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Fortes Launches Nationwide Mortgage Platform

As the origination industry continues to contract, it's certainly worth noting whenever a new lender makes the decision to jump in -- doubly so when that lender starts off with a nationwide wholesale mortgage operation. Laguna Hills, Calif.-based Fortes Financial, Inc. said Tuesday that it had rolled out Fortes Residential Mortgage, a nationwide independent mortgage banking enterprise. The mortgage company will begin with five regional wholesale operations centers, three retail banking offices and eight reverse mortgage branches that operate under the name of Security One Lending. Unlike other wholesale lenders that grew dramatically in the past cycle via non-agency lending, however, Fortes said it is basing its model on conventional and government lending, with the requisite mention of "state of the art technology" apparently sprinkled in for good measure. Fortes was founded in August of last year with private equity backing, and in Q1 of this year acquired a retail mortgage banking platform; it completed the acquisition of National City Bank's wholesale origination operation Tuesday, giving it the scale needed to roll out a national mortgage brand. "This is a significant milestone for Fortes," said Peter Levasseur, president and CEO at Fortes. "We have grown the company through recent investments into the retail and reverse mortgage sectors and feel that the addition of a high quality wholesale division such as the National City team represents, will help us ascertain not only diversification but also the ability to acquire a substantial market share." That Fortes would choose to announce its entrance on the same day that Countrywide Financial Corp. ceased to exist as an independent mortgage company is telling, and perhaps symbolic to a certain extent. We've heard from a few lending executives as of late that they see wholesale lending as ripe for entry by firms that aren't encumbered with the "baggage" -- meaning soaring repurchase obligations -- that have crippled other competitors in the space. "I believe we are in a market that is significantly oversold which has, and will continue for a period of time, to provide Fortes the opportunity to acquire mortgage origination assets at little or no premium," Levasseur said. "With low historical residual risk, access to the public capital markets and a strong management team, we are extraordinarily well positioned to emerge as a top tier mortgage originator." Fortes Financial begins its existence as a national lender with over 400 employees; a review of various major job boards suggest the company is looking to hire, as well. For more information, visit http://www.fortesfinancial.com.

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