Intercontinental Exchange

As central bankers keep telling us, leaning in close with glassy eyes and bourbon to hand, the Fed funds rate is not going up. They’re not even talking about rates going up, not even before the minute taker arrives and the meeting officially starts. Given mortgage debt is the main yoke around the neck of most law-abiding citizens this is good news. Indeed, in the US, where currently more than $16 trillion of mortgage debt sits on the books, 2020 has seen something of a mad dash to the local realtor to snap up condos and up-state cabins, despite all the havoc wrought by a global pandemic. The mortgage market is, though, in an age of Furbo dog cameras and robotic vacuum cleaners, a little dusty. It’s all a bit analogue with lots of people shuffling lots of bits of paper. It is, then, a market – a colossal market at that – that has left itself open to a spot of technological disruption. Enter stage left, Intercontinental Exchange, a company very much of the ‘new’ world; an operator of financial exchanges, clearing houses and data services. The latest leg in the company’s compelling story is the addition of Ellie Mae, a cloud-based platform that plays in mortgage applications. This $10bn market, is a market that management expect to grow at a 10% CAGR over the next decade. The inefficiencies in the workflow of originating any mortgage are many. These inefficiencies increase the time to closure, increase costs and increase frustration. Strip the whole process down and management reckon that almost 70% of the cost of the loan is people. People shuffling paper. Replace the people with code, and you have yourself a more profitable mortgage. In addition to costs, automated solutions can cut down the time to close the deal. The software doesn’t take weekends off, and doesn’t turn up late. As the mortgage opportunity, that is currently brewing in the long-term investment case, begins to show up there could well be a re-rating in the shares of ICE, from the current sub-peer multiple. Risks lie in the failure to pull through deal synergies, and a wider slump on volumes across financial markets. The former is possible; the latter, in the context of a 2021 economic recovery, perhaps less so.