Tuesday, March 26, 1996, Vol. 110, No. 60

03-25 CHG first trust First Trust more than just lending arm of Crye-Leike First Trust celebrates growth since changes in 94 First Trust Mortgage keeps up with big banks By CAMILLE H. GAMBLE The Daily News The lending arm of Crye-Leike Realtors Inc., First Trust Mortgage, has almost doubled in size since its change in name and management two years ago. The company, started in 1984 as Crye-Leike Mortgage, changed its name in March 1994 and gained a new general manager, Jane Hardin, who has been instrumental in changing the image of the company as well. Hardin said First Trust was just "OK" before 1994. "We still had a cloud over our heads at that time even though we had come a pretty good distance in cleaning up the image," Hardin said. "Perception becomes realty if you dont know the difference. "We took the company, and we totally restructured it. We enhanced it through computers and did a tremendous amount of work upgrading staff and adding staff. We had to make some hard decisions." In 1994, there were about 40 employees on staff, compared to 78 employees today, Hardin said. The number of new loans for the company also skyrocketed in the past two years. Last year, First Trust closed 1,730 loans totaling more than $161 million, compared to 982 loans totaling $79 million in 1994. In 1988, the company originated $29 million in loans. Hardin noted that November and December became large volume months for other lenders servicing their own loans, due to refinancing. She said First Trust sells 99 percent of all originated loans and does not have monthly contact with customers as "banks" do, via advertising within their monthly statement mail-outs. Even with disadvantages like these, First Trust still manages to keep up with the big boys. "We are one of the top five lenders in Memphis," Hardin said. "We are viewed today as being a service-oriented, competitive company and as an upscale lender and fair housing lender. I dont think you could have said any of those things three years ago." Hardin said First Trust is the largest of two such mortgage companies in the area that are associated with real estate agencies. She added that this type of association does not always work in favor of the mortgage company. "We dont get a deal just because we are a sister company to Crye-Leike. We have to earn every loan that we make." Hardin said First Trust is planning to add some new products in the near future that will put the company in the position to compete more with traditional bank lending institutions. "I will have a construction, permanent loan about to be unveiled, and that is very difficult to come by when you are a mortgage banker rather than a bank," she said. Currently, First Trust has an office in Bartlett, Memphis and Nashville. "I had hoped in 1995 to open East Tennessee offices, but we started growing so much here and in Nashville at the same time that I had to devote my energies to expanding the serviceability from within to meet the demand." Hardin is hoping now to have an East Tennessee office opened before the end of the year.