ELLSWORTH — Mortgage underwriters at Bar Harbor Bank and Trust here have been notified that their positions may be eliminated in a planned merger, bank CEO Curtis Simard said Tuesday. Those five employees may apply for other, new positions in Bar Harbor or nearby, he said.
The bank has around 220 employees in Maine.
Bar Harbor Bankshares is moving ahead with plans to acquire the New Hampshire-based Lake Sunapee Bank Group in January.
The new combined bank will use Lake Sunapee’s underwriting team, Simard said, calling the program one of that company’s “core competencies.” Mortgage underwriting is the process of assessing the risk of a proposed loan in terms of a borrower’s credit and capacity to pay. It’s one of the most highly regulated arms of the business, Simard said, especially with new rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“Their mortgage underwriting team allows them to respond more quickly than we do,” he said. “We have a really good mortgage group, but it doesn’t do the same kind of volume. [Lake Sunapee] generated $250 million in loans last year. Now, together, we’ll leverage their ability to underwrite faster and make a more aggressive push into the residential mortgage market.”
The underwriters at Lake Sunapee will work closely with mortgage “originators” in all the bank’s branches, Simard said. These are the up-front salespeople who help customers through the process. In many instances, customers already have accounts or previous mortgages with the same bank.
It’s important that originators be familiar with the local market, he said. “You really want to have your originators an arms length away from things like your appraisals to make sure you get customers into the right programs.”
One thing the new joint mortgage program will be able to do is set standard timelines for residential mortgages, Simard said. Customers will know at the outset how long it should take to get conditional approval for a loan and how long to get to closing.
Lake Sunapee’s strength in residential mortgages will complement Bar Harbor Bank and Trust’s strong commercial lending capacity, he said, offering flexibility in managing the bank’s balance sheet.
“We can say, ‘Which types of loans are most advantageous in the market right now?’”