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MetLife Exit Leaves Urban Financial as New No. 1 Reverse Lender

For the second time in one year, the biggest reverse mortgage lender is exiting the business. The departures leave Urban Financial Group Inc. as the biggest fish in a quickly evaporating pond.

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., originated in excess of 15,000 reverse mortgages during 2011, more than any other lender according to Reverse Market Insight. Close behind was MetLife Bank, where nearly 14,000 loans were close. A distant third was Urban Financial Group, with less than 8,000 reverse mortgages closed.

But Wells Fargo exited the business in March 2011, leaving MetLife as the unchallenged No. 1.

Now MetLife is getting out of reverse lending.

MetLife Inc. announced Thursday that it is exiting the reverse mortgage business.

Nationstar Mortgage LLC will acquire the mortgage servicing portfolio from the New York-based life insurance company subject to regulatory approval.

“MetLife Bank will no longer accept new reverse mortgage loan applications and registrations,” the statement said.

A spokesman confirmed that 500 people will be laid off as a result of the decision to shutter reverse mortgages.

The decision to shutter the unit follows a disclosure in January that Irving, Texas-based MetLife Home Loans would be closed down. In addition, MetLife Bank’s deposits are being sold to GE Capital and MetLife’s warehouse lending business is being acquired by EverBank.

MetLife explained that the strategic decision to focus on global insurance and employee benefits was made because a bank-holding company structure was no longer appropriate. The entire retail banking and mortgage business represented less than 2 percent of its operating earnings last year.

K&L Gates LLP and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. advised MetLife on the transaction.

The retreat from reverse by MetLife will leave United Financial as the new No. 1 reverse mortgage lender. Last year, Tulsa, Okla.-based Urban reported 120 employees.

Reverse Market Insight data indicates that the number of active reverse lenders was just 412 in March, a far cry from as many as 1,973 in March 2009.

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