POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 18, 2013
NEW YORK » Bank of America wants a bigger slice of the mortgage market. This time, the bank is being more careful about how to get it.
On Thursday the bank sketched out plans for regaining some of the ground it has lost in home lending. That's a change from the strategy of the last few years, when it has concentrated on shedding the parts of its mortgage business that it saw as undesirable.
Under its new approach, the bank is targeting people who are already customers. It also wants to focus on making loans directly to borrowers, rather than buying mortgages from other lenders. The restraint is a sign that the lessons of the financial crisis, when risky mortgages tarnished the bank's reputation and its results, are still fresh.
Bank of America has been dealing with the fallout from soured mortgages made before the financial crisis for years now. Thursday brought another reminder, when the bank said that fourth-quarter earnings shrank because it had to take big charges to settle two mortgage-related disputes.
Even so, the bank knows that the housing market, in many respects, is improving. It doesn't want to miss out on a boom that could provide a steady source of revenue.
Bank of America is a smaller player in mortgages than it used to be. It now makes about 4 percent of the mortgage loans in the U.S. That's down from nearly 22 percent in 2009, after it bought mortgage lender Countrywide, according to the trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance.
Wells Fargo controls 30 percent of the market, and JPMorgan Chase, 10 percent. Bank of America points out that those two rivals still get a large part of their mortgage revenue from buying mortgages from third-party lenders.
Bank of America made $367 million in the last three months of 2012 after paying preferred dividends, down sharply from $1.6 billion in the same period a year ago.