That Birmingham Little League coach? He may just be Michigan’s newest billionaire. Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, can be found coaching his three children’s basketball, flag football and baseball teams when he’s not running the wholesale mortgage lending company founded by his father in 1986.
Ishbia, who grew up in Birmingham and graduated from Seaholm High School, was a walk-on for Michigan State University’s basketball team, where he says he “had to be the hardest working player to be the worst player on the team.”
As gratitude for that opportunity, In February, Ishbia made a $32 million donation to MSU's athletic department, with a condition that the new football building and the court at the Breslin Center be named after his former coach, Tom Izzo.
Upon graduation, he stayed on as an assistant coach, a lifestyle that he quickly realized would not afford him the time to spend with family. “I realized if I wanted to be in coaching, it was a major personal and family commitment. My dad was always my coach growing up, which I really respected. As a coach in basketball, you have to take care of your team before your family.”
He gave himself a year to see if he liked the business world as much as basketball. “I fell in love with it. I could apply my competitive juices in the same way in business as I could in basketball.”
The business he fell in love with is not the same as the company he runs today. Ishbia always knew of his father, Jeff, as an attorney, but he had a few side businesses, of which UWM was one. Ishbia became the company’s 12th employee, knowing nothing about mortgages and learning the business from the ground up. By the time the company went public in January 2021, they had nearly 9,000 employees.
For the past year, the majority of those employees have worked remotely. Ishbia, however, still goes into the office daily at 4 a.m. – he calls the hours between four and eight his “quiet time.” And he can’t wait for UWM’s Pontiac campus, which sits just on the edge of Bloomfield Township, where he lives, to be filled again.
“My happiness and joy is when people are working together as a team,” he said.
The Pontiac office space, which opened in 2018, is intentional. His mother was a teacher in the city he describes as “up and coming,” and they have almost 200 acres on their “sprawling campus,” which includes amenities like basketball and volleyball courts, a Starbucks, and other opportunities for socialization beyond work.
“We’re proud to be a part of Pontiac and make an impact on the community. It’s a great place to grow our business.” To that end, the company has recently partnered with the Oakland County Health Division to utilize the UWM Sports Complex as a COVID-19 vaccination site.
While from a business perspective, 2021 has been off to a great start, Ishbia’s priority is his employees. “The big thing is to bring all of our people back when the pandemic is under control. Working together as a team, as a family, having that camaraderie.”
Story: Hillary Brody Anchill
Photo: United Wholesale Mortgage