Capital One Financial Corp. is seeking out "combat" servicers to help the banking company deal with its growing base of problem residential loans, according to three of the specialty firms.

An official at one of the firms said its name was on a list that PricewaterhouseCoopers provided to Capital One.

"They're looking for servicers that do nothing but handle 'hard' loans," the official said. He and others familiar with Capital One's solicitation did not want to be identified by name.

Capital One, of McLean, Va., said in a statement that "we regularly explore our strategic options as part of our normal course of business. In this case, we have reached out to a number of mortgage servicers requesting information about their capabilities."

The $169.4-billion asset company said it has built a "strong internal servicing platform and we continue to explore both internal and external methods to increase our capacity."

But one subservicer said that in some cases Capital One "is not happy with the people servicing their paper." He called the banking company's outreach a "pilot program" where "it will give certain subservicers $100 million worth of product to work on."

Capital One is well known because of its share of the credit card market, a business it promotes through national television advertising. According to PaymentsSource, Capital One was the fourth-largest issuer by managed receivables, with 7.2% of the market, as of Sept. 30. However, it also has an extensive reach into the mortgage business thanks to acquisitions.

In 2006 Capital One bought North Fork Bancorp of Melville, N.Y., which owned a large alternative-A lender/servicer, GreenPoint Funding of Novato, Calif.

Capital One shut down Greenpoint in the third quarter of 2007, taking an $898 million charge. But the company had to hold a sizable amount of mortgages and home equity loans that GreenPoint originated when it couldn't find buyers in the secondary market.

Nearly a year ago Capital One bought Chevy Chase Bank, including its home lending arm, B.F. Saul Mortgage. The thrift was a large player in option adjustable-rate mortgages, another problematic loan type.

At yearend 2.24% of Capital One's home mortgages were delinquent, almost double the rate of a year earlier.

Capital One has stopped reporting and breaking out servicing and origination figures for Chevy Chase and B.F. Saul.

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