This has been a wild year for Arthur D. Ringwald.

In-June, shortly after PNC Corp. agreed to buy Sears Mortgage Corp., Mr. Ringwald and an investor group struck a deal to buy from PNC some 30 Sears offices west of the Mississippi. He had run originations at Sears since 1989.

In August, however, the deal fell apart, apparently over price. But Mr. Ringwald, 47, bounced right back. Last month, Bank of America hired him as head of mortgages, a post that had been vacant for more than a year.

He discussed the new job in a recent phone interview.

Q: Are you going to lead a big expansion at Bank of America?

RINGWALD: The bank is interested in expanding its geographic presence in mortgage banking. I'm not prepared to say how broad based that is, but I can tell you with certitude that we do plan to expand beyond the current structure.

Q: Some people think you might help Bank of America try to buy those 30 Sears branches. Is that true?

RINGWALD: No, absolutely not. There's absolutely nothing like that being discussed.

Q: How come your deal to buy the branches fell apart?

RINGWALD: It's very difficult to properly price an originations system. In the final analysis, we couldn't come to an agreement that was acceptable to the parties, despite what I consider to be extremely good-faith efforts on both sides.

Q: Why were you drawn to Bank of America?

RINGWALD: I would say it's a world-class organization.

Q: But hasn't it been losing marketing share? According to one survey, the bank fell to No. 22 among all mortgage originators in the first half of this year - from No. 5 a year earlier.

RINGWALD: It strikes me that as the bank has been repositioning here and looking for someone to take the reins again, it has by design done some things that may have led to the decline. I think it's a short-term issue - not one of any serious concern at all.

Q: With companies like Country-wide and Prudential stealing the limelight in mortgage lending, is there still room at the top for commercial banks?

RINGWALD: I absolutely believe that. Bank of America, for example, has the ability to generate a substantial amount of portfolio product that can be custom-designed to meet both the bank's needs and the needs of consumers. That is a very nice supplement to the normal secondary-market products that the nonbank enterprises bring to the table.

Q: What's the biggest issue facing the mortgage industry?

RINGWALD: People should be thinking real hard about the premiums they're paying for servicing, in fight of the runoff and writedowns on servicing portfolios. As an industry, we need to figure out ways to have the loans stay around for a while longer.

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