December 4, 2018

United Bank resets its mortgage desk

HBJ Photo | Gregory Seay
HBJ Photo | Gregory Seay
United's newest branch debuted earlier this year in downtown Hartford, in CityPlace II.

Hartford community lender United Bank says it has realigned its mortgage-banking operation, resulting in an unspecified number of staff layoffs.

The flagship of United Financial Bancorp, headquartered in downtown's Goodwin Square skyscraper, confirmed Tuesday the action is a response to mounting competitive pressure among mortgage lenders to originate purchase, refinance and home-equity loans just as rising rates appear to be blunting consumer-loan demand.

United did not say how many workers have been, or will be, idled, and did not comment on the staffing impact of its recent re-opening of a half-dozen former Webster branches in Connecticut and western Massachusetts under United's banner. A bank spokesman said United counts more than 700 staffers.

United reported 808 full-time equivalent employees at the end of September, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

United stressed that it is not abandoning mortgage underwriting.

"What we continue to see from our customers is that face-to-face interactions have become less important than features such as cost, responsiveness, and availability,'' United said in a statement. "We're also witnessing stiff competition from larger non-bank, online lenders who have grown their footprint in mortgage banking. Therefore, United Bank has made a strategic decision to transition our retail mortgage banking division to our one-stop, direct sales channel."

Meanwhile, rechristening the Webster branches in Massachusetts represents a return to the Springfield area home base of United's co-predecessor, former United Bank of West Springfield.

That lender in April 2014 executed with former Rockville Bank of Vernon a "merger of equals'' that birthed the current $7.2 billion-asset institution.

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