Quicken Loans has a company history of being innovators, coveting creativity and creating an enticing work environment. This led them to becoming one of the first online mortgage lenders, developing companies like Fathead and helping Detroit develop an entrepreneurial base through BizdomU.
As the company settles into their new downtown Detroit headquarters and is close to celebrating their one millionth customer, we took a few minutes to chat with David Carroll, Vice President of Administration and Special Assignments. Our conversation ranged from moving to Detroit to the company’s involvement with M-1 Rail to their symbiotic relationship with their new neighbors, Compuware.
Detroit Unspun: When Quicken Loans announced they were moving downtown, how did you sell the idea to employees?
David Carroll: We tried to slowly but surely get people use to Detroit and expose them to Detroit more. We started holding more and more events here, whether it was social events or company-wide meetings we would have on an annual basis. We started the Motown Lowdown somewhere around then, which was every Thursday afternoon someone from the public relations team would send out something saying what was going on in Detroit that weekend. It was all the festivals, concerts, events, whatever was happening downtown.
Even before we were talking about the Compuware building, when it was just a question of whether we were coming to Detroit or not, the Compuware folks let us come and interview their people to ask them about Detroit. I remember we spent probably a full day here, there were eight people, me included. Between the eight of us, we probably talked to about 100 people. We were able to select them at random so they wouldn’t give us a bunch of shills…
If there was one sort of overarching comment, it was, “Well, when they made the announcement, I wasn’t too happy about it but now that I’m here I really, really like it.”
So we were really, really confident that while you can’t make everybody happy and you’ve got 1,700 people so everyone’s going to have a different opinion, that overall we were pretty confident that our people would be okay with it.
DU: What was the business case for moving downtown?
DC: Our clients are all over the country and they all deal with us on the Internet or certainly out of their home or out of the office or telephone, so they frankly could care less if we’re in Detroit or the suburbs or Timbuktu because they are dealing with us over the Internet. And it’s not as if we have contracts with the City of Detroit.
Even though we are a mortgage company, mortgage companies are boring by nature and we pride ourselves by being on the forefront of things, by pioneering, by being on the edge, by leading, by taking chances and that goes with our philosophy as a company overall. We like to encourage people to take chances in our company; we like to attract, hire and retain people who take chances, who are aggressive and do things that are not conventional.
The whole concept of moving from a standard suburban location to somewhere like downtown Detroit without a major, clear, over-riding business reason just seemed consistent with our values. More tangibly, we think retention of people. The type of people who embrace this move are overall the type of people we want in our company. People that are not afraid to take risks. They like new challenges, they like new things.
DU: Why has Quicken Loans become a big backer of M-1 Rail?
DC: One of the things that people want and one of the reasons that in my opinion, in many others opinions, that Detroit hasn’t been as robust as most other cities is the lack of mass transit. It relates to everything, including parking. The lack of parking, the lack of mass transit I think definitely hurts businesses, it hurts office buildings trying to rent space.
Public transportation is huge for that. It’s a big thing psychologically. It’s something young people like. It adds to the walk-ability of cities. Early on, even before we committed (to moving) a big thing of ours was public transportation, for having some type of rail line.
It would be huge in two respects. One is just to have it. There are a lot of great things happening in Midtown, there’s a lot of great things happening downtown. If we could connect it all, that would be great. It’s almost guaranteed that all of the empty land and storefronts would fill in along Woodward. It’s happened in every other city when they build rail lines.
The really exciting part is that it’s a starting point for going beyond and getting transportation for the entire region.