E.J. Ridings is the CEO of Donald Trump's latest business venture, Trump Mortgage. A down-to-earth and very approachable executive, Ridings wants to bring luxury and "white-glove" service to everyone -- whether they are taking out a $200,000 home mortgage or a $500 million commercial loan. A graduate of Georgia State University, Ridings started his own company just after college and has been going full throttle ever since. He has worked in all aspects of finance, from Wall Street to private banks. Ridings got the nod to work with "The Donald" after gaining the full support of his friend, who just happened to be Donald Trump, Jr. He now works side-by-side with Don and also Don's sister, Ivanka Trump.
How will this company be more consumer friendly than other companies?
Our goal is really to educate and consult, not just to sell. It's been cost-effective for banks to farm out over 70% of mortgages to mortgage brokers. We'll provide a safe haven for residential and commercial mortgages.
How do you use technology to benefit your business, both in-house and for the consumer?
Actually, technology is enormous for our business. The Internet is where industry is going. People want to go someplace safe. On our end, it'll make for a paper-less process. The consumer will have an access code to their file on our web site.
What do you think of Walmart getting into the banking and presumably, the mortgage business?
I'm not really certain Walmart will be allowed to do mortgages. Our concept is about the consumer. We are getting our national banking license. We don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole. If our client doesn't fit our lending niche, we will broker the mortgage to someone who can help them. Walmart wants worldwide dominance over the entire financial industry. I'm all for competition, but if they control banking, it'll effect Wall Street and everything.
People have been taking out 40 year mortgages and zero-interest loans. Is that something you will get involved with?
We're going to offer every single client the best product that fits them. I happen to believe that it's better to pass on the loan if it's something the client can't afford. With those zero-interest loans, those are really bait and switch. The majority of people don't qualify for them and then get trapped into negative interest loans where it's like a credit card -- they're racking up more and more interest. It might fit somebody who's about to come into an inheritance or end of year bonus. But a school teacher on a regular salary? No.
Do people who take out mortgages for Trump properties get a discount?
Everyone gets the same discount. Everyone deserves the same white-glove treatment. We are putting the suit and tie back in mortgage lending, whether it's for a $50,000 mortgage or for a $500 million loan to build a resort in the Bahamas. I'm of the belief that people who have credit issues, I like to call them people "in credit repair, need our help the most. They don't like to shop around and have many people run their credit.
What's it like working with the boss' kids?
Actually, it's one of the greatest things -- I got to know Don, Jr. and his work ethic. Same with Ivanka. In a documentary I watched, she was the only one who said, "I'm going to work, I'm going to work for my dad." We work, the three of us, side by side. That speaks volumes about Mr. and Mrs. Trump, how they raised them. I feel like I'm one of the cousins!
What locations do you plan to invest in?
There are not many areas that don't need us. We've been requested to absorb companies in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California and New Mexico. We have to do due diligence on them, though -- they go through a very stringent background check.
Who is your target customer?
Ultimately, luxury is what Mr. Trump is about. 95% of people know who he is. But there are a lot more people needing a $200,000 mortgage than a $2 million mortgage.