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Nationwide Advantage Mortgage Co.

With more than $157 billion in statutory assets, Nationwide is one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the world.  The home loan business is expected to downshift, but West Des Moines-based Nationwide Advantage Mortgage Co. intends to boost its business by 25 percent this year.  To do this, Nationwide Advantage Mortgage Co. is going to take the low-tech approach: Knocking on doors to meet and greet lawyers, real estate agents and other industry professionals who will match them with home buyers.

Loans Funded by Nationwide Advantage Mortgage Co.

Nationwide has long exploited its niche as a company that can grant approval on a loan to a home buyer within 10 minutes of receiving an application. It has done that mostly through Internet inquiries that come to its offices.

It also buys loans from mortgage brokers or smaller banks and credit unions, and it fields direct calls from consumers who often are clients of its sister companies, property and casualty insurers Nationwide and Des Moines-based Allied.

Nationwide Advantage is a pipsqueak compared with Des Moines lending giants Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and Wells Fargo Financial, which generated $366 billion in home loans last year. Nationwide Advantage has about 200 workers, compared with the 8,000-plus who work at Wells Fargo. But Nationwide Advantage’s speed and Internet loans have given it a nice niche in the market. On a limited basis, Nationwide Advantage will go directly to home buyers. But with a new marketing effort, it will reach to lawyers, home builders and other people who have influence over where a buyer will take his mortgage business.

That could be important at a time when mortgage-making is expected to taper. The Mortgage Bankers Association has predicted 2.24 million mortgage originations in 2006. That’s a 20 percent drop from the 2.78 million loans made in 2005.

Nationwide Advantage pioneered proprietary software that allowed it to make a credit-granting decision within 10 minutes. That can be important in hot markets such as Phoenix, where bidding wars can break out on homes. For consumers, it also takes the guessing out of waiting days to hear whether a lender will make money available.

Nationwide Advantage has largely automated the loan-decision process, which gives it the quick turnaround. Also, computerization has given it a pricing edge over some other lenders. The company’s Web site says it does not charge origination fees, often as much as 1 percent of a loan.

Nationwide Advantage hopes to make $1.5 billion worth of home loans in 2006, which is 25 percent above its 2005 production of $1.2 billion.

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