Fitch Affirms MetLife’s Mortgage Servicer Ratings

A servicer many may not yet have heard of was affirmed by Fitch Ratings yesterday, and provides a chance to underscore the dramatic shifts taking place in the servicing industry as the banking landscape is being re-organized by a historic financial crisis. In a statement released late Monday, Fitch said it had affirmed its primary residential servicer ratings on MetLife Home Loans, a division of MetLife Bank, NA. The servicer’s ratings for prime and Alt-A product were affirmed at ‘RPS2,’ the rating agency said. Fitch rates servicers on a 5-point scale, with 1 representing the best possible score; servicers must maintain certain minimum ratings in order to maintain servicing contracts on loans they do not own or hold in portfolio. Even if you’ve spent time in the lending and servicing space, you may not be familiar with MetLife — but you likely will be as we roll into 2009. MetLife purchased the origination and servicing platforms of First Horizon National Corp. (FHN) at the end of August, in a deal that didn’t generate a ton of press coverage, either before or since. But the deal delivered a sizeable servicing platform to the well-known life insurance provider: as of Sept. 1, MetLife serviced a $90 billion portfolio comprised of 516,000 loans, Fitch said. That’s enough to rank MetLife in the top 20 of all servicers, according to estimated 2007 servicing volumes from Inside Mortgage Finance; First Horizon ranked 16th in the trade publications rankings for last year. Fitch said the ratings affirmation was the result of MetLife’s ability to hold onto senior servicing executives during the still-ongoing integration of the servicing platform within the rest of MetLife’s more general banking operations. Nonetheless, the rating agency said it would continue to assess the integration effort, citing “integration with the management and culture of MetLife Bank” as a key consideration going forward. Write to Paul Jackson at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment 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.

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