Republic Bancorp in Louisville, Ky., plans to enter warehouse lending by the second quarter after hiring a top executive from National City Corp.

"Based on the phone calls we're getting there is still a real need for lenders in this business," Steve Trager, Republic's president and chief executive, said in an interview Monday. "We are committed to warehouse."

Trager said the bank would provide lines of credit to nonbank mortgage firms located outside its "bank footprint" of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Florida.

Kevin Rost, who is leading the effort, left the warehouse lending division at National City shortly after PNC Financial Services Group Inc. said it would exit the space. Rost, who is the division manager of warehouse lending, told National Mortgage News that Republic is building a team in advance of the business launch.

Trager said he and the bank are familiar with the mortgage business, adding that the $3 billion-asset Republic is one of the top-ranked residential loan originators in Kentucky and the Midwest.

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