MetLife Back in Mortgages with First Horizon

Thirteen years ago insurance giant MetLife said goodbye to mortgage banking. Last week it re-entered the business by agreeing to purchase the national lending business of First Horizon National Corp. of Memphis.

"MetLife is hoping to catch the business at the bottom and ride it up," said one investment banker close to the deal. "It's good to see new entrants getting in."

The banking affiliate of MetLife agreed to buy - through an asset purchase - 230 retail and wholesale offices, and a servicing platform belonging to First Horizon. No purchase price was disclosed.

Roughly, 3,000 mortgage workers will shift over to MetLife Bank, which is based here in suburban New Jersey. The branches acquired do not take deposits.

According to just-released figures compiled by National Mortgage News, First Horizon ranked 15th among all lenders in the first quarter, producing $7.6 billion in new loans. Half of its production is retail, the other half, wholesale.

MetLife also will acquire $20 billion in servicing rights, leaving FHNC with a $65 billion portfolio, some of which will be sold off over time, said a source. (MetLife will keep the servicing platform in Dallas.)

In 1995, when MetLife was still a mutual insurance company (today, it is publicly traded), it divested its mortgage banking affiliate, Metmor Financial, a residential and commercial lender/servicer. "Back then we didn't have a bank," said a MetLife spokesman. (Metmor was formerly known as Crossland Capital.)

MetLife Bank is managed by Donna DeMaio, who serves as president and chief credit officer. The bank has not yet named a CEO to manage the mortgage business. "It's still early," said the spokesman.

MetLife Bank has been originating mortgages since 2005 through an outsourcing arrangement it has with PHH Mortgage of Mount Laurel, N.J. The outsourcing deal expires in a few months. (c) 2008 Mortgage Servicing News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.mortgageservicingnews.com/ http://www.sourcemedia.com/

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