First Franklin Ponders Shops

Heading Online, Mortgage Lender Dangles $10-15 Mil. Account
SAN FRANCISCO–Lender First Franklin Financial Corp. is talking with a handful of agencies on the West Coast about handling the estimated $10-15 million national launch of its newly created online mortgage company, said sources.
The client, based in San Jose, Calif., is planning to jump into the Internet mortgage market later this year. It has tapped Jack McBride of consultancy McBride & Associates, Modesto, Calif., to handle its review, sources said.
The company has already narrowed its list of agencies to no more than three and is expected to decide on one later this month.
The winning shop will be responsible for creating online and offline campaigns for First Franklin that may include radio, print and outdoor executions. TV spots for select “wired” markets nationwide, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, are also being considered.
The client is asking shops for media strategy ideas for the launch of its Web site this fall, said sources.
It is not known if the online mortgage company will keep the First Franklin name or launch with a different brand identity.
Sources said First Franklin has been pursuing an aggressive growth strategy since late 1997, when it was acquired by Continental Illinois Venture Corp., a subsidiary of Bank of America.
Last year, the lender processed more than $2 billion in subprime mortgages; its loan originations for the first quarter of this year reached nearly $700 million.
First Franklin already serves brokers who access its Web site for information about new programs and current mortgage rates. The company is also listed as a qualified lender on the Web sites of some of the firms it will compete with in the consumer sector, such as E-Loan and (formerly HomeShark).
First Franklin specializes in nonconforming wholesale subprime mortgages. The company currently originates, purchases, sells and securitizes retail and residential mortgages with ratings “A” through “D”–the latter end of the scale being the highest-risk category for lenders.
Because of the company’s experience in this segment of the mortgage market, First Franklin executives are hoping to attract consumers who are unable to get a loan through more traditional lenders via the Internet, sources said.
In addition, First Franklin plans to originate and process loans through its Internet site.