Banking

Wells Fargo announces new round of layoffs in Charlotte area

This file photo shows the Wells Fargo branch at Third and Tryon streets in Charlotte.
This file photo shows the Wells Fargo branch at Third and Tryon streets in Charlotte. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Wells Fargo has made more layoffs within its Fort Mill mortgage operation, according to a notice filed with the state of South Carolina.

The layoffs stem from the closure of Wells’ reverse-mortgage servicing operating unit, a move impacting 120 jobs, according to the notice this month. Wells Fargo said the closure resulted from an agreement struck last year to transfer all of the reverse-mortgages it had been servicing to another company.

In a statement, Wells Fargo spokesman Josh Dunn said the move will result in the elimination of servicing positions at a call center in Fort Mill.

Dunn said the largest U.S. mortgage lender is committed to retaining as many of the employees as it can and, where possible, is working to identify other opportunities for them within Wells or support them as they transition outside the company.

“The decision to reduce our workforce is made with great concern for our team members, who have each been an essential part of our success,” Dunn said.

The layoffs are just the latest for Wells Fargo in its mortgage division, where in recent years it’s cut jobs in Fort Mill and elsewhere as loan refinancings have declined and work involving delinquent loans has dropped off.

The move also comes as Wells is seeking to shed $4 billion in expenses through the end of 2019, as it tries to improve an efficiency measure closely tracked by investors and recover from a scandal over fake accounts. Wells has previously said it expects job reductions from centralizing and streamlining processes, and by cutting back in its mortgage business.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo maintains its biggest employment hub in Charlotte, with workers across a variety of business lines. Dunn said Wells Fargo’s metro area employment will remain unchanged at about 24,100 even with the new job cuts.

Employees affected by the new layoffs were notified last Wednesday, according to the notice. Separate layoffs were announced July 13, bringing the total to 120.

The latest layoffs follow a Wells’ disclosure in July that it eliminated more than 2,000 jobs during the three-month period that ended June 30. That marked Wells’ biggest quarterly decline in employees since 5,700 reductions toward the end of 2013, when it shaved large numbers of mortgage jobs.

According to the bank, a portion of the 2,000 decline stemmed from attrition.

Wells Fargo has been taking steps to exit the reverse mortgage business since 2011, when the bank said it would stop offering the product along with other banks such as Bank of America.

Heavily marketed to senior citizens, reverse mortgages can provide homeowners with regular payments that can be used to supplement retirement income. But critics have noted the products can carry hidden risks as they strip homeowners of their equity.

Wells Fargo said in 2011 that it would continue to service the loans of existing reverse mortgage customers, but it will now be out of that business as well. The bank has transferred all of the approximately 80,000 remaining loans in its portfolio to Champion Mortgage, a unit of Coppell, Texas-based Nationstar Mortgage, said Dunn, the Wells spokesman.

Champion assumed responsibility for servicing those customers on Sept. 1, he said.

Nationstar has been one of the companies buying up mortgage-servicing rights from big banks as they downsize in that business. The firm got in trouble in March when a federal regulator, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ordered it to pay a $1.75 million penalty over claims it violated a law requiring mortgage lenders to disclose data on their mortgages to federal agencies.

Nationstar, which did not admit or deny charges, was accused of consistently failing to report accurate information about mortgage transactions for 2012 through 2014. The bureau said at the time that it was the largest civil penalty it imposed in connection with the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

Wells Fargo’s Fort Mill mortgage operations pre-date its 2008 acquisition of Charlotte-based Wachovia. The bank has continued to trim staff in the operation, but it has also shifted some workers there from Charlotte in recent years.

The company says it has 1,790 employees across multiple business lines in York County, which includes Fort Mill.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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