Big Title Firm Moves into the Subservicing Arena

LandAmerica Financial Group, which agreed to purchase LoanCare Servicing Center in October, is apparently the first title industry firm to make a big push into the subservicing business.

For LoanCare, based in Norfolk, Va., the deal means it will have a parent company with deep pockets, facilitating its ability to obtain a rating from one or more of the Wall Street rating agencies, according to Gene Ross, who continues as president of LoanCare. He noted that LandAmerica has a market capitalization in excess of $1 billion.

"That opens doors for us that previously were not available," he told MSN. "The expansion opportunities are really large."

It also means that LoanCare has the opportunity to align itself with LandAmerica to serve existing LandAmerica customers. LandAmerica Financial Group provides a host of real estate transaction services to complement its traditional title business.

And LandAmerica executives believe the acquisition of LoanCare is a strategic step toward achieving the corporate goal of becoming the premier provider of real estate transaction services.

"Over the last three years LandAmerica has invested a substantial amount of capital in businesses that address the servicing side of the business," said Andy Brownstein, senior vice president for corporate development at LandAmerica.

Those investments help mitigate LandAmerica's exposure to the cyclicality of the loan origination business, he noted, in addition to providing avenues for business growth. The investments have increased LandAmerica's presence in the tax services, default services and flood tracking businesses. Both Mr. Ross and Mr. Brownstein see indications that the subservicing industry is growing.

Mr. Brownstein said that middle-market servicers are looking for mechanisms to compete with the giant servicers that have made significant internal investments in technology. Subservicing can give smaller lenders access to that same level of technological sophistication, he said.

Likewise, Mr. Ross said that lenders are looking to focus on their core competencies while outsourcing other functions to a specialist. For many lenders, those core competencies are centered on originating and producing loans rather than servicing them.

In addition, new loan products typically require lenders to tweak servicing systems, adding to the operational burden of servicing loans in-house. And subservicing can help lenders address operational and compliance risk as well, Mr. Ross said.

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