The biggest buzz at SourceMedia's Mortgage Technology Conference in Tempe, Ariz., has been over a statement that LendingTree's participating lenders are not upset to hear that it is "thinking" of opening brick-and-mortar retail stores.That remark by LendingTree general manager Lori Collins continued to spark comment well after Ms. Collins made the statement in response to a question after her presentation on the Internet's value as a source of qualified mortgage leads. A number of lender attendees commented on the conflict between acting as a retail lender and LendingTree's role as a multilender marketplace where "when banks compete, you win." A competitive trigger for LendingTree to consider such a move may have been revealed in Monday's keynote address, when E-Loan senior vice president Pete Bonnikson told conference attendees that his company, another pioneer in online lending, has already opened "8 or 9" brick-and-mortar offices to leverage its back-office efficiencies to serve borrowers who prefer to deal face to face with a loan officer. LendingTree can be found online at http://www.lendingtree.com.

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