Norwest Mortgage Inc. has signaled its intention to continue its aggressive expansion by hiring an industry superstar, Mark L. Korell, as its No. 2 executive.

As president of the company's newly formed lender and investor services group, Mr. Korell will have authority over all of Norwest's mortgage- related activities except its retail operations, which are already the nation's largest. The retail side will be overseen by Mark C. Oman, president and chief executive of Norwest Mortgage. Mr. Korell will report to Mr. Oman.

The recruitment of Mr. Korell to head its wholesale, correspondent, and servicing operations suggests Norwest wants to climb higher in the league tables in those areas as well.

When Mr. Korell, a mortgage veteran, resigned from his position as president, chief executive, and a board member of GMAC Mortgage Co. in May, he said he planned to reenter the industry after a summer sabbatical. Some industry eyebrows may be raised because he is not filling the CEO vacancy at Chemical Residential Mortgage Corp., for which many industry insiders say he was being considered.

While Mr. Korell would not share his thoughts on such speculation during a telephone interview, he did share his enthusiasm for his new position.

"Norwest is one of the most dynamic companies out there," Mr. Korell said. "They know how to make money and they know how to win."

Mr. Korrell cited two other factors he deems important: The mortgage unit has had strong profits for the last seven years, and is backed by a bank parent strongly committed to the mortgage business.

The businesses Mr. Korell will oversee are not new to Norwest, but will be grouped together in one unit for the first time. Industry insiders speculated that Norwest formed the unit in preparation for a large acquisition, such as Prudential's home mortgage unit. But Mr. Oman said the move does not signal anything.

"There is a tremendous opportunity in the industry now and we are in a tremendous position," Mr. Oman said. "I think Mark, with his capabilities and being well known in the business, can bring strength to helping us grow." With Mr. Korell on board, Mr. Oman said, "I've got a dream team."

Des Moines-based Norwest has been aggressively expanding its mortgage business with both acquisitions and internal growth. The lender's growth spurt started in 1994 when it made a series of acquisitions totaling more than $600 million.

Last August, Norwest started its ascent with the purchase of the mortgage banking unit of Michigan National Bank, including $8.6 billion in servicing rights, for a reported $125 million.

Next, it bought privately held Directors Mortgage Loan Corp. and its $13 billion servicing portfolio for a reported $275 million.

Last year's shopping spree ended with the purchase of $15 billion of servicing rights and a servicing site from BarclaysAmerican, for $210 million.

Norwest was the No. 2 originator at the end of 1994, and was the No. 5 servicer with a $71 billion servicing portfolio before those deals closed.

Mr. Korell said he likes Norwest's innovation and plans to continue its growth in a disciplined manner. Part of Mr. Korell's responsibilities will be to explore acquisition possibilities. He said he likes that Norwest has a strong base that he can build upon, and will continue that growth, for either strategic or opportunistic reasons.

"At the end of the day, I'm a builder," Mr. Korell said, "and Norwest is definitely a building organization. That is important to me."

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