Mortgage Daily

Published On: May 16, 2007
Countrywide Hiring SalespeopleCEO presents at UBS conference

May 16, 2007

By JERRY DeMUTH

Despite lower profits and a turbulent mortgage market, Countrywide Financial Corp.’s chief said it is adding thousands of new sales jobs this year in an effort to increase its already dominant market share. He forecasted a 50 percent decline in subprime originations industrywide.

During the last six months, the Calabasas, Calif.-based company has added reverse mortgages, multi-family loans, fixed-rate pay-option loans, commercial mortgages, and builder finance loans to its product mix, CEO Angelo Mozilo told attendees at the UBS Global Financial Services conference Monday in New York. By fall, the company will also be offering 50-year subprime loans.

More than $50 million in reverse mortgages already has been funded, he said.

Mozilo noted the company’s market share has grown from 15.7% in the first quarter of 2006 to 18.2% in the first quarter of 2007. And the company’s share of the servicing market increased from 12.0% to 13.0% during that same 12-month period.

Countrywide will add 2,000 salespeople this year as it continues to capture an increasing portion of the market, he said.

The mortgage banking behemoth announced today it has launched an aggressive mortgage recruiting campaign. Sales positions, information technology jobs and underwriters are among desired recruits. The positions are for prime and nonprime in wholesale and retail operations.

“We are eager to add top sales professionals, as well as industry experts in other mortgage-related disciplines to our workforce,” a spokeswoman said in the statement. “One of the key growth strategies in our mortgage business is the expansion of our sales force and distribution network.”

Countrywide describes the positions in more detail at www.CountrywideCareers.com.

At the end of March, Countrywide had 996 retail branches and a production sales force of 16,920, up from 895 branches and a 15,472-person sales force a year earlier, Mozilo said. And total employment increased from 54,655 to 57,682 during the first four months of this year.

And while he admitted Countrywide’s profit has fallen this year, he noted the company still remains profitable.

Internally, subprime mortgages are accounting for a smaller percentage of Countrywide’s originations, from 8% in fourth quarter 2006 to an estimated 4 to 6% in the second quarter of 2007, as it has made “significant changes to its subprime credit standards and guidelines,” and instituted “enhanced operational and internal controls,” Mozilo explained.

Countrywide now wants full documentation of income and assets for all subprime borrowers and proof of occupancy when the borrower already owns real estate, he said. He also noted problems with homes sold with large seller concessions.

“Our pricing of new loans has been adjusted to provide for revised loss assumptions and higher yields on retained interests,” he pointed out. “And the carrying value of our existing investments has been written down to provide for higher loss projections and higher yields.”

Looking at market trends, Mozilo said that the purchase market continues to be weak, driven by excess home inventory — 7.8 months for new homes and 7.3 months for existing homes. But interest rate resets on adjustable rate loans, which could reach $1 trillion this year, are creating a robust refinance volume, he added.

“The market is undergoing turbulent times,” Mozilo said in conclusion, pointing to subprime market turmoil and a decline of as much as 50% in the subprime origination market size this year compared with 2006, plus the “significant” widening of market spreads with limited buyers for below investment grade securities.

On top of this, he added, there is the uncertain impact of pending regulatory and legislative actions.


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