After Mat Ishbia graduated from Michigan State University in 2002 and helped coach its basketball team for a year, he was the 12th employee of the side mortgage lending business his father, a lawyer, owned.
Today, Ishbia, 41, is CEO of what is now United Wholesale Mortgage Holdings Corp., the largest wholesale lender in the country, which is behind only Rocket Mortgage in total directly originated loan volume. It wants to be No. 1 by 2024. UWM earlier this year went public as one of the largest special-purpose acquisition company transactions, making Ishbia an overnight billionaire. He and the company have made historic financial commitments to his alma mater and Pontiac, UWM's home.
"I left Michigan State basketball and said, 'Can I take some of the basketball things, some business things we learned playing basketball and apply it to the real-world business, and see what we can do?'" Ishbia said. "That really is what has helped us take it to this level, that mentality of caring about every detail, the client experience ... being in the weeds of the business."
Mat Ishbia, Michiganian
David Guralnick, The Detroit News
UWM originates loans exclusively through mortgage brokers, who work with homeowners and buyers to find the best interest rates and loans for them from various lenders. Using a broker is the "fastest, easiest and cheapest" way to get a loan, Ishbia says, and UWM has nearly doubled its workforce to more than 9,000 since before the pandemic began and completed an expansion that more than doubled its headquarters.
It's taking bold steps, such as telling brokers it won't do business with those who work with competitors who, according to Ishbia, employ "underhanded" measures threatening the wholesale channel. Or experimenting with accepting cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, as mortgage payments.
Meanwhile, UWM has developed proprietary technology to offer mortgage approvals in 15 minutes and this month began contracting with appraisers in an effort to speed up the closing process in hopes of decreasing it from an average 18 days with UWM to 12.
"'Let’s wake up and do a mortgage today,'" Ishbia said. "Nobody thinks like that. You are only doing that because you want $82 in savings a month or you want to buy that house. You have to make it seamless."
Weeks after UWM went public in January, the walk-on member of MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo’s 2000 championship team committed to donating $32 million to the university's athletic program, the largest single cash commitment in MSU’s history from an individual.
Last month, UWM announced it's sponsoring members of Michigan State’s football and men’s basketball teams — 133 student-athletes — by providing those players with $500 a month for the entire 2021-22 school year.
Izzo had Ishbia sit next to him on the bench as a player-coach: “He is a competitor, a winner. What he has done doesn’t surprise me. It’s his work ethic, his bulldog tenacity, and his ability. He’s 5-foot, nothing, 100-nothing, and he competed.”
In Pontiac and Metro Detroit, the company's focus is on children, education and homelessness. It invested $10 million for a youth sports community center near its campus that is open for free to the community.
"It’s not just helping solve for things today," Ishbia said. "It’s helping change the trajectory for them in the future."
Occupation: United Wholesale Mortgage Holdings Corp. chairman, president and CEO
Education: Ishbia is a graduate of Michigan State University's Eli Broad College of Business with a degree in business management.
Family: Three children, ages 10, 8 and 7.
Why honored: Ishbia has grown his family business from a 12-person mortgage brokerage to a more than 9,000-person publicly traded mortgage giant and the largest wholesale lender in the country. Additionally, Ishbia's philanthropic efforts have sought to support his alma mater and the city of Pontiac where UWM now resides.