After Big Bank Exits, Urban Steps in to Fill Void With New Executive Leadership

The last two years have been a crazy time for Urban Financial Group. After Knight Capital Group’s acquisition of Urban in 2010, the company has been on a tear, growing from about 50 employees to more than 100 in a short period of time.

Now, about a year and a half after the deal closed, major changes are being made at the executive level of the fourth-largest reverse mortgage lender in the country.

Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the company was founded by Bryan Hendershot in 2003 and grew from a small team into what it is today. The deal was rumored to pay Hendershot about $20 million, but now the founder is out and has been replaced by Steve McClellan.

Unlike Hendershot, he comes from a traditional banking background and most recently served as the Chief Financial Officer of Geneartion Mortgage. While McClellan enjoyed his time at Generation, the opportunity to lead Urban was too big to pass up.

“Knight is run by an outstanding group of executives, extremely smart people, and they’ve got a really big vision about what they want to do with this company,” he says.

WIth Bank of America and Wells Fargo leaving the business, Knight is left in a great position, he says.

“We are one of the only publicly held companies in the space who have access to public capital and equity,” he says. “[The combination] makes for a very exciting recipe to do great things.”

Even with the financial backing, Urban has plenty on its plate. The company is in the process of working to better integrate the acquisition of Guardian First Funding Group, which closed in June 2011. Jason Levy, former CEO of Guardian, was initially named as the head of retail development but is no longer with the company. McClellan says Urban is still working to integrate that part of its business.

“We would like to continue to build on that. I’m still evaluating it, but we’d like to do more retail business. Trying to figure out how we harness [the Robert Wagner brand and call center],” he says.

Much like Generation, the majority of Urban’s business comes from wholesale and correspondent channels, which totals 76% of its overall volume, according to data from Reverse Market Insight. The operation is branded under the ReverseIt division and is the second-largest wholesale reverse mortgage lender in the country with 22.9% of the market.

With new management, several of Urban’s biggest correspondent and wholesale clients told RMD that they were concerned things would change without Hendershot. However, McClellan says he plans to build onto what is already a great platform.

“There will be changes, but I’m confident it will be even better than it was,” he says.

But the concern is totally understandable, says McClellan. “All I can say is that over time they will go, ‘Wow, it was good and now it’s even better.’ That’s what I want the employees to say too.”

Changes have been made at the executive level on the Knight side as well. David Fontanilla, who was instrumental in striking the deal to acquire Urban is no longer with the company and has been replaced by Darren Stumberger, a former Bank of America Merryl Lynch executive, to lead Knight’s HMBS desk.

There isn’t much of a honeymoon period for either as the company looks for the best way to address the number of tax and insurance defaults that have hit borrowers. Earlier this year, MetLife was the first lender to come out with new underwriting guidelines, and none has followed as of yet.

“We’re contemplating making some changes and I don’t think that we would make the changes that Met has instituted,” he says. “It’s critical for us to be compliant with the regulations that have been promulgated by FHA and HUD.”

If HUD were to release its guidelines tomorrow, McClellan says Urban would follow suit, but he doesn’t think that will happen until everyone involved has a better industry idea about what is causing borrowers to default. “To the best of my knowledge, no one in the industry can tell you for sure [what exactly is causing it],” he says.

As far as MetLife’s guidelines go, McClellan says that he understands the overall logic of what they’re doing, but estimates it could have a big impact on their overall business.

“If you apply that from data I’ve seen before, they could see 30-40% of their business drop,” he says.

Editors Note: a previous version of this article said the company was founded in 2005. Urban was started in 2003.

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