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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

IndyMac Hires Retail Loan Officers

by Tanta on 8/29/2007 10:00:00 AM

From Bloomberg via NYT:

One mortgage lender announced that it was hiring yesterday as it tried to take advantage of the turmoil in the market, while another said it was cutting jobs.

IndyMac Bancorp said it had hired more than 600 former employees of the American Home Mortgage Investment Corporation and might hire 250 more.

IndyMac will also assume the leases on more than 90 offices where the employees worked.

Last month, IndyMac eliminated 400 back-office processing jobs, about 4 percent of the work force.
Why is this interesting? Well, I have no idea whether Indy's approach is going to work here. My own experience is that changing the corporate culture of "acquired" origination offices is always harder than people think it's going to be. And there seem to be some questions about some of the culture at some American Home Mortgage offices.

That said, my own argument for years uncounted has been that wholesale origination models--loans originated by brokers who have no capital in the game and are not under the control of the lenders--are a large part of the problem we have been experiencing. Wholesale lending always looks cheap, since you don't have to pay loan officers and assume brick and mortar overhead in down cycles of the business. But it always ends up expensive, what with fraud, sloppiness, price-gouging, lack of warranties, and so on.

So it's encouraging, on one hand, to see IndyMac beefing up its retail origination capacity at the expense of its wholesale and correspondent capacity. On the other hand, I'd be looking for some real serious discipline from Indy were I a regulator, and I'd be rather cautious about valuing these "acquisitions" were I an investor. I'd further be mildly concerned about laying off the back office indiscriminately. It doesn't seem like a good time to short the risk-management side and beef up the sales side to me, so I'd want to know just what back office jobs got eliminated.