It's come to this: A nonbank mortgage originator, facing the loss of its main warehouse lender, has to rescue that lender to ensure its own survival.
That is the unusual situation Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. appears to be in.
The Ocala, Fla., wholesale lender is said to be the lead investor in a group that is close to injecting $300 million into Colonial BancGroup Inc. Tuesday was the deadline for the $25.8 billion-asset Montgomery, Ala., company — which has suffered large losses on loans to developers and home builders — to raise its capital ratios or face formal regulatory orders and possible seizure. (See related story.)
According to National Mortgage News, Colonial is the top warehouse lender, with $2.9 billion in commitments at the end of 2008. Catherine Kissick, the senior vice president in charge of Colonial's warehouse business, said last month that she wanted to expand that business but could not because of the company's capital problems.
One warehousing source said Tuesday that Taylor, Bean, a Colonial warehouse client, had approached other mortgage lenders that depend on such financing to join the investor group.
Ray Bowman, Taylor, Bean's president, would not discuss the situation.
"This is an emergency, so what else could they do?" said David Olson, a managing director at Access Mortgage Research and Consulting Inc. in Columbia, Md. "They can't get warehouse lines and they would be forced into being a much smaller player."
Only 16 warehouse lenders are still around to fund mortgages originated by nondepositories nationwide, a tenth as many as a year ago, Olson said.
The concept of one or more mortgage firms taking an ownership stake in their warehouse lender is highly unusual, industry experts said.
"It's certainly an interesting strategy," said James Reynolds, the managing partner of Reynolds Group, a warehouse consulting firm in Summit, N.J. "[Taylor, Bean Chairman] Lee Farkas is an entrepreneur who comes up with creative ideas, and right now mortgage bankers' need for liquidity is huge."
Like other mortgage banks, Taylor, Bean has had trouble handling the volume of loans and has maxed out on its existing warehouse lines, Reynolds said. "It's a Catch-22, because warehouse lending provides funding for the underpinning of the industry — small mortgage bankers and brokers — but it's financing that is off the radar screen."
Taylor, Bean ranked as the eighth-largest mortgage originator in the fourth quarter, with $6 billion in fundings, and was the second-largest nonbank lender after GMAC LLC's Residential Capital LLC, according to National Mortgage News. Among wholesalers, Taylor, Bean ranked second, with $4.7 billion in fundings.
It began operations in 1982 as a small retail mortgage firm. Farkas bought the company in 1990 when it had just six employees. It now has 25 offices nationwide.
The company funded $30 billion in mortgages last year, according to its Web site, and is one of the top Federal Housing Administration lenders.
Dave Petro, the president of ICBA Mortgage, a for-profit subsidiary of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said 2,000 of the trade group's members sold loans to Taylor, Bean last year, 28% more than in 2007. Taylor, Bean is "a material player" in the market, he said.
If such an outlet were to go away, community banks "would have to consider contingency plans," Petro said. "We don't believe that will happen because of where the market is, and this deal certainly helps that."
Last year Taylor, Bean bought Platinum Bancshares Inc., the Rolling Meadows, Ill., parent company of the $110 million-asset Platinum Community Bank. At the time, Taylor, Bean said its motivation was not liquidity but showcasing to community banks the benefits of using the company's technology and services.