In FORTUNE magazine's latest list of America's Most Admired Companies, the parent of a mobile home loan lender ranked among the top 10, and within the mortgage services industry, Washington Mutual was dethroned by another thrift.
The mortgage-related entity named within the ranking of the nation's overall top 10 "most admired" was Berkshire Hathaway in seventh place, down five spots from last year's list, FORTUNE said. The Omaha, Neb.-based holding company, which was once again the most admired in the stock insurance industry, stepped into the mobile home sector with its August 2003 purchase of manufacturer Clayton Homes, whose finance units are Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance and 21st Century Corp.
According to FORTUNE, the 23rd annual list was compiled by asking the top managers at 582 companies, the largest by revenues in each of 65 industries, to judge their competition.
In all, 10,000 executives, directors and securities analysts rated their competitors on eight key attributes of reputation: innovation, use of assets, employee talent, management, investment value, social responsibility, financial soundness and products/services. To find the overall top ten, voters were asked to name the companies they most admire in any business from a pool that included last year's top 25 percentile of finishers plus the top two on each industry list.
Of the 582 companies, Berkshire was the most admired for long-term investment, its management was the third most admired, and was sixth in employee talent, the magazine reported.
Leading the mortgage services sector was Golden West Financial, which climbed one spot from its previous year's No. 2 ranking. The parent of World Savings Bank also ranked as the eighth most admired in use of corporate assets, the magazine said. These honors add to the achievements of the California-based thrift, which recently reported record annual originations and that its top executives were honored as the 2004 CEOs of the Year.
Countrywide Financial reportedly moved up one slot to be this year's second most admired mortgage company. While its volume fell 17% annually, the Calabasas, Calif.-based lender recently claimed that it originated one in eight mortgages nationally and that it was named the largest U.S. originator and servicer. Its top man, Angelo Mozilo, recently snagged the title of the industry's Best CEO in America.
Losing its crown to Golden West, Washington Mutual stepped two slots away from its throne the previous year to No. 3, according to FORTUNE. The Seattle-based banking behemoth's production sunk 40% last year due to lower refinance activity, which also spurred more than 10,000 layoffs.
Rounding out the mortgage sector's top 10 most admired companies were: Fannie Mae, which retained its position of No. 4; Fidelity National Financial; Freddie Mac advanced two slots to sixth place; First American Corp.; GreenPoint Financial, Sovereign Bancorp; and slipping five spots from the previous year to No. 10 was Land America Financial.
Bank of America dethroned Citigroup and took the gold medal in the ranking for the most admired mortgage-lending companies in the "megabank" industry, while Wells Fargo took the silver and Citigroup went home with the bronze medal. Wachovia finished fourth, followed by National City, JP Morgan Chase (parent of Chase Home Finance), U.S. Bancorp and SunTrust Banks finished at No. 8.
Surveyed managers in the "superregional banks" industry gave the top three rankings to Mellon Financial, Bank of New York and Fifth Third Bancorp.
In the homebuilders sector, Centex Corp., the parent of CTX Mortgage and Centex Home Equity Corp., was the most admired. At No. 2 was Lennar, which provides mortgages through its Lennar Financial Services companies, and finishing out the top three was the parent of KB Home Mortgage.
At the top of the mortgage-related entities most admired in the consumer credit sector was American Express. The company, which says it provides mortgages through American Express F.S.B., was among the nation's ten most admired for innovation, employee talent, management and investment value, according to FORTUNE. MBNA took second place, followed by Synovus Financial at No. 3.