Saturday Cup of Joe: a lending and tech(ish) newsletter

Friends & Colleagues,

SCJ53. This week began with a flight to Miami and a series of panels & discussions at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Legal Issues conference. Hot topics ranged from the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the role state regulators will play in enforcement, the new HMDA implementation rule, digital mortgage/fintech and recent class action litigation. I spent much of my time in the CFPB/regulatory/digital sessions and meetings.

On Friday, Detroit opened the Q-Line a streetcar that will carry passengers up and down Woodward. While it doesn’t go all the way to the suburbs, it took 10 years to get even this far into the city. It’s a solid development for the city and will be a benefit. We might try to ride it later today.


Last, but certainly not least, I wanted to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. It’s a day of celebration for most and complexity or even pain for others. Hopefully you have a day that reflects gratitude, honesty and/or courage. We will be celebrating Meredith and our moms…as much FaceTime as Tess will handle. I wonder if someone at Apple could measure whether FaceTime is the most high volume day the way Mother’s Day sees (or used to see) the most mail of any holiday, at least according to Seinfeld. Happy Mother’s Day to you or your mom.

This week we look at:

  • My pitch on podcasts (Of Interest)
  • A poorly formed opinion on Dodd-Frank (Got Me Thinking)
  • NYT comes to visit and once again, I pitch Millennials #NextBelt(This week in Detroit)
  • Ever been at an airport so long you decided to just move in? (A Look Ahead)
  • Trulia weighs in on my #NextBelt theories (Talk the Talk)
  • Update on StockX (Walk the Walk)
  • Thoughts, bonus and quote (all the way at the end)

Of Interest: Podcasts combine two really great features. The ability to visit with a favorite host or topic many times throughout the week and the intimacy of getting the story, interview or information personally on-demand. After just a few episodes into WTF with Marc Maron back in 2009, I understood what everyone was talking about. Maron isn’t necessarily one of my top 5 podcast hosts but I do find myself going back to his interviews whenever there’s a guest that interests me. Likewise, I have 2 or 3 podcasts where I’ve heard every episode the host has to offer.

Thanks to NPR and the companies willing to advertise, yes including Rocket Mortgage, podcasts are free. I thought it was interesting to understand the business model and the potential for targeted ads. It is not without complication. But the bottom line is free. And I think our choices are only going to continue to grow. There’s even a podcast ad agency willing to help.

Once a weird niche, new podcasts and podcast networks are popping up every day. With it, comes the potential for advertising to a careful cultivated demographic. For me, listening to podcasts is just a convenient way to learn while I’m otherwise jogging, driving, and washing dishes. Brad, Dana and I launched a podcast that chronicled Brad’s cancer diagnosis, treatment and abrupt passing. We had no idea how many people we were connecting with until well into the process. It was rewarding and I’m really happy Dana and I are able to continue it today. I hope to start my own podcast someday soon. I’d like to try to “crowd source” solutions to the leadership and people-problems inside organizations, companies or teams. There are some great podcasts on a wide range of topics. It’s a fairly personal experience and so I don’t know whether I can recommend anything more than what I love to hear but since their free, it only costs you time to check them out.

I prefer (or am willing to recommend here) those that have great guests and / or brilliant stories. Right now, I’m listening to NPR’s Hidden Brain (great for insights in everyday life), The Tim Ferriss Show (ideas about ideas), Crimetown (about the modern history of Providence, RI), and The Moment with Brian Koppelman (how to keep working and being creative). Previous podcasts include Revisionst History (Malcolm Gladwell thinking things), Serial season 1, and Radiolab’s More Perfect (about a year ago, all stories on the Supreme Court — fantastic).


Got Me Thinking: Speaking of…I had occasion this week to catch up on some old podcasts and listened to an episode of WNYC’s “Money Talking” with Gillian White from The Atlantic. The episode from February was a high level overview of Dodd-Frank and the attempts by the Trump administration to roll back the legislation. One thing that struck me was the way both the host and Ms. White discussed the market and potential risks to consumers. Philosophically, this 9 minute podcast struck a cord with me. Their high level conversation about something I’ve lived for the last 5 years made me wonder if we’re really only an economy of specialists.

I am continually amazed with how specialization limits our ability as a society, as a government and, yes, as consumers to see (or deal with) big problems. We are all assigned to such specific aspects of our businesses which are specific to a product or service which is only part an industry which is only a sector of the economy. You get the idea. Businesses and markets have become so complex that regulators & lawmakers (often journalists) cannot possibly understand the whole picture.

It made me wonder if Dodd-Frank was a smokescreen of sorts. Calling the agency the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is genius. Having that same agency then issue the “Ability to Repay” rule or the “Know Before You Owe” rule meant it was unlikely for the average political reporter nevertheless consumers to look much deeper. It was hard to get at what really matters. In fact that might be the thing that bothers me. This wasn’t about, it’s never about, what really fixes the thing. It’s only about what’s good enough to “sell.”

On podcasts like this one, journalists feel emboldened to call Dodd-Frank the single piece of law standing between us and another mortgage crisis.

Yet in reality, no one trusts that consumers can or should be able to act on their own behalf if a company is offering them something inappropriately. We don’t trust ourselves or each other but we don’t have the willingness to take that implication to its effective conclusion (i.e. admit it) so instead we’re left with halfway solutions. Halfway solutions just frustrate everyone.

At the same time, we cannot fundamentally change the fact that the American people’s desire to enjoy all the upside of taking risk (or utilizing credit) and avoid as much of the pain after the fact, even if it is widely acknowledged to be deserved. So, let’s just acknowledge it and craft some regulation around that. But I’m not sure if it would be the single piece of legislation to avoid the next …


This week in Detroit: Detroit is back in the national news. The New York Times 36-hours series profiled Detroit. Both old and new Detroit were well represented. A few of my favorites that I expected to see — Eastern Market and Third Man Records — did not make the list. But I’m not gonna complain. If you are looking for 36 hours in Detroit, just let me know and I’ll give you my full must-see list.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a full-on defense of my #NextBelt theory. The #NextBelt cities are those Midwest classics, like Detroit, where millennials can establish themselves and write their own story at half (or more!) the cost of NYC and SF. This week Bloomberg discovered this as car companies race to recruit millennials to Detroit. Partly based on new projects like self-driving cars and partly based on story, this article describes how the auto industry is buying into #NextBelt living. Check out this closing paragraph: “For now, the automakers are just hoping for more recruits like Victoria Schein. After all, Detroit is the center of the universe for car culture, the local draft beer is excellent and the cost of living can’t be beat.”



A Look Ahead: Have you ever heard of an aerotropolis? You might soon. The concept of building a city around an airport is one that might appeal to business travelers in places like Chicago where the airport is less than convenient. But a long term solution? Seems unlikely in this country, but you never know.


Talk the Talk: Of the top cities for Millennials, Trulia specifically noted that Detroit (#3 in affordability) and Pittsburgh (the best combo of affordability and jobs) were among the best places. #NextBelt cities in Ohio also rated highly among new graduates. Other cities with similar job, budget and affordability rankings were Baltimore and Hartford. The Trulia report noted “The good news is that some lower-cost markets also offer numerous opportunities for recent grads, though not as many as the priciest markets. While there’s no place that offers the magic combination of extensive job opportunities and easily affordable housing (and if that place existed, it probably wouldn’t stay affordable for long), we found six metros where you can spend a bit less on housing without giving up too much on the job options.”

A few more months and we’ll have you convinced the magic combination is Detroit.

If ours is a generation of value-seekers that prioritize lifestyle over cache, then the #NextBelt “sweet spots” are likely to continue to grow in the coming years. If the research from Trulia doesn’t convince you, why not come for a visit and we’ll show you around (see the offer above or 36 hours in Detroit)?

Pause and insert random article on new study that involves Millennials and the American Dream. Don’t worry it includes tons of stats! %!


Walk the Walk: Update on StockX. StockX is the company that Dan Gilbert helped launch that provides a stock market for rare and collectible sneakers. For instance, Josh Luber, the CEO, went on SportsCenter to explain StockX and promote the release of the newest kicks for the NBA playoffs. We’ve been preparing some big news for weeks and on Wednesday it started to hit the internet.

StockX is finally achieving the ultimate goal of being “a stock market of things” by expanding into designer handbags and wrist watches. So if you thought it might just be an obscure app for sneakerheads, think again. One interesting note on the handbag certification or verification process. Because StockX authenticates these items, the company had to invest in a database of fabrics and textures to help buyers and sellers ensure that they are getting the real thing.


Today’s Thought: 100 year storm. I heard this term a few months ago and didn’t really think anything of it. Then I heard it again a few weeks ago and several times last week. It’s generally used in a big group to describe the worst thing the speaker can imagine happening. For example, “now let’s take a 100 year storm and ask whether we still like this idea.” Or “how does it perform against the 100 year storm?” It’s one of those things that sounds real smart and dramatic in a conference room on a Tuesday afternoon at 3:47 PM, but might not make any sense elsewhere. Ultimately communication, in a conference room or otherwise, is all about being understood anyway, so it’s fine. But I couldn’t help but wonder where it came from. According to the Internet, it is an event that has a 1% chance of happening, but if it happens would be destructive. It brings up an interesting tension in tech companies. On one hand, we’re “good is the enemy of great” cultures that would rather innovate through trial and error and plan ourselves to death. On the other hand, it can be highly beneficial to think about the rare disaster, particularly in the world of cybersecurity and data privacy, when planning an integration or new feature rollout. If you haven’t heard 100 year storm used in a meeting, don’t be the first one to do it, but if you have, was it helpful?

Quote: “If you’re going to make an error, make a doozy, and don’t be afraid to hit the ball.” — Billie Jean King

Bonus Content: Detroit hosted This Old House to track the renovation of 2 homes here in the city.

Continued success,

Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well.