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Lenders Choice Celebrates First Year in Title Business

Lenders First Choice, a title and settlement services company here, recently celebrated its first anniversary of operations.

Its president, Bill Moody, met with Mortgage Servicing News in New York to discuss the growth the company has seen in its brief period in business.

Lenders First Choice is part of the Mercury Cos., Mr. Moody said, pointing out that while the parent has other title operations, it did not have one that specialized in "lender-directed business," a unit that was able to process title orders the way the lender wanted it done.

The company was built around technology and process management. Paper files are not created until Lenders First receives recordable documents. Commitments are e-mailed, faxed and/or posted online.

Furthermore, when an order is opened, Lenders First sends the lender a preliminary HUD statement with a complete list of its fees, and those fees are guaranteed, Mr. Moody noted. If the cost comes in above the fee, Lenders First takes the hit.

This level of certainty is one of the objects of the guaranteed mortgage package that was to give the applicant a set price. In fact this might even give Lenders First a leg up if and when the Department of Housing and Urban Development releases it proposed Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act reform.

"Bundling doesn't scare us, because all we have to do is add the numbers together," he said.

In the area of process management, Mr. Moody said Lenders First has taken the old job descriptions and chucked them. Yes there are escrow officers, but they just handle the client contact function. Each part of the process has been handed off to an individual who specializes in it.

Lenders First hires people "who are willing to learn" and teaches them a small part of the job.

The company is arranged in teams and each team is "married" to a particular lender, he said. As a result, the team processes the job in the way the lender wants it to take place.

Each team visits the lender's processing office to learn how the lender does business.

"We keep the account by understanding how they do business," Mr. Moody said, pointing out the company's tag line is "Making lenders look good."

Another area of emphasis is turnaround time. The company looks to be able to initiate a loan closing within 72 hours of receiving the title order.

The "unique culture" of Lenders First is manifested in other areas at the company's offices. Mr. Moody notes there are ping pong tables and an X-Box gaming system for employees to use during breaks, commenting that "they work hard, they play hard." Such a culture, he said, is "hard to do when you have an existing company."

When it opened in January 2003, Lenders First had 23 employees. It is up to 315 workers with a goal of having 500 by the end of the year.

Besides Simi Valley, Lenders First has offices in Stockton, Calif., and Frisco, Texas. Plans are to open up an office on the East Coast, in order to serve lenders in their home time zones, he said.

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