<p>MADISON, Wis. – Mortgage experts are predicting that 2002 will probably not be as stellar a year as 2001 was for mortgage lending, but for now CUNA Mutual Mortgage President/CEO Steve Renock is relishing the two volume records the company has set. In 2001, CUNA Mutual Mortgage provided more than $3.1 billion in mortgage loan origination services to credit unions and members, beating its earlier record set in 1993 of $2 billion. December 2001 alone was a record month for the company – it funded more than $260 million in mortgage loans. Just two weeks into 2002, CUNA Mutual Mortgage set a second record when it hit $7 billion in loans serviced, beating the $6 billion in loans serviced mark it set in August 2001. While mortgage rates are not tied directly to the Fed rate, Renock said Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s lowering of the Fed rate 11 times in 2001 “was a significant contribution for all lenders” because of the favorable lending ambiance it helped create and foster. Moreso, though, Renock said credit unions have simply been getting more aggressive with mortgage lending and are making it a “key component of their strategies.” In 2001, CUNA Mutual Mortgage signed up 240 new credit unions, giving the company 590 credit unions it does business with. That’s an increase of 69% from the 350 credit unions the company signed up in 2000. “2001 was a big leap for us,” said Renock. “Prior to then, we typically had a 10-15% increase in credit unions doing business with us. Last year the increase skyrocketed, and it included both small and large credit unions.” “Loan servicing is an economies of scale business,” said Renock. “One of the reasons why so many credit unions are comfortable with having CUNA Mutual Mortgage service their loans is because they know we’re not in competition with them for their members or services. “If a credit union sells loans to another financial services provider, the chances are the member is going to be hammered with things like credit cards and debit cards. Credit unions have to choose wisely who they partner with so they don’t wind up losing touch with the member. CUNA Mutual Mortgage considers itself part of the credit union family,” he continued. For those credit unions that want to keep their name out in front of borrowers, but still want CUNA Mutual Mortgage to service the loan, CUNA Mutual Mortgage also subservices loans. In that type of arrangement. CUNA Mutual Mortgage does the back office work for the servicing of the loan and is transparent to the member. With mortgage rates expected to rise later this year and lending levels expected to slow, Renock admitted that, “This year will seem a bit like a let down compared to last year.” The refi market will shrink, rates will be pretty flat, and credit unions will be doing business in a purchase money market. That means credit unions will face more competition from other lenders. “In a purchase money market, builders and realtors are more involved in the transaction. They have their favorite lenders they like to steer buyers to. Credit unions will have to work harder to educate their members about the credit union advantage, they’ll have to be more proactive,” Renock said. Renock said CUNA Mutual Mortgage hopes to sign up 300 more credit unions in 2002. He conceded that 2001′s loan volume level might be hard to meet in 2002, and CUNA Mutual Mortgage’s goal for the year is $1.8 billion. Still he predicted it will be good year for mortgage lending and rates will be favorable. “As the mortgage market moves away from refinances and towards first mortgages, the burden will be on credit unions to market their mortgage products to their members so members’ loans don’t wind up going somewhere else outside the credit union,” said Renock. -</p> <p>ekingoffbarr@cutimes.com</p>