Discover Financial Services wants to get into mortgage origination, an executive for the credit card company said Thursday.

"Mortgages are an asset class we are interested in," Roger Hochschild, the president and chief operating officer of the Riverwoods, Ill., company said during a presentation at a Keefe, Bruyette & Woods conference in New York.

"I think now would be a good time to look at that business if you're coming in clean," he added.
Discover, which primarily operates a payment network and issues credit cards, has been trying to diversify its business in recent years, offering retail deposit products, student and personal loans to grow its balance sheet. Last week the company purchased about $1.1 billion in consumer banking deposits from the insurer Allstate Corp. In December Discover bought Student Loan Corp. from Citigroup for $600 million.

Hochschild did not discuss any specific mortgage plans the company has but said its strategy would likely be "to originate and sell" mortgages and not hold them on its balance sheet.
Mortgages would not be entirely new for Discover. In 2004, while owned by Morgan Stanley, the company's Discover Bank subsidiary partnered with a unit of JPMorgan Chase to provide loan origination services to some Delaware residents, according to a press release issued that year.

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