Dime Bancorp's recent decision to shift its mortgage headquarters to Tampa wasn't merely a move to a sunnier clime; it was part of a strategy to lure some of the best talent in the industry.

Opening the Tampa head office was probably the only way the New York thrift company could have lured former Chase Manhattan Mortgage chief executive Fred B. Koons out of retirement to take the helm, industry observers said.

Mr. Koons was hired two weeks ago as chairman and chief executive of Dime's mortgage unit after he had consulted for the company the past four months.

One industry observer close to Mr. Koons said there was "no way" he would have taken the job if he had had to relocate to Uniondale, N.Y., where the unit had been headquartered.

Mr. Koons has lived in Tampa since joining Chase 16 years ago. Chase's mortgage headquarters were there before the merger with Chemical Banking Corp.

And Mr. Koons wasn't the only attraction for Dime.

After the merger, Chase laid off about 500 employees of its mortgage unit, stocking the Gulf Coast city with a substantial pool of origination specialists that Dime could now hire.

"Some people will be relocating from Uniondale, and they will be integrated with new people we hire in the Tampa area," Mr. Koons said.

Already Richard A. Mirro, another former Chase executive based in Tampa, has joined the Dime unit as president and chief operating officer. He had been chairman and chief executive of Fleet Mortgage Group for several months.

With its new management, Dime plans to step up its already aggressive expansion strategy in hopes of becoming more a national presence in the mortgage market.

Dime entered several markets after its merger with Anchor Bancorp and acquisitions of Atlanta-area and Virginia-based mortgage originators in 1995.

Lawrence J. Toal, Dime's president and chief operating officer, said the thrift does not want to diminish its presence in the New York metropolitan area, but he added that it needs to get bigger to remain viable. He is to become chief executive officer of Dime at the beginning of next month.

Mr. Koons said Dime would expand its broker and correspondent businesses. He added that, until now, Dime has had a very small correspondent network.

That's likely to change since Bill W. Taylor, a Chase veteran based in Louisiana, has been tapped to head Dime's national correspondent division. Another former Chase Manhattan Mortgage executive, Thomas W. Glenn, has been hired as head of national mortgage production.

Mr. Koons said Dime would also look to offer more types of mortgage products. Since Dime is primarily known as a jumbo lender, he said, the mortgage unit would try to concentrate more on FHA and VA loans. And he wouldn't rule out expanding into the so-called subprime market as well.

"Certainly there is nothing I would eliminate," Mr. Koons said, "that would serve customers using the Dime franchise."

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