Several years back Ocwen Financial was both a subprime lender and held a thrift charter—two businesses that have long since gone down the road of extinction.
Today, the company—an avowed nonblank—is in the envious position of being among the nation’s fastest-growing specialty servicers with a niche in processing problem loans that no other company will touch.
In short, the firm is profitable and has a share price of $19 and is toying with a new 52-week high daily. Plenty of banks are willing to lend money to the company, especially as its acts as the industry’s garbage man for housing receivables.
And to boot, it’s also a leading candidate to wind up (possibly) with the bankrupt Residential Capital Corp. and its $370 billion portfolio.
It doesn’t spend much time burnishing its image with the trade press and if you Google its name chances are you’ll find plenty of angry mortgagors complaining about its servicing practices.
In the firm’s defense, it can be argued that given the housing crisis and the fact that it buys “legacy” receivables from others it’s inevitable that consumers would take to the Internet to register their anger with the firm.
Love Ocwen, or hate Ocwen, one thing seems certain, it’s future looks mostly bright. But it’s not without challenges. Then again, as one executive who has done business with the firm told me, “Ocwen has the stomach for this business—others do not.”
Ocwen’s biggest and immediate challenge is figuring out what it will do when the “bad old days” of declining home values (and high-touch loans) finally ends. Eventually, it will need to carve a new path.
Consultants and advisors that are close to the firm say Ocwen is actively engaged in figuring out that future, a future that will assuredly include servicing GNMA (FHA/VA) loans, issuing MBS, maybe even private-label MBS, and possibly re-entering the origination business.
The company, from what I understand, never gave up its GNMA eagle or as one source said, “They’ve kept it current all these years. In the old days they had that bank in Florida.” (The bank in question was Ocwen FSB of West Palm Beach, Fla., which turned in its charter to the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) many moons ago. OTS is now defunct.)
As for originating loans again, few people are holding its breath. But it’s no secret that an Ocwen-affiliated company called Altisource owns Mortgage Partnership of America, the management company that oversees the Lenders One Cooperative. Ranked as one unit, Lenders One is top 10 ranked funder—without a servicer. (Ocwen spun off Altisource a few years back.)
Another possibility for Ocwen is a new company called Correspondent One, which aims to be a major buyer of closed mortgages from nonbank lenders and others. A few weeks back—as first reported on the NMN website—Correspondent One officially opened its doors and is now in the process of closing some of its first transactions.
From what I understand, Ocwen is one of CO’s backers. Down the road it’s very possible that Ocwen may wind up servicing mortgages for that firm.
Correspondent One is headed by former Freddie Mac executive James Cotton, who carries the title of president and chief operating officer. Its CEO is Ashish Pandey, a former Ocwen executive who used to work for long-time Ocwen chief William Erbey. You might say that mortgage banking can sometimes be a small world, but for firms like Ocwen the possibilities can be quite big. Stay tuned.