Donald J. Trump's propensity for making bold statements may have rubbed off on his year-old mortgage venture's president and chief executive.
Right now Trump Mortgage LLC is a brokerage licensed in several states. Last month it arranged about $25 million of loans, mostly in New York. However, E.J. Ridings said in an interview last week that it plans to obtain warehouse lines that would allow it to start funding loans itself by yearend and expects to originate $3 billion of real estate financing this year.
He also reiterated a statement he has made at least once before since the brokerage's formation was announced last month - that Trump Mortgage can fill a branding void that exists in the mortgage industry.
"There's really no leadership on the national level in the mortgage business," he said.
The venture, which was formed in April, has a ways to go. Mr. Ridings said he expects it to be licensed nationwide in the next few months. This year it plans to open a dozen offices around the country, and eventually it wants offices in every state. Next year it might become a portfolio lender, he said.
"Mr. Trump doesn't do anything on a small scale," Mr. Ridings said.
What about well-known mortgage giants like Countrywide Financial Corp., for example? Mr. Ridings said its brand is well recognized by industry insiders but not by many borrowers, and he pointed out the big role local brokers play in the market.
Countrywide may have a good claim to the title, but "you ask 10 people outside the New York Stock Exchange, right outside my office, 'Who does?' They don't know." Consumers are more likely to name General Motors Acceptance Corp.'s Ditech.com, Popular Inc.'s E-Loan, "or whoever else they see on television."
The implication was that a big retailer with a nationally respected brand could consolidate a fragmented origination market. Some executives and observers do see such a future, mostly with large banks in the driver's seat.
Others dismiss the idea by noting that brokers have well-established relationships with local referral sources.
Countrywide - whose chairman and CEO, Angelo Mozilo, is arguably just as successful, ambitious, and colorful as Mr. Trump, if not more so - aims to nearly double its market share, to 30% by 2010. But the company would include its wholesale and correspondent lending in that figure, and each of its similar-size lending channels has been growing at a similar rate in recent years.
(The Calabasas, Calif., company would not respond to Mr. Ridings' comments. Mr. Ridings also said that he comes close to "idolizing" Mr. Mozilo.)
Mr. Ridings said the brokerage plans to open retail branches initially in states where Mr. Trump is developing properties, including Florida, California, New York, and Illinois.
It will probably roll out a television advertising campaign within a year in certain markets that will play off many consumers' trust in Mr. Trump, Mr. Ridings said. "It's going to be Mr. Trump on television, saying, 'Who gets a better deal than me?' "
A press conference that will probably take place early next month should provide the venture with plenty of publicity, he said.
Trump Mortgage has 50 employees in its office at 40 Wall Street (the "Trump Building") in New York. About half of them are loan officers.
Trump Mortgage is also exploring setting up call centers in the near future, Mr. Ridings said. It has no plans to enter wholesale lending in the near term, but it could do so eventually, he said.
About three-quarters of the projected $3 billion of originations should be residential mortgages and the rest will finance commercial properties.
Mr. Ridings called Mr. Trump "the largest partner in this business" and said Trump Mortgage also has other shareholders, but he would not go into further detail.
Trump Mortgage is offering products across the credit spectrum, according to Mr. Ridings. Lending on luxury homes and apartments will be "natural for the company," but Trump Mortgage also wants to be "a firm for the masses."
Mr. Ridings' last job was as a senior loan officer with GuardHill Financial Corp., a New York brokerage that specializes in luxury homes. Before that, he said, he had been a Morgan Stanley stockbroker.
He said he decided to enter the mortgage business after feeling he got ripped off when he took one out about five years ago and thinking he could give better service to others.
Hence, besides getting big, the other main leg of Trump Mortgage's strategy will be offering consumer-friendly service, he said. "We'll make plenty of money based upon our volume. We don't have to go out and gouge the customers. I happen to think there's a lot of that going on."
The mortgage market is expected to be tough in the coming years, but Mr. Ridings said Mr. Trump is "not going to waver" in his commitment to the business.
"I would not, myself, open up a mortgage company called E.J. Ridings Mortgage right now," but looking at the longer term, Mr. Trump is "going about it on a contrarian basis."
Like other mortgage executives, Mr. Ridings said turnover at other lenders caused by the tough market - and related downsizing and consolidation - should benefit his company. "We'll be in the position to bring on some of the best people in the industry."
Trump Mortgage had planned to do only a small amount of commercial property financing, but that side of the business is growing faster than expected, he said.
Mr. Trump's long-standing relationships and a database of contacts from his other businesses numbering in the "six-figure range" help.
The firm is now working on deals, involving both debt and equity financing, on properties in several countries, Mr. Ridings said.
On the residential side, he said, Trump Mortgage expects to get some of its originations by working closely with Mr. Trump's property businesses, and by leveraging his relationships with other developers and owners.
This will be especially helpful in Trump Mortgage's home city, Mr. Ridings said.
"We're going to own New York."