Chemical Banking Corp., which last year doubled its mortgage originations in its home market of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, is pushing hard to further build its presence in that region.

"The 1992 mortgage market in the tristate area was an explosive one, and we had to take advantage of it," said S.A. Ibrahim, managing director of residential mortgage banking for Chemical Bank.

In 1991, a year before the Dec. 31 merger of Chemical and Manufacturers Hanover, Chemical's mortgage originations in the area totaled about $700 million, while Manufacturers' originations stood at about $250 million.

By the end of 1992, area originations at the new Chemical had soared to nearly $2 billion and had become a key component of Chemical's push to increase originations nationwide.

How does Chemical account for the hometown surge?

"Refinancings made up more than half our mortgage origination volume in the tristate area in 1992," said Kenneth E. Wohst, head of Chemical's mortgage origination division. He noted that although Hanover's Centrus Mortgage operation had volume of about $1.3 billion nationally, it was doing only about $90 million in the tristate area, all of it in New Jersey.

"The refi spikes in volume that occurred several times last year placed extreme demands on our staff and service-delivery channels," Mr. Wohst said. "However, it left us better prepared to handle the second half of 1992 and the subsequent spikes of 1993."

He said that much of the tristate originations improvement was directly related to the service, such as using alternative delivery methods.

"The gain's not price oriented. If anything, we might have increased prices in certain ways by charging higher application fees, and we certainly didn't discount prices," Mr. Wohst said.

"Instead," he added, "Chemical has sought to provide innovation" by changing the way it takes mortgage applications at its more than 400 tristate-area branches, the largest number of any local bank.

"What we created was a support sales staff that goes through the application process with the customer," Mr. Wohst said. "By the end of 199 1, we had already begun to take the branch person out of the process."

After applicants are qualified, Chemical gives them the opportunity to meet with specialists who only do mortgages.

"Customers like this application process where they get personalized attention with a very educated mortgage specialist who can talk about rate locks, and floats, and your options, and when your ARMS kick in," Mr. Wohst added. "I know Citibank has moved to that, and I know that Dime is doing it."

Greater Complexity Seen

David Totaro, senior vice president and head of mortgage marketing at Dime, a bank that is generally regarded as a pioneer in the use of mortgage specialists, said that the entire mortgage lending process had become more complex.

"What we have recently done is focus more on an outside sales force that calls on individuals either at their home or their place of business because of the added convenience," he said.

He said that most potential borrowers in the New York market have little time to come into a branch, so "you have to do it outside of the normal banking hours."

"Contrary to the 1980s, we also are doing full documentation to diminish loan risk," Mr. Totaro added.

Mr. Wohst of Chemical said his bank also "maximizes retail activity through cross-selling opportunities," pointing out that many mortgage buyers also are likely customers for such products as home equity loans and savings and checking accounts.

He also attributed some of Chemical's tristate area success to its year-old mortgage-by-phone service and its neighborhood program for homebuyers with low and moderate incomes.

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