In the latest twist on cross-selling, home-loan leader Countrywide Credit Industries is teaming up with credit card specialist Metris Cos. to market mortgages to Metris customers.

Beginning in February, Metris will begin marketing Countrywide products to its customers through statement stuffers and other direct mail solicitations, and perhaps telemarketing. Countrywide will pay Metris a fee for the use of its customer data base, which it inherited from its former parent, Fingerhut Cos.

Ronald N. Zebeck, chief executive officer of Metris, St. Louis Park, Minn., said many of its customers have inquired about first mortgages and home equity loans.

Aside from the fee, Metris said it believes the partnership will mitigate the attrition that results when cardholders refinance their balances into home equity loans.

"If there is any situation with someone trying to come down and cannibalize our balances, we'd rather have them cannibalized (by) a partner that we get a good relationship with," Mr. Zebeck said.

There are no plans for Metris to court Countrywide's customers, though Mr. Zebeck said he hopes Metris eventually will gain access to those borrowers. Since January 1997, Countrywide has had an exclusive arrangement with First USA Inc., whereby the Dallas credit card specialist offers cards to Countrywide customers.

Countrywide views the Metris partnership as a way to boost mortgage volume, particularly for Full Spectrum Lending, the Calabasas, Calif., mortgage banker's subprime unit, said Greg Lumsden, managing director for loan origination.

"It hasn't been proven in the 'A' world that a credit card issuer can have any influence to direct their customer into an 'A' mortgage," Mr. Lumsden said. However, he added, cross-selling may be more effective in the subprime world.

"When subprime customers who have been turned down many times are able to obtain cards, they appear to have more loyalty and appreciation for that company," Mr. Lumsden said. Consequently they are willing to pay attention to marketing messages from that company."

Telemarketers from a credit card company have a better chance than other cold callers of getting through to jaded customers, said Weston E. Edwards, president of Weston Edwards & Associates, Laguna Beach, Calif.

"You may not listen very long, but you do accept the call, because it may be something important relating to your credit card arrangement," he said.

There is much talk these days of building one-stop shops for financial services. "We used to call those banks," quipped Moshe A. Orenbuch, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.

Such specialists as Metris and Countrywide have been successful because they were better able than banks to market their respective products, Mr. Orenbuch said. "Now we're coming full circle."

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