Rocket taps veteran fintech exec Varun Krishna as next CEO

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In a bold move demonstrating that mortgage lending is just one component of the company’s larger fintech strategy, Rocket Companies has hired an expert in consumer product and design from outside of the company as its new chief executive officer.

Varun Krishna, 41, a veteran fintech executive who has held product-management roles at companies, including Intuit, PayPal, Groupon and Microsoft, will succeed interim CEO Bill Emerson on Sept. 5.

In addition to overseeing the Rocket Companies’ stable of brands — which includes consumer finance app Rocket Money, real estate brokerage Rocket Homes and title insurance provider Amrock — Krishna will take on a dual role as CEO of Rocket Mortgage.

Rocket Companies founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert called Krishna “a visionary leader with a proven track record of helping consumers achieve financial freedom” who has “delivered innovative, technology-driven client experiences for complex personal transactions in large, fragmented markets.”

Dan Gilbert

Krishna’s experience “aligns perfectly with Rocket’s vision, making him the ideal person to drive growth, strong performance and operational excellence at Rocket,” Gilbert said in a statement.

Shares in Rocket Companies, which have traded for as little as $5.97 and as much as $11.38 in the last year, surged as high as $11.22 Monday on the news before closing at $10.93, up 10 cents from Friday’s close.

Varun Krishna

A computer engineer by training — he holds a bachelor’s degree in the subject from Canada’s University of Waterloo — Krishna has more than 20 years of experience in product design and product management. In his last role at Intuit, Krishna oversaw a suite of consumer and tax products and services, including TurboTax and TurboTax Live.

While Rocket relinquished its title as the nation’s biggest mortgage lender last year to United Wholesale Mortgage, executives say it’s poised to make a comeback not only in mortgage but by cross-marketing other products and services to unlock “the lifetime value of the client.”

Driving the strategy is Rocket’s 2021 acquisition of Truebill, a personal finance app that tracks spending and helps users budget and boost their credit scores, for $1.27 billion. Last year Rocket rebranded Truebill as Rocket Money and connected the personal finance app to the rest of the company’s platform, allowing Rocket to market mortgages and other services to users.

Haroon Mokhtarzada

Truebill co-founder and CEO Haroon Mokhtarzada has stayed on as Rocket Money’s CEO, helping roll out products like a new Visa rewards card that incentivizes first-time homebuyers to choose Rocket Mortgage when financing their homes.

While it remains to be seen if Rocket Companies can pull the fintech pivot off — the company posted a $411 million quarterly net loss in May — 2023 may be remembered as the year of the changing of the guard at the mortgage giant.

Jay Farner

CEO Jay Farner, who presided over Rocket Companies’ 2020 initial public offering and initiated the company’s transition to a fintech platform, retired on June 1 after 27 years with the company.

Bob Walters

With Krishna coming on board, Rocket Mortgage CEO Bob Walters — who also serves as president and chief operating officer of Rocket Companies — will retire on Sept. 5.

Bill Emerson

Emerson, a former Rocket Mortgage CEO who was serving as vice chairman of Rock Holdings when he took over the interim CEO role at Rocket Companies this summer, will remain on the company’s board of directors and help Krishna transition into his new role.

“Having served as CEO of Rocket Mortgage, our flagship business, for 15 years, Bill [Emerson] is the right person to work alongside Varun going forward to ensure a seamless transition,” Gilbert said.

“Rocket has a rock-solid foundation and tremendous potential, with its comprehensive ecosystem and industry-renowned technology, strong brand and award-winning client service,” Krishna said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Bill, the board and Rocket’s exceptionally talented team members to drive the company’s future success and create long-term value for our stakeholders.”

Companies under the Rocket umbrella include:

  • Rocket Central: A centralized hub for the Rocket Cos. fintech platform, providing technology, accounting, legal services, public relations and human resources. Formerly known as Rock Central.
  • Rocket Mortgage: After claiming to have created “the first fully digital mortgage experience” in 2015 when it was known as Quicken Loans, Rocket Mortgage grew to become the nation’s largest mortgage lender with $320 billion in loans originating in 2020.
  • Rocket Homes: A real estate brokerage and search portal that allows consumers to search multiple listing service data for homes, connect with real estate professionals and obtain mortgage approvals through Rocket Mortgage.
  • An online marketplace enabling consumers to buy or sell properties on their own, offering financing through Rocket Mortgage.
  • Amrock: A national provider of title insurance, property valuations and settlement services and “preferred provider” to Rocket Mortgage.
  • Amrock Title Insurance Co.: A nationwide title insurer, providing underwriting services for national title insurance agent Amrock.
  • Rocket Loans: An online personal loan company that takes applications online, with funding provided by partner Cross River Bank as soon as the same day.
  • Rocket Auto: A virtual marketplace where consumers can shop for cars offered by a network of dealers.
  • Rocket Money (formerly Truebill): A consumer finance app that tracks spending and helps users budget and build up their credit scores.
  • An online comparison service for mortgages, credit cards, insurance, loans, home services and personal finance.
  • Core Digital Media: A digital, social and display advertiser generating leads for mortgage, insurance and education providers.
  • Nexys Technologies: Software solutions for streamlining, digitizing and automating mortgage processes.
  • Rock Connections: A sales and support platform providing contact center services, including appointment-setting, prequalifying clients, lead and efficiency consulting, lead generation, reporting and analytics.
  • Rocket Innovation Studio: Recruits and mentors technology talent to support the needs of Rocket Companies.
  • Woodward Capital Management: An issuer of private-label mortgage-backed securities, providing funding for loans originated by Rocket Mortgage.
  • Lendesk: A Canadian mortgage technology provider of products to digitize and simplify lending.
  • Rocket Mortgage Canada ULC (formerly Edison Financial): A Canadian digital mortgage firm that employs Lendesk’s Spotlight as its lender submission platform. After rebranding as Rocket Mortgage Canada last year, Rocket Companies’ Canadian mortgage brokerage subsidiary is now making direct mortgage loans, the company announced last week.

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