While consumers are surprisingly more satisfied with their lender this year than last, according to a study released Monday by J.D. Power & Associates, consumers slammed the nation's largest lender as the worst. The group's annual study of consumer satisfaction with their originators found SunTrust Mortgage ranking the highest among primary mortgage lenders, with a score of 790 on 1,000-point scale. National City Mortgage (788) and Wachovia (786) followed SunTrust Mortgage in the rankings, J.D. Power officials said in a press statement. But neither of the three lenders are as large as Calabasas-based Countrywide Financial, which was acquired July 1 by Bank of America Corp. (BAC). And on that front, Countrywide scored a 728 on the satisfaction survey, the worst among firms included. The survey was conducted in June 2008, and based on responses from 4,256 consumers who originated new mortgages within the previous 12 months. The study measures customer satisfaction in four key factors of the mortgage origination experience: application/approval process; loan officer/representative or mortgage broker; closing process; and problem resolution. Despite increased doubts about the financial market and mortgage lenders, the study found that mortgage customers are more satisfied overall in 2008 compared with 2007, with the industry average increasing slightly, to 757, which is up 7 points from 2007. But that improvement may say more about low consumer expectations than it does about better performance from lenders, said Tim Ryan, director of the financial services practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “The increase in overall satisfaction can be attributed, in part, to lower customer expectations,” he said. “After hearing so much bad news throughout the industry, customers have come to expect less from their lenders, so they are often pleasantly surprised when those expectations are met or even exceeded. For more information, visit http://www.jdpower.com. Disclosure: The author held no relevant positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.