WCS' Revamped Wholesale Unit Ready to Go
WCS Lending, Boca Raton, Fla., has revamped its wholesale lending channel, moving the majority of the staff to new offices in Concord, Calif., with updated policies, procedures and products in place.
Sharon Bitz, who formally joined WCS in January as national director of wholesale lending (after serving on its advisory board since September), said rather than a start-up, the channel is starting over with a clean slate.
The company has suspended wholesale mid-November last year and now this is a relaunch, she said. The goal is to be doing $1 billion per month in wholesale by this time in 2014.
Her own experience includes working at Wells Fargo as a retail manager. Bitz was also an executive vice president for the Western division of MortgageIT, a regional director for wholesaler Clearpoint Funding and a regional manager for Pinnacle Capital Mortgage.
She has worked with the Concord team starting at MortgageIt. The group had been together at North American Mortgage before that. The team, she added, has such a strong reputation—including their integrity—that clients have followed it to various investors.
“People just don’t follow you everywhere if you haven’t had the past experience of doing the right thing,” Bitz said.
Bitz declared WCS is in a growth mode, which includes growing its servicing portfolio through loans acquired in this channel. Then there is the secondary market angle, which is being able to get better pricing by selling larger pools of loans.
With the relaunch, she added, WCS is also looking to improve its loan quality as well, by adding better performing originators.
Wholesale also gives the company a chance to enter new markets and test the waters there.
As part of its growth initiative, WCS has reinforced the division’s infrastructure by creating policies and workflow that will support exponential growth and implementing new loan origination and accounting software.
Even the product menu is being revamped. Besides conforming and Federal Housing Administration products, there is an emphasis on USDA Rural Development.
Bitz has been giving broker customers training on the Rural Development program. “People automatically hear the word UDSA and they think 'that is not going to work in southern California’ or 'that is not going to work in this major metropolitan area.’”
But in many cases, she continued, one county over does qualify under USDA guidelines for the product. The training has opened brokers’ eyes to the opportunity.
She added WCS’ USDA back office team, which has been together for at least 12 years, will remain in the company’s Florida offices even as the rest of the wholesale business is relocated to Concord.
There are also plans underway to introduce jumbo portfolio products onto the menu as well. It is finalizing agreements with investors, but the wholesale has delegated underwriting authority for balances up to $1.5 million, Bitz said.
That is an advantage for WCS as many competitors need to have investor approval before originating loans that large. And, she added, the brokers are looking for new sources to replace those that have left the market in the post-bust period.
Joining Bitz is Rouvaun Walker, WCS’ wholesale divisional manager in California. “We’ve got a plan that takes great care of our loyal, longstanding customers, while allowing us to quickly expand into more markets and still deliver on our trademark quality, service and speed. I think the mortgage broker community is going to be shocked at how much of a difference it makes when a wholesale lender invests in the best technology, hires more knowledgeable and seasoned staff, and offers a full suite of loan products.”
Bitz said approximately one-quarter to one-third of WCS’ prior broker clients will be part of the new customer base, “if they are interested in our new platform. Our new platform is quite different than the way we were doing wholesale in the past.”
Another reason the relaunched platform is not fully open yet is that Bitz does not want to bombard her team with broker approvals; right now it is adding a few brokers at a time as the team in California gets up to speed.