JUL 9, 2013

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Norcom Seeks Southern Outpost from New England Base

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Norcom Mortgage, an independent purchase mortgage lender in Connecticut, is looking to expand its footprint outside New England and targeting the rest of the Eastern U.S. as part of its goal to increase originations this year to $1 billion.

Its next stop: South Carolina.

The Avon, Conn.-based company is about to launch a five-week advertising and marketing “blitz” in South Carolina to promote its name among consumers in the Palmetto State as well as to recruit retail loan officers and mortgage brokers.

Founded in 1990, the company does a little more than half of its originations through its retail channel and 46% through its broker wholesale unit. The rest comes from its correspondent unit, which it launched a little less than a year ago, targeting community banks, nonbanks and credit unions.

In addition to its mortgage unit, the company also runs Norcom Insurance, an independent broker that sells homeowners, auto, life and health, aviation and business insurance, as well as ValueQuest, an appraisal management company. However, the company’s push into South Carolina only includes the mortgage unit.

Norcom gets most of its business in its home state and neighboring Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as Maine and New Hampshire. The company was the second largest mortgage originator in Connecticut in 2012, trailing only Wells Fargo and ahead of Webster Bank, according to the Warren Group in Boston.

The company is licensed in 15 states throughout New England and the Southeast, although Florida is the only state in the latter region where it currently does any business, through its wholesale unit. It also has a wholesale office in Washington state. It’s not currently licensed in New York and New Jersey.

“We’re getting licensed in as many states as possible and we’re slowly trying to figure out how we can grow our business beyond our New England footprint,” says Ryan Kelly, the company’s marketing manager. “The focus was to become a New England lender, and that was accomplished, now it’s to become more of an East Coast lender.”

In addition to the geographic expansion, Norcom believes the recent rise in interest rates, and the industry transition from refinances to purchase mortgages, will help the company achieve its goal of increasing last year’s $700 million of loan production to $1 billion. The company currently does about two-thirds of its business in purchase loans.

“We’re well positioned at this point, especially as rates start to increase,” Kelly says.

By concentrating on one state, South Carolina, the company hopes to establish a blueprint that will work in other states. The company chose that state because a lot of the loans there are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, Norcom’s strength.

“It seems to be a good fit,” Kelly says.

Another reason Norcom likes South Carolina is because it’s virgin territory. “We chose South Carolina because there is no familiarity with Norcom Mortgage,” he says. “We’re starting from scratch. That way we can effectively track our return on investment.”

The company is initially targeting the Northwest part of the state, including Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson and Pickens counties, which have the most licensed brokers among the counties the company is looking at.

The campaign will include a radio campaign beginning on July 22 as well as a five-week email campaign targeting prospective retail loan officers and branch managers. It’s also targeting potential consumer customers and real estate agents through advertising on Facebook.

“I think what separates us from our competition is that we're small enough to care and big enough to get the job done right,” Kelly says. “I think our operation is unique in how we push our people. Everyone is motivated and there's a team atmosphere that exists at Norcom that may be unlike many other lenders. Our focus is on getting people into homes and closing loans, and that's always been the mentality.

“Everyone is offering the same thing these days, so the only way to separate yourself is with great service and communication,” he says.

George Yacik has been covering the residential mortgage business for more than 20 years and writes frequently for industry publications. He can be reached at gyacik@yahoo.com.

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