As neophyte chairman of Fleet Mortgage Group, Richard Mirro has his work cut out for him.

The mortgage division of Fleet Finance has had a rocky year, as a handful of top executives exited, including chairman Gerald Baker and two presidents.

Fleet Finance has also reportedly struggled to assimilate front and back office procedures following its acquisition of Shawmut National Corp.

But Mr. Mirro says that the company's problems are behind it, and he is emphasizing Fleet's expected growth.

"Things have gotten pretty much settled down," following the most recent departure of president Kevin Race in early October, Mr. Mirro said, and he is concentrating on trying to expand the business.

The company's servicing portfolio took a few hits last year as Fleet sold off several chunks to bolster its earnings. But the Shawmut acquisition helped insure an overall increase in the portfolio - as of June 30, 1996, the company's total residential servicing stood at $116.7 billion, versus $103.2 billion the year before. This represents a year- over-year gain of 13%, substantially below the average of 25% for the top 100 servicers.

His plans for the company's servicing portfolio reflect the pragmatic attitude of an 11 year-mortgage industry veteran, who has survived boom and bust business cycles.

"It's clearly our intent to grow our servicing portfolio," he said. But Fleet is not expecting to purchase large chunks of servicing rights anytime soon. Prices are just too high, Mr. Mirro said.

"We looked at some (loan portfolios) and, for certain types, particularly conforming products, premiums are too high," he said.

Instead, Fleet's servicing division will focus on managing costs. "We're looking at the functionality, and trying to take advantage of labor cost efficiencies there," Mr. Mirro said.

Fleet Mortgage's overall focus for the next year will be an emphasis on information-driven growth, Mr. Mirro said.

Mr. Mirro considers this 'slow but steady' strategy the smartest way to approach the industry right now. "You can decide that you want to be aggressive or conservative, but the market really tells you what you have to do,"

he said.

Will we see Mr. Mirro jump ship, too, within six months? "It's not in my plan," he said with a laugh. "I'm having a lot of fun."

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