When Guaranteed Rate launched in 2000, the goal was to bring mortgage lending online. Then came the dotcom bubble and the housing crisis of 2008. Those events shifted the company’s focus from digital to simply providing the best, most affordable loans. More than ten years later, with a 50-person digital team and new vision for the future, Guaranteed Rate is finally on track to achieve their original goal.
“We believe that the status quo for the industry is unacceptable and has to change,” says CMO Bob Armour, formerly CEO at Timelines, Inc, and former CMO at ShopLocal. Traditional loan processes are paper-heavy and slow, often taking months to complete. In an effort to replace a notoriously bureaucratic and unfriendly model, Armour and thero team of digital experts, which includes everyone from developers, designers, project managers and more, are focused on a method of lending that emphasizes low rates, excellent customer service and efficiency.
In 2012, Guaranteed Rate funded over $14.7 billion in loans, more than double the previous year, making it the eighth biggest mortgage company in the United States. This year, CEO Victor Ciardelli expects his company to fund over $18 billion in home loans.
“Our growth is directly related to our focus on building out our tech platform to be able to offer loans more efficiently, which will allow us to process more loans in 2013,” Armour says. Of the $1.5 trillion worth of home loans funded each year, exactly none of them are completed through a paperless process—yet.
Building the platform out can’t happen without a robust team, and that’s exactly what Guaranteed Rate's management is focused on creating. Currently 50 people strong, the digital contingent is trying to create for home loans what Intuit did with TurboTax: a simple, digital, automated process that anyone can undertake from the comfort of their own computer. As such, Armour is working closely with CIO Jerry Gross, who launched TurboTax for Intuit, and Scott Stephen, previously COO at Playboy and Yesmail.
With already half of its 2,600 employees based in Chicago, Guaranteed Rate is looking to grow its digital department, citing communities such as Built In Chicago as the perfect place to connect with “the best in tech.” The growth of Guaranteed Rate’s business fuels its ability to expand its digital team, which in turn enables it to conduct more and better business. It’s a cycle alright, but not a vicious one.
“Leveraging technology to offer home loans without the headache is going to be a key driver in growing our business, which is why we’ve placed an emphasis on building a world-class tech team,” Armour says.
For customers and real estate professionals in Chicago and beyond, Guaranteed Rate offers a desirable value proposition. An extensive and varied product set, industry-leading low rates and fees, plus strong customer service contribute to customers’ love of the product; in fact, Guaranteed Rate’s Net Promoter Score of 77 percent places it among customer favorites such as Apple (72 percent) and Amazon (70 percent). Compare that to the banking average (18 percent) and it’s clear the company is treating its customers well.
But it’s not just prospective home buyers that Guaranteed Rate caters to—real estate agents and other referral partners can access Partner Xchange, where unique tools and content serve as guides through the sales process.
For Guaranteed Rate, creating a digitized home loan process would be the realization of a dream long in the making. If successful, however, it could usher in a new era of mortgage lending. Here’s to hoping.
From now through May 31st, Built-in-Chicago members can take advantage of an exclusive offer and receive waived lender fees (a $990 savings) and preferred rates. Here are the details.