KeyCorp will keep and expand First Niagara Financial Group's Buffalo, N.Y.-based mortgage operations to spur along its return to being a player in residential lending.

Back in March, Cleveland-based KeyCorp said that it planned to make mortgages a strategic emphasis again, after twice exiting the business, first in 1995 and then in 2006.

KeyCorp expects it will initially need about 300 employees in Buffalo to staff this business. Plus it will bring its servicing business back in-house to be handled by First Niagara's current servicing staff.

KeyCorp also plans to retain First Niagara's mortgage fulfillment group housed in New Haven, Conn. Previously, KeyCorp had outsourced its mortgage fulfillment operations and had intended to bring it in-house.

KeyCorp's mortgage origination unit is now handled by its own loan officers in all 12 states where the company does business. KeyCorp also currently outsources its underwriting, fulfillment and portfolio management functions to PHH Mortgage.

KeyCorp plans to start a test run of its new mortgage platform this coming June, with a full rollout in the fourth quarter of 2016.

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