Cross Country Move Adds Capacity at Nationwide

Nationwide Title Clearing Inc., has moved from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast of Florida.

While the big move hasn't changed the company's mission, it has allowed for significant expansion.

Senior vice president Jim Stewart said the increasing workload associated with all the refinancing activity during the past two years was one factor in the move.

"One of the things that brought about our move at this particular time was the ever increasing demands of our clients for more and more releases and more and more problem files that they need research on so they can do a release," he said.

Nationwide, simply, had outgrown its office facility in Glendale, Calif. It already had a site in Palm Harbor that was better suited to expansion, so the company decided to close shop in California and move its headquarters along with its primary servicing site to Florida.

In Glendale, Nationwide had roughly 15,000 square feet of space. In the Florida location, the company now has in excess of 40,000 square feet.

To minimize any disruption associated with the move, the company began hiring and training staff in Florida even before the primary servicing site was moved. The company's senior executives have all been retained and a few new ones have been added, he said.

Even before the move, Nationwide had an office in Palm Harbor that housed research and development and some of the company's information technology staff. It also served as a backup servicing site. The company has added a new backup site in another part of Florida, he said.

The company now employs about 300 staff people. In Florida, the most it ever had was about 185, which was about the Glendale facility's upper limit, Mr. Stewart said.

Mr. Stewart said that the business climate is better in Florida than it had been in California, and that was one factor in the move. But a perhaps more important factor was the labor pool available in the Tampa area.

"There was an abundance of personnel here who have a mortgage background who could go rapidly through training and be productive in a week or two," Mr. Stewart said. "That's been real good for us."

And that's helpful in the title clearing business, because the nation's 3,700 counties each have slightly different rules and procedures for releasing a lien. Mr. Stewart said that a knowledgeable staff helps reduce the number of "rejects" that are sent back to a lender.

Because most of Nationwide's mortgage industry clients have a presence throughout the country, the location of Nationwide's processing facility was not a major concern. The work could be done virtually anywhere.

The move has also coincided with a major technology initiative for the firm. While the company was not prepared to announce anything at MSN's press time, Mr. Stewart said the company was testing some new technology and would be making an announcement in the coming weeks.

In addition to lien release work, which has been continually hectic due to refinancing volume, Nationwide also performs services associated with portfolio acquisitions.

While buying and selling of mortgage servicing portfolios has been slow because of the refi boom, when rates rise that business is expected to pick up.

"We work both sides of the cycle," Mr. Stewart said.

The company's staff is cross-trained so that personnel can do lien release work, assignments and research. That way, the company allocates staff to meet pressing demands at any given time.

For the past year and a half, releases have been the dominant service needed by clients.

The duration of the current refinancing boom has contributed to demand for outsourcing of those services. Mr. Stewart said companies that do release work in house are finding they just can't wait for activity to slow down anymore. In part, that's because state and local laws can levy stiff fines and penalties against lenders that fail to meet lien release deadlines.

"You cannot afford to let this backlog grow and just work it as you can. Its like you have little time bombs in there, and they are ticking," he said.

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