Countrywide Home Loans announced last week that it has hired David Espenschied to be senior vice president of Internet marketing.
The Calabasas, Calif., company said it created the post as part of a strategy to build a brand name for its Web site and integrate all Countrywide Credit Industries Inc.'s Web sites.
Mr. Espenschied was president of Countrywide Financial Services Corp., which marketed and distributed investment products, from 1994 until 1996. He left that year to become president of San Francisco-based Lombard Brokerage Inc.
In 1997, Dean Witter, Discover & Co.-now Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.-bought Lombard and turned it into the on-line Discover Brokerage Inc. Mr. Espenschied left Discover later that year.
In an interview with American Banker, he discussed his new job and the role the Internet will play for Countrywide.
What are Countrywide's marketing plans?
We are in the process of creating advertising that will specifically drive business to Countrywide on-line, using ads in more traditional media. Also, the Countrywide wholesale business channel has ideas of how on-line can be a more valued partner to the broker communities.
So we are planning to market to brokers more aggressively. It is a significant portion of our business today, and we want to leverage the Internet in that relationship. We want to facilitate the brokers' business and Internet access.
What are your targets for on-line volume?
The mission is to establish Countrywide as the leader in the on-line mortgage business. To do that, we are still establishing and identifying the practices and areas that we will address and the prioritization of what we have to do to accomplish that.
We see the Internet as a significantly growing business that we need to participate in, and we think we're well positioned to be the leader.
How will your experiences at Discover Brokerage be applicable in this new post?
What we are trying to do is take a look at the Internet the same way on- line brokerages do. It is just another distribution channel-it is not an isolated part.
In the on-line brokerage arena, the customer could call and use Touch- Tone trading, or trade over the Internet, or get information over the Internet. And at Countrywide, the customer can do the same thing. They can come on-line, complete an application, call, and have an application started over the phone, and in addition they could choose to walk into a branch.
How important is brand name in the on-line mortgage business?
It is very much the same, taking from my on-line brokerage background. If you take a look at the amount of money that the top four on-line brokerage firms are spending-somewhere in excess of $100 million each-they certainly recognize the value of branding.
Over the last three to four years, Countrywide has recognized it as an extremely valuable component of our business as well.