- United Wholesale Mortgage recently went public in the largest SPAC deal ever.
- CEO Mat Ishbia is a former college basketball player who values a willingness to learn in new hires.
- Ishbia skips meetings on Thursdays so he can chat more casually with different UWM teams.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
In January, United Wholesale Mortgage went public in the largest blank-check deal ever.
After merging with special purpose acquisition company Gores Holdings IV, UWM, which is the nation’s second-biggest mortgage provider, went public at an eye-popping valuation of $16.1 billion.
CEO and president Mat Ishbia is a former college basketball player who said he didn’t know what a mortgage was until he joined UWM as a 23-year-old in 2003, and didn’t know what a SPAC was until last year. In the past two decades, Ishbia has grown UWM from 12 employees to more than 7,400. More important to him than financial acumen is the willingness to learn — which is why he hires primarily for “a great work ethic and attitude.”
UWM’s headquarters are on its Pontiac, Michigan, campus. Most of the staff is still working remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Ishbia likes to work there. Thursdays are designated meeting-free days, so Ishbia instead spends them thinking big-picture and dropping in on different teams to learn what they’re working on.
Every day ends with family dinner — Ishbia is a single father of three kids — and playtime.
Ishbia let Insider have a look at one of his Thursdays.
Ishbia never sets an alarm, since he naturally wakes up while it’s still dark out. Within 45 minutes he’s in the car with a cup of fruit in hand, listening to the “Top 40 Hits” radio. On the drive to the office, he thinks about his plan for the day ahead.
Once he arrives at UWM’s campus, Ishbia greets the security team and heads to his office. For the next two hours or so, he’s heads-down. “Thursday is my review time,” Ishbia said, and he focuses on UWM’s internal task system where work gets assigned.
Thursday morning is also “my time to get to a zero inbox,” Ishbia said, and to send “messages of gratitude and congratulations on life events or accomplishments at UWM to at least five team members.”
Ishbia’s dad — Jeffrey Ishbia, who founded UWM — calls Ishbia on his way to work so they can catch up on family news.
It’s time for Ishbia to pick his head up and chat with his staff, starting with UWM’s chief operating officer, Melinda Wilner, so they can discuss ways to make the business more efficient. (Don’t be fooled; it’s not an official meeting!)
Every Thursday Ishbia spends a few hours shadowing different UWM divisions. He also pops in on “unsuspecting teams” so he can ask about technology rollouts and other recent achievements.
Lunch usually happens at the UCafe on campus, and Ishbia likes to sit with team members he hasn’t spoken with before. Since the pandemic, Ishbia said, he’s been getting takeout instead. Typical splurges include Taco Bell or the local slider joint, Hunter House. After eating, Ishbia jots down notes about what he learned that morning.
It’s back to team visits, this time starting with UWM’s new hire training class. “I want to talk to them and thank them for joining our family,” Ishbia said.
As the day winds down, Ishbia takes more notes on what he learned that afternoon.
Ishbia takes end-of-day check-ins with some senior UWM leaders, including Wilner again. They recap the day and prepare for the next one.
Ishbia heads home to have dinner with his kids.
It’s family dinner time. Ishbia said he likes to put his phone on airplane mode so he can “take lots of photos and not be distracted.” Ishbia prepares something nutritious, though if his kids had it their way, he says, “it would be pizza every night.”
The family spends a while playing together. Lately they’re loving a game called “jail break,” Ishbia said, “where the kids try to beat me to a certain place in the yard before I can tag them out.”
The weather doesn’t matter, Ishbia said. “We play it in any kind of condition — if it’s dark, we play with flashlights; if it’s in the snow we’ll play with snow pants on.”
Everyone showers and gets ready for bed. Each kid gets a turn picking a movie and the family watches the whole thing over three nights. A recent pick from Ishbia’s daughter: the 2015 comedy “Daddy’s Home.”
Before bed, Ishbia reads everyone a story and does secret handshakes with each kid.
While the kids are snoozing, Ishbia responds to some emails and watches sports highlights on the news. By 9:40 pm, he’s conked out, too.