A private bank in Michigan is combining discreet services with high- profile marketing to build its name as a lender to buyers of luxury homes.
The Bank of Bloomfield Hills vigorously pursues high-net-worth residents, relocating executives, and realtors who broker opulent homes.
The strategies, devised by a self-confessed "dynamo" mortgage chief, target Bloomfield Hills, a top-drawer Detroit suburb where homes often sell for more than $500,000 and whose residents include Aretha Franklin and Lee Iacocca.
"We're covering all bases with our approach," said Beth Beal, the chief mortgage officer overseeing the bank's effort.
Indeed, showy marketing is only one element of the bank's approach. After signing on, customers receive the personal, confidential attention that is the mainstay at any private bank, Ms. Beal said.
"We creatively cater to people and come up with what they need," she said.
Flexibility is a plus when working with the affluent, Ms. Beal said. She was recently working with an executive in Paris who, in arranging to relocate to the United States, submitted credit and other reports in French. It took a session with an interpreter to square the deal.
Ms. Beal said she relishes such episodes. The former mortgage broker, who maintains close ties to the realty community, typically puts in 12-hour days and carries two pagers to make extra-sure she does not miss client calls.
Ms. Beal's energetic approach is producing results for the $84 million- asset bank, which was formed in 1989 by executives from Comerica Inc. and venture capitalist Selwyn Isakow, who serves as chairman.
Since she joined in September, mortgage volume has doubled, to $5 million a month.
The mortgage unit "is a great profit center in and unto itself," said David T. Provost, the bank's president. "We're also bringing in new customers for other services."
The bank's jumbo loans-those that exceed the limit for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-can be more profitable than smaller, conventional products, industry consultants said.
But the larger loans also are more likely to prepay, which could mean a hit to servicing profits, said Carl D. Jacobs, president of a Woodland Hills, Calif., mortgage consulting firm bearing his name.
Mr. Provost said the bank recognizes the risks and rewards of dealing in jumbo loans. To offset the exposure, he said, Bank of Bloomfield Hills is building correspondent programs to bring in a greater variety of loans.