First Federal Bank to acquire Watson Mortgage Corp.

Watson platform will transition to the First Federal brand ’within a few months of closing,’ the community bank reported

Florida-based First Federal Bank announced on Thursday that it struck a deal to acquire Watson Mortgage Corp., expanding its mortgage retail lending footprint in the communities in which it operates. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

First Federal Bank has 25 branches in the Southeast and operations in the Midwest, including mortgage centers in Jacksonville, Florida; Alpharetta, Georgia; Madison, Wisconsin; and Overland Park, Kansas.

Last year, the community bank originated about $435 million in mortgage volume, per mortgage data platform Modex. Nearly 58% of this total was conventional loans and 55% was purchase loans. As of Thursday, the bank had 155 sponsored loan officers, according to the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS).

President and CEO John Medina said in a prepared statement that the First Federal Bank has a mission to provide solutions from a “financially stable institution,” and the acquisition underscores our commitment to the residential mortgage sector.

Under the agreement, First Federal Bank will serve Watson’s customers throughout the Watson Realty footprint and the Watson platform will transition to the First Federal brand within a few months of closing, the parties said in a statement. 

First Federal Bank has plans to retain the vast majority of employees at the acquired lender. Per NMLS, Watson Mortgage had 17 sponsored LOs as of Thursday, and Modex shows that the lender originated about $78 million in mortgage volume last year. 

Watson Mortgage Corp. was established in 1994 and is part of Florida-based Watson Realty Corp., a family-owned company since 1965. The lender is being acquired by a bank that has about $3.9 billion in total assets. 

Bill Watson, chairman of Watson Realty Corp., said the agreement permits the team to continue providing mortgage solutions to our customers and serve our teams with valuable mortgage expertise.

“Watson’s strategic plan for 2024 includes a strong focus on helping customers secure homes in a challenging rate environment, Watson added. 

First Federal Bank has engaged in previous M&A deals. In 2023, it acquired the mortgage division of BNC National Bank. The deal included the bank’s consumer-direct technology platform.

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