Fidelity Homestead acquires NOLA Lending Group

No layoffs, office closures planned, CEO says

Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank in New Orleans has acquired NOLA Lending Group LLC, of Mandeville, for an undisclosed sum.

The deal combines two major players in the home loan business, said Alton McRee, Fidelity Homestead’s president and chief executive officer.

“Putting them together matched up the strengths of the two organizations,” McRee said. “The combination gave NOLA greater diversity and the support of the bank. It gave Fidelity the ability to expand and grow its legacy in residential mortgage lending.”

There will be no layoffs or office closures, and NOLA’s Mandeville headquarters will remain open, McRee said.

Fidelity has $826 million in assets, with 18 branches throughout southeastern Louisiana. NOLA Lending Group has 24 offices across Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida and Alabama. Together, Fidelity and NOLA Lending will have 400 employees, with 80 to 85 of those residential mortgage lenders. Nola employed all but around 10 of those loan officers.

Founded in 2002, NOLA Lending specializes in residential mortgages. Its loan volume over the past two years has topped $1.25 billion.

Fidelity specialized in home loans for most of its 106 years in business, but during the last seven years the savings and loan increasingly focused on commercial lending, McRee said. In 2013, about 60 percent of Fidelity’s new loans involved commercial projects, with the remainder home loans.

Until now, NOLA Lending bundled the loans it made and sold them to investors while Fidelity hung onto its home loans and serviced them in-house.

Under Fidelity, NOLA will be able to make home loans that, while solid, don’t quite fit the qualifications for sale on the secondary market, McRee said. A lot of rules and regulations govern the mortgages sold into the secondary market.

The loan may not fit the secondary-market for a variety of reasons, say if the borrower is self-employed, hasn’t been at the same job long enough or might have had a hiccup on his credit history, McRee said. Fidelity, and now its NOLA Lending Division, can look at those loans and consider adding them to the savings and loan’s portfolio.

“NOLA Lending’s numbers are huge compared to what Fidelity has been doing on the residential side,” McRee said.

NOLA’s addition means that overnight, residential loans will account for 70 percent of Fidelity Homestead’s new loans, McRee said, although the vast majority of those loans will still be sold in the secondary market.

NOLA Lending managing partners Richard LaNasa and Ashton Noel will remain involved in the day-to-day operations of the new division by serving as executive vice presidents responsible for managing the bank’s NOLA Lending Division along with serving on Fidelity Homestead’s senior management committee.