Great Western Bank, the nation's second-largest thrift, is pushing ahead with its plans for a correspondent lending program, a top executive at the company said.

Sam Lyons, senior vice president at the Chatsworth, Calif., thrift, said its new correspondent lending program was only slightly off schedule.

Great Western had said it was in discussions with 15 to 18 mortgage companies and that it planned to sign its first correspondent by the end of 1994. Mr. Lyons said that although no correspondent has actually been signed, the bank is "down to the details on how (the program) would work."

The bank is still working on underwriting guidelines and processing procedures, among other details, he said.

The bank is hoping to cash in on home-loan banks' ravenous hunger for adjustable mortgages, especially those based on the average cost of funds in the 11th District - California and Nevada.

Mr. Lyons attributed Great Western's delay to inexperience in correspondent lending.

"We have never done this before," he said.

He said Great Western would begin signing on correspondents soon.

"We do intend to be producing correspondent loan volume, that I can guarantee you," he said.

* * *

M&T Mortgage Corp., a fast-growing Northeast lender, has bought another regional mortgage bank.

M&T has acquired Albany, N.Y.-based Statewide Funding Corp. for an undisclosed price.

M&T and its parent, First Empire State Corp., Buffalo, N.Y., have been on buying spree over the past few months. In December alone it purchased Ithaca Bancorp and seven New York State branches of Chemical Bank.

There were rumors that M&T was bidding on Arbor National Mortgage, Uniondale, N.Y., which was eventually sold to Bank of America.

Gary Paul, a senior vice president at M&T and First Empire, said the company's purchases were part of a concerted effort to grow aggressively while the lending market is weak. He said the idea was to prepare the company for a lending rebound within the next two years.

The company is guessing that interest rates will peak this year and begin dropping soon after that, he said.

Statewide makes M&T the top lender in the Albany, N.Y., area. It gives M&T seven branches in New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, and a nationwide wholesale lending operation.

Statewide originated more than $400 million of loans last year. Its has a $1 billion servicing portfolio.

In contrast, M&T has a servicing portfolio of $4.7 billion. And it originated $850 million of loans.

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