: CEO of United Shore Financial Services
Experience: Worked in private equity investment in Chicago before joining USFS
Education: Bachelor's degree and master's in business administration from Northwestern University
Personal: Played basketball for Northwestern
A look at United Shore Financial Services
The company has three key operations:
* United Wholesale Mortgage, which works with mortgage brokers to create loans.
* Shore Mortgage, an online mortgage lender.
* Capital Mortgage Funding, a traditional retail mortgage lender.