Business

Online mortgage company plans to hire 1,000 people for new Charlotte office

Online mortgage lender Better.com has opened an office in Charlotte and plans to hire 1,000 people for it, officials said Monday, the latest financial technology company to expand in the city.

The firm announced that it had opened an office last month at the new WeWork coworking space at the RailYard in South End. The office will serve as the hub for a partnership announced this year between Better.com and Ally Financial, the parent company of online-only Ally Bank.

Better.com CEO and founder Vishal Garg said the company plans to hire 100 employees by the end of the year, and 1,000 over five years. A city spokeswoman said there were no incentives involved with the company’s expansion.

The amount of investment by the company in its Charlotte project was not immediately known.

Starting salaries for the Charlotte jobs range from $65,000 to $100,000 for recent graduates, according to Garg.

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Vishal Garg, the CEO and Founder of Better.com, and Mayor Vi Lyles on Monday. Xavier Tianyang Wang xwang@mcclatchy.com

The New York-based company, founded in 2016, funds $450 million in mortgages each month, according to a press release. The number of people who work for Better.com has grown from about 200 last year to around 800.

In an interview, Garg said the city’s talented workforce in the financial services industry was a major factor for the move.

“We think there’s just this very large group of people that probably before would leave Charlotte to go work at a fintech (company) in New York or San Francisco,” he said. “Instead, they can stay here, enjoy all the benefits of living in Charlotte … and still work for a very fast-growing company.”

FinTech expansion

Charlotte’s status as the nation’s second-largest banking center has been a boost for financial technology firms.

Tariq Bokhari, a city council member and executive director of the Carolina Fintech Hub, said he worked with Ally to help recruit Better.com. “We love our Honeywells and our Lowe’s announcements, but we don’t always give a lot of attention to a smaller, high-growth tech company like a Better,” he said.

LendingTree, which CEO Doug Lebda founded in 1996, was named to Fortune’s 2017 list of the fastest-growing companies.

Construction is underway on the company’s new headquarters in South End, where it will occupy 175,000 square feet.

And AvidXchange, which automates bill payments and invoices for midsize companies, announced in July it would spend $41 million to double the size of its Charlotte headquarters. The company said in December it will hire more than 1,200 people, doubling its staff in Charlotte.

Garg was inspired to start Better.com after he and his wife lost out on the home they wanted to an all-cash buyer, who paid less.

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“I was like, if this is so broken for me ... how broken is it for everyone else?” he said.

The startup’s investors include Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Ally and American Express Ventures. Garg said he plans to take the company public in the next two years.

The Charlotte office is the firm’s second East Coast location.

South End office growth

South End, where restaurants, retail and thousands of apartments have sprung up since the light rail opened in 2007, is quickly becoming a hub for major corporations.

Financial services firm Dimensional Fund Advisors opened its East Coast headquarters in a new nine-story building at Camden Road and Tryon Street. Lowe’s is building a 23-story tower across from the Design Center that will be home to a 2,000-employee global tech hub.

The RailYard, where Better.com plans to move, is a pair of eight-story towers developed by Beacon Partners.

The buildings have almost 300,000 square feet of office space, along with ground-floor shops and restaurants. Insurance company Allstate recently moved into the development.

Professional services firm EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young) said last year it will bring hundreds of employees to a new innovation center on the site.

As young people have moved to South End, companies have followed suit, said Mayor Vi Lyles.

“At one time, you would automatically assume that the person would move to the job,” she said. “I think right now jobs are moving to where people are.”

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Danielle Chemtob covers economic growth and development for the Observer. She’s a 2018 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill and a California transplant.
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