Freddie Mac Revamps Marketing

Freddie Mac, which has been lagging behind Fannie Mae in purchases of mortgages, is carving its customer base of lenders into three groups in an effort to provide better service.

The roughly 3,400 lenders are being grouped on the basis of size and loan-selling strategies, agency officials said. Freddie Mac, formally the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., plans to handle relationships with each group in a different manner.

"Freddie Mac is taking customer-driven marketing to new heights," said Warren Raybould, the agency's senior vice president of marketing. The plan was announced Wednesday at a conference in San Francisco.

If the changes do produce better service, Freddie Mac may win back some business lost in the past couple of years to Fannie Mae, or the Federal National Mortgage Association.

Freddie Bought 40% of Loans

Last year, Freddie Mac handled about 40% of the loans purchased or securitized by the two agencies, down from 47% in 1989, according to data from the two agencies. For the first half of this year, Freddie's share was 41%. Some observers have blamed Freddie Mac's slide on inferior service.

"We have not specifically put this in place to drive market share," Mr. Raybould said of the new marketing approach. He added, however, that the plan could have the effect of boosting Freddie Mac's business.

The biggest changes involve community banks and other small lenders with basic selling strategies. These lenders, which previously sold loans through the agency's regional offices, will now deal with its headquarters in McLean, Va., via a toll-free phone number. They will be dubbed "corporate" accounts.

Meanwhile, the staff of Freddie Mac's regional offices will be freed up to give more attention to the bulk of the remaining customers, which will be known as "key" accounts. The sales by these lenders generally involve more negotiation than those by corporate accounts.

Elite |National' Accounts

Finally, an elite group of megalenders will be grouped as "national" accounts and will work directly with headquarters. For the past year or so, two lenders - Citicorp and Great Western Financial Corp. - have been national accounts. This group is said to have been expanded to about five customers now, but is still increasing.

Fannie Mae generally serves all its customers through regional offices.

Mr. Raybould declined to say how many lenders fall into each group at Freddie Mac, but said the largest group will be "corporate" accounts. The next largest will be "key" customers, followed by "national."

Some observers speculated that smaller lenders might feel slighted by not being considered "key." Furthermore, it remains to be seen if Freddie Mac headquarters can handle all the corporate accounts smoothly, an industry official said.

But Mr. Raybould said the system has been tested and should work well. And at least one small institution says it is unfazed by the change.

"As long as I get answers to my questions, it doesn't make any difference to me if I have to call a regional office or national office," said Steven Beene, manager of secondary market operations for Golden Coin Savings and Loan Association, San Francisco.

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