Household Finance Corp., one of the nation's leading home equity lenders, has lost a key executive.

Bruce Crittenden, one of five managing directors of the Prospect Heights, Ill., company resigned last week. No replacement has been named.

A spokesman for Household International, the finance company's parent, said no decision had been reached about whether Mr. Crittenden's position would be filled by a current employee or by an outside person.

Mr. Crittenden is reportedly searching for employment from his home in Crystal Lake, Ill. According to industry insiders, he has meetings scheduled with officials at various institutions.

He did not return a phone call to his home.

Mr. Crittenden reported directly to Robert Elliott, president of Household Finance. Mr. Crittenden was responsible for marketing the subsidiary's products. Those include home equity loans, unsecured loans, and private-label credit cards.

William F. Aldinger, who joined Household International as president and chief executive last August, is placing more of an emphasis on Household Finance. The unit hired Stuart Tidblom as a managing director this month to start a leasing operation for used autos within the finance company. A spokesman said the new business probably would not originate loans until the fourth quarter.

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Aames Financial Corp. has further expanded its retail operation.

The Los Angeles lender to borrowers with blemished credit records has opened offices in Mesa, Ariz., and Tacoma, Wash. It now has 29 retail offices, the company said.

"Mesa - Aames's second location in Arizona - is already showing strong customer response," said Gary K. Judis, the company's president and chairman, in a written statement.

He said company officials look forward to servicing the home equity borrowers in Mesa and Tacoma.

Aames, one of the nation's fastest-growing finance companies, announced in a press release it plans to open an office in Seattle soon and two in Chicago later this year.

The lender is also staking some of its future on purchasing more home equity loans from mortgage brokers. It has hired several executives in recent months to spearhead that effort.

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Mitchell L. Heffernan, who announced he would leave ContiMortgage Corp. as president Sept. 1, told American Banker he would soon start another finance company in northern Connecticut.

The ContiMortgage founder said he would move to Lyme, Conn., near where he grew up, and start the firm after a few months. He said he has a restrictive covenant with ContiMortgage, a unit of ContiFinancial, that would forbid him from competing with the lender. He refused to say how long the restriction will last.

The company announced that he would serve as a consultant to the board of directors through next March.

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