First Mariner Bancorp Inc. in Baltimore is looking to grow its mortgage business even as it continues to deal with elevated levels of loan losses and a shrinking balance sheet.

First Mariner Mortgage will hire roughly 50 people this year as it looks to expand its mortgage operations in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas, the Baltimore Business Journal reported Thursday. The bank is looking for experienced mortgage loan officers, processors and underwriters, the story said.

Since 2007, the $1.2 billion-asset company has lost roughly $124 million due in part to a souring portfolio of alternative-A mortgages, home equity lines and construction loans. First Mariner lost $3.9 million in the fourth quarter and $30.2 million for 2011, though its fourth-quarter noninterest income rose 37% from a year earlier, to $7.7 million, thanks to an increase in mortgage banking revenue.

How well First Mariner will be able to grow the mortgage business could depend on its ability to raise fresh capital. An investment group has agreed to commit $36.4 million if First Mariner is able to raise another $123.6 million from other sources. The group also stipulated that Edwin F. Hale Sr., First Mariner's founder, chairman and chief executive, would have to leave the company as a condition of the agreement. Hale stepped down in December.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.