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

Friends & Colleagues,

SCOJ #103. Yahtzee! No seriously, not a bad top ½ score in Yahtzee! (I’ve been playing a lot of Yahtzee lately and it’s great). If you haven’t played in a while, definitely give it another chance.

I had an exciting and fascinating and productive week. Several questions and projects forced me to bring my A-game and I’d like to think I did. Later in the week, I successfully completed my first Answer Well class. For those who are curious, Answer Well is the personal and professional development course that I put together at work. 11 of my colleagues joined me for 2 ½ hours focused on articulating our PURPOSE and trying to brainstorm ways to conduct “bite-sized” experiments in our lives. I think it went really well and I connected with several of my colleagues and friends in new ways. I’m excited to see what the next 2 weeks hold as we prepare for our next meeting in mid-May.

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Belle Isle Park, Detroit, MI, USA

I’m leaving tomorrow for Los Angeles for the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Legal Issues conference. I’ll be on stage Sunday afternoon at 5 PM discussing marketing compliance. Yup, this is the life I’ve chosen. Only kidding. It’s shaping up to be a dynamic and interesting conference as I reconnect with former colleagues and friends to discuss the challenges legal and compliance faces in today’s mortgage market. Should be a productive event. If you’re attending and we haven’t gotten something on the calendar, please text or call so we can. I’m looking forward to it.

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There’s a new style / format this week. Be on the lookout for a series of smaller items or “stories” instead of the fewer, longer sections I’ve written in previous weeks. I hope you find it interesting. No way to give a table of contents for this one. Just all over the place. Good luck!

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Source: Inkwell, Detroit.

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Word of the week: Dramastically. Obviously, it’s not a word. But it should be! Someone was trying to say drastically and in the spirit of the moment, misspoke…but in the best possible way. Something that is dramatic and drastic is now dramastically.

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Interesting map of the predominant religion in each region across the nation. Ever wonder whether certain religious or ethnic groups influence the culture of an area? Check out this map and see what these trends might mean for your business.

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Afflict the comfortable: In a podcast interview with Katie Couric, she described the job of a journalist is to “afflict the comfortable.” I’ve written before about how to build a culture in your organization where mediocrity is seen as “uncool.” Often large organizations have a peer pressure for conformity or falling in line. Don’t stand out. Don’t show up your team or your coworkers. We are trying to build organizations and teams where what stands out is the person who doesn’t answer well, who doesn’t give 100%.

Along those lines, leaders must afflict the comfortable. Anyone who wants to be a leader will inevitability follow suit. By striking at meaning and purpose, we’ll create a cycle of improvement and progress.

What will you do this week to target conformity and afflict the comfortable people or comfortable mindset in your office?

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Detroit, MI, USA

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“Leaders bring the weather.” Angelo Vitale, the EVP and General Counsel of Quicken Loans, mentioned this quote this week. He was not taking credit for the quote, but I want to give him credit. I had never heard it before but it fits perfectly with my Answer Well mentality. Like it or not, your team will follow your mood. Keep that in mind.

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Tiny homes are adding square footage, guest homes and value to previously empty backyards. A new software from a home developer can evaluate your backyard for a tiny home. The new in-law apartment, perhaps? According to Bloomberg, it’s not just added income or added value but could also allow some homeowners to rent it out and address the availability of housing in Southern California. You think calculating and documenting traditional rental income was tough — how would a tiny home in the backyard qualify? Easier or harder? Right now the big win is simply the software that lets you design your free space into a tiny home for a fraction of the cost of a traditional architect. The lingering question for real estate/mortgage/property management companies is what this might do to disrupt our businesses. Interesting use of otherwise “unused” space (unless, ya know, you are a weirdo who loves having a backyard that you can’t monetize).

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Inside the world of the mega rich: I found this profile of an exclusive beach club in Hawai’i to be a thoughtful look at luxury versus responsibility. Admittedly, I’ve always been fascinated by the secret or concierge world of the places, services, and offerings of the wealthy class. This Hawai’ian resort is the type of place that you kinda assume exists — anything you want, anytime — but in some ways, the article portrays it as a novelty. Perhaps because of the partnership with the local government to protect that land, perhaps because of the extravagance of the place itself, but I wonder whether this is beginning of a trend of “justification.”

The mega rich class is increasingly populated with technology start-ups and Internet billionaires. I wonder if there is normal, personal inclination to continue to access the luxury, full-concierge amenities open to these folks but a cultural peer pressure to explain or otherwise rationalize how it fits into the growing sense of responsibility for the use of land, resources, etc? I could be way off, but it does seem that the techno-class of start-up billionaires have already looked at their wealth in new and different ways (i.e. Thiel spending $10 million to secretly support / bankroll a lawsuit against Gawker for mostly personal reasons). Or perhaps these billionaires are acting exactly the same but the transparencies of today’s connected world just make the information more readily available to the rest of us.

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Bar Loiza, The Belt, Detroit, MI, USA

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Urban housing remains a giant question mark. This article in Politico profiles Seattle and the increasingly desperate housing market. Among other problems, one large one is that the “market [is] actually ignoring a lot of problems.” Existing residents (i.e. older generations) are dictating zoning, home values and building plans. As a result, expensive homes remain while dense apartments and multifamily housing is not being built or even planned.

In fact, what began as a housing issue has become a generational divide. Many homeowners have organized against development and growth. Specifically, Seattle’s existing homeowners have blocked efforts to build condos and apartments. The author notes that “Such nakedly self-interested politics have been all the more insulting to millennials, a generation that, surveys suggest, puts a huge store in fairness, personal sacrifice and community building.”

One fascinating case study in the article is a 76-year-old retired engineer who bought his home in 1969 for $14,000 after getting a job at Boeing and recently received an assessment of $1.3 million. Compare that with the growth (or lack of growth) for today’s income figures and you soon realize a newly hired engineer at Groupon or Amazon cannot afford a new home or home ownership.

At the same time, there’s no simple solution. This is a complex problem that includes looking at increasing housing supply, addressing housing density, and understanding the needs of the city’s affordable housing clientele. Attempts in Seattle to use big data to convince existing homeowners that multifamily housing options already exist and new ones are not likely to disrupt their way of life or home values are not optimistic…yet the fight goes on. Interesting stuff if you have time to read this long profile of Seattle.

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Ever had a package stolen off your front porch? According to reports this week, Amazon is rolling out Amazon Key, the service that will allow Amazon to leave your packages in your car. Last year I posted about a service that allowed Amazon a code to enter your home and leave the package inside the door — an effort to avoid theft off the front porch. Many Saturday Cup of Joe readers reacted that they had NO interest in Amazon entering their home. My female friends especially did not like the idea.

This week, Amazon announced a partnership with GM — Chevy, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, and Volvo — owners with Amazon Prime to have their packages delivered inside their cars at home, work or anywhere. Would this work for you? What do you think of Amazon’s attempt at convenience, innovation and security?

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Food for thought:

Source: Tim Urban

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I was in a meeting this week with a financial services company and one of the customer experience strategists said, “we’re in the business of guaranteeing outcomes.” Obviously this is not possible, but I felt it was exactly the right mindset. Set up your product or service so that whether the mortgage is paid off in 3 years not 30 or the insurance policy is never needed, the outcome is guaranteed. Or at least as certain as possible. Look for ways to build certainty and foreseeable outcomes into your team or your business this week.

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What are you gonna do about it?

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Brave New World. I’ve floated the idea in the past of taking more and more characteristics of a person’s life into their repayment risk (i.e. the likelihood the person will pay back a mortgage or other loan) to help make better credit decisions. For instance, research suggests that people with deep social networks in the community are more likely to repay their mortgages. Could social media help lenders make better credit decisions? Ant Financial, the financial arm of Alibaba, is piloting Sesame Credit in China to try to find out. Sesame Credit offers rewards and perks to those who increase their ‘score.’ Though it’s not clear what will raise or lower the score, web-browsing, video game purchases and other online activity will certainly have an impact.

What do you think? Is it fair? How far does the science/data have to come before we’re ok to start using these risk calculations in our markets? What if American consumers opted in to lower their interest rates or get rewards that could be put to a down payment?

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Maybe we could all use a little Aloha Spirit: Common law is the unwritten laws of fairness and justice that can still govern certain legal decisions in our courts today. Somehow, in my 3 years in law school, I was not taught about the Hawaiian common law known as Aloha Spirit. Whereas common law dates back to Europe in the Middle Ages and after, Hawai’i officially passed Aloha Spirit in 1986. Still, it’s essentially the law to do things “the Hawaiian way.” Cooperation. Harmony. Unity. You get the idea. The fact that it’s virtually impossible to enforce is beside the point. It stands for a way of life and, according to the article, it still acts as a social justice enforcement against politicians and celebrities. Living Aloha means living in respect and love for others. Many days it doesn’t feel that simple, but maybe it can be that simple.

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Eastern Market, Detroit, MI, USA

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Today’s thought: How much change is a reasonable amount of change to expect in an organization? We’ve all seen the movie or experienced the friend, family member or even our own relationship where one person in the relationship really wants the partner, spouse or other person to change. All the advice is “you can’t change someone.” Don’t try. Right? How is it any different inside an organization? If companies are just groups of people functioning together, how it is that we cannot expect to change a romantic partner but we can expect to change an entire organization? How much change is realistic and how much can be/ should be expected?

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Quote: “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.” — Viktor Fankl

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Bonus Content: Check out this cool hidden room in the Toronto Reference Library. The top floor has been recreated to look like Sherlock Holmes’ apartment at 221B Baker Street, London, with Victorian-era chairs, a Persian carpet, floor-to-ceiling wooden bookshelves, and a scattering of memorabilia and paraphernalia.

Continued success and continue to answer well,

Written by

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

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