Associated Banc-Corp. in Green Bay, Wis., is working on a plan to expand its warehouse lending platform by midyear, according to executives familiar with the matter.

"Right now they're hiring people and getting the systems in place," said a source who has been briefed on the situation.

However, advisers caution that the commercial bank's strategy is to provide credit only to nonbanks that operate in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.

It is expected that the warehouse platform will be based in Chicago and overseen by a manager there. At press time, Associated had not returned a call about the matter. Its current warehouse effort is believed to be small.

The bank, which is also an active retail mortgage originator in the state, recently raised $416 million through an additional offering of common stock.

Associated is one of a handful of regional banks that are either expanding in the warehouse business or considering entering the sector.

"Most of the new entrants I see these days are only lending on a regional basis," said Larry Charbonneau, who runs a small consulting business outside of Houston.

Charbonneau declined to name any banks by name.

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