BankAmerica Corp. has given new hope to mortgage lenders everywhere.

Frank J. Schultz, the West Coast giant's top mortgage man, has just been tapped to head all consumer lending businesses after BankAmerica's planned merger with Security Pacific Corp. early next year.

Mr. Schultz, who has spearheaded headed Bank of America's rapid expansion into mortgages since 1987, will soon coordinate its activities in mortgages, credit cards, and other consumer loans, a bank spokesman confirmed.

Mr. Schultz, 53, will report to Bank America vice chairman Thomas E. Peterson.

King-Size Lending Unit

The consumer lending position is newly created, apparently inspired by the sheer size of retail banking at the new Bank of America. At the end of 1990, BankAmerica ranked No. 1 and Security pacific National Bank No. 4 among all U.S. banks in consumer lending. The two held more than $50 billion of consumer loans.

The ascent of Mr. Schultz suggests that mortgage executives at commercial banks may enjoy new prestige as their institutions push deeper into the market, long the domain of thrifts.

In the past, experts say, mortgage managers rarely rose to positions of broad power.

"Mortgages have become more important to banks, and so have mortgage executives," said David deWilde, chief executive of Chartwell Partners, an executive recruiter in San Francisco.

Mr. deWilde cautioned, however, that executives yearning for more power "have to have some experience beyond mortgages, as Frank did."

Brisk pace for Schultz

Mr. Schultz, who was unavailable for comment, joined Bank of America in 1983 to head up processing and service centers for bank cards, automated teller machines, and mortgages. He came from Chase Manhattan Bank in New York, where he was responsible for such areas as electronic banking, travelers checks, credit card processing for merchants, and debit cards.

Since taking charge of the mortgage group four years ago, Mr. Schultz moved quickly to make Bank of America a formidable competitor against California's big thrifts. This year, the bank is expected to write about $9 billion of mortgages, up more than 100% from 1988's level.

Speculating on Contenders

It is unclear who besides Mr. Schultz may have been in contention for the top lending job. There were several logical candidates at both Bank America and Security pacific, sources said.

Bank of America's credit card chief, Thoms Harkin, and Gerald Gunn -- who oversees home equity, auto, and related consumer loans -- are both of comparable seniority to Mr. Schultz. All report to Mr. Peterson.

On the Security Pacific side, a natural candidate for the lending post would have been Scott McAfee. He has led a big mortgage push over the past three years and - shortly before the merger was announced - assumed control of all consumer lending at the parent company's seven banks.

Some observers speculated that Mr. McAfee may be named to succeed Mr. Schultz as Bank of America's mortgage chief.

The winner of the mortgage job will command a division that would currently rank as the largest originator in the country. Their combined originations surpass such industry giants as Citicorp, Fleet/Norstar Financial Group, and Norwest Corp.

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