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Best Mortgage Employers

Republic Bancorp tops mortgage companies on Fortune list

January 11, 2005


FORTUNE magazine released it's latest list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, and the highest ranking mortgage-related company pays its originators an average of $165,000 a year.

The "best" mortgage-related entity to work at was Republic Bancorp, which moved up two spaces from the previous year to No. 3 in 2005. The bank holding company reported it closed $469 million in single-family residential mortgage loans during last year's third quarter through the mortgage division of its subsidiary Republic Bank. Of its nearly 1,300 employees, mortgage loan officers held the most common salaried job at the retail mortgage-lending company, making an average annual salary of $165,000, the magazine reported, highlighting that nearly half of non-management employees were awarded stock. The Ann Arbor-based banker said it is the fifth time it has made the list and that it was the top "best" workplace within Michigan.

"We are extremely proud to again be recognized as one of America's 100 Best Companies to Work For," said Republic chief executive Dana M. Cluckey in a written statement. "As a company, we firmly believe in individual recognition and providing our employees the opportunity for financial and professional growth. All of our employees are shareholders of the Company and we believe that motivated employees will deliver exceptional service to our customers, resulting in increased value to our shareholders."

A company can be excluded from the list if any news that may significantly damage employees' faith in management arises, FORTUNE said. The companies rankings were mainly based on what employees said about them. Employees filled out a 57-question opinion survey created by the Great Place to Work Institute in San Francisco that asked things about their workplace and accounted for two-thirds of the score.

A minimum of 350 randomly selected employees from each company received the survey. The other third of the score came from FORTUNE's evaluation of each company's demographic makeup, pay and benefits programs, and the like. About 1,000 companies reportedly contacted the magazine or were recruited by FORTUNE to participate, but only 356 completed the "exhaustive" survey process.

The second best company to work for is also a Michigan-based lender -- Quicken Loans, of Livonia, moved up one slot to No. 12 in its second appearance on the list. FORTUNE commended the company, which says it was recently named the largest online lender, because "employee perks go to the bold. On Ticket Window Thursday, CEO Bill Emerson gives tickets for concerts and sporting events to employees who warble songs over the company's PA system." Within Quicken's 1,900 employees, the most common salaried job belonged to mortgage loan officers, who averaged $109,300 annually, while loan analysts/loan processors in the most common hourly job, made a yearly average of $47,200.

Also in its second appearance on the rankings, the third "Best" mortgage workplace was HomeBanc Mortgage -- advancing 19 slots to No. 20. The magazine said "employee appreciation is ingrained at this home-and retail-mortgage company," adding that lower-level employees get higher profit-sharing percentages than highly compensated workers. Over 1,200 employees carry out the lender's functions, and underwriters hold the most common job with an average annual salary of $60,600. Customer service specialists, who receive an annual average of $39,500, held the most common hourly job, according to FORTUNE.

"There are literally thousands of companies in America that are eligible for this list," HomeBanc chief executive Patrick S. Flood said in an announcement. "HomeBanc's inclusion on this list is important because we believe putting people first is the best way to build an extraordinary enterprise."

HomeBanc said it promotes employee satisfaction by offering them tuition reimbursements, maternity and paternity leave programs, adoption benefits, life balance programs, and 401(k) matching contributions and a profit sharing program. It reportedly also manages an "Associate Emergency Fund," which is funded by the company's own employees and is designed to financially assist employees facing extraordinary needs such as unexpected medical bills, emergency travel expenses or other unforeseen circumstances.

Last year HomeBanc ranked No. 1 in survey of real estate brokers and agents by Campbell Communications.

Ten years ago, the Atlanta-based lender was operating with about 150 employees out of a single south Florida office and closing about $500 million in mortgage loans. In 2003, it closed about $5.9 billion in mortgages throughout offices located in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, according to the announcement.

"In today's service economy, business success is driven by culture -- having the right people who are thrilled to come to work each day, who are committed to the mission and who are trained for success produces extraordinary outcomes," Flood added. "We're very pleased that FORTUNE has recognized our efforts in this area."

Within the top 50 "best" mortgage-related workplaces were Goldman Sachs Group in No. 35; American Express, which says it provides mortgage loans through American Express Bank, FSB, was No. 37; followed by banking institutions Sterling Bank at No. 49 and Synovus Financial Corp. at No. 50.

First Horizon placed 68, which is down 12 spots from the previous year when it was still named First Tennessee, according to the magazine. The company, whose mortgage division is First Horizon Home Loans, reported third quarter originations of $6.8 billion.

Filling slot 84 was Puerto Rico-based Popular, which says its central mortgage operation in the United States is Popular Mortgage and that it is also parent to mortgage banker Equity One.

At No. 89, MBNA was reportedly the last of mortgage-related entities on the list.

Some companies that fell off the list this year included Edward Jones, which topped all other mortgage-related companies on last year's list; Third Federal Savings; Wachovia; Washington Mutual and Fannie Mae.

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

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