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Industry News

Q+A: Bliss Morris Chief Executive Officer, First Financial Network Inc.

April 19, 2013

Interview with Carl Gaines


Mortgage Observer Weekly

by Carl Gaines

Mortgage Observer Weekly: How did you start your career in banking?

Bliss Morris: I’ve been in banking for 27 years. I began my career in banking as a teller at a community bank in Kansas City. From there, I went to work for the FDIC, and in 1985 I was chosen to participate in the development of one of the first FDIC Asset Marketing Departments in the nation. I assisted in approximately 30 bank closings during my FDIC tenure, gaining a clear understanding of the complexity of loan valuation and disposition, as well as establishing strong ties in the marketplace. During my career of nearly 25 years in the loan sale advisory space, I have been directly involved in assisting governmental agencies and central banks, as well as money center, regional and community banks, develop sound strategies for selling both performing and non-performing loans.

How has FFN’s business changed through the years?

As the market has changed and evolved, we have created a number of standalone services that were necessary to bring portfolios to market. We are currently involved in providing data normalization, loan file imaging and indexing, loan valuation, compliance reviews, due diligence services and closing services to a variety of lenders. Our online Loan Sale Network™ platform and Metrics, an integrated due diligence analytics system, are routinely used in conjunction with sound marketing techniques to achieve optimal value in today’s secondary market.

What new loan packages are you bringing to market?

In the fourth quarter of 2012, we sold portfolios for eight different clients—more than ever in our history. Loans sold comprised both commercial and residential and included small- and large-balance assets. I am proud to report that in 2012 we closed 99.8 percent of the loans we brought to market. That unparalleled success is due to the depth of our underwriting and valuation process as well as our proven marketing acumen. So far in [the] first quarter of 2013, we have offered two portfolio—one was $20 million worth of commercial real estate loans, and another totaling $85 million comprised of residential, HELOC, asset-based lending whole loans and loan participations.

Do you see an increase in potential business in Europe?

Yes, absolutely. I see a number of opportunities in countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy, where loans will have to be restructured and sold. We have been meeting with both private banks and governmental agencies in these areas to discuss resolution strategies, trying to establish a blueprint for recovery. These types of crises remind me of our early days, when we became firmly established through assisting the Resolution Trust Corporation with its history-making loan auctions. We followed that activity with the first-ever loan sale transactions in Mexico and Canada. More recently, we assisted in the liquidation of loans held by the Banco Central de Nicaragua, another first.

FFN recently signed another five-year agreement with the FDIC. What are your forecasts in term of bank failures and the loans that will come from the FDIC?

I think that we will continue to see bank failures decrease, as we have in the past couple of years. For those banks that do fail, FDIC will continue to employ their sound practices in disposing of receivership assets, both via structured sale transactions and cash sales.

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