Travelers, Midland Vets Lead Wholesaling Drive at Anchor

Anchor Savings Bank, Hewlett, N.Y., is moving into the business of buying new mortgages from other lenders, guided by two of the field's brightest stars.

The thrift's mortgage unit recently hired William J. Kelley, an alumnus of Travelers Mortgage Services, as senior vice president in charge of "wholesale" orginations. He will report to unit president Charles W. Sewright, who arrived last year after leading a big push in wholesaling at Marine Midland Bank.

"It's a joining of forces of two individuals with very solid credentials," said Thomas La Malfa, a wholesaling consultant based in Shaker Heights, Ohio. "It seems to me you're going to see a very strong wholesaler emerge from all this."

Ambitious Plans

Anchor Mortgage Services plans to purchase about $250 million of new mortgages over the next year or so from a network of 25 to 30 lenders. After three years, the annual volume should hit $750 million of loans from about 100 lenders nationwide, Mr. Kelley said.

Such growth, though not spectacular, would probably make Anchor as one of the nation's 25 largest wholesalers. And it would significantly augment Anchor's retail originations, which now are running at about $450 million a year and are slated to rise.

Anchor plans to resell the loans but retain the rights to service them. Like other wholesalers, the thrift is seeking to increase both the size and geographic diversity of its servicing portfolio without the costs associated with vast branch networks. The portfolio now stands at about $5 billion.

Turnaround Strategy

The push comes as Anchor Savings, with assets of $8.5 billion, is carrying out an ambitious corporate turnaround. Though the thrift suffered heavy losses in 1988 and early 1989 and does not meet its capital requirements, it posted profits in each of the past five quarters and has steadily improved its capital position. A key part of the plan is to increase home mortgage lending.

Mr. Kelly, 33, had led the wholesale program of Travelers Mortgage but left early this year after the unit of Travelers Corp. was purchased by General Electric Capital Corp. Credited with a superb grasp of wholesaling's nuts and bolts, he had worked at Travelers Mortgage for more than 10 years and helped it become one of the 10 most active wholesalers in the country.

In March, Mr. Kelley joined Arbor National Mortgage, Westbury, N.Y., but soon was lured away by Mr. Sewright. "He called me in June and confused the hell out of me," Mr. Kelley said, laughing. "He said, |This is what we're doing,' and got me all excited."

A Strong Record

Mr. Sewright, who had been president of Marine Midland's mortgage unit since 1987, joined Anchor in December. He took Marine to the very top in wholesaling, buying $6 billion of loans in 1989, more the double the 1988 total.

Mr. Kelley said Anchor will seek to buy loans from those lenders that he and Mr. Sewright have come to know and respect the most.

"The single most important factor in any wholesale operation is knowing your customers," Mr. Kelley said. "If you know they're astute about mortgage banking and that their morals and ethics are in the proper place, it makes the whole process real easy."

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