Bank of America will hire “aggressively” within its mortgage business in the U.S. this year as the housing market continues to rebound, said Terry Francisco, a senior vice president with the bank.
“Mortgage is a big part of our long-term strategy,” Francisco said. The bank is recruiting loan officers and processors throughout the U.S., he said. With the mortgage business becoming more complex due to the influx of new regulations, the bank wants to hire only experienced personnel who fit their model.
“Experience is a premium,” said Francisco. “We want people who can thrive in an environment where they’ll be interfacing with employees in other parts of our business.”
Bank of America loan officers are expected to work with small business bankers, investment professionals and other units within the bank to develop mortgage lending, he added.
“That’s one of the advantages of working here – having access to Bank of America customers with checking accounts and other investments,” Francisco said.
Bank of America hired more than 4,000 loan processors in 2012. The number likely won’t be quite as high this year but hiring will still be robust, Francisco said.
The bank doesn’t expect to reach that total due to the slowdown of the delinquent loan market, which exploded following the housing collapse but has become more manageable in recent months as economic conditions have improved. The bank is transferring many of these people, along with some credit card processors, to the origination side of the business, hence a slightly smaller need for new talent, Francisco said.
While high turnover of personnel is an issue in the mortgage business, Francisco said that Bank of America is trying to reduce the problem by helping loan officers with marketing, among other things.
Bank of America is refocusing on its mortgage business after the firm’s $2.5 billion purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp. in 2008 became a bust with the collapse in the housing market. The bank shrank the business in 2010 and 2011 to raise capital, and then quit its third-party lending model.
The bank will continue to focus on the direct consumer market, Francisco said. The third-party model, where the bank would purchase loans from outside brokers, “didn’t provide incremental value,” he said.
The question, however, is if Bank of America waited too long to rebuild its mortgage business. Rivals Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan enjoyed strong fourth quarters, buoyed mainly by their thriving mortgage businesses.
Bank of America is still a major player, with its mortgage business up 42% in the fourth quarter. Bank of America currently holds roughly 4% of the U.S. mortgage market, down from 22% in 2008, according to TIME. Wells Fargo holds 30% of the burgeoning market.