Decision-making in the mortgage business is shifting from lenders' branch networks to their home offices. This means vendors that are still talking to branch or regional managers are in many cases barking up the wrong tree. No more wining, dining, or schmoozing with the shirtsleeve crowd. Now, the salespeople have to talk directly to the suits in the executive suites.

This trend toward centralization is hardly new. The later entrants into home equity lending have been quick to centralize marketing, applications processing, and servicing.

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