Cross-selling in the first half of the year helped Wells Fargo Home Equity become the nation's second-largest home equity loan originator.
The company increased its average balances, built its loan portfolio to almost $16 billion, and inched closer to its goal of becoming the largest home equity lender.
"Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is already a leading provider of first-position mortgages to homeowners across the country," said Doreen Woo Ho, president of Wells Fargo Home Equity. "Our goal is to achieve complementary market leadership in home equity by leveraging each of our existing distribution channels and by developing new ones, including the online channel, to reach target customers."
Information on the home equity unit's earnings is not available because its results are folded into those of Wells' community banking division, which reported $772 million of net income for the second quarter, an increase of almost 13%, making it the biggest earner of the four Wells divisions.
Ms. Woo Ho, a former Vietnam correspondent for Time magazine who joined Wells in 1998 after 25 years at Citibank, said aggressive cross-selling and marketing efforts by the parent company gave her unit a distinct advantage over other lenders - the chance to market to customers of Wells' bank branches, Internet banking unit, and mortgage originations and servicing division.
"It's a combination of focusing through all of the distribution channels and continuing to focus on marketing efforts, mostly in our bank footprint but across the whole country, which has contributed to our success," she said.
Like many financial institutions, Wells Fargo Home Equity is making a concerted push toward doing business online. But unlike many in the mortgage industry, Ms. Woo Ho already seems to be seeing significant dividends from this effort.
In its second-quarter earnings report Tuesday, Wells said that home equity sales via WellsFargo.com more than doubled from a year earlier and average balances on loans originated over the Internet rose 56% from the first quarter.
The Internet still supplies a small percentage of Wells' home equity production - between 5% and 10% - but officials said they expect significant growth from online sales.
Though Internet mortgages sales have yet to really catch fire, she said, the home equity product has advantages. Because the process is simpler and more streamlined than for a first mortgage, people have been quicker to embrace Web-based lending.
The strong economy has also helped sales. Though interest rates have risen, Ms. Woo Ho said, they remain historically low and have not quelled consumers' seemingly insatiable borrowing hunger. She credited appreciating real estate values and overall organic growth in the equity available for consumers to tap, which they have done in record amounts.