Magazine article American Banker

Amid Mardi Gras Hoopla, Refi Worries Dominate Conference

Magazine article American Banker

Amid Mardi Gras Hoopla, Refi Worries Dominate Conference

Article excerpt

A festive atmosphere here at the national mortgage servicing conference of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America's did not entirely mask a sense of urgency.

Though the thousand or more who roamed the exhibit halls last week were decked in colorful Mardi Gras beads, their appetites sated by French Quarter feasts, the recent surge in mortgage refinancings was never far from the surface.

Indeed, a siege mentality prevailed whenever conventioneers got down to the business at hand: how to protect their portfolios as homeowners rush to take advantage of lower rates by refinancing.

"Portfolio retention in any sort of refi market is absolutely critical," said Greg Harrington, senior vice president of Chase Manhattan Mortgage, Edison, N.J.

Mr. Harrington said that if companies did not learn lessons from the 1993 refinance boom, they will have trouble keeping customers now. Chase, which developed a data management program two and a half years ago, can now contact customers who would have a propensity to refinance before they call other servicers, he said.

Not all companies are this advanced, however. David Allison, senior vice president of Dovenmuehle Mortgage, a Schaumburg, Ill., subservicer, said mortgage companies have been improving their customer service relationships but are not as savvy as credit card companies, mutual fund companies, and insurers.

John Cleary, senior vice president of Source One Mortgage Corp., Farmington Hills, Mich., said servicers have sometimes sacrificed higher standards of customer service for lower costs. …

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