By Maria Patterson
RISMEDIA, April 20, 2011—Welcoming a brand new player to the real estate playing field is always big news. New perspective, new ideas, new potential on the horizon. However, with almost 200 years of history, and doing business today in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions, you can’t exactly call Citi a newcomer. You can’t even refer to Citi as a newbie to mortgage lending, a vertical it’s operated in for almost 40 years. What is brand new, however, is Citi’s entrance into the real estate channel and their refreshing approach to providing mortgage services. Why CitiMortgage? Why real estate? We sat down with the firm’s Fred Bolstad, managing director, National Sales, and Bill Ervin, national sales director, Real Estate Relationships, to answer these questions and more.
Maria Patterson: CitiMortgage has a rich history in mortgage lending. Describe its role in the mortgage arena to date.
Fred Bolstad: CitiMortgage specializes in nationwide residential home mortgage lending. Mortgage loans are originated directly with consumers via Citibank’s 1,000 retail branch networks in North America, by telephone, Internet, direct mail, our Corporate Program team—which works with corporations—and indirectly, through mortgage brokers, banks and mortgage companies.
MP: So then the question is, why is CitiMortgage now targeting the real estate industry after all these years?
FB: The timing is right and this represents a significant growth opportunity for Citi. As we start making connections with REALTORS® and providing the service and products they need to satisfy their customers, we expect to see positive results for everyone involved.
Bill Ervin: No one can predict where the market will go, including us. However, after analyzing the trends, many analysts believe our industry will see a significant easing in refinance business in the near future. With this change, mortgage lenders will shift resources to new home purchase transactions. As a large and innovative financial institution, we are in a strong position to handle increased mortgage business in this particular climate.
MP: What is your approach and overall goal in creating mortgage relationships with real estate professionals?
BE: We are looking for opportunities across the U.S. We are headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, where Citi has almost 4,000 employees. We have built a dedicated and highly tenured group of Relationship Sales and Operations personnel to service this new business. Thanks to our presence in markets across the country, we also bring strong local expertise to the table.
MP: You recently signed an agreement with Keller Williams. Why did Keller Williams feel CitiMortgage would provide the best mortgage solution for its affiliates?
FB: We did recently sign an agreement with Keller Williams to create a customized mortgage services program for the company’s Market Centers. We have similar goals—we both want to ensure our employees have access to the best resources possible so we can focus on one priority—the customer. Keller Williams has been quoted as saying they are confident CitiMortgage has the experience and expertise to support their Market Centers and associates in a way no other lender is able to.
From the CitiMortgage perspective, we have been looking at national REALTORS® for some time. When we saw the Keller Williams business model and culture, we realized this was a perfect fit for both companies. We entered this relationship knowing it was going to take a lot of work, but the end result will benefit both organizations and, most importantly, our customers. Coupled with the anticipated upturn in the purchase market, the growth opportunity looks to be very strong.
Earlier this year, we participated in Keller Williams’ Family Reunion National Convention in Anaheim, California. Citi had the opportunity to get in front of almost 9,000 Keller Williams franchisees and agents. This was an amazing event that allowed us to present Citi’s customized mortgage services program to their brokers and managers.
MP: I imagine Citi’s tremendous brand recognition doesn’t hurt either…
FB: Yes, we have great brand identity and recognition. We have approximately 200 million customer accounts, conducting business in more than 160 countries. We provide consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services and wealth management. That experience and breadth of service helps to provide a sense of confidence and comfort to our customers.
MP: What will make your mortgage services program different from other lenders?
FB: At Citi, we operate under four key principles. First, we have a common purpose, “One Team and One Goal,” which allows us to best serve our clients and stakeholders. Second is our dedication to responsible finance—making sure our conduct is transparent, prudent and dependable. Third, we’re tremendous believers in ingenuity. For us, ingenuity enhances our clients’ lives through innovation, which leverages the depth and breadth of our information, our unique global network and our world-class products. And fourth, our leadership. We have extremely talented and diverse people who thrive in an atmosphere built on excellence, initiative and courage. Together, these values guide us to deliver the best solutions for our clients. Real estate professionals will see we are genuine in our efforts to deliver customized mortgage services and help their clients.
MP: Please highlight some of the special programs CitiMortgage offers to home buyers.
BE: We offer a national lending platform that includes our free, SureStart® pre-approval, which is a full credit and income verification. We also have a highly competitive jumbo loan program, with loan amounts up to $3 million. Other programs include our individualized mortgage counseling and special products for foreign nationals with a visa who wish to purchase a home in the United States. We also guarantee clients that if their loan fails to close on time due to a delay on our end, we will provide a $1,500 credit at closing.
MP: What is your ultimate goal for the real estate industry?
BE: One of Citi’s hallmarks throughout our nearly 200-year history has been our ability to spot trends first and adapt to and innovate ahead of them. We see this venture into real estate lending in the same light. We want to add value for the customer throughout every transaction. That’s our focus with our other relationship lending platforms, and real estate relationships are no exception. We look to add value at each step in the process, from pre-approval to closing. We want to look for ways in which we can advance the industry and improve the way customers are serviced.
To learn about other CitiMortgage services, visit www.citimortgage.com or stop by its blog at www.blog.citimortgage.com. To start building a relationship with this channel, contact Bill Ervin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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