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LANB poised to be top lender

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Bank is front-runner to become largest in-state mortgage lender

By Carol A. Clark

Los Alamos National Bank is poised to become the biggest in-state mortgage lender in New Mexico following the seizure last week of Charter Bank in Santa Fe by the Office of Thrift Supervision.

“We’ve always been the leading lender in Los Alamos and first or second in Santa Fe. Now it appears we’ll lead both,” said Chief Executive Officer Bill Enloe during an interview this morning. “Those are both very good markets and we also do some lending in Albuquerque and Española so with all those markets, that makes us poised to be the largest lender in the state.”

LANB has never participated in the subprime market, which makes these numbers even better, Enloe said.

Charter is the first FDIC-insured institution closed in the state in a decade and the second large state-based mortgage lender to fail in the last year, according to New Mexico Business Weekly.

Charter made a total of $905 million in mortgages in 2008, putting it among the top 200 mortgage lenders in the country, according to Home Mortgage Disclosure Act numbers released last fall. Of that volume, $662 million was in New Mexico.

Ranked second among New Mexico lenders was Thornburg Mortgage of Santa Fe with $782 million, most of that out-of-state.

Thornburg, a non-FDIC-insured real estate investment trust, failed early last year reportedly because it could not withstand the drying up of money in its sector of high-priced mortgages.

First Community Bank in Albuquerque was ranked third, at $310 million in mortgages made during 2008. Los Alamos National Bank was fourth, at $226 million, followed by Superior Mortgage of Albuquerque, at $208 million.

However, last year First Community, a unit of First State Bancorporation of Taos, was itself, like Charter, the subject of a regulatory disciplinary action, and it seems unlikely that the new Charter Bank, now a unit of Beal Financial Corp., Plano, Texas, will continue

levels of lending that Charter’s regulator found objectionable.

Out-of-state lenders like Bank of America and Wells Fargo continue to conduct the highest levels of mortgage lending in the state.

LANB seems to be handily outpacing First Community in mortgages. According to the FDIC, Los Alamos made $348 million in mortgages during the first nine months of 2009, $100 million more than First Community, at $248 million.

Trinity Capital Corporation, the holding company for LANB and Title Guaranty & Insurance Company, announced its preliminary unaudited earnings for the fourth quarter of 2009 and the year ended Dec. 31, 2009.

 “The past year continued to exhibit the difficult times experienced in both the economy as a whole and in financial service companies. The national and state economies continue to be strained but some signs of improvement are beginning to surface,” Enloe stated in a release Monday. “Real estate values have begun to stabilize and buyers are emerging. We remain concerned about how general economic conditions in the nation and New Mexico have affected and potentially could affect our customers and markets and we have taken measures to properly manage these risks. As part of these risk management measures, and after a careful assessment of our loan portfolio, we nearly doubled our provision for loan losses in 2009.”

Despite the downturn in the economy, Trinity earned a net income of $4.817 million in 2009, 60.2 percent of the income earned in 2008. “We are proud that 2009 marked our 34th consecutive year of profitability,” Enloe said, adding that with LANB positioned to become the largest lending company in the state, he also is pleased the bank will be able to make even more mortgages available to more New Mexicans.