Rocket hires first group CTO to accelerate AI development

Qualcomm and Intel veteran Shawn Malhotra comes to Rocket from Thomson Reuters where, as head of engineering, he helped the global media giant develop a cloud-based, API-driven generative AI platform.

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Rocket Companies executives say artificial intelligence is transforming their business and have hired AI innovator Shawn Malhotra to accelerate the process as the first chief technology officer for the Rocket family of companies.

The former Qualcomm, Altera and Intel software engineer comes to Rocket from Thomson Reuters where, as head of engineering, he helped the Canadian-based global media company and information provider develop a cloud-based, API-driven generative AI platform.

Shawn Malhotra

Shawn Malhotra

“GenAI was a game changer,” Malhotra told Computerworld in February of the company’s efforts to use the new technology to not only serve Reuters News but clients that include legal, tax, and risk and compliance professionals.

At Rocket, Malhotra’s primary objective will be to increase the rate of innovation and execution, “amplifying Rocket’s AI initiatives,” Rocket Cos. CEO Varun Krishna said in a statement. “His fresh perspective and track record of leveraging AI to simplify and automate processes makes me confident that, together, we will quickly realize our vision of AI-fueled homeownership.”

In February, Rocket announced that tech visionary Alex Rampell, a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, was joining Rocket’s board of directors.

Dan Gilbert

Dan Gilbert

“One of the world’s leading experts on artificial intelligence, he is also a highly sought-after consultant for many successful businesses,” Rocket Companies founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert said in a statement at the time. “As Alex joins our Board, I look forward to his insight and having his influence on our business as we continue pursuing our mission of AI-powered homeownership.”

Last month, Rocket Mortgage announced an AI-driven technology platform, Rocket Logic, that it claims has reduced turn times by 25 percent from August 2022 to February 2024.

Another new AI tool, Rocket Logic Synopsis, is being used to transcribe and tag client interactions and log client preferences to boost the performance of client support teams that handle 65 million calls a year.

Rocket is also piloting a voice-generative AI tool that lets clients modify verified approval letters just by speaking which could reduce the workload of nearly 300,000 manual requests Rocket handles each year.

Alex Rampell

Alex Rampell

“When I heard Varun speak about the AI tools Rocket is creating, and the massive amount of data at their fingertips, I was simply blown away,” Rampell said in a statement. “The impact that Rocket can have for North Americans who are working toward their dream of homeownership is monumental.”

AI is a key component of Rocket’s strategy to continue taking market share away from competitors, executives said last week in reporting $291 million in first-quarter net income and $1.38 billion in revenue, a 107 percent jump from a year ago.

On a May 2 call with investment analysts, Krishna outlined three “seismic shifts” affecting the mortgage industry — reduced capacity and liquidity among smaller players, the shrinking market share of big banks, and a pending settlement by the National Association of Realtors over commission practices — that Rocket is looking to capitalize on.

Varun Krishna CEO Rocket Companies

Varun Krishna

“We have a fortress balance sheet that gives us the flexibility to not only survive but to thrive through the inevitable ups and downs of the market,” Krishna said. “While others are buying for survival, we are strategically investing in top-tier talent, cutting-edge technology and the enhancement of our brand to build a durable and growing business for the long term.”

Rocket Logic is “in the earliest days of this revolution, and I firmly believe the best is yet to come,” Krishna said. AI “is our most strategic imperative and we’ve dramatically increased our investment as well as the velocity with which we’re launching features every week.”

Krishna — who like Malhotra, has a degree in computer engineering from the University of Waterloo — was a veteran fintech executive who had held product management roles at companies including Intuit, PayPal, Groupon and Microsoft, when he was hired to run Rocket last summer.

Although mortgage lending is Rocket’s biggest business, it sees an opportunity to unlock the lifetime value of clients by offering personal finance services through its Rocket Money subsidiary and personal loans through Rocket Loans.

The company is also positioned to provide end-to-end services to homebuyers, matching consumers with real estate agents through a brokerage subsidiary, Rocket Homes, and provides closing and settlement services through its Amrock subsidiary.

“Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, you’re either saving more money or you’re making more money, and the commoditization of knowledge plays out,” Krishna recently told Andreessen Horowitz of the opportunities he expects to emerge in the wake of the NAR commission settlement. “Then when you add AI on top of it to provide personalization and simplification and add transparency to things like fee structures, appraisals, remodeling fees … I could go on and on. It’s going to be a better world for consumers.”

Rocket kicked off the year by announcing it had hired Airbnb veteran Jonathan Mildenhall as the company’s first group chief marketing officer, to create “a unified and compelling voice for all businesses under the Rocket Companies umbrella.”

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