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Most Virtuous Mortgage Companies

Business Ethics releases Best Corporate Citizens

May 16, 2006

By COCO SALAZAR


photo of Coco Salazar

Several mortgage-related conglomerates were recognized for corporate virtues that went well beyond the bottom line.

The recognition came from Business Ethics magazine, which recently released its seventh annual ranking of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens.

The cast of companies considered for the list parade the Russell 1000, the S&P 500, as well as the Domini 400 Social Index by the research firm that powered the list's ratings, KLD Research & Analytics Inc.

The companies were ranked on service in eight stakeholder categories: shareholders, community, governance, diversity, employees, environment, human rights, and product. While social scores use KLD's assessment of "strengths" and "concerns" demonstrated in each category, the shareholder score is based on three-year average total return through 2005.

"Being a good corporate citizen requires focus, dedication, and hard work," said Michael Connor, the magazine's publisher and executive editor, in a written statement. "The companies on our list are to be congratulated."

The second most socially-responsible, mortgage-related entity was Wainwright Bank & Trust Co., which ranked No. 18 out of all 100 companies. While the Boston, Mass.-based lender earned a negative shareholder score, it scored highest in community, which reportedly entails charitable giving, support for housing and education, and volunteer programs.

"As one of the country's leading socially progressive financial institutions, we are honored to receive this recognition of our commitment to all our stakeholders," said Jan A. Miller, Wainwright president and chief executive officer, in a written statement.

The bank also noted it has been recognized as one of the 11 Best Lenders to Women in the U.S. and one of the Top 10 Best "Green" Banking Firms nationwide.

The bronze medal amongst mortgage-associated companies on the list went to UnionBanCal Corp. at No. 27. The California-based banker also had a negative shareholder score, and its highest score was in the diversity category, the magazine said.

American Express Co. landed spot No. 29, Sovereign Bancorp Inc. achieved 34th place, Nationwide Financial Services Inc. was in slot No. 36 and was directly followed by Heartland Financial USA Inc., Freddie Mac, and Synovus Financial Corp., which placed 39th.

"We are honored to be recognized among this distinguished list of companies," Synovus President and CEO Richard Anthony said in an announcement. "Synovus has always operated with the highest levels of integrity and our commitment to people has long been one of our strongest competitive advantages. We remain focused on meeting the needs and expectations of our customers, contributing to the communities we serve and creating shareholder value through an ethical, consistent approach to doing business."

Rounding out the first half of the list was Tennessee-based First Horizon National Corp., with its No. 44 position, and two spots below was SLM Corp.

The last half of the ranking included Cathay General Bancorp in 56th place, Northern Trust Corp., Citigroup, Bank of Hawaii Corp., Ambac Financial Group Inc., KeyCorp, East West Bancorp Inc., BB&T Corp., and Principal Financial Group Inc. in 97th place.

But the king of socially-responsible, mortgage-related entities was Wells Fargo and Co. The San Francisco, Calif.-based banking behemoth managed to retain the crown for the second consecutive year, despite falling to No. 16 from last year's rank of No. 6. The highest score for Wells, reportedly the nation's second-largest mortgage originator, was in the diversity category, followed by human rights, employee relations, community, and environment. It obtained negative scores in total return and product, but the lowest score, -1.408, was in corporate governance.


Coco Salazar is an assistant editor and staff writer for MortgageDaily.com.

e-mail: [email protected]



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