Moving to expand its wholesale reach, BankAmerica Mortgage Corp. has begun to work with mortgage brokers in Arizona.

The unit of BankAmerica Corp. has set up shop in Phoenix this summer and is seeking to capture loans in one of the nation's fastest-growing states.

"There is a tremendous amount of business to develop here," said Doug Lambert, manager of the unit's Arizona effort.

"We're looking at Arizona to be a fairly sizable contributor" to mortgage volume, Mr. Lambert said.

For the first half of this year, through various retail and wholesale efforts, BankAmerica Mortgage has originated $8.75 billion of loans.

To lay the groundwork for the Arizona program, Mr. Lambert moved to Phoenix in June from BankAmerica's headquarters in San Francisco. He also hired an account executive who has deep ties to the Phoenix business community.

BankAmerica Mortgage has chosen fertile territory to expand in, analysts said.

"Arizona is doing extremely well," said Rob Jolda, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's economist for the Southwest. "It's certainly one of the leaders" in terms of job creation.

Arizona, Mr. Jolda said, has become a magnet for high-tech industries, a development that will sustain employment in the future.

The opening in Arizona also illustrates BankAmerica's allegiance to home lending, Mr. Lambert said. "I sense a tremendous commitment to the mortgage business," he said.

BankAmerica Mortgage is expanding its conventional mortgage effort while other lenders are pulling back or, at the very least, balking at working with brokers. PNC Mortgage Corp., for instance, cut its ties with brokers last year, saying it just wasn't worth the time and expense of cultivating them.

Indeed, experts said that working with brokers requires caution since this independent group is much harder to keep tabs on than a dedicated sales force.

Mr. Lambert said BankAmerica Mortgage recognizes the potential pitfalls but that steps are being taken to avoid problems.

"We're not going to take the scattershot approach at signing up lenders," Mr. Lambert said. "We're being selective about whom we do business with."

Mr. Lambert declined to disclose how many lenders it has signed up since beginning the program this summer. He did say that Arizona has 450 brokers, 100 in the Phoenix area.

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