Live Oak in N.C. to sell niche funeral business

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Live Oak Bancshares in Wilmington, N.C., is selling part of its funeral home and cemetery lending business.

The $3.4 billion-asset company said in a press release Wednesday that it has agreed to sell its pre-need funeral trust business to Argent Financial Group in Ruston, La. Live Oak did not disclose the price; the deal is expected to close by Dec. 31.

The pre-need funeral trust business serves clients who want to pay funeral costs in advance. Argent will handle the customers’ funds, and both companies will create an alliance to cross-refer lending and trust business. Live Oak said the goal is to provide services more efficiently to those in the funeral home and cemetery industry.

Some Live Oak personnel will move to Argent, though the company did not specify the total number of employees. No loans will change hands.

Live Oak said in the release that it is still dedicated to funeral home and cemetery lending. The company said the sale allows it to streamline operations to improve customer service.

Live Oak said the sale will be immaterial to its financial results.

"We have a lot to focus on and this will allow us to focus on things that move the needle," said Huntley Garriott, president of Live Oak Bank, adding that the pre-need trust business did not fit into the company's mission to provide services using technology. The company made a similar decision to exit the title insurance business in August with the sale of Reltco.

There are no immediate plans to sell other Live Oak business lines.

Live Oak made a similar decision in August when it exiting the title insurance business by selling its Reltco subsidiary.

The company also said in a separate press release that it is adding fitness center lending and equipment leasing to its financial offerings.

“Our aim is to build upon Live Oak’s model in providing small business owners access to capital, so they can support the backbone of the American economy,” Garriott said.

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