We think Ellie Mae (ELLI) is a very compelling short at today’s levels. In our opinion, ELLI has benefitted from several multi-year tailwinds that we believe are set to reverse and ultimately drive downward estimate revisions to consensus forecasts. As ELLI disappoints on overly optimistic buy and sell-side assumptions, we think there is significant downside in the stock. Our thesis is based on the following tenets:
1) ELLI is heavily exposed to the non-bank lending channel which is beginning to lose share in the mortgage origination process. Dodd-Frank caused many large traditional banks to pull away from the mortgage and refinancing market while non-bank lenders (large ELLI customers) filled the void. The share gains from non-bank lenders combined with an intense regulatory environment (TILA and RESPA) drove significant revenue growth at ELLI. As bank lenders take back share in the mortgage market (or at the minimum stop ceding share), ELLI volumes (revenues) are at risk.
2) The current rising interest rate environment is leading to significantly lower refinance volumes, which will be an ongoing headwind for ELLI. The low interest rate environment drove a once in a lifetime refinancing surge that benefited the non-bank lenders. ELLI has called out on conference calls the shift from a “refi-centric market to a purchase centric one” (Q2 2017 call) has caused the company to revise lower their outlook. The stock re-rated notably after Q2 2017. According the Mortgage Bankers Association, refinance volumes are projected to fall nearly 30% in 2018 versus 2017.
3) Mortgage lender employment trends have reversed, and now slowing – a dynamic that could pressure ELLI user growth as ELLI generates revenue per seat.
*Elli has been previously submitted by Mason, please refer to that write up for more detail about the company as well as bull case.
ELLI is a leading provider of on-demand software solutions and services for the residential mortgage industry in the U.S. Banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, and mortgage brokers use ELLI's Encompass product for an all-in-one mortgage management solution to originate and fund mortgages and improve compliance, loan quality, and efficiency.
ELLI's software handles most functions involved in running the business of originating mortgages including: customer relationship management, loan processing, underwriting, preparation for mortgage applications, disclosure agreements, and closing documents. ELLI's value-add is helping streamline the mortgage process and allow lenders to increase output per mortgage professional.
The company generates revenue from subscription services and usage-based fees, transactions fees, and fees from professional services. Users pay a monthly base fee (~$80 per month) with incremental fees based on usage (credit reports, closed loans). The average contract length is 3 to 5 years.
· Handles ~30% of total mortgage loans in the U.S.
· ELLI has no exposure to the top 5 banks
· Has ~1,700 of the approx 8,000 mortgage lending institutions as customers
· 67% sales subscriptions based / 33% transactional
The mortgage origination purchase market has grown at a steady pace while the refinance market surged as consumers rushed to refinance loans in an ultra-low interest rate environment. We expect that purchase originations will grow at a moderate pace, however, the ongoing rise in interest rates will contribute to ongoing pressures in the refinance market. Below are the Mortgage Banker Association (MBA) forecasts.
ELLI has outperformed their own revenue growth guidance due to massive share gains in non-bank lenders, who in the wake of the financial crisis and Dodd frank, has seen their market share rise to over 50%. We believe this dynamic has left ELLI heavily reliant to non-bank lending.
As this market slows in seat growth this will be a considerable headwind for ELLI to meet lofty expectations. We also believe that the concentration of production among originators where over 75% of volume is generated off nearly 20% of the seats effectively subsidizes seat growth will eventually lead to a shrinking TAM for ELLI.
CITI: 2/13 CSFB Conference
“In other areas such as mortgages, commercial Banking, we believe we have the opportunity to grow faster than the market to drive additional share gains.”
JPM 1/12 earnings call:
“Yeah. So and we haven’t changed our standards very much. And the one exception that might change over time, which I hope it does actually is in mortgage lending”
Bank of America: 1/17 Earnings call
“At a more detailed level, we feel like we've been growing well in mortgage and we're going to continue to do that”