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NY Bank Launches Portfolio Mortgage Unit

Amalgamated Bank announces new lending division

July 10, 2012

By staff

A new residential lending unit at a New York-based bank will originate loans to be held in the bank's own portfolio.

Amalgamated Bank wasn't happy with the outsourcing arrangement it had been utilizing to provide mortgage products for its customers, so it has opened a home mortgage division.

Edward A. Bolmarcich, a 25-year mortgage veteran, was brought on four months ago as senior vice president and director of residential lending to oversee the launch of the new division. Bolmarcich was recruited from Brooklyn Federal Savings Bank, where he managed its mortgage origination operations.

Bolmarcich said in a telephone interview that the bank plans to initially fund the loans for its own portfolio.

Data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. indicate that the financial institution already holds $550 million in home loans on its books. Bolmarcich indicated that those loans were acquired on the secondary market a few years ago.

By originating loans for its portfolio, the bank can use "more of a common sense type of approach" in its underwriting decisions.

"But ultimately the goal, especially for the 30-year fixed rate, is to sell that to reduce the bank's ... rate risk involved in that," he explained. "So we'll probably sell to either the Federal Home Loan Bank or Fannie Mae."

In the first phase of the new operation, originations will be limited to New York. But within a couple months, Amalgamated plans to expand to states where it has existing branches including California, Nevada, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

Amalgamated is owned by Workers United, a successor union to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America -- which founded the bank in 1923. The second phase of the business will be to generate new business from union members.

The mortgage unit's website, which is provided by Mortgagebot LLC, was visited by 270 people during the week since it went live. Bolmarcich said he hopes that the first loan closes within the next 45 days or so. He projects between $60 million and $100 million in production during the first year.

Refinances are expected to be a big part of the lender's initial business.

While third-party originations might be a possibility down the road, all loans will initially be originated through the bank's own retail channel.

Among the available programs are fixed-rate loans, adjustable-rate mortgages, home-equity lines of credit and home-equity loans.

Acceptable properties include single-family residences, multi-unit properties up to four units, condominiums and cooperative apartments. Vacation and investment properties are also being financed.

To help get the ball rolling, Amalgamated is refunding appraisal fees at closing for borrowers who apply for a new loan during July and August.

The 451-employee firm has fewer than a dozen people currently dedicated to the mortgage business. During the next year, Bolmarcich estimates that the mortgage staff will grow to around 20 employees.

With the greater control over the loan process, customer service is expected to be much better.

"The branches are so pumped up," Bolmarcich said. "They were hoping, or they ... couldn't wait for this day to come, where we would do the mortgages internally instead of using an outsource company."

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